Dozens of abortion clinics could be reported to the police for allegedly breaking the law following surprise inspections ordered by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.
Mr Lansley says he is “shocked” and “appalled” at the findings, which include evidence that doctors have falsified abortion consent forms.
Under the current law, two doctors must sign a referral form before a woman can go ahead with an abortion.
But inspectors discovered that doctors are pre-signing the forms without meeting the women concerned or reviewing their medical notes.
Inspectors also found evidence that women are not receiving proper advice or counselling in the clinics.
But Ann Furedi, head of abortion provider BPAS, criticised the Government’s decision to inspect the clinics without warning.
She said: “What I do think is absolutely wrong is the way that the Secretary of State has instructed the Care Quality Commission this week to effectively abandon all of its other work that they are dealing with.”
On BBC Radio Four’s Today programme the BPAS chief executive also claimed pre-signing abortion consent forms was “a grey area” in the law.
However the Health Secretary was highly critical of the clinics, saying, “if it happens, it is pretty much people engaging in a culture of both ignoring the law and trying to give themselves the right to say that although Parliament may have said this, we believe in abortion on demand”.
Last month an undercover investigation by The Daily Telegraph revealed that women are being granted abortions after telling doctors their baby is the ‘wrong sex’.
On one occasion Prabha Sivaraman, who was working for both private clinics and NHS hospitals in Manchester, was filmed telling a woman: “I don’t ask questions. If you want a termination, you want a termination.”
Another doctor filmed in the footage has been suspended from practising by the General Medical Council pending a full investigation, and it is expected all will face Fitness to Practise panels that could remove their right to practise.