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By laura Donnelly | Telegraph | Feb. 28, 2011
The advice, which would be given to women considering terminations, has caused anger, with anti-abortion campaigners accusing doctors' leaders of forcing an "absurdly liberal agenda" on women in a vulnerable situation.
The draft guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is for all doctors, nurses and counsellors advising women contemplating terminations.
Its first recommendation on "what women need to know" instructs health professionals: "Women should be advised that abortion is generally safer than continuing a pregnancy to term."
The guidance also says that women who are deciding whether to have an abortion must be told that most do not suffer any psychological harm. Until now, their advice has been that while rates of psychiatric illness and self-harm in women are higher among those who had an abortion, there was no evidence that termination itself was likely to trigger psychological problems.
While few dispute that terminations carry fewer physical risks to a woman than those of pregnancy, the impact of abortions on psychological health is highly contentious.
Never before has official advice to doctors and nurses in Britain instructed them to use such comparisons to help pregnant women decide whether to keep a child.
Current guidance simply tells doctors and nurses that they should "be equipped" to provide accurate information about the relative dangers.
Josephine Quintavalle, of the Pro-Life Alliance accused the royal college of "manipulating the evidence" in order to promote a pro-choice message. She said: "I don't believe that most women considering abortions are worried it will kill them or are worrying about dying in childbirth; this is a blatant attempt to force an absurdly liberal agenda on women when they are at their most vulnerable.”
Speaking in a personal capacity, Prof Patricia Casey, a consultant psychiatrist and fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “The message this sends out is very worrying. There are more than 30 studies showing an association between psychological trauma and abortion.”
The guidance, drawn up by 18 senior gynaecologists, nurses and abortion providers also says that pregnant women who are certain of a decision to terminate “should not be subjected to compulsory counselling”. Previous advice only requested that professionals provide the degree of support required by each individual.
Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said: “This guidance isn’t a political document and isn't trying to persuade women to have abortions.”
After being alerted to the concerns by The Sunday Telegraph, the Royal College said it would now rewrite some of the recommendations, upon which consultation closed on Friday.
A spokesman said that while the authors of the guidance intended that the comparison between the risks of abortion and pregnancy was spelt out to those providing terminations, doctors should be able to use their judgment about whether to repeat the point to women in their care.