Call to remove need for doctors' signatures for abortion

The requirement of two doctors' signatures to authorise an abortion should be removed, according to the House of Commons' Science and Technology Committee.

In its report on abortion, published this week, the committee concluded that it had not seen any good evidence that two doctors’ signatures ‘serves to safeguard women or doctors in any meaningful way, or serves any other useful purpose’.

It is concerned that the need to obtain two signatures may delay access to abortion services.
‘If a goal of public policy is to encourage early as opposed to later abortion, we believe there is a strong case for removing the requirement for two doctors’ signatures,’ said the committee.

It also called for the GMC to make sure that any doctors who conscientiously object to abortions make sure patients know they will not consult on the issue.

If the subject of abortion does arise during consultation, doctors should transfer the patient to a different doctor immediately, according to the report.

Additionally, there is no evidence so far that survival rates below the current abortion limit of 24 weeks’ gestation has improved, said the committee.

However, it added that yet to be published results from the EPICure 2 study into survival rates among neonates in England could affect the debate.

Science and Technology Committee report

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