Make abortion easy as having bunions removed says top doctor
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