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Press release: NICE abortion guidelines recommend NHS rush women through abortion process – could lead to an increase in abortions

12 April 2019 – NICE has today release draft abortion guidance that makes a series of recommendations which, if adopted in their current form, will encourage services to rush women through the abortion process, reduce medical support for women and could lead to an increase in the number of abortions.

The draft recommended changes include encouraging NHS organisations across the country to:

  • Remove current consultations with a GP where women can talk through their options and be provided with emotional support, instead encouraging ‘self-referrals’ directly to abortion providers (p25).
  • Reduce the time that women have to contemplate their decision and look at other support options (p4).
  • Replace any current face-to-face abortion consultations with phone or ‘telemed’ consultations (p5).
  • Expand abortion services from the current list of registered hospitals and clinics to a far wider range of settings ‘in the community’. (p5)
  • Increase funding for travel and accommodation to access abortion services, but not provide increased funding and support for women who wish to continue with their pregnancies (p4).
  • Where possible, remove doctor involvement with abortion procedures, replacing them with nurses and midwives (p5).
  • Increased integration of abortion training and practical experience into training for health professionals (p5) positioning it as ‘essential training’ (p27).
  • Not provide routine follow-up appointments for women who have expelled the fetus at home or another location other than an abortion clinic or hospital (p9).
  • Introduce procedure where abortions take place before pregnancy has been confirmed by an ultrasound (p16).
  • Encourages medical professionals to tell women that ‘having a termination of pregnancy does not increase their risk of long-term health problems’, without citing evidence base for doing so (p7). This is extremely concerning given for example extensive evidence linking abortion with an increased risk of subsequent pre-term births.
  • Reducing funding allocated to supporting women during the abortion process and focus this funding on ‘new referrals’ (p29).

A spokesperson for Right to Life, Clare McCarthy said:

“The recommended changes from NICE and the RCOG will rush women through the abortion process and provide less medical supervision and support for women. In 2017, in the UK 197,533 babies in the womb were aborted. This does not appear to be enough for the abortion lobby and head of the RCOG, Lesley Regan, who has said she wants to see abortion as easy as getting ‘your bunions sorted’. Instead, they have brought forward these recommended changes which would mean less time for women to explore options other than abortion and could see our already very high abortion rate increase even further.

“Contrary to the recommended changes seeking to rush women through the abortion process, a ComRes poll found that 79% of the general public in the UK are in favour of introducing consideration periods to ensure that a women considering an abortion has had enough time to consider all of the options available to her.

“The guidelines should address the reasons women seek out abortion services in such high numbers in this country, often because of; vulnerability, isolation, lack of financial or emotional support, or pressure from a partner. Simply rushing women through the abortion process does nothing to address the problems these women already face and would only later compound these issues if coupled with post-abortion regret.

“This is a reckless approach to healthcare. Women’s safety and mental or physical health should never be potentially compromised for the sake of expediency or convenience.

Dr Callum Miller, medical doctor and research associate at the University of Oxford, said:

“Self-referral, self-administration and less medical involvement in abortions is not an improvement in health services for women. Clearly, the absence of medical supervision for taking powerful drugs, often with great distress, is not an improvement in medical care.

“The draft guidance states that there is no routine follow-up necessary for women following an abortion procedure. This is especially concerning given what appears to be a drive to encourage out-of-clinic use of misoprostol where women will pass the fetus either at home or at another non-clinical location.

“Mental health reviews have repeatedly stressed the need for screening for those at risk of negative mental health consequences from abortion, and it is disappointing to see that such women are not offered psychological follow up after such a traumatic event which appears to be associated with worse mental health outcomes.

“In an attempt to increase the numbers of abortion doctors, the draft guidelines also state that abortion training should be a part of the core curriculum for all health professionals. This appears to be in response to decreasing numbers of doctors being prepared to do provide abortions. It is no wonder that there is a lack of doctors signing up to provide abortions. Many young medics, like myself, come to their profession because they want to save lives, not to end them.”