The Marie Stopes inquiry confirms it: our abortion laws are failing women

A consultation room at a Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast (AP)

In August, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – the independent regulator of health and social care services – instigated the suspension of all surgical abortions, and all medical abortions to young women and those with learning impairments, at Marie Stopes abortion facilities. When this happened, serious issues involving staff training and competence were vaguely mentioned, with an ominous reference to “issues of consent”. The full reality, as it now turns out, was worse than some of us even imagined.

On Tuesday, the CQC finally released a damning report on the issues they encountered, describing poor levels of training and standards in anaesthesia and surgical safety, life support, and the reporting of “incidents”, as well as the safeguarding of vulnerable girls and women. Some of the various revelations mentioned in the report are particularly concerning, and illustrate the industrial and dehumanised nature of the abortion “provision” taking place.

Perhaps the most truly disturbing part of the report is when the authors recount a woman with learning impairments presenting herself for “treatment” (that is, an abortion) with no friend or family member present. Chillingly, this was performed on her despite, as the CQC authors relate, the fact that “[c]onsent to treatment… was not carried out in a way [she] could understand and we observed the situation was poorly and insensitively handled by doctors”.

As well as problems with patient medical safety and informed consent, the CQC identified a potential ignorance of further abuses. The report shows in detail that “[s]taff had no training in respect of female genital mutilation or child sexual exploitation, putting these patients at risk of further abuse”. Later, the authors recount the “bulk signing” of HSA1 forms (which authorise an abortion), even 30-60 at a time, at two MSI facilities.

All of this is bad enough; I mention only a few examples of the failures the CQC identify. Yet it has a wider import and context. MSI is one of the largest abortion providers in the country. It carries out 70,000 – just over a third – of the roughly 200,000 abortions that occur not just in England, but in Scotland and Wales also. The CQC’s report is an insight into how the abortion industry goes about its work.

This is not, after all, anything new. Last year, the Richmond branch of BPAS was censured by the CQC for not reporting potentially harmful “incidents”. The CQC has also identified the pre-signing of forms as a problem at many abortion clinics. Far from being an anomalous activity, this is symptomatic of our system of de facto abortion on demand. If that description seems exaggerated, consider that 98% of all abortions take place on the grounds of safeguarding “mental or physical health”, despite the total dearth of serious evidence that abortion protects either.

This system enables and even normalises illegal abortion that harms women and girls. Not only (as the Stop Gendercide campaign has identified) sex-selective abortions, but the cover-up of sexual abuse, and the “social terminations” that allow those like Emma Beck and Jade Rees to suffer the same fate.

So the CQC Report is not just about the short-term failing of a single abortion organisation, and the callous attitude to women’s welfare which gives the lie to all the rhetoric about “choice” and “feminism”. What it serves to illustrate is the total failure of UK abortion law to limit abortion and protect pregnant mothers and their unborn children. It is not the disease, but a symptom of it. We can be glad that the CQC may detect, and to an extent deter, such abuses, but unless and until we are willing to address the ultimate and underlying cause of this dehumanising behaviour, we may not hope to end it.