By Hilary White

  LONDON, July 9, 2008 ( – A British General Practitioner will not face disciplinary action for having persuaded some of her patients to decide against abortion, the General Medical Council (GMC)admitted this week. Tammie Downes, a Cornwall GP, faced the possibility that she would no longer be allowed to practice medicine in Britain and being struck off the medical register. 

  Dr. Downes said in an interview in May 2007, that she asked women in crisis pregnancies, “What would have to change to make you see things differently? What would help you to see this baby as good news and not bad news?” Dr. Downes refuses to sign abortion referral forms and she said a third of these women did not go ahead with abortions.

  Dr. Downes informed news media this week that the GMC had concluded she had done nothing wrong.

  She told the Daily Telegraph, “It was a worrying time and it felt completely unjust because I was sure that I was doing the job of a good GP – not something I should be suspended for.”

“What they were accusing me of was ridiculous.”

  The Guardian reported that Liberal Democrat MP and noted abortion and euthanasia campaigner, Evan Harris, denounced Dr. Downes to Health Minister Dawn Primarolo and asked for an investigation. Harris, a medical doctor by profession and nicknamed “Doctor Death” by some MPs, told the Daily Mail, “By her own admission this doctor tries to persuade patients to go in one direction only and boasts of her ‘success’ in a national newspaper.”

  Earlier this month, Dr. Harris, a member of the British Medical Association’s (BMA) ethics board, put forward a motion to remove the legal right of doctors to refuse to refer for or arrange abortions.

  Dr. Trevor Stammers, a lecturer in Healthcare Ethics St Mary’s University College, wrote that abortionists in the UK have moved from “promoting harm to preventing good.” Attempts to prevent GPs from exercising the right to advise patients as they see fit will result in even more abortions and fewer options for women.

  He backed up Dr. Downes experience saying, “A third of women who consult me initially seeking abortion, choose to continue the pregnancy. Such women usually feel that abortion is the only option open to them. Yet once they are aware of the many avenues of support available, they readily accept these, instead of having the abortion which initially seemed the only ‘way out’.”

“Around a quarter of GPs take this approach and, if they are all to be denied the privilege of helping their patients consider alternatives to abortion, it is obvious that abortion rates will increase steeply in the UK.”

  He also noted that while the UK already has some of the most liberal abortion laws in the western world and one of the highest rates of abortion, proposals before Parliament to abolish the few remaining restrictions on abortion will be disastrous.

“If both the BMA and the government wish to see abortion rates soar by much greater annual increases than we have had to date, then these draconian measures just about guarantee such an outcome.”

  Dr. Downes told the Mail that the investigation was a threat to freedom of speech.

“It’s very sad if people feel threatened and not allowed to have free speech,” she said. “Patients will lose out if doctors feel unable to discuss the pros and cons of an abortion with them.”

  Dr. Stammers said, “It is an irony that such measures are contemplated at the very time when the adverse psychological consequences of abortion are becoming increasingly recognised.”

  Read related coverage:

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