Letters: Women want their GPs to carry out terminations

As a GP who has chosen to focus my practice on women's healthcare, I find the results of this survey disappointing ('A third of GPs to shun practices giving abortions', GP 13 February).

Like most GPs, I have consulted with many women requesting abortion, including at the GP surgery.

We must therefore keep in mind that this survey reflects the opinion of only 0.8 per cent of the UK's 56,000 GPs.

Let's look at some facts: over one third of women will have an abortion before age 45; abortion is an extremely safe and straightforward treatment; integrating abortion services into general practice is possible, as it has already happened in the US; and women need better access to abortion services.

It is also clear that women would much prefer to receive abortion services from their regular GP, rather than visit a free-standing 'abortion clinic'.

Importantly, we also know that barriers to access don't stop women having abortions, they simply cause them to have abortions later in pregnancy.

Some are concerned that women will somehow trivialise abortion if it is provided in general practice. I have never met one woman, out of the thousands I have cared for, who made this decision thoughtlessly.

I think society has developed the perverse notion that women should have to work a little bit harder to access abortion than other medical services. Perhaps this makes them consider their decision more seriously.

But exactly how hard should they have to work? How many hoops should they jump through to access what is the most commonly requested gynaecological procedure in the world?

If we are serious about providing abortion as early as possible, we should make the process as accessible as possible.

Doctors have a right to refuse to be involved in abortions or to oppose wider access. But they must be honest about their reasons and acknowledge they have no scientific justification - their objections are religious, or based on misguided paternalism.

They must also acknowledge that they are contributing to delays, and increasing the number of abortions taking place at later gestations.

All the evidence shows us that not only can GPs who wish to provide abortions do so safely and effectively, but that women want them to. Perhaps that is the most important point of all.

Dr Richard Lyus, GP at British Pregnancy Advisory Service, central London

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