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New Guidance From DoH On Abortion Provision

23 May, 14 | by shaworth

New guidance was issued today by the Department of Health in relation to the provision of abortions in England and Wales. Following an independent, covert investigation by the UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph, concern was raised that abortion was being provided in the UK out with the provisions of the Abortion Act, andwhich would obviously be illegal. The reporter for the Daily Telegraph accessed two abortion providers attempting to seek abortion on the basis of fetal sex alone, which is not grounds for termination in the UK and the latest guidance has clarified that this would be an illegal act.

The guidance doesn’t change the law on termination, but is designed to clarify the interpretation of the rather vague conditions specified. Most “social” terminations in the UK are performed under Category C of the Abortion Act which states The pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman. The guidance clarifies that fetal sex alone does not qualify as a valid reason.

The new guidance also does not remove the condition that two doctors must consent to the termination of pregnancy, and in particular, addresses the issue of “pre-signed” forms and whether or not it’s acceptable to have a verbal history from a colleague prior to signing the form: it’s not. According to the clarified guidance, the opinions of each doctor must be formed individually, and viewing the second signature as a “rubber-stamping” exercise goes against the principles of the act.

In addition to the new guidance, the DoH also produced the results of their analysis of the UK birth sex ratios, after the requests for termination of pregnancy on the grounds of fetal sex called in question whether or not the UK is affected by the phenomenon of “missing girls”, something which is well-described in other countries where a higher social value is placed on male children, resulting in female infanticide and termination of pregnancies on the basis of fetal sex. The results suggest that the UK is not affected, even when the results are broken down to assess the ratios on the basis of the ethnicity or country of origin of the mother.

Currently, to terminate a pregnancy on the grounds of fetal sex, the fetal sex must be identified prior to making this decision. Invasive testing such as amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling have the risk of fetal loss, and ultrasound assessment is user, and fetal position, dependent. As access to these tests become more widely available, and uptake increases, the sex ratio imbalance gets worse in affected countries. It remains to see what effect the development of commercial testing for free fetal DNA in maternal plasma has on this problem. Currently it is possible to ascertain fetal sex for a £400 test from maternal blood, available on the NHS in a limited capacity for reasons such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia. It remains to be seen, as costs for these tests drop over time, what affect this has on fetal sex ratios. Readers of speculative fiction may wish to consider Ian MacDonald’s River of Gods for an exploration of this phenomenon, and the social consequences, in a near future India.

Online First – August

24 Aug, 12 | by shellraine, e-Media Editor

The following papers have been published this month at http://jfprhc.bmj.com/content/early/recent

More than poverty: disruptive events among women having abortions in the USA (Jones)

We are all aware that poverty is associated with abortion but how many of us knew that bad (or disruptive) life events also play a major role? The research by Jones et al. demonstrates that more than half of the women seeking abortion had experienced a disruptive life event in the preceding 12 months. Women are making decisions about their abortion whilst in the midst of complex life events. The authors’ suggestions for changes in policy may not be directly relevant in the UK; however, the study findings are of wider significance. from Gillian RobinsonAssociate Editor

Psycho-social factors affect semen quality (Cao)

Semen quality appears to be declining and this cross-sectional study in China casts light upon some factors that may be associated with that decline. The research team analysed the semen of 1346 healthy 20-40-year-old Chinese men, capturing their psychological, social and behaviour profiles via questionnaire. It appears that stress, social class and underwear made from man-made fibres all play a significant part in declining semen quality. from Scott WilkesAssociate Editor

Young people and chlamydia – peer led strategies to increase the uptake of screening (Horner)

The major burden of Chlamydia trachomatis infection is borne in individuals under 25 years of age. Complications of untreated infection are manifold and encompass pelvic inflammatory disease, sub-fertility, epididymo-orchitis, urethritis, arthritis, conjunctivitis and proctitis. Despite high hopes, uptake of the English National Chlamydia Screening Programme has been lower than expected. As a result, the expected decline in chlamydia prevalence has not been observed. Paddy Horner’s group have investigated the use of a peer-led approach to increase screening and examine the feasibility and acceptability of this strategy in young people. Interestingly, although this is a relatively small proof of principle study, women peer-led screening was more successful than male in recruiting peers to participate in the programme. from Rachael JonesAssociate Editor

Inequity in family planning provision in urban Nigeria: a providers’ perspective (Herbert)

In Nigeria contraceptive use is low: used by only 10% of married women and with 20% of women estimated to have an unmet need. Provision needs to improve, and understanding the roles and perspective of the mixed economy of contraceptive providers is a key step in designing better services. A qualitative study from the Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative explores the experiences and challenges faced by a range of providers in two urban Nigerian areas. Using structured in-depth interviews and checklists, researchers identified need for further training and support for all providers to empower them to provide a wider range of contraception. Few providers engaged in meaningful promotional activities for their products or services. Vulnerable groups, likely to have high needs for contraceptive advice and provision, were routinely excluded from family planning services: adolescents, married women and those seeking post-abortion care. Understanding the underlying reasons for this inequitable provision, and developing appropriate marketing strategies and materials will indeed be key to developing more sensitive service provision. from Imogen Stephens,  Associate Editor

