British women are forced to continue pregnancies that risk their health, according to new research.
A briefing, published by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), found that women in the UK with medical conditions including epilepsy, heart problems and cancer struggle to obtain abortion care, even though the continuation of the pregnancy poses a significant threat to their health.
The briefing, which was based on 2,900 women with medical complexities who BPAS helped to find abortion care during 2016 and 2017, highlights the fact that 21st century Britain, women are being compelled to continue pregnancies they do not want due to a lack of appropriate services, or endure stressful, long waits for care while also coping with a health condition that may be exacerbated by pregnancy.
On 46 occasions in 2016 and 2017, BPAS was unable to secure suitable NHS hospital treatment for these women by the strict legal cut-off point of 24 weeks.
In one case highlighted by BPAS, a mother with cancer whose treatment could not start until the abortion was performed waited 45 days for an appointment. In another case, a mother with epilepsy and learning difficulties who presented at the end of first trimester was treated nearly seven weeks later.
Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said, “Those opposed to abortion sometimes claim there are ‘too many’ abortions, or casually declare that the time limits needs to be reduced.”
“The fact is that in 21st Century Britain, there are women who are not getting the abortions they need, despite fully meeting the grounds of the 1967 Abortion Act.”
“These are women for whom the continuation of the pregnancy threatens their health.”
“These are women with existing children to care for.”
“These are women who are often in complex social circumstances at the same time as struggling to deal with a health condition and an unwanted pregnancy.”
“There is no one single solution to problems with service provision – but one thing is certain.”
“While abortion remains in the criminal law, separated and stigmatised, we will struggle to provide women with the reproductive healthcare services they need and deserve.”
“Abortion is part and parcel of women’s healthcare.”
“It should be regulated and delivered as such.”