Submission from Madeleine Simms
Your No 1 (a) No doubt you have been in
touch with Professor Val Beral FRS, Fellow of Green College, Oxford.
(b) It is unlikely that any two people could
agree on what constitutes a "serious" abnormality so
seeking a "definition" would be a waste of time.
Once the doctors have given their best possible
medical advice to the prospective mother and her partner, it must
be up to them to decide whether they regard the condition as serious
and whether they have the emotional, financial and time resources
to take on this possibly onerous responsibility.
It is important to understand that the local
authorities who have to "statement" the child do this
very reluctantly because caring for handicapped children in specialist
institutions is so expensive that they restrict access to this
service. Our local paper is full of angry letters from parents
of such children. As you will know, because it attracted so much
public attention, even a Labour cabinet minister, Ruth Kelly,
decided to send her handcapped son to a private fee-paying institution
as no adequate public provision was available in her area.
Your No 2 (a) No one any longer doubts that
early abortion is much safer than full term delivery.
(b) The requirement for two doctors was
a device inserted into the 1967 Abortion Act in order to appease
the Pro-Life lobby. It did not succeed in this.
(c) Nurses and midwives already carry out
more complicated procedures than early abortion.
Your No 3: As aforesaid, Professor Beral could
Restricting access to abortion has serious long
term social implications. We know now to a greater extent than
we understood in the l960s that our prisons are full of young
people who were unwanted by their mothers and fathers, were neglected,
unloved and sometimes ill-treated.
The fact that it costs £40,000 a year to
keep an adult in prisonand much more in a youth institution,
is a sobering thought for the taxpayer.
As the late great Scottish gynaecologist Sir
Dugald Baird pointed out 40 years ago, it is fruitless to try
and separate medical, scientific and social aspects in the field
of abortion. They all have bearing on each other.
Women who need abortions need to have them as
early, safely and cheaply as possible. By cutting out time wasting
bureaucracy the whole process can be speeded up, and with the
money saved, birth control services can be improved.
Submission from Madeleine Simms MA MSc now retired,
formerly Senior Research Officer Institute for Social Studies
in Medical Care, seconded to Department of Health Research Management