MPs press on with bid to change abortion advice


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The Independent Online

Anti-abortion campaigners are pressing ahead with an amendment to the Health Bill designed to cut the number of pregnancies which are terminated each year in the UK.

The Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, who is proposing the amendment, said yesterday she would not be "bought off" by the promise of a government consultation on whether or not to offer independent counselling to all women considering an abortion.

Instead she said she wanted to change the law to strip abortion charities and doctors of exclusive responsibility for counselling women seeking to terminate a pregnancy, and hand it to specially trained professionals.

But while she ruled out allowing anti-abortion groups the chance to bid to offer counselling services, she did not explain how the amendment would ensure individual counsellors could be free of bias on such an emotive subject.

If the amendment is debated in the Commons, the Government may allow its MPs a free vote on the issue. There is now a socially conservative bent within the Tory party which is supported by the Prime Minister. In 2008, Andrew Lansley, William Hague and Liam Fox joined David Cameron in supporting a cut to the legal limit for "social" abortions from 24 to 22 weeks.

Ms Dorries said that charity-run abortion services – including the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and Marie Stopes – had a financial conflict of interest in advising women seeking terminations since they are paid for the procedures they carry out.

The charities say her proposal would add another layer of bureaucracy which could cause distress by delaying access to abortions. Ms Dorries said the process of abortion was "so factory efficient" that she wanted to give people a chance to "talk through their own situation".