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Alliance for Choice abortion leaflet ‘reckless,’ says retired doctor

Councillor Anne McCloskey with the leaflet being distributed in Londonderry
Councillor Anne McCloskey with the leaflet being distributed in Londonderry
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

A leaflet advising women not to tell A&E medics they have taken an abortion pill if they develop complications has been described as reckless by a retired doctor.

The leaflet was distributed by Alliance for Choice in Londonderry. In it, women are advised that "you can access health care at your local A&E, but do not tell them you have used the pills. Just say you are having a miscarriage."

Councillor Anne McCloskey - who at the weekend was elected as deputy leader of anti-abortion party Aontu - said no health care professional would judge a patient, but it was important to have correct information when treating someone.

The retired GP said: "The only way we can treat people effectively is if we know what is going on. If you are in a position where you have all the information you can make a judgement on the treatment.

"It is reckless to tell women who have taken abortion pills to deliberately withhold information from doctors.

"These abortion pills, while they are very uncomfortable they are generally safe in very early pregnancy. But if taken later on by women in their own home where no one knows how far along in her pregnancy [she is] then a doctor treating this woman needs to know that.

"It is an insult to doctors and people who work in hospitals to say that they will make value judgments on how they treat people because no matter who comes for treatment, they will get the best the NHS can offer them to treat them."

Alliance for Choice spokeswoman Goretti Horgan said the leaflet encouraged women to seek medical help if necessary, and doesn't tell them to lie to doctors.

"This is to encourage women to seek medical assistance if they need it because, as a result of the arrest and prosecutions of women since 2015, many women, especially younger ones, are afraid to go to the hospital in case they are arrested," she said.

"As long as abortion is criminalised, the chances of women in Northern Ireland seeking medical assistance is greatly reduced."

According to guidelines issued by the Department of Health to professionals on abortions in Northern Ireland, the patient must come first.

It states: "Health and social care professionals may encounter women who have attempted to terminate their own pregnancies, either through physical or pharmaceutical means.

"In many situations, the symptoms will be indistinguishable from a natural miscarriage. In these circumstances, the first duty of care lies in the effective treatment of the woman.

"As in any other area of clinical practice, health and social care professionals will need to balance the interests of their patient against the public interest in reporting certain information to the police.

"Health and social care professionals must balance the need for confidentiality of patients with the obligation to report unlawful terminations of pregnancy to the police and the need to protect others from risk of serious harm."

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