Letter: Abortion decisions must not be rushed

Dear Editor

I was interested to read Dr Lewis's Journal Watch comment regarding 'negative experiences of abortion services'.

Dr Lewis commented: 'I was particularly concerned to read that 15 per cent of the women had to make a second appointment with a second GP before the referral to secondary care took place, obviously extending this traumatic time.'

I disagree. It is a big decision to have an abortion. Big decisions require much thought. On many occasions I have seen patients who have not made up their minds, or whose decision is being influenced by others. Many women haven't even told their partner about the pregnancy.

I counsel my patients and encourage them to make a second appointment, so as not to rush the decision.

In only two years of being a GP, I have seen many women filled with regret or guilt for many years after an abortion.

The importance of thorough counselling is backed up by studies: 'When women experience significant ambivalence about the decision or when the decision is not freely made, the results are more likely to be negative'.

In one study, women themselves only instigated 30 per cent of abortions.

Indeed, there was a case in 2002 of a woman who sued for not being warned about psychological effects of abortion.

I believe it is a doctor's duty to counsel women as thoroughly as we can when they attend wanting an abortion. I fear that the medical profession is in danger of trivialising abortion, with adverse consequences for both women and their families.

Dr Elizabeth Shawcross, Torrington, North Devon.

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