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House of Lords written question – answered on 25th February 2013.

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Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Howe on 5 February (WA 27), whether they, or the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, require an impartial translator to be present when doctors are consulted by women in relation to abortions if those women do not have a good command of the English language; and whether any such consultations are required to be undertaken without family members being present.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

In its clinical guideline The Care of Women Requesting Induced Abortion, of November 2011, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends that, "Services should be culturally sensitive and professional interpreters should be available if required" and that "while women may choose to use family or friends as interpreters, in gaining consent to a procedure the provider needs to be absolutely certain that the woman is fully consenting. This can be guaranteed only if an independent professional interpretation service is used".

The guideline also states that services should make sure that "written, objective, evidence-guided information is available for women considering abortion to take away before the procedure. Information should be available in a variety of languages and formats". It also says that services should identify issues which make women particularly vulnerable including violence or abuse, in particular girls under the age of 16 should be given "the chance to disclose during a private moment when a parent or adult is not present". In practice, most abortion services have a policy that all women should be seen on their own at some stage, without a partner or family member present, to ensure there is no coercion or other issue affecting the decision-making process.

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