Friday, 25 January 2013

Later motherhood and women's changing role in society

Yesterday, the ONS released figures which show that the shift towards later motherhood is continuing. The statistics show that the average age of all mothers giving birth in England and Wales has increased from 29.5 in 2010 to 29.7 years of age in 2011, which is more than a year older than it was just 10 years ago when the average age was 28.6 years old. Women are also choosing to postpone starting their families for longer, with the average age of women at their first birth increasing to 27.9 years of age in 2011, compared to 27.7 in 2010 and 26.6 in 2001. In total, nearly half (49%) of all births in 2011 were to mothers aged 30 or over.

The figures released yesterday are part of a trend of later motherhood that has been gradually ongoing since 1973. This trend reflects broader societal changes and women’s increasing participation in higher education and the work force, with the UK now having one of the highest female employment rates in the world. These changes, and women’s changing expectations for their own lives, have played a key role in the shift towards later motherhood.

As women choose to have children later in life, they are spending more of their most fertile years trying to avoid pregnancy, putting them at greater risk of being faced with an unwanted pregnancy. This trend towards later motherhood is one reason why, whilst the abortion rate overall has remained stable, the rate has risen amongst women over 25.

These figures from the ONS reflect the way that over the last 40 years society has changed, and women’s view of their role within it has changed too. The ability of women to control the timing and size of their families– and indeed postpone motherhood until the time is right-is a crucial factor in women being able to play a full role in public life.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Our abortion care placements for Irish medical students

Last week, we launched an externship programme for Irish medical students to come to one of our clinics in London so that they can gain experience of abortion care
After decades of stalling, the Irish government is currently considering legislating to allow abortion in cases where the mother’s life is at risk. Regardless of whether or not the government allows this change, it will be of no help to the thousands of Irish women who are forced to travel to England to terminate a pregnancy that they feel unable to cope with. And this legislation will do nothing to help those women who are considering an abortion after hearing the devastating and heartbreaking news that there is something wrong with a much wanted pregnancy.

We know that many doctors in Ireland do support abortion rights, and recent events show that doctors may be called upon to provide abortion in an emergency. We also know that doctors in Ireland may well see women who are considering abortion and will want to be able to provide their patient with accurate advice and information. We hope this programme provides the next generation of doctors in Ireland with the opportunity to learn more about abortion care, an important aspect of medical training which they cannot currently receive at home.
Every day at bpas we see women from Ireland and witness the emotional and financial hardship that the abortion ban inflicts on them. We look forward to a time when the Irish government does not deny Irish women a fundamental health service and allows them to make decisions about their families, their lives and their futures.


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

No More Names- thank you for your support

We wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported our No More Names campaign so far.

No More Names was the first ever nationwide pro-choice campaign, running on billboards and on social media. We wanted to challenge assumptions about the "type" of woman who has an abortion, highlight misleading portrayals of abortion in the media, and show our support for women everywhere who have been faced with an unwanted pregnancy.

We have been overwhelmed by the support this campaign has recieved. We want to thank everyone who got involved, shared the message on Twitter and Facebook, and made a public statement of personal support. Below are some of our favourite tweets and Facebook posts- thank you to everyone who was a part of this campaign online. Thank you also for all the donations we recieved last year in response to growing anti-abortion protests outside our clinic- those donations directly funded this campaign.

The No More Names billboards are sadly no longer up, but we will still keep the campaign going on Twitter and Facebook and are looking at other ways we can spread the message of the campaign to as many people as possible.

Thank you again for all your support.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

"I don’t think abortion is considered by ‘my generation’ to be an ongoing political issue that still needs to be fought for."

