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We all bring our personal views to our practice, as this journal's new section, ‘Person in Practice’, highlights.1 My position on abortion is challenging to hold as a consultant in sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and I have spent much time reflecting on this. The following is an edited transcript of a talk I was invited to give at a recent meeting convened by the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare at which abortion law reform was being considered.
Abortion law and regulation
One of the main purposes of the law is to protect the concerns and interests of the community as a whole, especially its vulnerable members. We have laws which protect newborn babies against abuse and maltreatment, and animals from being neglected or tortured in our own homes. We have laws governing the way animals are used in research. Similarly, we are concerned about the rights and interests of fetuses. The law against procuring an abortion except under the terms of the 1967 Abortion Act reflects these concerns.
We are also, as a community, concerned about the rights and interests of a woman who is pregnant but doesn't want to be, respecting her desire to abort her pregnancy, often for intensely personal and understandable reasons. It is important to acknowledge these, as well as the fact that women who choose to discontinue their pregnancy will use whatever means it takes to procure an abortion, even, if necessary, in ways that are unsafe. Surveys carried out by the Guttmacher Institute2 suggest that worldwide levels of abortion are more strongly linked to the incidence of unintended pregnancy than to the legal status of abortion, and that high abortion rates are directly correlated to high levels of unmet contraceptive need, often in countries where abortion is highly restricted.
In England, Wales and Scotland …
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