Published: 22nd September 2005
The UK’s largest association of Christian doctors has welcomed Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson’s criticism of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service’s referral of women abroad for late terminations, but says the CMO should have gone further.
BPAS, which carries out 83% of abortions after 20 weeks, often under contract to the NHS, was told to revise its procedures and training following an investigation of allegations published in October last year. Sir Liam called the standard response of the BPAS ‘superficial and lacking in rigour’ and said that staff handled this particular case ‘extremely inappropriately’. He criticised the protocol for staff answering calls as ‘an extraordinarily poor document’.
General Secretary of CMF, Peter Saunders said, ‘The integrity of the BPAS is called into question by their eagerness to circumvent the time limits set by the 1967 Abortion Act. This particular referral may not have been contrary to the letter of the law, but it was certainly against the spirit of the law. We are deeply concerned about the grossly inadequate counselling and information about abortion supplied by BPAS. Women with unplanned pregnancies deserve professional and compassionate assessment that enables them to make difficult decisions at a time of crisis in a fully informed way. Abortion ends the life of a baby and may also have serious health consequences for the mother. The cavalier attitude of the BPAS trivialises what for many women is a catastrophic life event and raises serious questions about professionalism, training and the misuse of public money.
‘This incident will further inflame public opinion against late abortion. A recent You Gov poll showed that 64% of the public favour a reduction in the abortion time limits. Women were more likely than men to support tighter controls, with 1 in 3 women favouring a limit of 12 weeks or under.’
Terminations are currently allowed for healthy babies up until 24 weeks, but the time limit has been questioned as a result of medical progress improving premature baby survival rates and also with the development of new ultrasound technology showing babies walking in the womb as early as 12 weeks.
Data from a widely quoted major Minnesota study published last year show a consistent year-on-year improvement in survival. For the period 1996-2000 there was a survival rate after neonatal intensive care of 66% at 23 weeks of gestation and 81% at 24 weeks of gestation.
Saunders concluded, ‘These advances, together with stories of babies surviving botched late term abortions - have resulted in an increased awareness that babies in the womb are living human beings, making the UK law on abortion increasingly out of step with the public conscience’.
Philippa Taylor (CMF Head of Public Policy) 020 7234 9664
Steven Fouch (CMF Head of Communications) 020 7234 9668
Alistair Thompson on 07970 162 225
Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) was founded in 1949 and is an interdenominational organisation with over 5,000 doctors, 900medical and nursing students and 300 nurses and midwives as members in all branches of medicine, nursing and midwifery. A registered charity, it is linked to over 100 similar bodies in other countries throughout the world.
CMF exists to unite Christian healthcare professionals to pursue the highest ethical standards in Christian and professional life and to increase faith in Christ and acceptance of his ethical teaching.