Monday, April 15, 2024
HomeNewsCaroline Farrow: Marie Stopes should lose its abortion licence

Caroline Farrow: Marie Stopes should lose its abortion licence


One might have thought that having been lambasted by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for bad practice last year, Marie Stopes International (MSI), the UK’s second largest abortion provider, might have cleaned up its act.

It seems not. To recap, the failures discovered at MSI last August were so severe as to merit a temporary suspension of all abortions for the under 18s and women officially recorded as vulnerable (such as those with learning difficulties), a temporary suspension of all surgery requiring anaesthesia and sedation (ouch), and temporary closure of its Norfolk clinic.

MSI’s response to the damning catalogue of failure was to attempt to pretend that this was all one big misunderstanding which was nothing more than a red tape snarl-up that didn’t endanger patient safety in the slightest. Its spokesman issued a huffy statement, expressing surprise about the ‘timing and tone of the announcement’.

How dare the inspectors put the safety of women above the reputation of Marie Stopes and undermine the sacrosanct notion that wherever abortion is legal, women are safe and protected from the horrors of backstreet butchery?

In December 2016, the CQC issued a series of 12 damning reports cataloguing the litany of failures at MSI which had led to the temporary suspension of services. There could be no room for claims that this was just about paperwork, as MSI had previously implied. Marie Stopes was operating its own chamber of horrors. Inspectors found foetal tissue (let’s call a spade a spade here – baby parts) from a succession of abortions left in open waste bins, leaving patients open to the risk of infection.

In another incident, inspectors were forced to intervene when a patient with learning difficulties became distressed because she didn’t understand what was going on when MSI staff were attempting to perform an abortion on her. Staff weren’t trained to respond to patients whose condition was deteriorating and achieved poor results when resuscitation simulations were carried out. In other words, they didn’t have a clue and, had the situation been real, the woman would most likely have passed away. Basic surgery checklists weren’t followed. In the Kent clinic, inspectors found failings in infection control systems, with poor hand hygiene and failures in pre-surgical preparation.

When it comes to the paperwork, at the Norwich clinic which was temporarily closed, doctors were found to be bulk signing up to 60 abortion forms at a time with little indication that they were familiar with a patient’s situation. Inspectors who visited Marie Stopes’s HQ found poor risk management, insufficient monitoring of consent and limited clinical oversight of the ‘charity’s’ 60 clinics.

Comforting stuff. You wouldn’t have sent your dog there. After an emergency mop up, whereupon staff were trained in resuscitation, consent and governance, MSI was again allowed to continue operating restricted services with the CQC promising to keep a weather eye on them and monitor them very closely.

The CQC stuck to their word, and carried out another surprise inspection, and guess what, once again, Marie Stopes International, that bastion of safe legal abortion, was caught with its pants down once more – treating its vulnerable patients like nothing more than slabs of meat.

In the two-month period that they were inspected, between January and February this year, almost 400 women had abortions which failed, meaning that either some or all of the baby was left behind – requiring them to go back to hospital for further treatment. Between October and December in 2016, 11 women needed to be admitted to A&E as an emergency immediately after receiving ‘treatment’ at MSI, one of whom needed surgery and another two blood transfusions.

Consent issues still prevailed – consent from one patient to have an abortion was only actually obtained after she’d had it! The staff were still as incompetent as ever, inspectors discovered that they weren’t trained to identify complications during scans, a nurse at the Manchester clinic was unregistered, there was no official system for checking their performance, and reassuringly surgeons weren’t washing their hands between operations. Lovely. Unsurprisingly, there was no evidence of improved checks to combat the  risk of infection. Staff in the Essex clinic, which is on the borders of East London, where there is a high proportion of immigrants, decided to ignore inspectors’ previous advice about being trained in matters such as female genital mutilation, child sexual exploitation and anti-radicalisation schemes. Those things take up the valuable time that could be spent aborting more babies!

Still, it’s obviously difficult for MSI to find the staff. One managing director who began in January 2017 left just two months later (perhaps he had a weak stomach) and key jobs in infection control, safety and a medical directorship were left unfilled.

Let’s not forget that MSI derive around £83 million of taxpayers’ hard-earned cash. Around £37 million of that goes on providing 60,000 abortions in the UK every year on behalf of the NHS, and another £46 million goes on contraceptive and abortion ‘services’ in the developing world, paid for the Department for International Development. Just let that sink in.

Now, if MSI can’t be trusted with women’s health and safety in a Western country, how on earth can it be trusted with hygiene and consent in remote parts of the developing world, such as in rural Africa, where the infrastructure is poor, running water and medical supplies are scarce and, thanks to poor transport links, they will be operating pop-up clinics? Who on earth is going to be regulating them and ensuring that they are compliant? Not the CQC, that’s for sure.

The other thing to bear in mind is that come the autumn, we’re going to see a resurgence of the abortion lobby attempting to push both for full decriminalisation of abortion for any reason up until birth and also for the introduction of US-style buffer zones to stop the handful of mainly elderly religious people who stand on the other side of the road from the abortion facilities with their rosaries. Is this really what Ireland, which is currently considering whether or not to legalise abortion, wants to introduce into their country? MSI already has one clinic in Belfast and, desperate to get a slice of the Irish market, is deeply invested in the campaign. Shouldn’t the feminists who are so eager to bring abortion onto their shores acknowledge where the real threat to life and health is coming from?

One can only imagine the horrors that MSI will get up to if it is allowed to abort babies up until birth for any reason. You can see why they might want to. More business and it does away with this pesky notion of consent and the time-consuming notion of getting doctors to actually meet with and talk to a woman to check that abortion is actually appropriate in her situation. One thing I didn’t mention was that in March this year, media investigations separate to the CQC inspections, uncovered that MSI was signing off abortions after a 22-second phone call and for women it had never met.

The reason that the abortion facilities (let’s not call them clinics, it implies they perform a needed medical service) don’t want people outside them, is because it’s the pro-lifers who not only witness the numerous ambulances turning up on site, but also literally pick up vomiting and distressed women off the pavement and give them the first aid and assistance they require. They also help women who may be undecided to change their mind and think again, along with the resources that these desperate pregnant women need.

The chutzpah is unbelievable and proves the old adage in political campaigning, that attack is the best form of defence. We shouldn’t let them get away with it. MSI should have its licence to perform abortions revoked and it should not receive another penny of taxpayers’ money. A petition was delivered to the Department of Health last week, containing 16,000 signatures to this effect. It’s not too late to sign it. 

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Caroline Farrow
Caroline Farrow
Columnist for the Catholic Universe

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