14/08/2014 16:57 BST | Updated 20/05/2015 10:12 BST

Proposals To Allow Women To Have An Abortion Without Seeing A Doctor

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Woman talking to a doctor

Ministers have proposed a change in the law that will mean women are allowed to have an abortion without seeing a doctor.

At the moment, two doctors must certify that there are lawful grounds for any abortion.

The Department of Health said: "Doctors must comply with that approach."

But ministers admitted that fewer than half of women who have abortions now see either of the doctors face-to-face before being granted approval. That amounts to more than 96,000 abortions a year in England and Wales being signed off by doctors who have never met the patient.

According to The Telegraph, the proposals state that there will be no legal requirement that a woman must consult a doctor before terminating a foetus.

Opponents described the move as a fundamental change to the practice of abortion in Britain.

They are contained in a Government consultation opened before Christmas which officially closes in two weeks.

Opponents say the guidelines will turn uncertainty over the law into a green light for abortion without doctors.

Dr Peter Saunders, of the Christian Medical Fellowship said: "We are seeing a significant change in the practice of abortion.

"This further trivialises the procedure and erodes the protections intended by Parliament for both the unborn child and the woman."

But abortion providers said the guidelines did not go far enough.

Tracey McNeill, the director of Marie Stopes International, said: "It is entirely unnecessary for women to see a doctor.

"Nurses are often much better at dealing with the emotional and psychological needs of women."

Jane Ellison, a health minister, said that only 46 per cent of women who had abortions in 2012 were seen by a doctor. They account for 83,930 cases – meaning that around 96,250 did not.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "The law requires that two doctors certify in good faith that there are lawful grounds for any abortion. Doctors must comply with that approach."