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Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what recent discussions she has had with the leaders of the medical profession about interpretation by them of section 4 of the Abortion Act 1967; and if she will make a statement; 
(2) what guidelines her Department (a) has issued and (b) plans to issue to NHS primary care trusts setting out the rights of (i) general practitioners and (ii)nurses under section 4 of the Abortion Act 1967; and if she will make a statement; 
(4) whether it is her policy to require (a) general practitioners and (b) nurses to sign a declaration that they have no conscientious objection to performing or assisting at an abortion; and if she will make a statement; 
(6) when it became a requirement for a physician who intends to rely on section 4 of the Abortion Act 1967 to refer a patient to another physician who does not have a conscientious objection; and if she will make a statement; 
(7) if she will introduce legislation to amend section 4 of the Abortion Act 1967 to remove the duty on a physician with a conscientious objection to treatment
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under the Act from referring a patient to another physician who does not have such a conscientious objection; and if she will make a statement; 
no person shall be under any duty, whether by contract or by any statutory or other legal requirement, to participate in any treatment authorised by this Act to which he has a conscientious objection".
The House of Lords ruled in 1988 that this exemption does not extend to giving advice, performing the preparatory steps to arrange an abortion where the request meets legal requirements and undertaking administration connected with abortion procedures. Doctors with a conscientious objection to abortion should make their views known to the patient and enable the patient to see another doctor without delay if that is the patient's wish. No recent discussion have taken place between the Secretary of State for Health and leaders of the medical profession on the interpretation of this ruling.
The General Medical Council's (GMC) booklet, Good Medical Practice", states that general practitioners' views about a patient's lifestyle or beliefs must not prejudice the treatment they provide or arrange. If they feel their beliefs might affect the treatment, this must be explained to the patient, who should be told of their right to see another doctor. Breach of this guidance may expose a doctor to a charge of serious professional misconduct and disciplinary action by the GMC.
The Department has issued guidance on best practice where there are ethical objections to abortion, through the Recommended Standards for Sexual Health Services", produced for the Department by the Medical Foundation for AIDS and Sexual Health.
It is accepted Parliamentary practice that proposals for changes in the law on abortion have come from back-bench members and that decisions are made on the basis of free votes. The Government has no plans to change the law on abortion.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment she has made of the medical circumstances in which emergency abortions are performed to save the life of the pregnant woman in those cases which have arisen since 2000; and how many times each circumstance has been the main factor. 
Caroline Flint: The Government is taking action through the national strategy for sexual health and HIV, the teenage pregnancy strategy and the Public Health White Paper to reduce the number of abortions. We are working to improve access to contraceptive services and the range of methods of contraception that are available. The Public Health White Paper announced a national audit of contraceptive services, backed by new investment of £40 million to address gaps in services. An expert contraceptive services group has been established to advise the Department on taking this work forward. We are also working with the Department for Education and Skills to improve sex and relationships education.
Caroline Flint: As with all marketed medicines, the safety of Mifegyne, mifepristone, an antiprogestogenic steroid that is used for the medical termination of intra-uterine pregnancy, is continuously monitored by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Mifepristone was first authorised in the United Kingdom as a prescription only medicine for use under specialist care in July 1991. This followed advice from the Committee on Safety of Medicines. No formal research has subsequently been carried out. The MHRA will continue to monitor the safety of mifepristone.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if she will seek to establish when and how each of the current methods of abortion used in British hospitals and clinics was developed; and if she will make a statement; 
Caroline Flint: The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists' (RCOG) evidence-based clinical guideline, The Care of Women Requesting Induced Abortion", published in 2004, sets out the recommended methods of abortion which practitioners are expected to follow. Any new methods of abortion will be developed and researched in the same way as any other new medical procedure and will be subject to the same safety monitoring and licensing controls.
Methods of termination are monitored through the forms sent to the Chief Medical Officer by practitioners for every termination of pregnancy they perform. We are not aware of the procedure referred to as partial-birth abortion being used in Great Britain.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average cost of performing an abortion was in (a) national health service hospitals and (b) private hospitals, in each of the last three years for which figures are available. 
|NHS trusts(50)||Non-NHS providers(51)|
Caroline Flint: In 1985, the House of Lords ruled that young people aged under 16 are legally able to consent to medical advice and treatment, including abortion, if a doctor or other healthcare worker judges them competent to do so. For under 16s seeking an abortion, guidance from the Department emphasises that health professionals should discuss the benefits of the young women involving her parents. Where she cannot be persuaded to do so, every effort should be made to find another adult to provide support, for example another family member or specialist youth worker.
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