Access to abortion should be made easier for women in the early stages of pregnancy, medical leaders said yesterday.
In a controversial move, the British Medical Association’s ethics committee published a briefing paper supporting changes to the Abortion Act to speed up treatment for women who are less than three months pregnant.
They said women should be allowed to refer themselves to abortion clinics, rather than having to go through their GP and getting approval from two doctors.
The committee also said that suitably trained and experienced nurses and midwives should be able to carry out both medical and surgical abortions.
The issue will now be debated at the BMA’s conference in Torquay later this month to see if there is widespread support from doctors across the UK.
But the Catholic Church in Scotland expressed concerns that such proposals would make abortions easier.
Its spokesman, Peter Kearney, said: “The changes they are proposing would probably make little difference in reality since we do have de facto abortion on demand in this country.
“The medical profession have failed quite abysmally to uphold the current legislation. Our view remains very clear on this, and that is that abortion is morally wrong and is not the answer to unwanted pregnancies.”
Mr Kearney said there was a danger of the medical profession having too much of a say over abortion.
“Essentially this is a moral and ethical issue and not a medical one. Doctors have a right to be heard but it is not an exclusive right,” he said.
Meanwhile, the bill that would have required women to receive counselling before having an abortion was rejected.
Introducing the Termination of Pregnancy (Counselling and Miscellaneous Provisions) bill, Ann Winterton, a Conservative MP, said it gave women considering abortion the full facts and time they needed to make the decision.
Ms Winterton, the vice-chairwoman of the parliamentary pro-life group, launched an attack on pro-choice groups and doctors who carry out abortions, saying the “abortion sisterhood” blocked attempts to give women information on what help they could receive if they chose to continue their pregnancy.
The bill was defeated by 182 votes to 107, a majority of 75. Votes on abortion are by tradition free votes, when MPs do not have to follow a party whip.
Full story at The Scotsman.