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23 / 04 / 2010 - Threefold rise in GPs who offer abortions after rules are relaxed
The number of GP surgeries planning to offer abortions has tripled, figures revealed yesterday.
The dramatic rise was welcomed by abortion charities, who say it will make it more convenient for vulnerable women who are under nine weeks pregnant to terminate their babies.
But pro-life campaigners argue it will inevitably push up the number of abortions. Already the abortion rate in England and Wales is second in the western world only to the U.S.
The procedure offered by GPs, known as 'early medical abortion', involves two appointments, up to a day apart, to take pills which induce a miscarriage.
Ministers have had the power to allow terminations outside hospitals or clinics since 1967, when abortion was legalised, but never used them - until they relaxed the rules 18 months ago.
Freedom of Information requests by GP magazine reveal that 17 surgery-based clinics are planned or already running England - nearly three times as many as the six that were planned just a year ago.
Of the 17, two are up and running, four health trusts have requested licences to carry out early abortions, and another 11 say they are considering applying for a licence.
Responses were received from 114 primary care trusts and were analysed alongside data from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), a charity which runs some of the clinics.
Ann Furedi, chief executive of BPAS, said: 'It makes perfect sense for the abortion pill to be available from GPs, health centres and family planning clinics where doctors have the time and knowledge to counsel women properly and provide 24/7 advice and support for their patients.
'It must be borne in mind, though, that the abortion pill is not "abortion lite". It is not a cheaper or easier option that could be slotted into an eight-minute GP appointment - it requires no more, but no less care than other abortion methods.'
But last night, pro-life groups criticised the increase. Peter Saunders, of the Christian Medical Fellowship, said: 'We are gravely concerned that this will mean women with unplanned pregnancies, who often choose abortion because they have no other children, will find themselves increasingly on the abortion conveyor belt without the time and support necessary to make a decision free from coercion.
'At a time when we're cutting back on health services because there's a recession, the government is expanding taxpayer-funded abortion, having failed with a policy of value-free sex education, free condoms, and morning after pills to bring about real behaviour change.
'It's the classic ambulance at the bottom of the cliff approach.'
A survey last year found that 61 per cent of doctors did not believe GP surgeries should be offering the services, while 33 per cent said they would not work in those that did.
Source: Daniel Martin - DAILY MAIL