Monday 8 October 2012

Talking About Termination of Pregnancy

I feel a little uncomfortable writing this. However it was a tweet that inspired this post, which I can't find now that said basically that the electorate has a right to have their voices heard. So I have a voice, and some opinions and my blog, so here goes.

I don't like abortion. However, I have seen societies were termination of pregnancy is illegal and I really don't like that either. If we outlawed abortion it would happen still, but putting women in extreme danger. Now you can, unbelievably, buy abortion tablets on the internet. Disreuptable illegal clinics would sprout up. Women would flee to other countries.  No I believe in medical termination of pregnancy in safe enviroments with counselling and support.

However, I believe strongly that something is going wrong in terms of the amount of unwanted pregnancy and all this talk of lowering limits is shutting the stable gate. Lets catch the horse first. 

As I was considering what to write I found this fabulous blog post by Dilly Tante, my new favourite blogger (is it wrong to idolise a favicon - so pretty) where she talks about Jeremy Hunt and his desire to see the limit for termination of pregnancy reduced to 12 weeks.

What annoys me is this, what are we actually doing to prevent the rate of unwanted pregnancies in the first place? Where is the debate about what is going wrong?And where are the Tory voices in this? We have more contraception choices than ever before, more means of communicating those choices, yet still the abortion rate continues to be high. We have sex education in schools. I don't know why the unwanted pregnancy rate is high, and I'd love to hear more debate about this and to understand it.

We also have increasing sexualisation of, well, just about everything. Seeing the world through my son's eyes, whilst oftentimes is delightful, is also downright scary.I see what he is exposed to on a daily basis and I worry. I was in my 20s and married before I lost my virginity. I worry about what age Joseph will be when he loses his own.

To me, the talk of lowering the gestational age of termination of pregnancy to 12 weeks is somewhat ridiculous, and that change inadvertantly may cause the rate of terminations to go up not down, as women feel under immense pressure to have the appointment booked by 12 weeks .Chloe talks about this on her post, also written this weekend, from a very personal viewpoint.  Also Jeremy Hunt is not giving the NHS any credit, for their target is to have most terminations done by 10 weeks. The vast amount of terminations are done before the 12 week mark anyway.

I totally agree with Dilly Tante, that Jeremy Hunt's comments are to make Dorries' suggestion of lowering the gestational age from 24 weeks to 20 weeks more appealing. But what really saddens me is that no one seems to be talking about what we can do to reduce the amount of unwanted pregnancies in the first place. 

Currently the legal limit stands at 24 weeks, and for a lot of us, this seems very high. Many of my readers have had babies at 24 weeks gestation, or indeed younger, and I know that when these debates surface it is upsetting, as there are vehement arguments on both sides. The simple fact is, despite the statistics that might elude otherwise, babies are born at 22-24 weeks, and do survive, albeit with a lot of medical help and support, but they do survive and thrive.

I do think there is a case for lowering the limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks. I do appreciate that no one enters into a late term termination lightly, however there is already provision for termination beyond 24 weeks in extenuating and compelling circumstances. Unless the Tories are considering changing this as well (and I've seen no mention of it in the press) then there is still a safety measure in place.

What I think we need overall is dialogue. Termination of pregnancy happens, for lots of reasons. I think as a community and as an electorate we need to unpick those reasons and work on them, help women manage their fertility in a way that suits them, but we need that safety net in place too.  We need to talk about termination of pregnancy, and we need to do it now.


  1. Lowering it would ensure all bereaved Mums who deliver after 20 weeks and who actually deliver and labour will be acknowledged as having a stillbirth and not a miscarriage I think that's important some babies are actually born alive at that gestation and this would allow the law to acknowledge that fact.

  2. To the above commenter. Perhaps other people should have the opportunity to make difficult decisions without worrying about how it makes you feel. I feel greatly for people who have miscarried or had very young prem babies, but that should have no bearing on whether women should have to have a child that they can't look after. No abortion decision is made lightly. No contraceptive is 100% and late term abortions are usually only avaliable in extreme circumstances.
    I became pregnant (using contraception) when I was very sick with depression. There was no way I was fit to look after a child. Luckily I found out early, but the decision to terminate was very difficult for me. Looking back I don't regret it for a second.

  3. Accidents do happen8 October 2012 at 12:21

    Some women are blessed/cursed with being ridiculously fertile. I'll tell you how my 4 unwanted pregnancies occurred starting with most obvious to least.

    1. Raped by ex with whom I was still sharing a house but with separate bedrooms. We'd always used condoms so we'd never had any pregnancy 'scares'. I was so emotionally overwhelmed by the rape, and escaping the house and retrieving my belongings, that it didn't occur to me to consider pregnancy until a couple of weeks later when I started to feel a bit off. So totally unprotected, unplanned sex resulted in pregnancy.2. Using a combination of the fellow pulling out and thinking it was a safe day of the month - I had my period at the time (day 5 of my cycle) and he pulled out before he came. I conceived.3. Using a diaphragm and spermicide according to all the instructions.4. On the pill.

    However, I think it is very unlikely that someone who has an unwanted pregnancy is going to choose to have a termination at or after 12 weeks, unless they're in denial or are too young/uninformed to access health services. It's pretty traumatic, the hormonal changes are full-on, and especially if you suffer from nausea/vomiting/extreme fatigue then you're going to want a termination as soon as possible.

    I have also had 3 wanted pregnancies with my husband, although two were unplanned. One of the unplanned ones we had sex once that month on day 10 of my cycle, the next we had sex once that month on day 17 of my cycle.

    I have always had a totally reliable 28 day cycle.

  4. I would like to thank you for writing such a sensitive and well articulated post. I must admit to learning more this weekend than I knew in the past.
    Understanding that the vast majority of decisions get taken in the initial 12 weeks has been a learning point, which has altered my view point.
    I also then recalled the discussions and conversations that I had when pregnant with twins and the testing available. At the time it felt that those counselling me wanted me to make the decisions ahead of the tests.And that I always reiterated that I needed as much information to hand to inform the decisions I would make, and not being able to forsee the decisions I would make before 'being there'.
    Fortunately I wasn't 'there'.
    But I hope for everyone the medical profession, and if that means politicians so be it, continue to support informed decisions.

  5. Bernadette Biron10 October 2012 at 11:45

    I was listening to the radio the other day listening to a very emotional man talk about why his and his wife chose to have an abortion. It is such a difficult subject, it got me thinking, when the upper limit was chosen, babies being born at 24 weeks were not surviving. Even in the last few years, spacial care for premature babies has hugely improved and will no doubt continue to at a rapid rate. It does seem bizzare to allow a termination of a pregnancy if the baby has the possibility of survival. But then again every situation is unique, personal and difficult.

    Thank you for sharing this, I gave a mention to this the other day, but stopped and started writing a longer post. I don't think I could give it the articulation you have.

  6. Thanks for sharing this post, it is a highly emotive debate!
    I think you are absolutely right about wanting to address the causes first. There is good sex education in some areas, but not everywhere. In Scotland, for example, where both the Church of Scotland and particularly the Catholic Church have a great say in the education system, the sex education is not always as comprehensive as it is in England. Of course I respect their religious rights and beliefs about contraception and abortion, but those children do still need that information! (i was a sexual health advisor for the department of health working on a national helpline, and I've been a youth worker in both England and Scotland)
    Also I think the music and movie industry should be obliged to show people practicing safe sex, they should be trying harder to make condoms romantic! Surely if anyone can, they can!
    I daren't start on my thoughts on Jeremy Hunt though!

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