Tuesday 5 February 2013

Our response to some of the points raised in last night's Panorama on The Great Abortion Divide.

The impact of the protestors outside clinics

When interviewed, the protestors outside our clinic in Brighton said that they were there to “inform society” of the truth about abortion. It is difficult to understand then why they target individual women in this way. They say they are there to stop abortions, but we know that they are not in fact preventing women having abortions- they just make what can already be a difficult day much harder. We see women every week who have been frightened and intimidated by this group. For the protestors to deny in this programme that they are adding to women’s distress is quite frankly ludicrous.
The rising number of repeat abortions
While it is true that the proportion of women undergoing abortion who report a previous procedure has increased slightly from 36% in 2011 from 34% in 2010, it is important to put this in perspective.  Our rate of “repeat” abortion remains comparable with rates in France (35%) and lower than those in Sweden (40%) and the US (50%).
Women have reproductive lifetimes of 30 years and may well be exposed during that period to unwanted pregnancy on more than one occasion, particularly as more women postpone motherhood. The proportion of women reporting previous abortion is highest in the older age groups, who may have been exposed to unwanted pregnancy in their teens or early twenties and again after they have completed their families.
This can represent a particularly profound example of the problem with the term “repeat abortion” – which implies back to back procedures born of carbon copy circumstances, which is very rarely the case. As one of the contributors to the programme Folake Segun, Croydon Healthwatch Pathfinder, said, “You could have one at 17 or 15 and you could have one at 45 so your reasons might be v different at both ends of the spectrum but statistics would still have you down as having had a repeat abortion.”
“Are some women using abortion instead of contraception?”
This was a question posed and not really answered. However, at bpas we can strongly say that we have no evidence that women are using abortion instead of contraception. In fact, more than half of women contacting bpas with an unplanned pregnancy were using contraception when they became pregnant. No method of contraception is 100% effective, and women who use contraception may still find themselves facing an unplanned pregnancy. It is incorrect to imply that women use “one or the other.”
Time limit and the survival rate of babies born under 24 weeks
One of the key issues in the debate around the abortion time limit is the survival rates for premature babies born under 24 weeks gestation. Whilst the expert medical bodies have concluded that there has been no change in the viability of babies born under 24 weeks, as Victoria Derbyshire said, not everyone accepts what the medical experts say. Nadine Dorries MP stated that the figures around survival rates cannot be used as these are “figures of babies that were born prematurely and they were born prematurely for a reason and that reason is often because those babies are very poorly. Now when you show me babies that have been born at 20 weeks who were healthy , from healthy mothers and then have a look at how many of those babies survive then you can compare like with like.”
It is incorrect to suggest that babies are born prematurely because they are poorly. In reality, babies who are premature are “poorly” because they are premature. The chances of a baby’s survival below 24 weeks extremely low because before 24 weeks these babies have not developed enough to survive outside their mother’s womb.  It is incredibly sad that despite advances in medicine this has not changed.

It is very disappointing to see people misuse statistics around this issue for ideologically driven point scoring about abortion. 

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