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GPs criticise ‘unnecessary’ abortion law changes

GP leaders have criticised changes to abortion counselling rules that they say will create ‘unnecessary barriers' and will make the procedure more traumatic for women.

Senior GPs have joined RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada in warning that Government moves to shake up pre-abortion counselling for women could create new barriers and set the system back 25 years.

The widespread criticism reflects concern over amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill meaning charity-run services, such as the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) and Marie Stopes, will no longer be able to counsel and provide abortion services at the same time.

GPC vice-chair Dr Richard Vautrey said that the changes were ‘unnecessary'. He said: ‘I agree with Clare Gerada. I've seen no evidence of women being dissatisfied with the advice they have had and they have certainly not been pressured in to making decisions.'

‘They are also more than likely to have received advice from their GP already so it seems unnecessary to seek further independent advice and then make a referral for treatment on top of that. These are difficult situations for women and they will not thank us for adding unnecessary barriers to them gaining the necessary help they require.'

GPC and BMA Council member Dr Helena McKeown told Pulse: ‘I can see that some GPs will be alarmed by [Tory MP] Ms Dorries's amendment but my concern is simply about delaying abortion beyond viability and making the process more traumatic to the pregnant woman.'

Dr Gerada, who has previously worked in abortion clinics, told the Guardian: ‘There is no agenda in abortion services, there is no pressure at all to encourage women to have an abortion. They encourage women to make a decision about what they want to do.'

‘The idea that BPAS or Marie Stopes are colluding to make a profit is wrong. If these independent counsellors include GPs, which I suspect they will, we know what happened before when you had a service that relied on GPs signing the forms. You had delays as some are conscientious objectors. Why fix what's not broken? It's worked well for 25 years.

‘I work [as a GP] in Lambeth. I've never heard of abuse in this system. Anything that puts a barrier between a woman to make a choice in timely manner must be a bad thing and will simply reverse the advances of the past 25 years.'

If the House of Commons speaker chooses to select the controversial amendment, MPs of every party will be given a free vote, as is the tradition with votes on abortion.

Other recent attempts to change the abortion laws have been defeated. This time, though, owing to the more nuanced nature of the proposal and a widespread belief that the new intake of Tory MPs are more socially conservative, the outcome is expected to be very close.