Abortion doctors could soon be in short supply as trainees put off by protests and political 'witch-hunt', providers warn
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service and Marie Stopes both have contracts to provide terminations on the NHSBoth organisations have warned it is already difficult to recruit necessary doctors

By
Claire Bates

PUBLISHED:

08:18 GMT, 2 April 2012

|

UPDATED:

09:07 GMT, 2 April 2012

New doctors will be put off from providing abortion services after recent pro-life protests at clinics around the UK, medical providers have warned.

Activists from groups such as '40 Days for Life' have been holding daily prayer vigils outside clinics run by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service in London. Although the group claim their protests are peaceful some have accused them of intimidation. Last month one woman complained she was filmed leaving a BPAS clinic.

A prayer vigil is held outside a BPAS clinic in Bedford Square, London: The Catholic religious group has been criticised by pro-choice campaigners of intimidating women

A prayer vigil is held outside a BPAS clinic in Bedford Square, London: The Catholic religious group has been criticised by pro-choice campaigners of intimidating women

Abortion providers said trainee medics will also be put off from training as the service has recently come under intense political scrutiny.

A spokesman for the BPAS said: 'Abortion is a vital yet stigmatised area of women's healthcare which few doctors train in.

'The current politicisation of abortion provision is likely to make it even harder to recruit a future generation of abortion doctors who are prepared to provide the care that a third of women will need in the course of their lifetimes.'

The government recently ordered an inspection of 250 clinics in England over fears as many as 20 per cent of them were pre-signing consent forms for terminations.

Inspectors had discovered that some doctors
were signing consent forms allowing women to undergo abortions without
knowing anything about their circumstances or why they wanted the
procedure. This breaches the Abortion Act.

One doctor from Birmingham was even filmed agreeing to alter paperwork to conceal
the fact he had agreed to abort a woman's baby because she didn't want a girl. Dr Raj Mohan has since been suspended by the General Medical Council.

Above board The Government launched spot checks at 250 clinics over fears they were not following strict guidelines

Above board The Government launched spot checks at 250 clinics over fears they were not following strict guidelines

The subsequent spot checks by the Care Quality Commission revealed that at least 50 clinics
were not complying with the official guidelines.

In some clinics inspectors
found that doctors had signed piles of consent forms without knowing
anything of the circumstances of the women involved. By law, a woman can
only undergo an abortion once two doctors have signed a form declaring
that continuing with the pregnancy would put her physical and mental
health at risk.

A Department of Health spokesman confirmed that doctors could face jail for breaching the Act.

However, pro-choice campaigners said
the majority of providers abided by the rules and felt 'under siege' and
prey to a 'political witch-hunt.'

Marie Stopes said none
of its 19 units was found to have breached the rules, while BPAS said
that, to the best of its knowledge, none of its clinics were involved.

Dr
Paula Franklin, medical director of Marie Stopes, which has NHS
contracts to provide terminations like the BPAS said it was now
challenging to find doctors willing to work in termination services and
to navigate past angry protestors every day.

Meanwhile Dr Kate Guthrie, clinical director with Hull and East Riding Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare Partnership, told The Guardian: 'I really do think that the question has to be asked: what impact is this increasingly negative politicisation going to have on future providers of abortion care

'Is it going to put doctors and nurses off becoming involved in this work'