Fertility and pregnancy * Women's health

Abortions safer than pregnancy, say experts

Abortions safer than pregnancy, say experts Controversial new guidelines issued

Pregnant women should be told that having an abortion is safer than continuing a pregnancy, health experts have said.

Guidelines drawn up by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) for doctors, nurses and counsellors involved in terminations, state that "women should be advised that abortion is generally safer than continuing a pregnancy to term."

Perhaps controversially, the draft guidelines also say that women should also be informed that "most women who have abortions do not experience adverse psychological sequelae" as a result of the procedure itself, but are related to pre-existing mental health conditions.

The guidelines have been drawn up by a working group made up of members from the RCOG, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and Marie Stopes International.

Titled "The Care of Women Requesting Induced Abortion", the document contains a number of recommendations which are likely to be come under fire from pro-life organisations.

In the section, "Side effects, complications and sequelae of abortion - what women need to know," the document recommends that women should be informed that abortion is not associated with ectopic pregnancy, infertility or an increased risk of breast cancer.

It also says that women should be informed that terminations are linked to a small increase in the risk of women giving birth to a premature baby in future pregnancies, a risk which increases with the number of terminations.

Dr Peter Saunders, of the Christian Medical Fellowship, said: "The RCOG has been heavily criticised in the past for underplaying the physical and psychological consequences of abortion for women and this new document appears to continue in that vein.

"There are, as before, no psychiatrists on the panel, which is rather odd given that the Royal College of Psychiatrists has recently changed its position on the link between abortion and mental illness (it now acknowledges one) and is presently in the process of reviewing the scientific literature again.

"Asking this group to comment objectively and honestly about the physical and psychological consequences of abortion for women is like asking Philip Morris or British American Tobacco to review the health consequences of smoking or Macdonald’s to outline the adverse effects of fast food consumption."

This article was published on Mon 28 February 2011

Image © Brian Jackson - Fotolia.com

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