British Doctors to Women: Abortion Safer than Pregnancy

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) has drafted guidelines advising doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals to inform women that abortion is safer than continuing the pregnancy to term.  Never before have medical professionals in Great Britain been instructed to use comparisons to help a pregnant woman decide whether to choose Life for her baby or end it.  A controversy has ensued accusing the RCOG of manipulating evidence to promote the liberal pro-abortion agenda in Britain.

An entire page is dedicated to abortion guidelines and “what you need to know” on the RCOG website.  Under the Abortion Act 1967, women in Great Britain are able to obtain an abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy (an abortion will be performed after the 24th week if a doctor thinks a woman is physically or mentally incapable of carrying the baby to term).  The website indicates, “For most women an abortion is safer than carrying a pregnancy and having a baby.  All medical and surgical procedures have risks, but the earlier in pregnancy you have an abortion, the safer it is.”

Medical professionals are also advised to tell women that abortion will cause no adverse psychological effects:

“[A woman] 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…  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.”

British Professor Patricia Casey, a consulting psychiatrist and fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said the message being sent out by the RCOG is very worrying.  “There are more than 30 studies showing an association between psychological trauma and abortion.”  The guidance that was drawn up by 18 senior gynecologists, nurses and abortion providers indicates that pregnant women who have made the decision to abort “should not be subjected to compulsory counseling.”  However, the website states that after an abortion a woman may require “further counseling if [she]experiences continuing distress (this happens to a few women and is usually related to personal circumstances).”

Ann Furedi, British Pregnancy Advisory Service Chief Executive, weighed in on the controversy: “This guidance isn’t a political document and isn't trying to persuade women to have abortions.”  As a result of the controversy, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has agreed to look at the wording and rewrite some of the recommendations based on the opposition put forth by Britain’s Pro-Life groups.  

For the full set of guidelines on abortion in Great Britain: