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Select Committee report deeply flawed; see minority report says CMF

Published: 31st October 2007

The Christian Medical Fellowship has dismissed as 'deeply flawed' a Parliamentary Select Committee Report on abortion and instead pointed people to the minority report tabled by MPs Nadine Dorries and Bob Spink, which it says gives a more objective and balanced overview of the scientific evidence.

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, chaired by Liberal Democrat MP Phil Willis, has been carrying out an investigation into scientific developments relating to the Abortion Act. Its report, published today, has recommended no lowering of the 24 week upper limit for most abortions, scrapping the need for two doctors' signatures, nurses doing abortions and medical abortions at home.

The committee report is important because it will be used to inform MPs debating amendments to the 1967 Abortion Act, as part of the discussion surrounding the Human Tissue and Embryos Bill, expected to be announced in the Queen's Speech on 6 November.

Dr Peter Saunders, CMF General Secretary, said: 'It appears that this whole exercise was a stitch up from start to finish. This committee of largely pro-choice MPs began with their minds made up and then selected the evidence and 'experts' to lead them to their chosen conclusions. They ignored key evidence that didn't fit their agenda and one member set out to discredit in the national press witnesses whose evidence they didn't like. It is quite astounding that, with 200,000 abortions a year in the UK already, they want to liberalise the law even further'.

'The prochoice bias of the committee has been very clear from the beginning. Although the written evidence received was relatively evenly balanced, 13 of the 18 witnesses chosen to give oral evidence were coming from the perspective of wanting to liberalise the existing law.'

According to media reports this morning the committee report was largely rewritten by Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris. Harris, who is Secretary to the All Party Prochoice and Sexual Health Group of MPs and whose girlfriend works for the BPAS, one of the country's largest abortion providers, allegedly put down 126 amendments to the Chairman's first draft. He has campaigned vigorously for more liberal abortion laws for many years, and has also used his position on the BMA Ethics Committee to influence that organisation's policy on abortion. However he was unsuccessful in pushing for the BMA to approve nurse and home abortion at this year's annual representative meeting (ARM) in June.

Saunders continued, 'A Marie Stopes survey published last week showed that 65% of GPs believe the upper limit should come down; and yet BMA policy is that it should stay at 24 weeks. CMF believes this disparity of views is due to prochoice activists, like Harris, having the running on influential BMA committees so grassroots opinion is not properly represented and delegates to the ARM are fed with briefing material from the BMA Ethics Committee that serves a liberalisation agenda.'

'Serious questions need to be asked about vested interests, transparency and competence. How were the Select Committee's advisors selected? How were oral witnesses chosen? Did this committee have the medical expertise objectively to evaluate the medical evidence in the first place, or was it too in awe of institutions like the BMA and RCOG to question their impartiality? In particular the key role of Dr Evan Harris in the whole process needs further evaluation. Grassroots nurses and obstetricians and gynaecologists will also be interested to read the submissions of their respective Royal Colleges (RCN and RCOG) and ask why they did not consult their membership more widely.'

'We would recommend that MPs pay close attention to the minority report of Dorries and Spink, published as an amendment to the main report, as a far better source of balanced evidence on such key issues as neonatal survival, foetal pain and the relationship between abortion and preterm birth, mental health problems and (possibly) breast cancer. We would further recommend that MPs make an effort to read the reams of written and oral evidence received by the committee that have been sidelined and ignored. They might like to pay particular attention to those submissions that have been the subject of attack in the report and in press articles written from a liberalising perspective. We would particularly direct their attention to submissions by Richards, Wyatt, Casey and Gardner, about which we expect much ongoing discussion.

All this evidence is still available on the Committee Website, but will not now be in the report meaning that it will not be as readily accessible to MPs.

CMF was one of over 50 groups and individuals to submit written evidence to the enquiry, and gave oral evidence on behalf of the Alive and Kicking Alliance. Some individual CMF members gave evidence in their own right.


Media Reports from 31 October

For further information:

Dr Peter Saunders (CMF) 020 7234 9660, 07970 383797
Dr Andrew Fergusson (CMF Head of Communications) 020 7234 9675
Paul Eddy (PR) 07932 019 430

For further information:

Steven Fouch (CMF Head of Communications) 020 7234 9668

Media Enquiries:

Alistair Thompson on 07970 162 225

About CMF:

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.

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