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Volume 975: debated on Tuesday 11 December 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what relative weight he attaches to social and moral factors, and to health criteria, respectively, in formulating his Department's policy on the availability of abortion facilities.

The decision whether an abortion shall be carried out is made by medical practitioners in accordance with the criteria laid down in the Abor- tion Act 1967. The criteria include health and social factors relating to the individual pregnant woman. The Department's responsibility is limited to seeking to ensure that the demand created in this way is met as far as possible. In the National Health Service the development of abortion facilities is a matter for local health authorities which must consider what priority to give to them in the light of local needs and of all the competing demands on their resources. My right hon. Friend, under powers given to him by the Act, approves a number of private nursing homes and clinics as places where abortions may be carried out; in approving such places he requires detailed assurances about the standards of service provided.