Category Archives: Reproductive Rights

Early abortion – should there be a change in the law?

The British Preganancy Advisory Service [BPAS] is challenging current abortion laws to allow women seeking early medical abortions to be allowed to choose where they complete their treatment.

Currently women who are less than 9 weeks pregant can take two sets of pills to induce a miscarriage.

Though there is no medical need, the pills must be taken in a hospital or clinic, which makes it more difficult for a woman to control where she has a miscarriage.

Ann Furedi, chief executive of BPAS said:

“This is about making it as easy as possible for women who are entitled to an abortion to have that abortion, it does not make it easier for women to obtain an abortion.”

86% of women would prefer to medically induce miscarriages in the comfort and security of their own homes.

In what way is it logical for authorities to make legal abortions more uncomfortable than they need to be?

Yet there has been an outcry from Pro-Life and conservative commentators.

Nadine Dorries, Conservative MP, said any change in the law will send out the message that abortion can be used as a contraceptive, while the charity Life said:

“BPAS’s intention is to increase access to abortion yet further, by making it little more than a pill-popping exercise”

But does making the process easier really mean women will suddenly cease to care about the act itself?

Current abortion law under the Abortion Act of 1967 only allows women to end their pregnancies if she is at risk from suffering “grave permanant injury” to herself, her existing children or if the child would be severely handicapped.

In all other instances, abortion is technically prohibited.

For an abortion to be legal, the women must suffer.  By the logic of the 1967 Act abortion should be difficult, uncomfortable and punish the offending woman.

If it does not do this, the fear is that the life of unborn babies will cease to matter at all, that women will sink to new depths of promiscuity and motherhood will lose its revered status in modern society.

Should this conservative scaremongering really continue to influence abortion law?


Cardiff Woman Gives Life to African Mothers

Angela Gorman

Last month Cardiff based charity, Life for African Mothers was chosen by the staff of the Welsh Assembly Government’s [WAG] as charity of the year.

The charity, which was initially called Hope for Grace Kodindo, was founded in 2005, after local neo-natal nurse Angela Gorman decided to tackle the appalling rates of maternal mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa.

She was first inspired to set up the charity after watching a Panorama documentary, Dead Mum’s Don’t Cry, which followed obstetrician, Dr Grace Kodindo in her work  in the Hôpital Général de Référence in N’Djamena, Chad.

In Chad, where one in eight pregnancies ends in the death of the mother,  there is an expression “a pregnant woman has one foot in the grave”

Listen to what she had to say about watching the programme:

The charity’s strategy is simple; to supply drugs to combat the biggest maternal killers in Sub-Saharan Africa; eclampsia and post-partum haemorrhaging.

These two conditions are responsible for almost half of the deaths of pregnant women in Africa, but can be prevented by drugs which cost less than a chocolate bar.

Mesoprostol, which costs just 15p a tablet, is used to treat eclampsia, which kills 14% of pregnant women if Africa, while post-partum haemorrhaging, responsible for about a quarter of the deaths, is treated by a 55p dose of magnesium sulphate.

World Health Organisation statistics 2005

The programme, which initially began in Chad, has now been expanded to Nigeria, Somaliland, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Uganda and most recently, Rwanda.

Gorman estimates the charity has saved at least 13, 000 lives since it began work in 2005, and believes in the last 15 months 9,000 women have been saved across the seven countries in which it operates.

Dr Grace Kodindo

In May 2008 Dr Kodindo was able to tell the European Parliament that as a result of the charity’s work, rates of deaths from eclampsia in Chad’s biggest maternity hospital were reduced from 14% to 2.3%, while neonatal mortality was reduced from 23% to 7.3%.

This success is due in part to the limited scope of Life for African Mothers, and the strong links Gorman sets up with the hospitals she supplies. This ensures medication gets to the women who need it and supplies are maintained.

The programme is not the only South Wales charity to be involved in Africa.  In 2006, as part of the WAG’s initiative to achieve the UNs Millennium Development Goals [MDG], Rhodri Morgan, then First Minister of Wales gave funding for Wales for Africa, a group of over 20 health organisations which provide aid in Africa.

Life for African Mothers is particularly focused on achieving MDG number 5, maternal health, but as Gorman points out:

“By tackling maternal mortality you can improve the first four goals as well; women create about 70% of the wealth in these countries, which means if we can keep more women alive we can help reduce poverty.

