In the UK there is no right to abortion – something that often surprises people. Instead, women who no longer want to be pregnant must convince two doctors to give them permission to have an abortion. Often, this is fairly straight-forward, particularly if the pregnant woman in question sees her doctor in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. However, TV’s Doctor Christian Jessen has demonstrated why giving such powers to doctors can be detrimental to women’s healthcare.
The celebrity doctor this week tweeted about Josie Cunningham’s decision to terminate her pregnancy so that she can be on Big Brother. His tweets, shaming the star for her actions, have since been deleted but readers may find a description of them in an article by The Guardian.
What I would like to know is, if Josie were to request an abortion from Dr Christian, would he allow his personal opinions to cloud his professional judgement? Would he use his powers to delay or prevent Josie acquiring the abortion she wanted? Do we want doctors like Dr Christian to have such control over our bodies? It’s a scary thought and a perfect example of why the need for two doctors’ signatures to give permission for an abortion is dangerous.
Doctors are people with opinions, just like you and I. And like us, they are influenced by their opinions. The requirement allows doctors who are hostile to abortion in particular circumstances to make the process more difficult and upsetting than necessary and even gives them the chance to stop it altogether. This is why abortion needs to be provided in the same way as all other medical treatments: on the basis of informed patient consent.
And what do I think about Josie’s actions? Well that’s irrelevant. Who am I to judge another woman’s pregnancy decision? That choice is to be made by her and her alone because she is the only person affected by the outcome. The only reason that should be needed to justify an abortion is ‘I do not want to be pregnant anymore.’
You’d do well to remember that Dr. Christian, particularly as someone who is looked up to by young people and as a representative of the medical profession. If you’re pro-choice, as you say you are, you do not get to cherry pick the circumstances in which you agree with abortion. Nor do you get to shame women for speaking up about it.
Emma Ferguson, My Belly is Mine campaigner