NewsGuidance Urges Healthcare Workers Not to Report Women Over Abortions

Guidance Urges Healthcare Workers Not to Report Women Over Abortions

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Healthcare workers in the UK are being advised not to report women to the police if they suspect they may have illegally ended their pregnancies. The Royal College of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians (RCOG) has issued guidance stating that “deeply traumatised” women are being prosecuted following abortions. The law prohibits disclosing patients’ data without consent, but recent police investigations into abortions have prompted the RCOG to provide clarity on confidentiality. The guidance emphasizes that it is “never” in the public interest to report women who have abortions and calls for safeguarding such individuals.

The RCOG expressed concern over the rising number of police investigations following abortions and pregnancy loss, particularly their potential impact on vulnerable patients. Dr. Jonathan Lord, RCOG’s medical director, highlighted that the law, originally designed to protect women, is now being used against them. The RCOG aims to build trust with patients and urges healthcare workers to justify any disclosure of patient data, emphasizing the need for safeguarding vulnerable groups.

In 2022, police forces in England and Wales logged 29 suspected illegal abortions, up from 16 in 2018. Abortions are legal in England within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy if performed by a registered medical practitioner. Any deliberate attempt to end a pregnancy outside legal parameters carries a maximum punishment of life imprisonment under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act. Last year, six women were prosecuted for suspected violations of abortion law, marking a notable increase compared to the previous two decades.

The RCOG’s guidance aligns with its support for an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, aiming to shield women from prosecution for having abortions. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) emphasized the rarity of such cases, stating they carefully consider personal circumstances when making charging decisions. A government spokesperson emphasized the importance of access to safe and legal abortions on the NHS and acknowledged the sensitivity of the issue, suggesting any change to the law would be a matter of conscience for individual MPs rather than the government.

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