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A retrograde step for women’s reproductive rights

Dr David Turner

The recent news that the US Supreme Court has overturned the legal position regarding a woman’s right to abortion in the States should be of great concern to not only Americans, but also to UK residents.

 This change to US law will likely mean The States, which already has the highest maternal mortality rate of any developed country, will become an even more dangerous and difficult place to be pregnant, particularly for young, poorer women of colour.

However, the situation regarding pregnancy termination is far from settled here in the UK, with planned changes to the law that will make a woman’s right to choose harder.

During the time of Covid, the pregnancy termination laws in the England were amended, to allow women to take abortion medication at home, without having to take the first dose in hospital. This modification to the law was to reduce social mixing at the start of the pandemic, but it had the added benefit that women did not have to suffer the trauma of encountering anti-abortion protesters outside clinics.

Sending abortion medication through the post has been proven to be safe and effective, yet this change to the law is to be reversed in September, meaning that women will once again have to attend a clinic in person to access the first dose of medication. The change to this law will not be reversed in Wales.

There are no medical or safety concerns to suggest that the policy of allowing women to receive abortion medication through the post should be stopped, so why is the reversal in the law happening in England?

I will never know what it is like to be in the position of having an unwanted pregnancy, but I’m very clearly able to say I always want the right to determine, unconditionally, what happens to my body. Nobody else has the right to interfere in the choices I make for myself.

Whatever some groups may say, in UK law, a foetus does not become a separate person with rights until they are born. The woman carrying the foetus is the individual with rights.

Whatever our personal views, as health professionals, the rights and wellbeing of the patient in front of us should be our only concern when dealing with this issue.

As doctors we need to be very concerned about this slow drift towards the erosion of a woman’s right to decide what she does with her own body.

Is it too much to hope that the BMA would take a lead in opposing this planned retrograde change in the law around termination of pregnancy?

Dr David Turner is a GP in Hertfordshire

READERS' COMMENTS [4]

Steven Hopkins 29 June, 2022 9:11 pm

“I will never know what it is like to be in the position of having an unwanted pregnancy, but I’m very clearly able to say I always want the right to determine, unconditionally, what happens to my body. Nobody else has the right to interfere in the choices I make for myself.”

I agree 100% with what you say. Can we follow this logic and accept that the terminally ill should not have to travel to Switzerland in order to seek euthanasia? I look forward to your support in promoting euthanasia in the UK.

David Banner 30 June, 2022 11:37 pm

“A foetus does not become a separate person with rights until they are born”

Are you suggesting that 3rd trimester terminations should be allowed if the mother requests it? The law is clear that very late abortions are only performed in the most extreme circumstances.

David Turner 4 July, 2022 5:01 pm

….I agree 100% with what you say. Can we follow this logic and accept that the terminally ill should not have to travel to Switzerland in order to seek euthanasia? I look forward to your support in promoting euthanasia in the UK….

Absolutely. I totally support the right to assisted dying in the UK. I am an active member of ‘Dignity in Dying’ and I would encourage all doctors who support assisted dying to join this organisation.

David Turner 4 July, 2022 6:31 pm

…Are you suggesting that 3rd trimester terminations should be allowed if the mother requests it? The law is clear that very late abortions are only performed in the most extreme circumstances….

No, I am stating the fact that in the UK, a foetus does not have any legal rights as an independent person until it is born and becomes a baby.