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Year : 2008  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 1 Table of Contents   



Date of Web Publication17-Nov-2008

Correspondence Address:
Alice Gerth

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NB. Contains some material which readers may find distressing. The views expressed in this, and all the articles, are those of the author.

With parliament reassessing the abortion laws I wonder where we as the youth of today stand on this matter or maybe it does not bother us. I do not believe that abortion should be banned in any countries. There are ghastly stories of females inserting coat hangers up their vaginas, pummelling their stomachs, drinking bleach and many other bizarre methods in order to trigger a miscarriage. How desperate must these women be? In the less economically developed countries, if we want to reduce abortion rates, contraception must be made more available and charities need to explain fully how to use it. There was a case of a charity explaining how to use condoms using broom handles. They returned a couple of months later to find the brooms with condoms on the end and many of the women pregnant. Unfortunately there can be a stigma attached to contraception often due to religions preaching its sinful nature.

In the developed world contraception is readily available. In the UK from the age of 16 one can go on a form of the pill without parental consent and purchase the morning-after pill, over the counter, with no prescription. So why were there almost 200,000 abortions in England and Wales last year? Of these only 2% were due to a disability in the foetus the rest "due to risk to the mother's mental or physical health". At present you can abort up until 24 weeks if two doctors believe that the mothers physical or mental health is at risk. I believe that there are two faults in this law. Firstly the requirement for two doctors to sign the form and secondly the 24 week limit.[Additional file 1]

I will discuss the latter first. 89% of abortions are carried out before 13 weeks and only 2% after 20. England however has the second longest abortion limit to Cyprus which is 28 weeks, however, they have very strict rules on when abortion can occur. The majority of European countries set a limit at 12 weeks except for if there is a serious risk to the mother's health or if the child will have a serious disability. (Click picture for more details on abortion in other European countries.)

14 years ago Britain reduced the abortion limit from 28 weeks to 24 when medical advances meant that more and more children survived premature birth at 28 weeks. In the last 14 years medical advances have now improved again.

How can it be right that on one floor of a hospital a mother is aborting 24 week old foetus and on another doctors are fighting to save a premature 24 week baby?

I believe that the abortion limit should be, in line with the majority of European countries, at 12 weeks and then have specific circumstances under which it can be extended. Many women spend weeks agonising at least this will help them to focus their mind.

The other suggested change is to require only one doctor to sign rather than two. This I agree with, the second doctor signing the form can take weeks and often doesn't even see the patient. Once permission is gained the woman may have to wait for the actual process. If only one doctor were to sign it would speed up proceedings and result in a greater percentage of abortions at a younger stage of development.

It is not our place to go on a crusade against or for abortion creating antagonism between pro-life and pro-choice groups. This is not the question we should be tackling. Abortion is always going to be a part of society however, women need to be educated and helped to make their decision with counselling and doctors must be honest and unbiased when informing women of the facts. This does not mean though that the law does not need bringing in line with the latest medical advances and ahead of it in preparation for what is still to come.

There is much more to take into account as well. From what point can a foetus feel pain and therefore should we provide anaesthetic to it before abortion? At what point does the foetus become an individual? These are questions we cannot brush aside. We need to be careful not to allow propaganda from either side sway us without considering the facts. In America many very emotive images have been released but, just because it looks alive and like a baby does it make it alive? I cannot yet say exactly what I would do if I were to become pregnant but I hope that abortion is never an option I have to consider and the best way for any women to do that is to not get pregnant before she is ready.[Additional file 2]

Author's footnote: If you want more information on the subject try and get hold of the Channel 4 program Dispatches which goes into far more detail than I have (it is available from 4od for free at Be aware that some of the images are distressing. I could not insert photos of aborted foetuses in this essay as they are very vivid. If you really want to tackle the problem head on though it is worth looking at the odd the photo and realising quite how human a foetus is!
How to cite this article:
Gerth A. Abortion. Young Scientists J 2008;1:1

How to cite this URL:
Gerth A. Abortion. Young Scientists J [serial online] 2008 [cited 2014 Sep 2];1:1. Available from:


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