On Friday, Marie Stopes International halted hundreds of abortions because of safety concerns, sending women to other clinics instead. The UK's leading abortion provider is being urged to explain exactly why it has suspended some of its services for under-18s and vulnerable women.
The suspension came after the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which inspects health and social care services in England, said teenagers may not be giving proper consent and that medical staff carrying out anaesthetics may not be sufficiently trained. However, the inspectors said they are unable to elaborate further until their full report can be made public, The Times reported. Those affected include girls under 18 and women who are more than 12 weeks pregnant, whose abortions require surgery rather than pills. The suspension means around 250 women will be sent elsewhere for terminations each week until the issues have been resolved, reported The Guardian. Marie Stopes treats around 70,000 women each year – around a third of all abortions in England and Wales. Until the CQC's concerns have been allayed, The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) said it was working to provide services for the women affected. The charity said it was "a significant undertaking", especially because some women will be asking for late abortions, reported The Guardian. The lack of clarity about what exactly has happened at Marie Stopes could scare vulnerable women, BPAS also said. “It would be better if people were clear on what exactly has happened. Abortion is a very stigmatised thing. This may add to that anxiety,” a BPAS spokeswoman told The Times.
Responding to the concerns over the suspension, Simon Cooke, Chief Executive of Marie Stopes International, said: "[The suspension] is to allow Marie Stopes UK to resolve areas of concern in its training and governance procedures. We are working urgently with the CQC on these areas and intend to regain full assurance within a few days." Cooke said the organisation's "immediate priority" is to make sure women affected are booked into alternative local services. "We are working closely with NHS England to ensure that this happens," he said. Marie Stopes's other services remain unaffected.