§ Mr. Alton
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what advice he sought before issuing the recent circular to health authorities concerning the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act; whether environmental factors, such as poor housing, are to be regarded in the terms of the circular as a sufficient ground, constituting grave distress, for doctors to proceed with an abortion up to and during birth; and if he will publish a list of the handicaps which his Department advises would be recognised as justifiable reasons for full-term abortions.
§ Mrs. Virginia Bottomley
I assume that the question relates to the joint Chief Medical Officer/Chief Nursing Officer letter, reference PL/CMO(90)13 and PL/ CNO(90)12, which was issued on 26 November 1990, a copy of which is available in the Library. The purpose of that letter was to inform all doctors and nurses in England about the changes to the law on abortion as a result of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. The opinion as to whether an abortion is justified within the terms of the 1967 Abortion Act is for two registered medical practitioners to form, in good faith, in the light of their clinical judgment of all the circumstances of the particular case.