British doctors call for easier abortions

British doctors are calling for access to abortions to be made quicker and easier for women; the move would bring Britain in line with many other European countries.

The doctors, members of the British Medical Association (BMA), have used an annual conference in Torquay to demand that the law be changed so that abortions in the first three months of pregnancy are as easily accessible as other treatments.

A motion that abortions should be performed on the basis of "informed consent", with patients told about the benefits and risks, was passed by a vote of 67% to 33%.

This will now become official BMA policy and executives will lobby parliament and the government to adopt the change.

The doctors also supported a call for only one doctor, rather than the current number of two, to be required to give permission for the abortion.

This would avoid delays which often then entail women needing a more invasive surgical procedure.

Doctors at the BMA however rejected calls for midwives and nurses with suitable training to be able to carry out first trimester abortions and the relaxation of laws on what is considered an "approved" place to carry out first trimester abortions.

This would have paved the way for abortions to be performed in places such as local doctors' surgeries.

The motion was proposed by Liberal Democrat MP Dr. Evan Harris who is a member of the BMA's Medical Ethics Committee.

He queried why women seeking termination, who are very often distressed and anxious, should be faced with irrational barriers, perceived or real, and potential delays which leads to later abortions, when early an medical abortion in the first nine weeks, is known to be safer and easier.

According to government figures the number of abortions performed in England and Wales rose 3.9% in 2006 with 89% being carried out under 13 weeks and 68% taking place at less than 10 weeks.

The BMA represents around 70 percent of British doctors and was one of the major instigators behind the government's smoke-free legislation and is expected to use its significant lobbying powers to influence government policy on this issue.

At present the British government says it has no plans to introduce any changes to the 1967 Abortion Act.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), which conducts around 55,000 terminations a year, has welcomed the new BMA policy saying it was very good news for women.

But ProLife Alliance say the move smacks of abortion on demand and the medical profession should be giving greater consideration to the medical and psychological impact on women.

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