The draft guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is for all doctors, nurses and counsellors advising women contemplating terminations.
Its first recommendation on “what women need to know” instructs health professionals: “Women should be advised that abortion is generally safer than continuing a pregnancy to term.”
The guidance also says that women who are deciding whether to have an abortion must be told that most do not suffer any psychological harm. Until now, their advice has been that while rates of psychiatric illness and self-harm in women are higher among those who had an abortion, there was no evidence that termination itself was likely to trigger psychological problems.
While few dispute that terminations carry fewer physical risks to a woman than those of pregnancy, the impact of abortions on psychological health is highly contentious.
Never before has official advice to doctors and nurses in Britain instructed them to use such comparisons to help pregnant women decide whether to keep a child.
How does a doctor initially determine whether or not a women is abortion minded? Is it her financial situation? Her marriage status? Her age? Her race? Because without a direct statement of intent, I can see a lot of women, both the abortion vulnerable and those not even considering it, being told by their doctor “Abortion is safer than pregnancy” and being fairly outraged by it. Not to mention the inaccuracy of the statement.
Speaking in a personal capacity, Prof Patricia Casey, a consultant psychiatrist and fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “The message this sends out is very worrying. There are more than 30 studies showing an association between psychological trauma and abortion.”
Brigitte adds hard medical fact to the debate: Usually, when an abortion is successful, a baby dies. We should make sure to mention that, too.
Andrea adds: It is my strong feeling (read Giving Sorrow Words) that many women are looking not for a reason to abort but rather a reason not to. After all, in the UK and Canada everyone knows how to go off and get an abortion. It’s not altogether easy to envision doing the opposite in the early stages of an unwanted pregnancy.by