London BPAS late-term abortion clinic found to be putting women at risk after surprise inspection

An abortion clinic in London, which specialises in late-term abortions, could be putting women at risk after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found incompetent staff who had not completed life support training and “not all equipment was in good working order”.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service’s abortion clinic in Streatham performed 4,404 abortions in 2018, including 491 late-term abortions on babies at 20 weeks’ gestation or later. The South London clinic performed the second largest number of late-term abortions in the UK in 2018 with the BPAS Rosslyn abortion clinic in Richmond performing 514.

The ‘service’ in Streatham was rated as “requires improvement” on safety, effectiveness and responsiveness – the worst rating of any private abortion provider since the CQC launched its rating system was, in 2017.

In their report, the CQC notes that two serious incidents and 76 clinical incidents were reported at the clinic between April 2018 and April 2019. 

However, this is likely only the tip of the iceberg as inspectors discovered that “staff did not always report incidents as they felt there was a blame culture”.

One staff member even disclosed to an inspector, “if you raise concerns then you have to face the consequences. I have learnt to keep quiet”

Alarmingly, only nine of the clinic’s twenty-four members of staff had received training to spot and treat sepsis, which is the leading cause of maternal death in the UK. 

The report also raised concerns over the lack of care given to women handed the abortion-inducing drug misprosotol, which was approved for home use by the Government last year.

It states: “The clinic had recently started to offer patients the home use of misoprostol. However, we found women were not offered the choice of returning to the clinic to take the second tablet if they wanted to.” 

Right To Life UK has previously spoken out and campaigned against the decision to allow for the administration of misoprostol away from medical supervision and oversight.

In addition to a litany of health concerns and safety abuses, inspectors were particularly critical about the abortion clinic’s staff. 

Labelling this area of service “inadequate,” the report states that managers “did not always have the skills and abilities to run the service”, and “the service did not always make sure staff were competent for their roles”.

It adds: “We found one staff record where certain competencies for the role they were employed for had not been signed off since they started the organisation over three years ago”.

Inspectors found further negligence in this area through a lack of effective monitoring to ensure staff had received the appropriate safeguarding training. Two staff members hadn’t completed the mandatory safeguarding training and only 64% of staff were fully compliant with the necessary regulations. 

Meanwhile, staff have spoken of a “culture of blame and harassment” which created a “demoralising environment”

This is the second BPAS clinic in a matter of months found to be putting women at risk.

Last year, the Care Quality Commission were contacted by a local NHS trust who “raised concerns regarding the frequency of patients coming to them from BPAS Merseyside”.

Inspectors found six cases of women who “required urgent medical attention due to complications and were transferred from the service to another healthcare provider between January and December 2018.” 

In 2018, a surgeon contracted by the clinic was struck off the medical register for exposing patients to the risk of life-threatening conditions during abortions. 

In 2017, the CQC found 16 serious incidents had occurred in which patients were admitted to hospital for emergency treatment over a period of three years. Over the same period, 11 women were transferred for emergency hospital treatment after suffering serious injuries. 

BPAS Merseyside and BPAS Streatham both performed over 4,000 terminations in 2018 placing them both among the top 10 abortion providers in the country. 

Despite a long history of health concerns and safety abuses from the abortion provider, BPAS has taken over re-commissioned ‘services’ across the West Midlands. It follows the closure of five Marie Stopes International (MSI) abortion clinics with a chequered history in the West Midlands. 

In 2016, MSI Birmingham along with other MSI centres around the country had some of their ‘services’ suspended due to procedural and safety concerns raised by the CQC. 

Volunteers offering pro-life help outside the clinic told March for Life UK it was not uncommon to see 2 or 3 ambulances lined up outside the building.

Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said:

 “Yet again, however, we are confronted with the callous disregard for a woman’s health and safety from the abortion industry. Sadly, this is not the first time that an abortion provider, which receives millions of pounds of taxpayer money annually, has been found to be placing the health and safety of women at risk. 

“The Care Quality Commission wants to see improvements at all of these clinics but the only real improvement that can be made to abortion clinics, for the lives of both women and unborn babies, would be for them to be closed.”

Babies aborted late in pregnancy in France receive painkiller which is not provided in the UK

A national survey of French prenatal diagnosis centres has revealed that for late-term abortions 97% of abortion clinics or hospitals surveyed will always give unborn babies pain relief prior to administering a lethal injection that induces a heart attack (known as feticide). 

This is done in accordance with the guidelines of the French College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists which states: 

[English translation]: “Fetal analgesia is justified by pain stimulation in case of an intracardiac puncture, but also because the injection of KCl [potassium chloride] or death itself can be painful.”

The survey found that the vast majority of centres (82%) routinely administered pain relief injections directly into the umbilical cord, which has no nerve cells and therefore would not be painful, as opposed to directly into the unborn baby. 

