In the U.K., a significant number of abortion clinics are under investigation for breaking the law by pre-signing consent forms, The Guardian reports.
Though doctors don’t have to meet with women in person, it’s their duty to not only confirm the woman’s decision, but to ensure she has consulted with a total of two doctors prior to the procedure.
Spot checks at more than 250 clinics this week found that around 50 are breaking the law, signing blank forms giving authorization in advance.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley ordered the investigation because he said the practices were illegal and go against the Abortion Act of 1967, which states that two doctors must agree that a continuation of the pregnancy would threaten the physical or mental health of a woman or her existing children.
“They should be responsible for knowing who that woman is, for knowing the grounds for that abortion,” he told Sky News, “and for knowing the appropriate pre-abortion assessment counselling and support has been given.”
Lansley ordered the inspections via the Care Quality Commission following evidence that doctors were providing abortions based on the sex of the baby.
“The CQC has agreed to undertake unannounced inspections to identify the scale of this problem,” Lansley told The Guardian. “And we will set up a special team comprising of all the necessary regulators and the department to look at how we stamp out bad practice in abortion clinics.”
One of the U.K.’s largest abortion providers — the British Pregnancy Advisory Service — was appalled by the investigation.
Chief executive Ann Furedi said, “Abortion doctors provide an important service to women who are often in difficult circumstances,” and denied that any of its clinics were breaking the law.
The Society for the Protection of the Unborn Children, Sky News reported, responded to the accusations, calling on the government to clamp down on abortion clinics.
“There are 200,000 abortions every year in Britain, yet the pro-abortion lobby wants the abortion law to be even more liberal,” the group said in a statement, “The Government must not only clamp down on individual doctors but must cut its ties to the abortion lobby and the abortion industry.”