Wednesday 17 August 2011

How private abortion providers gained a stranglehold on taxpayer funded abortions under the last government

Abortion was legalised in Britain in 1967. However, under the Labour government of 1997 to 2010 abortion became a publicly funded private industry with abortion ‘providers’ gaining a stranglehold.

I have highlighted in a previous blog how tax-payer funded abortions have moved progressively from the public to the private sector over the last two decades.

In 1991 the NHS funded 9,197 abortions carried out by the private sector in England and Wales. By 2010 that figure had risen to 111,775 - an increase of over 1100%.

In 1991 the NHS funded 10% of abortions carried out by the private sector. By 2010 that figure had risen to 93%.

In 1991 the NHS funded 84,369 abortions in total. By 2010 that figure had more than doubled to 181,304.

The growth of NHS-funded but privately-provided abortions entirely accounted for this increase.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) and Marie Stopes International (MSI), which have a combined income of about £150 million per year, much of it from tax revenues) have carried out the vast majority of these tax-payer funded abortions. However others are also involved.

The list of institutions approved by the Department of Health to carry out private abortions runs to 73!

Of these 13 belong to Marie Stopes and 22 to BPAS. There are also a number of other private hospital chains which profit from abortion. Prominent amongst these are:

Spire - 8 centres doing abortions
Nuffield Healthcare – 8 centres
BMI Healthcare - 8 centres

Of the remaining 14, three are NHS treatment centres and the remainder are miscellaneous hospitals.

Whilst Marie Stopes and BPAS specialise in abortion the remaining hospitals perform other procedures too.

A full list of all private sector abortion centres can be found on the Department of Health website.

The stranglehold these institutions ‘enjoy’ was established by way of two documents produced by the Department of Health in 2001 by the Labour government.

The first of these, ‘Procedures For The Approval Of Independent Sector Places For The Termination of Pregnancy’, was published on 30 November 2001. The 28 page document outlines the various hoops each centre needs to jump through in order to be registered and obtain tax-payers money.

The second, ‘Procedures for the registration of pregnancy advice bureaux’, was published on 23 November 2001. The 15 page document outlines the ‘set of Required Standard Operating Principles’ Pregnancy Advice Bureaux must comply with if they are to become registered.

So which institutions are in the list of approved bureaux?

Well there are 54 of them: 30 run by BPAS, 15 by Marie Stopes, 8 by the Pregnancy Advisory Service and one by the Calthorpe Clinic. The Pregnancy Advisory Service is run by the ‘South Manchester Private Clinic’ (SMPC) which describes itself as supporting ‘the right for people to limit their family size. For over 30 years, we have been providing surgical and medical abortions for thousands of women every year.’ The Calthorpe Clinic is described as a ‘sister clinic’.

The full list is again on the Department of Health website.

So yes, the same people provide both ‘pregnancy advice’ and abortion – the two sides of one ‘abortion industry’ coin.

The DoH document above tells us that ‘Women may obtain advice on pregnancy matters and access to abortion services through a GP, NHS clinic/hospital or a PAB’ and that ‘A PAB may be defined as a “place that provides advice and help to women who may be pregnant”’.

But we are also told that ‘all premises seeking approval as a PAB will be required to confirm that they will comply with a core set of principles (known as “Required Standard Operating Principles” – RSOPs). In particular, every woman must:

• have a pregnancy test as appropriate;
• be fully informed about the choices available to her – including alternatives to an abortion;
• have the opportunity to receive information on pregnancy matters;
• receive impartial advice on the termination options that are available to her;
• be given advice on contraceptive needs.'

So pregnancy testing, ‘counselling’, ‘advice’, abortion are contraception are inextricably linked together. The publicly-funded private abortion providers receive referrals from the formally approved ‘pregnancy advice bureaux’ which they also largely run.

Given that the BPAS and MSI centres, which make up the vast majority, also provide abortions from which the two organisations profit financially, the question can justifiably be asked whether they are capable of ensuring that women are ‘fully informed about the choices available to her – including alternatives to an abortion’.

It is noteworthy that there is not one advice centre run by a pro-life organization on this list – in fact the requirements effectively rule them out of the running.

There are some other interesting things to note from the document on pregnancy advice.

‘All PABx will be required to advise the Department of the aggregated number of referrals for termination that they have made and the number of women whom they are aware of who choose not to have a termination each calendar year. This return should be made by the 1st of February of the following year.’

Well that information should be freely available under the Freedom of Information Act! It will be interesting to see.

‘All PABx must demonstrate that they have effective services providing advice, medical assessment and counselling.’

Well that would be an interesting study! What kind of counseling do they actually provide?

‘There should also be literature and information on alternatives to abortion – for instance adoption and motherhood – from sources independent of the PAB for women who decide to continue with the pregnancy.’

Hmmm. I’d like to see the sort of literature that is available on these alternatives. I wonder if we can get hold of it. And I wonder how available it really is. And finally…

‘The principles of good practice which all registered medical practitioners are expected to follow when seeking patients’ informed consent to investigations, treatment, screening or research are set out in documents prepared by the General Medical Council and sent to all doctors.’

Again it would be very interesting to see what women are really told.

There is lots of fascinating digging to be done here through further research, FOI applications and parliamentary questions.


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