07 March 2017, The Tablet

Campaigners contest potential bill that would 'remove all restrictions on abortion'

A Daily Mail report has claimed that Marie Stopes International was offering abortions on the basis of a brief phone call and no contact with doctors

A pro-life campaign group has spoken out against the “extreme position” of a potential bill, which they say would remove all restrictions on abortions.

‘Not in Our Name’, a campaign group of over 1,000 midwives who oppose reducing restrictions on abortion, said in a statement that any new bill would effectively remove all legal grounds for self-selective and late-term abortions and would allow abortion pills to be easily accessed through mail order, with no legal repercussions and even given out by school nurses.

Labour MP Diana Johnson’s Abortion (Decriminalisation): Ten Minute Rule Bill is due to be presented on 13 March, when the MP will make her case for a new bill to be introduced.

Johnson and her backers say the possible bill is not an attempt to extend the upper limit, rather a bid to make abortion a health and human rights issue, rather than a legal one, where women can be criminally punished for not meeting current criteria as set out in the Abortion Act fifty years ago, in 1967.

The current upper gestational limit is 24 weeks. A recent YouGov poll found that 88 per cent of women in the UK want to keep this time limit or lessen it, compared to only 2 per cent who want an increase.

But Conservative MP for Lewes, Maria Caulfield, said she was 'surprised and deeply concerned' about 'such a radical proposal' from Ms Johnson.

'To remove all legal restrictions on terminations would allow abortion at any stage of pregnancy, for any reason. What would stop the serious potential abuses?' she said.

Meanwhile, Pro-life charity, Life, has written to Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt calling for the UK’s second largest abortion provider’s license to be revoked and the Abortion Act to be reviewed, following a report by the Daily Mail which claimed that Marie Stopes International was offering abortions to women on the basis of a brief phone call and no contact with doctors.

Under the current law, two doctors can approve an abortion if “the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family.”

Life’s Education director Anne Scanlan said: “it is the duty of the Government to provent agencies funded by the public purse, from profiting off of the plight of women.”

She also called for a review of the Abortion Act to “ensure that women approved for abortion on mental health grounds are actually seen and evaluated by doctors who have mental health training”.

Paul McPartlan, managing director at Marie Stopes UK has condemned the Daily Mail’s investigation in a statement released on 3 March.

“We do not agree with the conclusions this journalist has reached, which give a seriously misleading view of how our services operate,” he said. He labelled the report as “irresponsible journalism”.

Last August, the Care Quality Commission investigated Marie Stopes International and MSI suspended some terminations in specific areas until it was able to reassure the regulator in October 2016.


PICTURE: A Marie Stopes consultation clinic 

McPartlan said: “We are proud of the improvements we’ve made since our CQC inspections last year and we recognise that there will always be more to do”. He added: “we have sought legal advice and will be exploring appropriate legal action”.



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