GPs 'refusing' to authorise abortions

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Almost a quarter of family doctors are refusing to sign abortion referral forms, a survey has suggested.

Some 24 per cent of GPs questioned by the doctor's journal Pulse said that they would not sign the paperwork, which under the law must be completed by two medics in order for a woman to have a termination.

Of the 309 doctors surveyed, 19 per cent also said that they thought abortion should be illegal.

Meanwhile, over 50 per cent felt that the current 24-week limit for abortions to be carried out should be reduced.

Women's health experts have expressed concern at the findings.

Dr Robbie Foy, a senior clinical lecturer at Newcastle University who has conducted research on abortion, warned that current access to termination services was "a lottery for women".

"We must provide reliable, secure and non-judgmental care," he explained.

"Many women are still not getting this at present and face unacceptable delays which increase the risks of complications as well as causing additional anxiety.

"Any sort of trend towards more doctors refusing to participate in induced abortion will risk marginalising this essential service," Dr Foy added.

However, the results of the survey were called into question by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service which queried whether the findings accurately reflected the views of GPs given that less than one per cent of the UK's 40,000 family doctors gave their opinions.

A Department of Health spokesman said that GPs had to inform a patient of their right to see another doctor if they felt their personal beliefs might affect the treatment of those under their care.

The latest official statistics show that there was a 0.4 per cent rise in the number of women who had a termination in England and Wales in 2005, with 186,400 abortions conducted.

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