Make abor­tion easy as hav­ing bunions re­moved says top doc­tor

Daily Mail - - News - By So­phie Bor­land Health Edi­tor

WOMEN should be able to ter­mi­nate preg­nan­cies with the ap­proval of a sin­gle doc­tor, says one of the coun­try’s top med­i­cal lead­ers.

Pro­fes­sor Les­ley Re­gan, pres­i­dent of the Royal Col­lege of Ob­ste­tri­cians and Gy­nae­col­o­gists, said abor­tions should be treated no dif­fer­ently from other med­i­cal pro­ce­dures – in­clud­ing some­thing as sim­ple as re­mov­ing a bunion.

She called for abor­tions to be de­crim­i­nalised and made much more freely avail­able.

The cur­rent law – the 1967 Abor­tion Act – states abor­tions are il­le­gal with­out con­sent from two doc­tors. Pro­fes­sor Re­gan rep­re­sents al­most 6,000 se­nior doc­tors spe­cial­is­ing in child­birth and women’s health. Next Fri­day they will hold a bal­lot to de­cide whether the Col­lege should for­mally back to­tal de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion, which would put pres­sure on the Gov­ern­ment to over­haul the law.

Pro­fes­sor Re­gan, who has prac­tised as an ob­ste­tri­cian and gy­nae­col­o­gist for 33 years, said there had been a ‘so­ci­etal shift’, par­tic­u­larly among med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als.

She added: ‘At the mo­ment it’s il­le­gal, it’s a crime, and it’s the only med­i­cal pro­ce­dure which re­quires two doc­tors’ sig­na­tures.

‘The­o­ret­i­cally a woman who pro­cures an abor­tion by pur­chas­ing drugs on­line could be sub­ject to a crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion and could face life im­pris­on­ment. It would be per­fectly rea­son­able to have one doc­tor to sign con­sent like any­thing else. If you go and get your bunions sorted … you would go to a con­sul­ta­tion … then you take a de­ci­sion and the doc­tor who was com­pe­tent to un­der­take the pro­ce­dure would sign the form too, and that would go for­ward.’

But pro-life char­i­ties fear de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion would lead to abor­tion on de­mand, with scant reg­u­la­tion.

Cur­rently, two doc­tors must agree ter­mi­na­tion is ‘nec­es­sary’ to pre­vent ‘grave, per­ma­nent’ in­jury to the phys­i­cal or men­tal health of the woman or child. Abor­tions can take place only be­fore 24 weeks, un­less there is a sub­stan­tial risk to life or se­vere ab­nor­mal­i­ties.

Pro­fes­sor Re­gan said this time limit should re­main in place and stressed there would be no re­lax­ation to the way abor­tion was reg­u­lated, with clin­ics fac­ing rou­tine spot checks from the watch­dog.

But she added: ‘We have moved, there’s been a big shift [in opin­ion]. Who would have thought five years ago that the RCM [Royal Col­lege of Mid­wives] and BMA [ Bri­tish Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion] would vote to sup­port this.’

The pro­fes­sor said of next week’s vote: ‘I think most of my col­leagues who are re­spon­si­ble ob­ste­tri­cians and gy­nae­col­o­gists will prob­a­bly want to take a view that, as the pro­fes­sion­als who un­der­take the ma­jor­ity of pro­ce­dures, we need to be at the ta­ble.’

She said abor­tion was more dan­ger­ous in coun­tries where it is very re­stricted, in­clud­ing Ire­land.

This is be­cause women are more in­clined to have back­street abor­tions or to buy pills on­line to end the preg­nancy.

Pro­fes­sor Re­gan, who has twin daugh­ters and four step-chil­dren, said abor­tions were ‘ei­ther safe in a coun­try with un­re­stricted ac­cess or they be­come un­safe and re­sult in death. If you don’t sup­port safe abor­tion then by def­i­ni­tion you are sup­port­ing and con­don­ing un­safe abor­tion and se­ri­ous in­juries and death.’

Clara Camp­bell, of char­ity Life, said: ‘In the last two years we have seen scan­dalous health and safety fail­ures at abor­tion clin­ics.

‘Imag­ine what will hap­pen when there are no laws … just a sys­tem of tooth­less reg­u­la­tions.’

Last De­cem­ber a Care Qual­ity Com­mis­sion re­port ex­posed safety fail­ings at abor­tion clin­ics run by Marie Stopes In­ter­na­tional, the coun­try’s sec­ond largest provider.

A Daily Mail in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­vealed the provider’s doc­tors were sign­ing off abor­tions fol­low­ing phone calls with women they had never met.

‘A big shift in opin­ion’

Vote: Pro­fes­sor Les­ley Re­gan

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