Four more abortion clinics close across the West Midlands

Four more Marie Stopes International abortion clinics have shut down across the West Midlands but terminations will continue in the region under a new contract given to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS). 

It follows the closure of the Marie Stopes International Birmingham abortion clinic in Edgbaston, following a litany of safety issues that put women at serious risk spanning decades.

The notorious clinic, previously known as the Calthorpe Clinic performed 6,153 abortions in 2018, making it the fourth-largest abortion centre in the UK.

The four clinics closed were all Marie Stopes International ‘early medical units’ performing medical abortions under ten weeks gestation.

The units in Birmingham, Nuneaton, Sandwell and Wolverhampton were responsible for the terminations of 1815 unborn babies in 2018.

The closures were due to a re-procurement of abortion ‘services’ by Sandwell and Walsall, West Birmingham, and Wolverhampton Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).            

Marie Stopes was commissioned to provide abortion services by the CCGs in 2012, but did not re-bid for the contract when ‘abortion services were re-commissioned at the end of 2019’.

This resulted in the UK’s largest abortion provider, BPAS, which already has abortion clinics across the region being awarded the NHS contract for performing abortions in the region. 

Richard Bentley, Marie Stopes’ managing director, claimed the decision not to re-bid for the contract was down to the ‘unsustainable level of funding available’.

He said: “With the re-commissioning of services in the latter part of 2019, we took the difficult decision to not re-bid for the contract, as we were of the opinion that the level of funding being made available was not sustainable…

“We have been open and transparent with commissioners about the real cost of running the services, but despite lengthy discussions, the level of funding has not, in our opinion, been increased to sustainable levels to provide high quality, local services.”

However, Marie Stopes International did find the funding to pay its chief executive £434,500 in 2018, placing him in the top-10 highest earners in the charity sector.

The 2018 accounts of the abortion provider also revealed a record income of £296.8 million after they received over £48 million from the Department for International Development, their single largest donor.

A joint statement from Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG, Walsall CCG and Wolverhampton CCG’s announced they were pleased to welcome BPAS as the new provider of abortion services in the region, and that they commenced services on January 1, 2020.

They also announced that surgical abortions would take place in Walsall Manor Hospital, in addition to BPAS abortion clinics.

Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson has previously highlighted the irony of abortions taking place in hospitals.

Calling on the Government to revisit the topic of abortion time limits, following news that the survival rate for extremely premature babies has doubled over the past decade, she said:

“There is a real contradiction in British law. In one room of a hospital, doctors could be working to save a baby born alive before 24 weeks whilst in another room, a doctor could perform an abortion which would end the life of a baby at the same age. Surely this contradiction needs to end?”

The abortion industry has a chequered history in the West Midlands and has made the news on more than one occasion.

In 2000, Dr Andrew Gbinigie caused serious injuries to a young woman seeking an abortion in Birmingham. Her life was narrowly saved by three consultants, but at the cost of a kidney. 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.

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.

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.

UK’s oldest abortion clinic closes after performing abortions for 50 years and litany of serious safety issues

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.”

‘Facetime abortions’ for teenage girls to pass unborn babies alone at home or school proposed by RCOG president

The President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), Lesley Regan, has called for the Government to roll out ‘Facetime abortions’ across the United Kingdom.

In the RCOG’s Better for Women reportto be released on Monday 2 December, they have proposed that an abortion consultation happens without a face-to-face appointment, instead happening either over the phone or Facetime/Skype. The abortion pills (mifepristone and misoprostol) would then be picked up from a pharmacy.

Under the current law, two doctors must sign off on any termination request before handing over any abortion pills. The first abortion pill must be taken in an abortion clinic or hospital with medical supervision.

Both abortion pills would be taken by the women or teenage girl alone without the direct support of medical staff. Although campaigners are calling for the pills to be taken at home, once the drugs are taken from a pharmacy, there would nothing to stop misoprostol being taken at other locations such as schools, colleges etc, possibly under coercion from third-parties. It is not clear how the NHS or independent clinics could ensure the pills are taken by women or teenage girls at home.

The supply of abortion pills would also be much more difficult to control given they could be taken from a pharmacy, making it difficult to ensure that women and teenage girls who have been prescribed the pill are those who actually take the pill. This would make it easier for third parties to obtain abortion pills to slip them into a woman’s food without her knowledge.

Lesley Regan was previously heavily criticised for saying that she wanted to see getting an abortion as easy as getting ‘your bunions sorted’.

The psychological risks associated with medical abortions out of a clinical environment can be severe, partly because women usually see the fetus, which they then have to flush away themselves. It is not hidden from them in the way a surgical abortion keeps the fetus from the view of the woman. Moreover, the remainder of the abortion is always in the home, not in an anonymous clinic that can be left behind.

The RCOG decision to call for extreme changes to abortion provision was made by only 33 members of the RCOG Council and their full membership was not consulted. Following the decision, there was a revolt among the RCOG membership and 650 doctors wrote an open letter to Lesley Regan objecting to the change in position without any consultation with their 6,000 membership. 

