Early abortions may be made easier for women in Britain

The British government is considering making early abortions available to women at doctors surgeries.

At present women who want to terminate a pregnancy before nine weeks can be prescribed drugs to induce a miscarriage.

The drugs are given in two doses, 48 hours apart, at private clinics and National Health hospitals and needs the approval of two doctors.

The Department of Health in Britain has conducted two pilot studies in order to evaluate whether such "medical" abortions can be carried out in "non-traditional" settings including doctors' surgeries.

The British Medical Association has cautiously welcomed the move but the debate over access to abortion has been reignited.

A House of Commons committee, which examined the case for lowering the 24-week legal limit, found women were experiencing unnecessary delays and called for easier access to terminations and the scrapping of the two doctors' signatures rule.

The committee also said nurses and midwives with suitable training and professional guidance should not be prevented from carrying out all stages of early medical abortions involving the use of drugs and early surgical abortions.

The committee evaluation is expected to be completed in early 2008.

But there is apparently growing opposition to abortions by many doctors; a survey earlier this year in a doctors magazine revealed that one in five believe it should be banned and more than half say that the 24 week limit should be reduced.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) which provides 10,000 early medical abortions each year, says offering more localised care for women needing an abortion makes absolute sense.

The Family Planning Association too is in agreement and says other countries provide abortion services in the community and British women should also have that service.

In 2006 there were almost 200,000 abortions in England and Wales and 13,000 in Scotland.

The vast majority were early abortions and were carried out before 13 weeks.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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