Doctors targeted in battle against abortion

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ANTI-abortion campaigners are to encourage women who suffer illness or mental trauma after a termination to sue the doctors responsible for allowing the operation.

In a new tactic, immediately condemned by opponents, the anti-abortion group Life hopes to challenge attitudes to terminations through the courts. Professor Jack Scarisbrick, Life's national chairman, said there was now "conclusive" medical evidence that abortions left women at vastly increased risk of conditions including breast cancer, infertility and mental breakdown.

Under the 1967 Abortion Act, two doctors have to be satisfied that an abortion is necessary to prevent damage to either the mother or her baby's health.

But Life claims that as the evidence suggests termination is more dangerous than a full-term pregnancy, doctors could now face mass litigation from women who were not informed of the risks.

Professor Scarisbrick said: "We believe the medical evidence now conclusively shows the dangers. Report after report shows that procured abortion is one of the most dangerous procedures a woman can undergo and yet the abortion industry refuses to recognise that what they do carries enormous risks for women.

"In this country, we are simply sticking our heads in the sand about the real consequences of abortion.

"We believe the only way we are going to get the medical profession to acknowledge the truth (about abortion) is by going to the courts and forcing the issue out into the open."

Life believes it should not use its own money to fund legal action directly, but intends to set up a new freephone telephone line to advise women on the options.

Professor Scarisbrick said it already dealt with large numbers of women who have suffered problems after abortions, and the group knew of at least one damages claim due to come to court shortly.

However, a British Medical Association spokesman said they did not expect a flood of litigation.

"There is no culture of doctors rubber-stamping abortions. Each decision is made for the welfare of the mother and child. Evidence of the type which Life is using for these claims does not exist.

"As long as the abortion is approved according to the criteria of the 1967 Act, including the fact that the mother has fully consented, then it would be very difficult to bring a case of this nature.

David Nolan, of the pro-choice Birth Control Trust, accused Life of switching tactics from legislation to litigation because it had failed to get the 1967 Abortion Act scrapped.

"Years of medical research into abortion and its after-effects has shown it to be a completely safe operation," he said. "Life's alternative of forcing women to continue with unwanted pregnancies is nothing short of barbaric."

Janet Mearns, of the National Abortion Campaign, said where an abortion was necessary, it was much safer to terminate than go through a full pregnancy.

"I don't think Life will have many takers for court action, because those women who come forward will very often have other problems unassociated with an abortion. It is unfair to be using them in this way."