Tories roll out biggest relaxation of abortion practice

The Conservatives have been responsible for the biggest liberalisation of abortion procedures since 1967, The Christian Institute has found.

Former Tory Health Secretary Andrew Lansley told clinics via secret guidance, which has now been publicised, that doctors do not need to see women seeking an abortion.

Mr Lansley told Parliament in March 2012 that he would consult on new guidelines for abortion providers outside the NHS.

In July 2012 however, his new interim guidelines were sent to clinics – 17 months before the promised public consultation eventually began.

These new rules effectively “bypassed” Parliament and although the guidance was intended to address the problems of doctors pre-signing forms and sex selection abortions, it did neither, but instead simply relaxed abortion procedures.

Public opinion

A new poll shows that the public are against Government plans to end the UK’s current abortion practice, which requires doctors to see women who want abortions.

The ComRes survey of over 2,000 people comes as the Government seeks to formally brush aside the two-doctor rule reaffirmed over a decade ago.

Nearly nine in ten voters said however, 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.

The Christian Institute commissioned the poll, saying the Government has pressed ahead with the “greatest liberalisation” of abortion practice since 1967.

Watering down

Under current abortion laws two registered medical practitioners must certify that they are of the opinion, formed in good faith that at least one of the legal grounds for abortion exists.

Previous guidance from 1999 states that doctors “must give their opinions on the reasons under the Act for the termination following consultation with the woman”.

In November, the Department of Health published revised guidelines for consultation restating that it is “not a legal requirement” for doctors to meet the patients seeking an abortion.

Instead, it suggested that nurses see the patient.

Critics said the Government was ‘watering down’ abortion practices and criticised the Department of Health for posting the guidance without informing interested parties or the press.


The Director of The Christian Institute, Colin Hart said the former Health Secretary endorsed a “clandestine” revision of the guidance, which has watered down the current legislation.

“The Government is in a complete mess over these changes, which might be open to legal challenge and are certainly against the intention of this law. The two doctor rule, reaffirmed by the last Labour Government in 1999 was designed to protect the lives of women and their unborn babies.”


Almost six in ten think that the two doctor requirement should be more rigorously enforced in privately-run clinics than in NHS clinics.

Gender selective abortions were also slammed in the poll, with nearly nine in ten people agreeing that the practice should be explicitly banned.

Lansley told Parliament about the proposed consultation following scandalous news of two UK doctors offering to abort babies based on their gender.

Relaxed abortion procedures

Hart said: “It is particularly disturbing that the July 2012 interim guidelines, which were intended to address the very issues of pre-signing and sex-selection abortions, did neither but instead further relaxed abortion procedures.”

“Parliament was bypassed and there was no public consultation,” he added.

Significant concern

Hart concluded: “Every year nearly 200,000 unborn babies are aborted, on a scale that was never envisaged by the original legislation.

“The two-doctor rule ensures that all those women are seen by two qualified doctors who can talk to them through the procedures and any risks.

“As our independent poll found there is significant concern that this reduction in care will put the health of women at risk.

“Abortion is far too important an issue for the Government to act in this bizarre, secretive and haphazard way.”

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