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Abortion amendment rejected by PM

Amendments to the current legislation concerning counselling for women seeking abortion seem set to fail, despite comments at the weekend from the Department of Health suggesting they would support the changes.

But now Prime Minister David Cameron, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg have all stated that they will vote against the changes, proposed by Conservative backbencher Nadine Dorries. She is concerned that the organisations currently offering counselling to women have a financial stake in providing abortion services, and so cannot offer completely independent advice – a view which is completely rejected by those organisations themselves.

Last Sunday, the Department of Health suggested to journalists that it would introduce counselling services independent of the charities that provide abortion, in line with Dorries’ proposed amendments. Yet after much controversy, Downing Street is now publicly against the amendments, and the Department has fallen into line.

A Downing Street source told newspapers: “The Prime Minister believes that women should have a choice, a proper choice, not any one selective group of organisations.”

The Department of Health then stated: “The discussions currently under way do not represent any moral shift in the Government’s approach to abortion as an issue, and there are no changes to the Abortion Act involved.

“Instead the concern is to ensure that women, in what is an extremely difficult and often traumatic situation, have access to information and counselling that best meets their needs.

“We will continue to discuss this with all involved in the debate. We plan to consult widely on these proposals later this year.”

Paul Waugh, the editor of the PoliticsHome website, said: “Number 10 have clearly decided that the political damage of any abortion row was just too much to take.”

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