MP misrepresents BMA abortion policy
2 November 2012
The BMA has rounded on misleading comments made by an MP about the association’s stance on abortion counselling.
Doctors leaders have sought to correct the claims made by Mid Bedfordshire Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, who suggested the BMA had called for a consultation on counselling provision for women considering abortions.
Ms Dorries was speaking during a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday, at which health minister Anna Soubry announced the government would no longer be conducting a consultation on abortion counselling.
BMA medical ethics committee chair Tony Calland has written to Ms Dorries and Ms Soubry to clarify the BMA’s position.
Dr Calland writes: ‘The BMA supports timely and impartial counselling and advice for women requesting abortion, should they wish to receive it.
‘Policy established at this year’s BMA [annual representative meeting] simply reflects the BMA’s long-standing position on this issue.’
Dr Calland points out that the policy agreed at the ARM in June was to support ‘the universal availability of non-directive counselling for women considering abortion’.
The BMA has also made efforts to correct several newspaper articles written following the ARM, suggesting that members wanted counselling to be provided independently of abortion providers.
Dr Calland says: ‘To clarify the situation, the BMA responded making it clear that the conference did not call for counselling to be separated from abortion providers, and during the debate it was stressed that there was no criticism of existing counselling provision.’
He adds that he is happy to meet the MP and health minister to brief them further on BMA policy.
During the Westminster Hall debate, Ms Dorries called for reform of the Abortion Act 1967, and advocated a reduction in the time limit for abortions.
The BMA believes there is no scientific justification to reduce the limit from 24 to 20 weeks. This policy was cited by a number of MPs during the debate.
Ms Soubry said the government had decided against a consultation on abortion counselling because ‘we do not intend to change either the law or the guidelines’.
She admitted that NHS counselling services were patchy, and said that was not acceptable.