MP in call for pre-abortion counselling provision

Doctors give more information to patients with ingrowing toenails than they do to vulnerable women seeking abortions, a Tory MP said.

Nadine Dorries (Mid Bedfordshire) urged the Government to instruct clinics to provide counselling to women who seek terminations.

She said such "informed consent" would lead to a reduction in UK abortion figures, currently around 200,000 a year.

Opening a short Commons debate, former nurse Ms Dorries said last night: "If any of us were referred to a hospital today for a minor procedure, an ingrowing toenail operation, the procedure would be explained to us in detail.

"We would be aware of the level of pain we would experience, we would be told exactly what would happen while we were under the anaesthetic, we would be given follow-up appointments.

"A woman who has an abortion has none of that - she is discharged at the end of the day out onto the street and left to come to terms with the roller coaster emotional journey she will still be in the midst of."

The UK needs to "catch up with the rest of Europe" on the issue of informed consent, she said.

"In this country, if a woman requests a termination from their GP, there are no questions asked.

"A referral is made to a hospital or clinic and an abortion, for the woman's sake, is performed as quickly as possible without fuss.

"No counselling is provided in NHS hospitals and in some clinics; minimal counselling is provided by BPAS (British Pregnancy Advisory Services) clinics, who carry out a large number of abortions on behalf of the NHS.

"However, BPAS carry out the counselling but they also carry out the abortion. So there is a clear conflict of interest there."

Junior health minister Anne Milton said reducing abortion rates was an "absolute priority" for the Government.

She said the rising number of repeat abortions showed that termination was being treated as a "form of contraception" by some women.

On the "conflict of interest" allegedly posed by BPAS, the minister said: "I'm pleased to be meeting some of the service providers in the next week or so to discuss those issues.

"I think it must be pointed out ... that there are a lot of instances of very good practice and we shouldn't miss that in the discussion about where things are maybe not going as well as they should be."

BPAS today reacted angrily to the comments made by the MP.

"Allegations about our services are unfounded and insulting and show just how little Nadine Dorries knows about abortion," said Ann Furedi, the charity's chief executive.

"All women are offered non-directive counselling, as well as detailed information about procedures and alternative options, including adoption. This is a matter of fact not opinion."

A spokesman for BPAS said that women undergoing abortion procedures at its clinics are always given follow-up appointments, and advised of the normal course of recovery.

"Everyone involved in abortion care wishes to minimise the risk of later regret, and all women attending our clinics have the opportunity to discuss continuing the pregnancy and the possibility of adoption," added the spokesman.

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