There has been a great deal of discussion in America about "what it means to be pro-choice" and younger people's understanding of the term. A bpas intern, Charlotte, 20, writes below about what she thinks being pro-choice means to her and her generation.
I am pro-choice. To me, that means that I believe that it is a woman’s right to decide what happens to her own body and that abortion should be legal, safe and accessible. Women should be able to make the choice about if, and when, to have a child in the same way that they are able to make many other choices about pregnancy, childbearing and parenting. This should not be limited only to instances when the woman’s life is at risk from the pregnancy, but at the same time, shouldn’t, and I believe isn’t, treated lightly.
I think that this understanding of abortion has become common sense and what many people my age understand by the term pro-choice. Where I think my generation’s approach to these issues perhaps differs from previous generations is that, for the majority of people my age, abortion is not considered be an ongoing political issue that still needs to be fought for.
I think that this lack of engagement with abortion and being “pro-choice” in a political sense has been a consequence of abortion becoming, quite rightly so, an increasingly accessible service. We see abortion as an automatic part of healthcare provision, and as a result it can be taken for granted. Access to abortion services are considered the norm and thus not a political issue. Consequently, I don’t think that many people my age actually give much consideration to, or know much about, the details of how or who provides these services until they perhaps require them, and I imagine many in England do not realise that girls their age in Northern Ireland face a very different situation. In the same way, they know little about the actions and behaviour of pro-life campaigners, or instances such as the MP Nadine Dorries’ attempts to reduce the time limits for abortions - however when I talk to my friends about things like this they are concerned.
I do believe that if access to abortion was seen to be challenged or jeopardised that myself and my peers would feel extremely strongly about it. We are a pro-choice generation, and we would be quick to try protect it in the same way as if any other fundamental right was being threatened.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The hypocrisy of abortion policy - the lessons of Romania and Ireland

The publication of a paper on the consequences of Ceau┼čescu’s attempt to ban abortion in Romania is a stark reminder of what happens when women are prevented from accessing means that are safe and legal to end problem pregnancies. In short, they end their pregnancies using means that are unlawful and/or unsafe, sometimes with tragic consequences. More than 9,000 women died between 1965 and 1989 due to complications arising from illegal abortions.

Although it’s difficult to compare any country today with the repressive, restrictive climate of Romania in the 1960s and 70s, a reminder of the contribution that adequate birth control, including abortion, makes to women’s health is important. Politicians in Ireland – and the UK, since abortion is still outlawed in the Northern Ireland counties that it governs – would do well to take note.

The recent death of Savita Halappanavar, who was denied a pregnancy termination in Ireland, has rocked that country and focused international attention on its abortion ban. One might ask why, when one considers Romania, there have not been more deaths in Ireland? The answer is simple. Although abortion is unlawful in Ireland, Irish women have been able to develop their own ways of accessing services.

For thousands of Irish women, the path to an abortion involves a relatively cheap flight to Britain and treatment provided by a not-for-profit clinic run by a charity. At British Prenancy Advisory Service (BPAS) clinics, especially in Liverpool, Birmingham and London, Irish visitors are so “normal” that we provide a special range of literature explaining how to care for themselves as they travel home.

Other women rely on the internet to obtain medicines that are safe for them to use but illegal to obtain. Clearly, there are risks with internet supply. You might not receive what you ordered; fake medication is at least as common as knock-off designer shoes or handbags, and the effects are serious. At best, it does nothing.

Sites such as Women on Web have become a vital source of safe medication for women living where safe, legal abortion is unavailable. And the widespread availability of the abortifacient (ie, causing an abortion) misoprostol as treatment for gastric ulcers is another lifeline, especially where it is available in local pharmacies.

Women still die from abortion bans. International agencies publish estimates routinely. Governments record their horror and pledge to make motherhood safer. At a London summit on family planning in July, the prime minister responded to estimates that an unplanned pregnancy is conceived every 10 seconds by announcing £500m in aid to increase international access to contraceptives. He told government representatives from around the world: “Women should be able to decide freely, and for themselves, whether, when and how many children they have … When a woman is prevented from choosing when to have children it’s not just a violation of her human rights, it can fundamentally compromise her chances in life, and the opportunities for her children.”

Yet in Northern Ireland and Ireland, women are denied that choice because they are denied access to abortion.

European politicians find it easy to understand the importance of safe contraception and abortion in countries far away. They find it less easy to understand the importance of reproductive choice in their own countries – although it would be far easier for them to effect it.

Romania is a good European example of why abortion bans should be regarded as being as perverse and as archaic as the rest of Ceau┼čescu’s policies.

On abortion, we should study Romanian history.