A health minister has said doctors can approve abortions without seeing the women involved.
Speaking during a House of Lords Grand Committee debate, Lord Howe explained that the law has always required two doctors to “certify in good faith” that an abortion is lawful, which should be based on the facts of the case “whether or not they personally see or examine the woman”.
The Christian Institute recently uncovered secret guidance given to independent abortion clinics in the summer of 2012 which states that it is “not a legal requirement” for doctors to meet the patients seeking an abortion.
But previous guidelines from 1999 say doctors “must give their opinions on the reasons under the Act for the termination following consultation with the woman”.
Baroness Knight of Collingtree, who was an MP when abortion was legalised in 1967, secured the House of Lords debate and asked the Government whether it is investigating doctors who are reportedly breaking abortion laws.
Speaking about the Abortion Act, she said two doctors certifying an abortion is a “vital condition”.
A recent ComRes poll commissioned by The Christian Institute found that nearly nine in ten voters think that a patient considering an abortion should be seen in person by a doctor, and 76 per cent believe that not doing so would put the woman’s health at risk.
The proportion of voters who think that doctors should see patients wanting an abortion rises to 92 per cent among women.
Baroness Knight said the “object” of the two doctor rule was “to ensure that – on such a serious matter as the death of a child – a second opinion had been sought and two doctors separately concurred”.
She also highlighted a scandal in 2012 involving doctors pre-signing abortion forms, which the General Medical Council dealt with, rather than Police.
“Surely it must be Parliament, not doctors, that decides what the law says”, she added.
Christian ethicist Dr Peter Saunders said the secret Department of Health guidance to independent clinics has effectively brought in a “nurse-led abortion service”.
He said the change had been ‘smuggled in’ under former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley “without the issue ever being discussed in parliament and without the knowledge of most of his own party colleagues”.