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The BBC's Jane Warr
"Study showed wide variations in abortion provision"
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Saturday, 11 March, 2000, 09:02 GMT
Anger at abortion guidelines

Guidelines view abortion as part of essential healthcare
Anti-abortion campaigners have criticised new recommendations that access to termination procedures should be made faster and easier.

They say the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which drew up the recommendations, is acting "irresponsibly".

The college says abortion should be accepted as an essential part of reproductive healthcare.

Abortion is a safe procedure that should be funded by the NHS and seen as an integral part of a reproductive and sexual health care service

Gillian Penney
It is recommending that no woman should wait longer than three weeks after being referred for an abortion.

The guidelines follow a study by the college, which showed wide discrepancies in the range of abortion services offered across England and Wales.

There are around 180,000 terminations performed annually in England and Wales and around 12,000 in Scotland.

In 1997, few health authorities met the full cost of abortions carried out in their own areas.

Basic healthcare

But Professor Jack Scarisbrick, chairman of anti-abortion charity Life, said: "We can show that abortion is at least three times more dangerous than childbirth.

"There is growing evidence of links between induced abortion and breast cancer, psychiatric illness, infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease and cervical incompetence."

Gillian Penney, who led the team of senior gynaecologists which drew up the guidelines, said: "Abortion is a safe procedure that should be funded by the NHS and seen as an integral part of a reproductive and sexual health care service.

"It is a basic healthcare need for women and should be regarded as such by those who purchase and provide services.

"We hope this guideline will stimulate local services to review whether they are able to meet the needs of women with unwanted pregnancies."

Lack of choice

The guidelines also state that abortion may be a "legal and appropriate management of unwanted pregnancy when there are factors that would threaten a woman's physical or mental wellbeing if the pregnancy were to continue".

The guidance recommends:

  • Women should be offered the procedure within seven days of a request for an abortion being agreed
  • Day care as a cost-effective model for terminations
  • Treatment of women admitted for abortions separate from other gynaecological patients
  • Services should offer a choice of recommended methods of termination
  • Future contraception advice to be given before a woman is discharged after an abortion
The Department of Health, which funded the study, said it supported women getting access to earlier abortions "when it is medically safer and less traumatic rather than later".

Last month campaigners criticised the lack of choice over methods of abortion available to women around the country.

The Family Planning Association said "medical" abortions, which use drugs to end a pregnancy and are considered by some to be less traumatic than surgical abortions, were not being offered as an alternative in some parts of the country.
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See also:

01 Oct 99 | Health
Abortion rate jumps
07 Feb 00 | Health
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23 Jun 99 | Health
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31 Mar 99 | Health
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