“Keeping mothers alive also means children are more likely to go to school, and child health will improve, so the second and fourth goals can be reached as well.”

Gorman has established links with other charities in the Wales for Africa group, such as PONT, which led Life for African Mothers to expand into Uganda, and the Swansea Gambia Link [SGL].

Last month she addressed a group of medical students involved in the SGL, and hopes as a result the charity may be able to make future links in Gambia.

One of the students she talked to, Ed Soans said:

“Her [Gorman’s] story is quite inspirational.  She is using very simple resources and ideas, and is applying them in effective ways.

“The drugs are really cheap, but very effective”

The charity has been funded through a combination of small donations from individuals, fund raising events [including a Cycle to Africa last month] and larger sums given by organisations.

In 2008 Good Gifts gave a grant of £29,000, which has helped  to send medications to Africa, as well as trained NHS workers.

In October OXFAM invited Gorman on a trip to Sierra Leone with a group of Cardiff health care workers, including Peter Lindsay, consultant obstetrician and gynecologist at Llandough Hospital, Penarth.

A decade of civil war has destroyed any health care system that was previously in place. Dr Lindsay told me about the difficulties of providing health care in a post-war country:

According to the World Health Organisation, Sierra Leone is the most dangerous place in the world to give birth, with one in every seven pregnancies ending in the death of the mother.

However, there is evidence the charity’s work is making inroads.  In 2007 the Princess Christian Hospital in Freetown delivered 1,500 women, 143 [or almost 10%] of whom died.  From June to September 2010 this was reduced to 3% as 100 women out of the 3,600 who were delivered had fatal complications.

There is clearly much work to be done, but slowly things may be improving.

Ann Widdecombe and the anti-Abortion lobby

On Thursday Ann Widdecombe hopes to use her new found Strictly fame to campaign for one of her most fervently held beliefs; that abortion is wrong.

She is to speak at a dinner held by Britain’s leading anti-abortion group, Right to Life.

In the UK, the fight for women to choose abortion has largely been won [though abortion is still illegal in Northern Ireland] but a passionate anti-choice lobby still remains.

Earlier this year Veronica Connolly launched a case against the BBC saying she should not have to pay her license fee because the BBC had censored an election broadcast by the Pro-life Alliance on the grounds it was too graphic.  She said:

“I want to highlight that the BBC has become the mouthpiece of the Government, which is generally very pro-abortion.  We get pro-abortion propaganda thrust down our throats and it’s time someone said ‘no, enough’.

“Abortion is the biggest human rights issue of our day.”

Meanwhile, in recent months women going to Marie Stopes House in central London  to seek a termination are being confronted by US style anti-abortion campaigners.  A Texan religious group called 40 Days for Life have been accused of blocking the women’s way to the clinic and handing out misleading leaflets which over emphasise the  risks of abortion.

Darinka Aleksic, campaign co-ordinator at Abortion Rights, said:

“American-style tactics are being increasingly used in Britain, not just with pickets but with internet campaigns and the use of misleading leafleting,

“We are strongly in favour of women receiving as much support, counselling and information about abortion as possible. But we’re worried about the tenor of a lot of the advice being given out by these pickets. There’s a lot of emphasis on guilt and misleading scientific information.”

Last month a rally was held outside Parliament to mark the 40th anniversary of the passing of the Abortion Act. Anti-abortion campaigners commemorated the 6.7 million terminations carried out in Britain legally since the Act came into force.

Though the anti-abortion lobby is very vocal, there are a few facts they often leave out:

  • Rates of abortions in countries where it is legal and where it is not are largely similar.  This means in countries where abortion is illegal there are simply a great number of abortions carried out in sub-standard and dirty conditions, which are extremely dangerous for women.
  • While anti-abortion campaigners often emphasise the dangers of abortion, carrying a pregnancy to full term is actually more dangerous.  Post-abortion depression is often talked about more than post-natal depression.
  • The majority of abortions are carried out before the ten-week stage, when foetuses are approximately the same size as a kumquat [about 20g].  90% of abortions are carried out before 14-weeks, when the foetus is the about the size of a lemon.

There will be a pro-choice protest outside the Royal Overseas House in St James’s Street London on Thursday [Nov 25], starting at 6.30