Last week the Department of Health lost it's legal right to limit publication of specific data on later abortion that it believes could jeopardise the confidentiality of women and the privacy of doctors. The Department had changed the way in which they published figures for rare later abortions following the Joanna Jepson case, in order to prevent the media or anti-abortion activists identifying individual doctors who had agreed to perform late term abortions for pregnant women following a diagnosis of fetal anomaly.
While the rest of the world has an interesting theoretical debate about the merits or otherwise of transparency, some of those working on the front line are concerned about the impact of this ruling on real women and their doctors. Antenatal Results and Choices (ARC) is the only national charity which provides non-directive support and information to expectant and bereaved parents throughout and after the antenatal screening and testing process.
This statement from ARC Director, may give us all pause for thought.
We regret that the Department of Health has lost its appeal to limit the detail of annual post 24 week abortion data, which they feel is necessary in order to protect the confidentiality of those involved.
ARC is the only UK charity providing non-directive information and support to parents through antenatal testing. We offer specialised support to parents after the prenatal diagnosis of a life-threatening or severely disabling condition in their baby. We speak daily to women and their partners dealing with the shock and grief of the diagnosis and agonising over whether to continue or end a wanted pregnancy.
On our helpline we hear from desperate women and partners who have been given a late diagnosis and face the trauma of having a termination of pregnancy after twenty-four weeks. These situations are rare, but extremely distressing. Women are ending their pregnancy at a stage when they have often prepared practically and emotionally for the birth of their baby. They enter this decision knowing it is life-changing and need to feel entirely confident that their privacy and confidentiality is protected. In our experience clinicians take their legal responsibility very seriously in what are challenging circumstances for them too. They need to be able to provide sensitive care to parents without fear of retribution on a personal level from anti-abortionists.
All involved in late terminations deserve our compassion, trust and support rather than the misguided suspicion that they are engaged in some nefarious ‘pursuit of perfection’.
Ante-Natal Results and Choices (ARC)