At the forthcoming stage of the Health and Social Care Bill, in addition to our amendment to provide vulnerable women seeking an abortion advice and counselling, Frank Field and I will be laying down a second amendment.
The second amendment will be to transfer the responsibility for drawing up the clinical guidelines for a woman seeking an induced abortion from the RCOG (Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists) to NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence).
The reality of the current situation is that, in the absence of any other guidelines being in existence, should a doctor not adhere to those produced by the RCOG he would – in law – be seen to be acting unlawfully. The Courts would regard the RCOG Guidance as representing the position of respectable medical opinion.
We are concerned with the legality of the procedure used for drafting the guidelines and the make up of the RCOG working group for a number of reasons.
- Of the eighteen members in the working group who have drawn up the draft guidelines, eleven are immediately and easily identifiable as abortionists who make their living wholly or partly through the abortion process.
- The working group produced its draft guidelines for consultation and did so via its website with a four week deadline for submissions and comments, but failed to inform anyone it had done so, including stakeholders and journalists whose work had been quoted. With an issue as emotive as abortion, any professional and ethical group would have widely sought external opinion and would have ensured that the public had full access and scrutiny of the work undertaken. Government guidelines for consultation are twelve weeks. With an issue as important as this, the consultation period should have been double that.
- The draft guidelines failed to include a declaration of interests from members of the group including a declaration of monies acquired through abortion industry related activities. The public have a right to that at the very least.
- A review into the mental health impact of abortion upon women by the Royal College of Psychiatrists is presently underway. In producing its recent draft guidelines, the RCOG group has completely ignored the findings of a landmark study recently published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, that women who abort are 30% more likely to develop mental health problems than those who don’t and instead, has relied on a highly criticised review by the American Psychological Association. It is logical to wait until the review by the Royal College of Psychiatrists has been produced before proceeding and further with the proposed RCOG guidelines.
- The RCOG has failed to uphold the principle of professionalism and ethical responsibility in the way it has behaved in the production of these guidelines and indeed, I would go as far as to say has brought the entire RCOG into disrepute.
Such conduct is potentially unlawful. The guidelines relate to the important issue of abortion and arguably engage Article 2 and 8 of the European Convention, not least to be fully informed of adverse medical consequences of an induced abortion. As such, important questions of public law are raised. Additional issues are raised in private law. The RCOG is an association by which its membership is bound in contract. There is a duty for balance in the formulation of any working group and an implicit understanding that any sensitive issues such as guidelines for induced abortion, should be fair and professional.
The RCOG are not free to behave as they wish and certainly, not as they have behaved.
The re-drafting of the guidelines was requested by the previous administration prior to the General Election, presumably in the hope of once again using the same formulae that have been used in the past to protect the interests of abortion providers over those of vulnerable women.
It is time for self interest in the £60 million abortion industry to cease.
NICE are accountable to Parliament, the RCOG are not. Our amendment will remove the incestuous behaviour of the RCOG and bring the care of vulnerable women back to a balanced, impartial, accountable and caring footing.