Speeding up abortions could lead to increase in terminations, pro-life group warns

Reuters

A pro-life group has come out in opposition to new guidance recommending that the NHS speed up the process by which women can have an abortion.

The draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that women be able to book an abortion without having to consult a GP or receive counselling, as some clinics require. 

NICE, which is the official NHS advisory body, also wants the time that women have to wait between requesting an abortion and going through with the procedure reduced to two weeks. 

The guidance retains the need for two doctors to approve the termination but makes it possible for this to be done using the abortion clinic's own doctors. 

It also incorporates plans announced by the Government last year to allow women seeking a termination in the first 10 weeks of their pregnancy to take both abortion pills at home instead of in a clinic. 

Paul Chrisp, director of the centre for guidelines at NICE, said: "Integrating and streamlining services should help improve access for all women, leading to shorter waiting times and allowing earlier terminations."

According to the latest government figures, there were over 197,000 abortions in England and Wales in 2017, the highest number since 2008. 

The Right to Life group said it was concerned that, if passed, the new guidance would lead to an increase in the number of abortions in the UK.

Spokeswoman Clare McCarthy said the recommended changes would "rush" women through the abortion process and provide less medical supervision and support for them.

It would also, she said, leave women with less time to consider alternatives to abortion.

"The guidelines should address the reasons women seek out abortion services in such high numbers in this country, often because of vulnerability, isolation, lack of financial or emotional support, or pressure from a partner," she said.

"Simply rushing women through the abortion process does nothing to address the problems these women already face and would only later compound these issues if coupled with post-abortion regret.

"This is a reckless approach to healthcare. Women's safety and mental or physical health should never be potentially compromised for the sake of expediency or convenience."

Dr Callum Miller, medical doctor and research associate at the University of Oxford, criticised the proposal to eliminate the need for routine follow-up visits with doctors, saying that it was "disappointing" that vulnerable women would not be offered psychological support "after such a traumatic event", possibly leading to "worse mental health outcomes". 

"Self-referral, self-administration and less medical involvement in abortions is not an improvement in health services for women," he said.

"Clearly, the absence of medical supervision for taking powerful drugs, often with great distress, is not an improvement in medical care."

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