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Abortion Forms: BPAS Asks Why Pre-Signing Claims Went To Press Before Police

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The government has been accused of political manoeuvering over the issue of abortion after details of alleged illegal activity at clinics were given to the press before providers or the police.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) said the decision to pass on the information over the claims, which revealed that up to one in five clinics may be illegally pre-signing abortion forms, risked polarising the debate further and bringing abortion providers under further stress.

The result of unannounced "raids" by health regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which finished on Thursday night, was announced in newspapers on Friday before parliament, the police and abortion providers were aware of them, BPAS says.

Lansley was quoted in reports saying he was "shocked and appalled" by the claims reports that the CQC had found doctors in abortion clinics were suspected of illegally pre-signing forms that would allow women to have a termination. The health secretary told The Daily Telegraph that the department would take action soon: "If there is evidence of an offence we will give it to the police."

BPAS told The Huffington Post UK they were upset that they had not been personally informed of the serious allegations, especially at a time when abortion providers already feel "under attack".

Abigail Fitzgibbon, Public Policy Manager at BPAS said there was "no suggestion" the doctors in the clinics were doing anything illegal, and railed against how "unclear" the Department of Health had been about the findings.

"The thing about this is it's very unclear - all we've seen is the press release. I don't know what it is that these un-named doctors in these un-named clinics are supposed to have done. Pre-signing forms shouldn't be done.

"The CQC wrapped up their investigation yesterday afternoon and they were briefing the press about it at the same time. We found out about it from the media," she said.

The General Medical Council said the claims were a matter for the police, telling The Huffington Post UK they had not referred any doctors to the authorities "just yet" as they did not yet have the full information.

"This is a criminal offence and we would refer those doctors to the police. The information that you have is the information we have."

BPAS' Fitzgibbon said that providers now felt "under attack" after a month where their website was hacked by an anti-abortion cyber criminal and faced pro-life group 40 days for life filming women outside their clinic. She told The Huffington Post UK that if the Secretary of State "really cared about women" he would engage with the issues instead of making what appeared to be a "very big political statement."

"It's kind of taking its toll on our staff," she said. "I really do feel very emotional about this. Over the last month or so we've had our website hacked by a cyber-criminal, we've had 40 days for life outside.

"Andrew Lansley had nothing to say when we were hacked, and when we had people filming outside our clinic.

"He's not concerned about women or staff in abortion clinics. There are so many things we could talk to him about about women and sexual healths.

"There are so many ways he could improve provision for women. He's suddenly ordered these raids on clinics. It's so worrying because you expect it from Nadine Dorries but for the Secretary of State to start using abortion in this way it can only go one way and we've seen that in the States."

"This appears to be a very big political statement and that is just really, really frightening for providers.

"When you start using that kind of language ... then you attract extremists," Fitzgibbon said.

Conservative MP Nadine Dorries has called for the 1967 Abortion Act to be brought back before parliament, but declined to elaborate on the topic when contacted by the Huffington Post UK.

Anti-abortion charity LIFE spokesperson Niall Gooch said: “The results of the investigation show that a large number of abortion clinics are operating in a fashion which is complacent, fraudulent and potentially harmful to women’s health.

"We welcome the plans for further investigation, and are grateful for Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s reaffirmation that the 1967 Abortion Act does not allow abortion on demand, or establish a “right” to abortion," they said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the CQC said: "The Secretary of State asked CQC, as the regulatory agency with direct powers to inspect and seize evidence across the NHS and independent sector, to conduct these inspections as a priority.

"Where our inspectors discovered pre-signed forms indicating that providers were breaking the law - we will share this information with the police and the GMC.

"CQC will also be considering what regulatory action we will be taking against these providers.

"We will be publishing individual reports on all providers inspected shortly and cannot legally identify non-compliant services until this point."

The Department for Health has not yet commented on the issue.