The third Bill in eight months from a Conservative backbench MP proposing further limits to the 1967 Abortion Act is to be introduced in the Commons on 5 June. BPAS’ Chief Executive responds.
As Lady Ann Winterton MP prepareds to present her ten-minute rule ‘Termination of Pregnancy (Counselling and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill’, Ann Furedi, Chief Executive of BPAS, said:
‘This is an unnecessary and disingenuous Bill. All women seeking abortion are already offered counselling and receive information about the effects of treatment, as specified by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
‘This Bill could even be harmful by introducing an unnecessary treatment delay before abortion, causing all women undue stress and potentially requiring some to need more complex treatment.
‘Women don’t need Parliament to tell them to think carefully about abortion. We see 55,000 women each year who wrestle with this choice, often presenting some weeks into pregnancy after needing time to consider their options and to discuss them with their families. Ann Winterton has been voicing her personal objections to abortion for decades now, but politicians should keep out of the consulting room.’
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG)’s notes for patients about abortion state:
‘How you react [emotionally] will depend on the circumstances of your abortion, the reasons for having it and on how comfortable you feel about your decision. You may feel relieved or sad, or a mixture of both. Some studies suggest that women who have had an abortion may be more likely to have psychiatric illness or to self-harm than other women who give birth or are of a similar age. However, there is no evidence that these problems are actually caused by the abortion; they are often a continuation of problems a woman has experienced before.’
The RCOG’s professional guidance on psychological sequelae states of induced abortion states:
‘some studies suggest that rates of psychiatric illness or self-harm are higher among women who have had an abortion compared with women who give birth and to non-pregnant women of similar age. It must be borne in mind that these findings do not imply a causal association and may reflect continuation of pre-existing conditions.’
Doctors agree that where safe, legal abortion is not available, women’s lives are at risk. Worldwide 68,000 women die each year after unsafe abortion, according to the World Health Organisation. Many thousands of others are left with severe long-term health problems as a consequence. Having an abortion poses fewer medical risks than going through pregnancy and birth for most women.
BPAS press statement, 4 June 2007.
The Care of Women Requesting Induced Abortion, Evidence-based Clinical Guideline Number 7, RCOG September 2004.
Both sides in abortion row get ready for parliamentary battle, Guardian, 4 June 2007