Foreigners may be charged for contraception and abortions


Oral contraception. The oral contraceptive pill contains synthetic versions of one or both of the female sex hormones responsibl

The government is considering charging migrants for terminations and contraception provided by the NHS.

As part of a crack-down on so-called 'health tourism', ministers are reacting to claims that women are travelling to the UK to bypass stricter rules on abortion in their own countries.

"Further consideration will be given to the possibility of charging for some family planning services (e.g. Termination of pregnancy, IUDs and oral contraceptives), subject to discussions with NHS stakeholders, ensuring that any decisions on charging are not detrimental to public health or increased costs to the NHS," reads the document.

Over the next few months, it says, the Department of Health will "Undertake extensive work around mental health services, terminations of pregnancy, contraceptives and any other specific healthcare setting".

In many European countries, abortion services are far more tightly restricted than in the UK, giving women a strong incentive to travel rather than risk an illegal termination at home. Currently, EU residents can access NHS services, including family planning, by producing a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

Back in 2010, pro-choice campaigners in Poland urged women to travel to the UK for terminations, pointing out that the service was free - and that the cost of the air fare was lower than the cost of an illegal abortion at home.

However, it's not known how many women actually do so. Figures released by the Irish Family Planning Association indicate that around 150,000 Irish women had a termination in England or Wales between January 1980 and December 2012. For 2012, it says, the figure was nearly 4,000 - a drop of four percent on the year before.

Last month, the government announced plans to start charging migrants for visits to accident and emergency departments, with claims that foreign patients are costing the NHS as much as £2 billion a year.

However, the British Medical Association has criticised plans to start charging foreigners, with BMA council chair Mark Porter saying that there was a risk that some migrants and short-term visitors could be discouraged from seeking essential care.