The French survey also revealed that Xylocaine is used almost exclusively for the heart-attack-inducing lethal injection involved in ‘feticide’ rather than potassium chloride. Xylocaine has anaesthetic properties whereas dilute potassium chloride given intravenously to adult patients has been described as ‘excruciatingly painful’.

In contrast, the use of painkillers in the UK is not required by law or suggested in official guidelines. 

This in itself is contradicted by the standard NHS practice of giving painkillers to unborn babies receiving surgery in the womb for spina bifida

Estimates have predicted that 80 percent of unborn babies diagnosed with spina bifida, each year, are aborted. However, pro-life campaigners are hopeful that now the surgery has been made routinely available on the NHS the number of unborn babies terminated each year will fall.

A spokesperson for Right to Life UK Catherine Robinson said:

“There is a glaring inconsistency, here. Last year, in the UK, 3602 women underwent an abortion at 20 weeks or later without any guidance mandating the use of pain relief for the unborn baby; many of these will be following the diagnosis of a disability. Yet, in the very same hospitals, mothers are being assured that their babies of the same age will feel no pain while undergoing spinal surgery in the womb because pain relief is being administered.

“Why is there this discrepancy? Perhaps it is because the provision of painkillers to a baby that is about to have their life ended would help bring home the reality of abortion. To recognise their pain would have a deeply humanising effect on unborn babies, which is something that abortion supporters are keen to avoid. It would acknowledge that there is another human being who is being denied their right to life, while they are at their weakest and most vulnerable.” 

Abortions for residents of England and Wales hits all-time high

Abortion numbers hit an all-time high of 200,608 abortions in 2018 for residents of England and Wales, according to the latest figures released by the Department for Health on 13th June 2019.

Total abortions numbers, including non-residents, hit a ten year high with 205,295 abortions in England and Wales in 2018, This represents an overall increase of 7,762 abortions from 2017.

In addition to this overall increase, the figures show a rise in the number of repeat abortions from 74,204 in 2017 to 78,998 in 2018. This means that in 2018, over 39% of all abortions were performed on women who had at least one abortion on a prior occasion.

111 “selective terminations” were performed in 2018, whereby if a woman is pregnant with multiple babies, usually twins or triplets, she can choose to undergo a ‘selective reduction abortion’.

Number of abortion for disability between 24 weeks and birth increased by 128% in ten years

The number of abortions for disability 24 weeks has increased by 128% since 2008 and campaign groups such as Don’t Screen Us Out – who have worked to highlight their concerns that new cf-DNA screening for Down’s syndrome would likely increase the rate at which children with Down’s Syndrome are aborted – have highlighted the 618 abortions for Down’s syndrome in 2018.

In the last 10 years, there has been a 42% increase in abortion for Down’s syndrome and a 64% increase in abortions after 24-weeks gestation for Down’s syndrome. Currently the law in England and Wales permits abortion up until birth if there is a diagnosis of disability, like Down’s syndrome, in the womb. The increase in abortions for Down’s syndrome is likely the result of new prenatal testing technology.

Lynn Murray, spokesperson for Don’t Screen Us Out who has a daughter with Down’s Syndrome said:

“It is deeply concerning that despite the leaps that advocacy groups have made in raising awareness in support of people with Down’s syndrome, abortion in the case of Down’s syndrome is still so commonplace and widespread in the UK… we hear from parents all the time how abortion was repeatedly presented to them in the hospital as an obvious solution following the receipt of the news that their baby had Down’s syndrome.”

Private abortion providers increase share of abortions

As the number of abortions overall have increased, so has the percentage of abortions performed by private abortion providers, who, in 2018, were responsible for 72% of all the abortions in England and Wales. Since 1999, there has been a 234% increase in the number of abortions performed by private providers.

This increase in private abortions comes at the same time as a recent report from the Care Quality Commission which accused Marie Stopes International of paying staff bonuses for encouraging women to undergo terminations.

At all 70 clinics, inspectors found evidence of a policy which saw staff using a high-pressure sales tactic, by calling women who had already decided against abortion to offer them another appointment.

Staff told CQC inspectors the Maidstone clinic was like a “cattle market” and described a “very target-driven culture”.

Spokesperson for Right to Life, Clare McCarthy said:

“Vulnerable women should not be seen as a revenue opportunity but sadly we know this is not the reality as abortion itself is a multi-million pound industry. Private abortion clinics have a vested monetary interest in increasing the numbers of abortions they perform every year.”

“It is a national tragedy that 205,295 lives were lost to abortion in 2018. This is the highest the abortion rate has been at in 10 years. Every one of these abortions represents a failure of our society to protect the lives of babies in the womb and a failure to offer full support to women with unplanned pregnancies.”

She also highlighted the majority of women in the UK who support a change in the abortion law saying “70% of women want the current time limit on abortion to be lowered and 91% of women want a ban on sex-selective abortion.”