Women will be able to have abortions without seeing a doctor and nurses will be able to perform abortions under new draft regulations from the Department of Health.
The proposals are described by opponents as a fundamental change in the practice of abortion in Britain.
They are contained on the Department of Health website in a consultation opened before Christmas with no press notice and no publicity. Many interested parties appeared to be unaware.
The Sexual Health Team of the Department of Health announced last week that they were closing the consultation on January 17, three weeks before the closing date of February 3 advertised on their website. The original closing date was restored only after an 11th-hour intervention by the Government.
Dr Peter Saunders, of the Christian Medical Fellowship, says the main beneficiaries were thought to be the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and Marie Stopes International. The abortion industry, together with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the BMA and the GMC, had clearly been working very hard behind the scenes to ensure the changes happened as quickly and smoothly as possible.
It was the duty of Parliament to make laws, he said, not abortion providers and not the Department of Health.
The Abortion Act 1967 says abortions can only be performed if two doctors affirm "in good faith" that a request for abortion meets at least one of the grounds in the act. Only a registered medical practitioner (RMP) can perform an abortion.
The proposals are outlined on the Department of Health website in the consultation document and in a second document detailing the proposals.
They say it is not necessary for doctors to see the woman to authorise abortions "in good faith" - nurses can gather the information and doctors can just sign.
"We consider it good practice that one of the two certifying doctors has seen the woman, though this is not a legal requirement."
It appears nurses could be allowed both to carry out surgical abortions and prescribe abortion drugs.
"The RMP is not required personally to perform every action. Certain actions may be undertaken by registered nurses or midwives (who are not RMPs) provided they are fully trained and the provider has agreed protocols in place."
Patients will be allowed to have medically induced abortions at home provided they have taken the drugs at the clinic.
"Both drugs for the medical abortion must. . . be taken in the hospital or approved place. Women may be given the choice to stay on the premises or to go home soon after taking the second tablet to be in the privacy of their own home for the expulsion."
The proposals say babies up to 24 weeks being aborted do not need pain relief because they do not have neural connections to enable them to feel pain - evidently based on a controversial statement by the RCOG.
Jane Ellison, a health minister, admitted that only 46 per cent of women who had abortions in 2012 were seen by a doctor.
Department of Health officials said the new proposed guidelines were simply a clarification of the law, and claimed they strengthened protections by pointing out that it was at the least desirable for a doctor to see the woman.
Individuals and organisations have just nine days to reply to the proposals in the consultation.