If the proposed changes went ahead, the UK’s two largest abortion providers would likely make far higher margins on each abortion they perform as they would no longer be required to provide a face to face appointment with a health professional and have two doctors certify an abortion.

A spokesperson for Right to Life UK Catherine Robinson said:

“Facetime abortions would leave teenage girls or other vulnerable women to take abortion pills and pass their unborn child alone at home, school or other locations without the direct support of medical staff and possibly under coercion from third-parties.

“Self-referral, self-administration and less medical involvement in abortions is not an improvement in health services for women. The absence of medical supervision for taking powerful drugs, often with great distress, is not an improvement in medical care. 

“This is another attempt to trivialise the ending of a life, rush women and teenage girls through the abortion process, providing less medical supervision and support for women. 205,295 babies in the womb were aborted in England and Waled in 2018. This does not appear to be enough for the abortion lobby and head of the RCOG, Lesley Regan, who has said she wants to see abortion as easy as getting ‘your bunions sorted’. Instead, they are lobbying for these changes which would mean less medical supervision, less time for women and teenage girls to explore options other than abortion and could see our already very high abortion rate increase even further.

“Contrary to the recommended changes seeking to rush women through the abortion process, a ComRes poll found that 79% of the general public in the UK are in favour of introducing consideration periods to ensure that a woman considering an abortion has enough time to consider all of the options available to her.

“The RCOG should address the reasons women seek out abortion services in such high numbers in this country, often because of; vulnerability, isolation, lack of financial or emotional support, or pressure from a partner. Simply rushing women through the abortion process does nothing to address the problems these women already face and would only later compound these issues if coupled with post-abortion regret. 

“The only people who would benefit from this change are the UK’s two big abortion providers. They would be able to make far higher margins on each abortion because they would no longer be required to provide a face to face appointment with a health professional and two doctors certifying an abortion.

“This is a reckless approach to healthcare. Women’s safety and mental or physical health should never be potentially compromised for the sake of expediency or convenience.” 

Women again put at risk in BPAS Merseyside abortion clinic, says Care Quality Commission

One of the UK’s largest abortion clinic is still putting women at risk two years after it was condemned by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for a litany of health concerns, a report has revealed.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) abortion clinic in Merseyside has been given the worst rating that any private abortion clinic since the new CQC rating system was introduced.

When the CQC rates abortion clinics, they ask if they are safe, effective, caring, responsive to people’s needs, and well-led. BPAS Merseyside was rated as “requires improvement” on both safety and leadership. It is the only clinic to be given such a rating since the system was introduced in September 2017.

The CQC were contacted by the 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.” Five of these cases were reported as serious incidents requiring further investigation.

Their report revealed “the service did not consistently follow best practice when prescribing, giving, recording and storing medicines. We found out of date medicines in the clinic rooms and on the emergency drugs trolley and the controlled drug register was not always accurately completed.”

It found that BPAS Merseyside “staff did not consistently adhere to the infection prevention and control measures specified by the service” including not washing hands, not securing clinical waste, and using out of date equipment.

In addition, risk assessments were not fully completed and the clinic did not always provide reasonable support after notifiable safety incident, in line with the Health and Social Care Act 2008.

This is not the first time that the Care Quality Commission has raised concerns about the care given to women at BPAS Merseyside.

Last year, a surgeon contracted by the clinic was struck off the medical register for exposing patients to the risk of life-threatening conditions during abortions. James Olobo-Lalobo was found by medical practitioners tribunal to have endangered at least three women’s lives during abortions carried out in May and June 2017.

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, including eight cases in a 15 month period from January 2015 – March 2016.

A catalogue of health and safety risks were also identified, such as infection control procedures not always being followed during abortion procedures and drug syringes were left without a cap or needle on the end, presenting a risk of cross-infection. No effective systems were in place to ensure resuscitation equipment was regularly checked to protect patients from avoidable harm, and incidents not being properly investigated.

BPAS Merseyside performed 4,585 terminations placing it among the top 10 abortion providers in the country, in 2018.

In 2016, Marie Stopes International (MSI) was forced to suspend abortion services for a month after an unannounced inspection by the CQC “found dead foetuses lying in an open bin and staff trying to give a vulnerable, visibly distressed woman an abortion without her consent”.

Following the suspension of MSI abortion services last year, BPAS’s Chief Executive, Ann Furedi, said, “a failure of clinical governance in an organisation that is a specialist provider of abortion services is of the utmost seriousness and I would expect to see it being treated as a resignation issue for the chief executive.”

Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said:

“Yet again we are confronted with the callous disregard for health and safety from the abortion industry. Yet again the two largest abortion providers, who receive tens of millions of pounds of taxpayer money annually, have been found to be placing the health and safety of their patients at risk.

“The Care Quality Commission says this clinic requires improvement 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.”