HC Deb 13 April 1970 vol 799 cc1004-6
17. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services on the basis of what statistics he estimates that abortions frustrated 20,000 illegitimate births last year; and, having regard to deaths during abortion operations, whether he will introduce amending legislation to provide improved safeguards.

Mr. Crossman

My estimate was based on the number of abortions notified in England and Wales in 1969 in respect of unmarried women. I am watching the position closely, but I should regard legislation at this stage as premature.

Sir G. Nabarro

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that his statement on 9th March in response to my question gave widespread offence to people who object to his excessive permissiveness in this field? In considering amending legislation, will be take into account a large minority opinion which is greatly opposed to his own personal views?

Mr. Crossman

I should not have thought that anybody who studied my reply to the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question could have misunderstood it, except wilfully, as certain people did. There was nothing permissive about what I said. I pointed out that those who dismissed the Abortion Act altogether neglected the social values in it. I have also stressed that family planning is the proper solution and that abortion should be only a last resort.

Mr. Snow

Will my right hon. Friend take into account, as I hope he will, the fact that most people in this country accept that his statement, to which he has referred, summed up the attitude about the sum of human unhappiness which has been prevented?

Mr. Crossman

I am very appreciative of the way in which my hon. Friend has put it, because it is exactly the right way to put it.

25. Mr. Peter M. Jackson

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what proportions of abortions performed in 1969 under the Abortion Act on Sheffield women have been in National Health Service hospitals, private homes in Sheffield, and private homes in London; and what are the corresponding figures for Leeds and Liverpool.

Mr. Crossman

Complete figures for 1969 are not yet available. I will, with permission, circulate figures for 1968 in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Jackson

While I appreciate the terms of my right hon. Friend's reply, may I ask him to confirm that there are wide disparities between, say, London and Newcastle, on the one hand, and Sheffield, Leeds and Liverpool, on the other hand, in that the number of terminations in the last three areas is far less than, for example, in Newcastle? Having confirmed that, would he not also confirm the view of the working party which sat under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) that certain gynaecologists in certain areas, such as Sheffield, Liverpool and others, are not working in the spirit of the 1967 Act? Does he not agree, therefore, that it is time to set up separate clinics for abortion in those areas?

Mr. Crossman

My hon. Friend had better await the figures for 1969, which are not yet available. It is wrong to judge by the figures for 1968. My answer to the last part of the question is, "No". I have said previously that I think that the establishment of separate abortion clinics within the National Health Service is a step which no doctor or nurse would recommend.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Does not the Secretary of State agree that every gynaecologist has a conscientious right not to participate in abortion operations to which he conscientiously objects?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that anything I have said today, or anything I have ever said on the subject, contradicted the general principle of the Act. It is also true that the marked disparity between the figures for different hospitals gives rise to great difficulties to the staff in the hospitals which are doing their share against those which are not.

Following are the figures:

Sheffield Leeds Liverpool
women women women
Total numbers notified 109 179 137
Percentages performed in:
1. National Health Service Hospitals 72 79 83
2. Private clinics in:—
(a) The County Borough of residence Nil (n.a.) Nil
(b) The Hospital Region of residence 2 3 Nil
(c) The Metropolitan Regions 26* 18* 17
(d) Elsewhere Nil
*Statistics suggest that most of these were performed in the Metropolitan Regions.

There are no approved (private) places in Sheffield County Borough nor in Liverpool County Borough. Leeds County Borough has two.

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