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Marie Stopes headquarters in central London

LONDON, England, August 22, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Abortion provider Marie Stopes International has suspended its surgical abortion operations across the United Kingdom after surprise inspections by government Care Quality Commission officials found women could be at risk.

The CQC, an independent regulator of health and social care services, inspected MSI’s England-based corporate headquarters last month and its call center on August 12, and determined that it was unclear if staff had the competence or training to administer sedation and anaesthesia. There were  also “immediate concerns about issues of consent,” the Telegraph reported Friday.

MSI announced that it had voluntarily stopped performing abortions on women under age 18 and on “vulnerable groups of women,” as well as abortions under anaesthesia or conscious sedation, and all surgical abortions in its Norwich abortion facility.

NHS England referred the 250 women scheduled for abortions at MSI to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) — one of the country’s largest private abortion providers — and NHS hospitals. “We are working urgently with the CQC on these areas and intend to regain full assurance within a few days,” MSI’s CEO Simon Foote told the Telegraph.

“It is right that Marie Stopes International has suspended a number of its services,” stated Professor Edward Baker, deputy chief inspector of hospitals at the CQC. “At all times, our priority is to ensure that patients get safe, high-quality and compassionate care.”

But the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children has “condemned” the CQC’s “reaction to the dangerous and illegal abortion practices in private abortion clinics,” excoriating its position as “inadequate, immoral and unlawful collusion in criminal activity.”

British law permits abortion only when “there is a health risk — meaning that continuing the pregnancy is more dangerous than the abortion,” SPUC noted in a Friday press release, adding that 98 percent of UK abortions “are certified on mental grounds when there is no real risk” to the mother’s mental or physical health. “Those abortions are illegal.”

The CQC “is defending illegal government abortion policy which kills children and sometimes women too,” SPUC General Secretary Paul Tully said. “Abortion is an inherently risky interference in the natural pregnancy process.”

He pointed to the case of Aisha Chithira, 32, of Dublin, who died on January 21, 2012, hours after her abortion at the Marie Stopes Clinic in Ealing, west London. A doctor and two nurses were charged last year with manslaughter in connection with her death.

The further tragedy of “Jade Rees, who committed suicide three weeks after a ‘legal’ abortion last year, shows how dangerous abortion is to women from a mental health perspective,” Tully noted.

These “represent only the tip of the iceberg of women who are killed, injured or left with long-term problems resulting from infection, extreme emotional distress or the dangerous hormonal changes caused by abortion, which can affect breast physiology,” he added.

Mark Bhagwandin, spokesperson for the UK charity Life, which runs pregnancy care centers, told the Daily Mail that MSI receives millions in public funds.

“This is not the first time that Marie Stopes clinics have been in the news,” Bhagwandin said. “If in the United Kingdom a regulatory body has to step in to save patients, we must rightly wonder about the safety of millions of women who go to this organization’s clinics worldwide where there may not be regulatory bodies like the CQC.”  

MSI’s website states that it operates in 38 countries. It does about 70,000 abortions annually in the UK.

As well as noting Chithira’s death, Bhagawandin recalled the high-profile death of 15-year-old Alesha Thomas, who in 2007 was discharged from a Marie Stopes Clinic in Leeds after an abortion without being given a prescription for antibiotics to prevent infection, according to a coroner’s report in 2009.

“If abortion agencies had the welfare of women truly at heart, they would ensure that the illegal practices that Marie Stopes, BPAS, NHS hospitals and others follow were stopped,” SPUC’s Tully observed. “Women are suffering intolerably.”

Meanwhile, BPAS CEO Ann Furedi is calling on Cooke, MSI's CEO since 2013, to resign after the “failure,” reported the Mail, adding that the CQC did not inspect MSI in 2014 or 2015 but announced in March 2016 it would be scrutinizing abortion “care” in the UK. Its report is expected to be released this fall.