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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 October, 2004, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Charity defends abortion advice
Profile of a pregnant woman
The BPAS is responsible for around a quarter of all abortions in Britain
A UK charity has insisted it is not breaking the law by referring women abroad for late abortions.

The Sunday Telegraph has reported that the British Pregnancy Advisory Service helps set up hundreds of late abortions without medical justification.

BPAS says not referring patients abroad would be "morally reprehensible".

The Health Secretary has asked to see the Telegraph's material and says any evidence the "will of Parliament is being thwarted" would be "very serious"

'Nothing unlawful'

The Telegraph says an undercover reporter referred to a Barcelona clinic by the charity was offered the chance to abort a healthy 26-week old foetus.

But BPAS chief executive Ann Furedi compared referring women beyond the UK's 24-week abortion limit abroad with Irish women coming to Britain for terminations.

"There is nothing we are doing that is unlawful," she said.

"We are simply providing women with international contacts to clinics that can provide them with abortion services."

Speaking to BBC News 24, she stressed that BPAS - which has provided overseas contact details for more than 10 years - did not run the clinics or encourage women to use them.

We are not breaking the law in any way
Ann Furedi
BPAS

She said: "About 100 women a year contact BPAS who we cannot treat because they are beyond the legal limit of 24 weeks.

"The vast majority go on to have babies but there are some who are absolutely desperate and beg for information about where else they can get help.

"We are able to tell them that there are clinics in Spain and the US that can help them with treatment that is legal in that country.

"All we're saying is that when a woman can't get treatment that's legal in this country, she may be able to travel for treatment elsewhere."

She added: "Given the concern that's been expressed, there's perhaps now a need for us to work with the Department of Health to develop clear guidelines on what women should be told when they're beyond the legal time limit here."

But Patrick Cusworth, a spokesman for anti-abortion charity Life, described the process as "a grotesque conveyor belt" and "contemptible".

He said: "We call upon the government for a full and vigorous investigation into the conduct of BPAS."

The Pro-Life Alliance backed demands for BPAS's actions to be examined.

A spokesman said: "BPAS does not simply market aggressively its abortion services, but it has always taken an overt lobbying role in campaigning for further liberalisation of UK abortion laws."

Legal situation

But Ms Furedi said the BPAS abided by British Law: "We are not breaking the law in any way."

"We are informing women who come to us that there are circumstances in which we can't lawfully provide them with an abortion and provide them with information that they can receive treatment in other countries."

If the Sunday Telegraph lets me have the material I will ask that this matter is looked into immediately
Health Secretary John Reid

The BPAS is responsible for around a quarter of all abortions performed in Britain each year, three quarters of which are NHS funded.

Health Secretary John Reid said: "After a long and anguished debate on this, the view of Parliament is absolutely clear, as is British law.

"If there is evidence that the will of Parliament is being thwarted and that the law of a fellow European country is being broken by an organisation in receipt of public money this would be a very serious situation indeed.

"If the Sunday Telegraph lets me have the material I will ask that this matter is looked into immediately."


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
BPAS chief executive denies breaking law



SEE ALSO:
CPS examines late abortion case
22 Sep 04  |  Hereford/Worcs
Q&A: Late abortions
01 Dec 03  |  Health
Curate wins abortion challenge
01 Dec 03  |  Health


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