One of the UK’s largest abortion clinics has closed its doors following a litany of safety issues that put women at serious risk, spanning decades.
The notorious Marie Stopes International Birmingham (previously the Calthorpe Clinic) in Edgbaston performed 6,153 abortions in 2018 making it the fourth largest abortion centre in the UK.
Originally run as an old people’s home, in 1969 the centre became the first in the UK to exist exclusively carry out abortions and has performed terminations for 50 years.
The abortion centre has a chequered history, having made the news on more than one occasion.
In 2000, Dr Andrew Gbinigie caused serious injuries to a young woman seeking an abortion at the clinic. Whilst performing the procedure on the 21-year-old, the doctor pulled out the patient’s ovary and part of her bowel.
It was only after he pulled out a piece of her bowel that he realised something was wrong and called for help from senior staff.
Eventually, an ambulance was called to transfer the patient to Birmingham Women’s Hospital, where her life was narrowly saved by three consultants, but at the cost of a kidney.
Dr Gbinigie escaped being struck off the medical register despite a further 35 women revealing the suffering they faced at his hands.
In 2006, a nurse failed to check a client’s personal details and consequently gave a chemical abortion to the wrong woman.
More evidence of poor conduct came to light in 2012 when Dr Palaniappan Rajmohan was caught on camera by undercover journalists offering to carry out sex-selective abortions.
The doctor himself admitted that this amounted to sex-selective abortion, saying to the woman: “That’s not fair. It’s like female infanticide isn’t it?”
He then agreed to offer the abortion, documenting in records that it was because the girl was “too young for pregnancy”, so as to avoid legal problems.
Later that same year, a routine inspection at the clinic found doctors were pre-signing abortion forms which certified that women could have their pregnancies terminated.
That same year the centre changed hands and became a Marie Stopes International clinic but the problems hadn’t ended.
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 Care Quality Commission (CQC).
These included concerns that the right protocols weren’t in place to ensure girls under the age of 18 were able to give informed consent to their abortion, as well as concerns relating to all surgical abortions after 12 weeks.
More recent inspections revealed that between March 2018 and Feb 2019 there were 18 incidents where patients had to be transferred from the location to an NHS hospital. 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.
Rachel Mackenzie, a former patient of the abortion facility, rejoiced at the news, saying: “I am so relieved that no more children will have their lives ended here as my son once did.”
She now runs ‘Rachel’s Vineyard‘, a program to help people find healing after involvement in an abortion.
Linda Hope, another pro-life campaigner who had an abortion at the clinic, said she regretted her decision to have an abortion at the centre: “I want other women to know there’s a better option than that pain.”
Pro-life vigils offering practical support to women have been taking place outside the clinic for a number of years, with 40 Days For Life running a major vigil twice-yearly outside the clinic over the last eight years.
The group have outlined testimonies from a large number of women who have changed their minds and not proceeded with an abortion after meeting the vigils and being aware of the support available.
40 Days For Life campaign directors, Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, told March for Life UK the story of a woman who approached the volunteers running the vigil outside the abortion centre and described the positive impact that the vigil had for her family:
“For a long time I’ve been meaning to come this way to say thank you. My daughter came here 3 years ago to have an abortion but changed her mind after seeing you. She never told anyone on the day why she left but I want to say thank you because without you my grandchild wouldn’t be here.”