Up to one in five abortion clinics in the U.K. are breaking the law, an official investigation ordered late last month by the Health Secretary revealed, prompting sharp criticism from government authorities and pro-life groups.
The raids on more than 250 private and National Health Service abortion clinics found that a "shocking" number of abortion facilities may not operating legally, the Telegraph revealed. The most common breaches of law doctors were committing involved falsifying consent forms for patients, meaning they were pre-signing the forms in bulk and ignoring the legal requirement that ensures patients hoping for an abortion must be counseled by at least two different doctors.
The findings, revealed by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), have been described as "shocking" by Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary. If the charges are proven to be true, many of these clinics may be stripped of licenses allowing them to perform abortions.
"I was appalled. Because if it happens, it is pretty much people engaging in a culture of both ignoring the law and trying to give themselves the right to say that although Parliament may have said this, we believe in abortion on demand," Lansley said.
He further explained that the matter was not simply about proper paperwork. The Health Secretary insisted that the law requiring women to be counseled by two different doctors before undergoing abortions ensures they get the support that they need.
"I completely understand the law doesn't require the doctor to have met the woman concerned, but to pre-sign certificates when you don't even know which woman it relates to and there hasn't been an assessment, is completely contrary to the spirit and letter of the law," Lansley added.
Ann Ferudi, the CEO of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the largest private abortion provider in the U.K., called the CQC raids an attempt to "persecute" abortion clinics, and claimed that the Health Secretary was acting on political pressure coming from anti-abortion lawmakers.
However, Michael Cooke, editor at National Right to Life, a pro-life U.K. organization, claimed that these doctors were not simply breaking abortion laws, but infringing on fundamental democratic principles.
"Politicians lose their jobs for falsifying their expenses. Accountants can be jailed for fudging audits. Scientists are stripped of their funding when they falsify data. Shouldn't doctors feel obliged to follow the letter of the law, too – especially when lives are at stake?" Cooke asked.
He added, "Has there been a complete regulatory collapse in Britain, as well? It appears that doctors have ignored the law for years and regulators have deliberately chosen to ignore their arrogance. If the paperwork is not being done, what assurance do the government and the public have that far worse scandals – even by the standards of the law in England and Wales – are not happening? None at all.
"More importantly, the doctors and the abortion clinics are throwing sands in the wheels of democracy. The abortion law was passed with promises by politicians that women who wanted an abortion would be protected by strict safeguards. Now it is clear that those safeguards are being treated as a joke."