Abortionists move from promoting harm to preventing good, writes dr trevor stammers, uk


Abortionists move from promoting harm to preventing good, writes dr trevor stammers, uk


The UK has the most liberal abortion laws in the Western World and one of the highest abortion rates. 97% of abortions in 2006 were performed under ground C on the abortion form, which ostensibly for reasons connected with mental health, is generally regarded as the ground under which abortions for social reasons are carried out.

The most recently published abortion statistics for England and Wales followed the annual trend of yet another overall rise, but this time showed also a record 21% increase from 2006 to 2007 in abortions for girls under 14.

Amendments have now been tabled to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill which, if passed, will see abortion on demand available up to 24 weeks gestation and nurse or GP-led abortion permitted from GP surgeries and premises currently not used as abortion clinics, almost certainly including the recently highlighted school sex clinics. The BMA Annual Representatives Meeting in Edinburgh this week will debate a motion proposing that doctors who do not view abortion as a positive social advance or who consider that abortion harms women, should not even be permitted to see women seeking abortion and may even face a prison sentence for doing so. The recent exoneration by the GMC of Devon GP Tammie Downes, reported to them for having helped a number of women to continue their pregnancies, does little to reassure other GPs like her. The complaint should never have been allowed to proceed in the first place and understandably must have caused Dr Downes much unwarranted pressure.

If both the BMA and the government wish to see abortion rates soar by much greater annual increases than we have had to date, then these draconian measures just about guarantee such an outcome.

In my experience, around a third of women who consult me initially seeking abortion, choose to continue the pregnancy. Such women usually feel that abortion is the only option open to them. Yet once they are aware of the many avenues of support available, they readily accept these, instead of having the abortion which initially seemed the only 'way out'. Around a quarter of GPs take this approach and, if they are all to be denied the privilege of helping their patients consider alternatives to abortion, it is obvious that abortion rates will increase steeply in the UK.

It is an irony that such measures are contemplated at the very time when the adverse psychological consequences of abortion are becoming increasingly recognised. Another BMA motion in July proposes formal acknowledgment that abortion can be psychologically traumatic and urges increased support for women so harmed. This is line with the recent position statement of the Royal College of Psychiatrists which states that "The Royal College of Psychiatrists recognises that good practice in relation to abortion will include informed consent. Consent cannot be informed without the provision of adequate and appropriate information regarding the possible risks and benefits to physical and mental health."

Tony Calland, Chair of the BMA ethics committee recently stated his view that those with conscientious objection to abortion such as Catholics would be unwise to consider becoming gynaecologists. Does the BMA ethics committee now consider that such doctors should not be GPs either? If the law concerning abortion is amended as currently proposed, many more women will endure the agony of abortion unnecessarily and many doctors will be forced out of, or prevented from entering, the profession as GPs. A tragedy all round in fact.

Lecturer in Healthcare Ethics

St Mary's University College, Twickenham TW1, England.


The National for Thursday June 22, 2017 (Video Medical And Professional 2018).

Section Issues On Medicine: Women health