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Abortion Act 1967

Volume 542: debated on Friday 23 March 2012

There have recently been a number of serious allegations involving potential breaches of the Abortion Act 1967. The Metropolitan Police, Greater Manchester Police and the West Midlands Police, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the General Medical Council (GMC) and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) are investigating the allegations into sex-selection at a number of abortion services. The chief medical officer has written to all abortion providers reminding them of their duties under the Abortion Act. The GMC interim orders panel has suspended or placed restrictions on the three doctors named in the press reports. Decisions on the registration and approval of the clinics are awaiting the investigations by the CQC and Department of Health officials into compliance with the Act and registration requirements.

Registration inspections by CQC in February also identified cases where doctors had signed the required certificate of the ground for the abortion (HSA1 forms) before the woman had been seen in the clinic. The Act requires two doctors to certify that at least one (and the same) ground for abortion exists in relation to a specific woman. The pre-signing of these forms is potentially a criminal offence and is being investigated by the CQC and the police and may lead to further referrals to the GMC or NMC.

In the light of the serious nature of these allegations, CQC are this week conducting a series of unannounced inspections of all abortion providers. Any evidence of failure to comply with the Act and registration requirements will be investigated by CQC, the police and other regulatory bodies. I will consider withdrawing an independent abortion provider’s approval to conduct abortions if the requirements of the Act are not being met. Any provider’s registration to carry out termination of pregnancy may also be suspended or cancelled by the CQC. I will provide further final details of actions taken when the initial investigations are complete.

In addition, my officials will work with the CQC and other regulatory bodies to examine compliance with the Act and relevant statutory and professional requirements in order to inform the planned revision of the Procedures for the Approval of Independent Abortion Providers for consultation later this year.