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Christian pro-life campaigner questions abortion provider after standards concerns

An investigation by the Daily Mail alleges that Marie Stopes' doctors approve thousands of abortions over the phone without meeting them face-to-face.

Although it is not a legal requirement for doctors to meet patients before signing off on the abortion, Department of Health guidelines say it is 'good practice'.

In order for abortions to be carried out legally in the UK, two doctors must be in agreement that 'the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman' before the procedure can go ahead.

The Daily Mail alleges that when a reporter contacted Marie Stopes saying she wanted an abortion, she was told there was no need to meet the doctor who would give the go-ahead because it was routine for doctors to fill out the necessary forms 'behind the scenes', based on a conversation with the clinic's call centre staff who are not medical professionals.

Kim Traynor/CC

Speaking on Premier's News Hour, Peter Williams from pro-life organisation Right to Life said it is difficult to see how a doctor can come to a decision about whether a woman should have an abortion without meeting them.

He said: "What we've seen here is that women are simply being interviewed over the phone by a call centre worker. [The reporter] has said in this case she doesn't want a baby - which is not a grounds under which an abortion can take place legally - but the call centre worker is saying 'we'll just say that's for emotional reasons and that's covered' but that's not what the act actually says.

"The doctors aren't adjudicating this; instead they're relying second hand on some call centre worker who is giving them information.

"This is breaking at least the spirit of the regulation of the law if not the letter of the law."

An investigation by the Care Quality Commission into Marie Stopes last year found staff at Marie Stopes had "limited training" in resuscitation and clinicians were found to be "bulk-signing" forms authorising abortions.

The family planning provider suspended surgical abortions for girls under 18 and vulnerable women in August after concerns were raised by the CQC about patient safety.

In a statement, Marie Stopes said: "We do not agree with the conclusions this [Daily Mail] journalist has reached, which give a seriously misleading view of how our services operate. No reporter in this investigation went through the legal admission process that women must go through before receiving an abortion, so their claims are based on a partial view of the process.

"Following last year's CQC inspections of our services, we took the concerns raised very seriously. Since then, we have worked extensively to address these concerns and make ongoing improvements. We continue to work closely with the CQC, who are monitoring our clinics and head office to ensure the improvements we have made meet their expectations and are being embedded"

Listen to Alex Williams speaking to Peter Williams here:

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