28/08/2011 12:16 BST | Updated 28/10/2011 10:12 BST

New Abortion Independent Counselling Proposals Labelled 'Another Deliberate Obstacle' For Women Seeking A Termination

Abortion rights campaigners have labelled government plans to tighten up the law on terminations as another "deliberate obstacle" for women.

The outcry came after the Department of Health confirmed reports in the Sunday Telegraph that they plan to implement independent counselling for women seeking an abortion.

"The Department of Health wants women who are thinking about having an abortion to be able to have access to independent counselling. Work is underway currently to develop proposals around counselling on which the department intends to consult externally", a spokesperson said on Sunday morning.

The spokesperson denied the move was because government did not trust abortion providers to give independent counselling, saying it was about "choice" and ensuring women "feel supported": "This is not a reflection or judgement on abortion clinics. We would expect the independent counsellors to be trained and have experience."

But a spokesperson for the pro-choice campaign group Abortion Rights said the move was a "direct copy of the type of tactics used in the US to restrict abortion."

"Even if it's not compulsary counselling the fact that you're being compulsorily offered it makes you think you must need it. A lot of young women will feel like the very fact that they have to be offered counselling means they need it, which propagates the myth that abortion leads to depression or mental health problems."

She added: "It's going to create a completely unnecessary obstacle."

The move would not need to be put to parliament, and the Department of Health said they did not know how much it would cost or when the consultation would open, only saying that more detail would be set out later in the year.

Under the proposed system, counselling would not be mandatory and the Department of Health spokesperson could not specify whether this would delay some abortions. However they stressed women who did not accept counselling could still "receive an abortion within 24 hours" in theory.

Anti-abortion campaigners have said 60,000 fewer abortions could be performed as a result of the move.