By Oliver Hotham
Doctors in abortion clinics have been signing consent forms before the woman had been seen, the government claimed today.
Random checks have revealed that patients seeking an abortion had been pre-emptively approved by doctors at over 250 abortion clinics.
By law a patient seeking to terminate her pregnancy must get permission from two doctors, who must be aware of her situation and reasons for wanting an abortion. Other health professionals can review the case before approving it.
The fear is that of abortion being provided on demand, with doctors not taking time to review each case.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley said he was appalled by the revelations, saying the behaviour was "contrary to the spirit and the letter of the Abortion Act".
He continued: "The rules in the Abortion Act are there for a reason - to ensure there are safeguards for women before an abortion can be carried out. To protect women the right checks and balances must be in place.
"The CQC has agreed to undertake unannounced inspections to identify the scale of this problem. And we will set up a special team comprising of all the necessary regulators and the department to look at how we stamp out bad practice in abortion clinics."
It is believed that between 15% and 20% of clinics investigated have broken the law, and all doctors caught have been suspended.
This is not the first time this year abortion clinics have been under the spotlight – in February the Daily Telegraph alleged that some abortion doctors were approving cases when women did not want the child because of the gender.
By Oliver Hotham