New female condom, the ‘Woman’s Condom’ – will the Chinese go for it? (Coffey)

The need for products that simultaneously protect against unwanted pregnancy and STIs, including HIV, has prompted interest in the development of Multipurpose Prevention Technologies (MPTs), including new variants of the female condom. In this issue, Coffey and colleagues describe their survey of initial reactions to the ‘Woman’s Condom’ (which obtained marketing approval in China in 2010) by potential user groups in Shanghai. Their study demonstrates the importance of assessing the potential acceptability of new products in a range of populations, with differing expectations, needs and culture-specific influences. Their findings are of particular value to programme/service providers, in order to identify most likely adopters of this new type of female condom. from Walli BoundsAssociate Editor

New Resources

16 Aug, 12 | by shellraine, e-Media Editor

  WHO Guidance – Safe abortion: technical and policy guidance for health systems

The second edition of this guidance has now been published and is available from:  http://extranet.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/70914/1/9789241548434_eng.pdf

  RCOG – The Initial Management of Chronic Pelvic Pain,  (Green-top 41)

New guidance published in May available from: http://www.rcog.org.uk/womens-health/clinical-guidance/initial-management-chronic-pelvic-pain-green-top-41

RCN – SDI and IUT Accreditation Guidance Documents – Sixth Edition

Accreditation, which is valid for 5 years costs £360 for members and £480 for non-members – re-accrediation is £180 and £240.

Available from: http://www.rcn.org.uk/development/learning/accreditation/LARC_accreditation

“Don’t go in without a skin”

Online condoms and lubes provider the Freedoms Shop (Central & North West London NHS Foundation Trust) has teamed up with Terrence Higgins Trust to launch the Summer Lovin’ campaign – urging gay men across London to use condoms – with a new online health resource. The downloadable resource brings together stacks of health and sexual safety information, presented in a cheeky, accessible way, while Freedoms is providing a half price condoms

 

Abortion & STI data published

7 Jun, 12 | by shellraine, e-Media Editor

WHO updated policy on safe abortion

The WHO has announced the iminent publication of the second edition of ‘Safe abortion: technical and policy guidance for health systems’

http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/unsafe_abortion/9789241548434/en/

DH releases abortion statistics, England & Wales: 2011

The main findings of the newly released abortion statistics are:
•    The total number of abortions was 189,931, 0.2% more than in 2010 (189,574) and 7.7% more than in 2001 (176,364).
•    The age-standardised abortion rate was 17.5 per 1,000 resident women aged 15-44, the same as in 2010, but 2.3% higher than in 2001 (17.1) and more than double the rate of 8.0 recorded in 1970.
•    The abortion rate was highest at 33 per 1,000 for women aged 20, the same as in 2010 and in 2001.
•    The under-16 abortion rate was 3.4 per 1,000 women and the under-18 rate was 15.0 per 1,000 women, both lower than in 2010 (3.9 and 16.5 per 1,000 women respectively) and in the year 2001 (3.7 and 18.0 per 1,000 women respectively).
•    96% of abortions were funded by the NHS.  Over half (61%) took place in the independent sector under NHS contract, up from 59% in 2010 and 2% in 1981.
•    91% of abortions were carried out at under 13 weeks gestation.  78% were at under 10 weeks compared to 77% in 2010 and 58% in 2001.
•    Medical abortions accounted for 47% of the total, up from 43% in 2010 and 13% in 2001.
•    2,307 abortions (1%) were carried out under ground E (risk that the child would be born handicapped).

Non-residents:
•    In 2011, there were 6,151 abortions for non-residents carried out in hospitals and clinics in England and Wales (6,535 in 2010).  The 2011 total is the lowest in any year since 1969.

FPA reacts to the release of abortion statistics

Julia Bentley, Chief Executive, welcomed the decrease in abortions for under 16s and under 18s alongside a very small increase in the total number overall while highlighting the worrying trend in restrictions to contraceptive service provision.

New data show STI diagnoses on the rise in England

Figures released by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) show new sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnoses rose by 2% in England in 2011, with nearly 427,000 new cases, reversing the small decline observed the previous year. Young heterosexual adults (15-24 years) and men who have sex with men (MSM) remain the groups at highest risk. More

Joint statement from FPA and Brook on STI data 

In a joint statement the sexual health charities said: “This is a worrying reverse trend. It demonstrates exactly why safer sex messages and campaigns that young people and gay men will listen to and take action on, are absolutely necessary. Testing and treatment services are vital, but alone they are not enough to change people’s behaviour. The impact of the government’s disinvestment in campaigning around safer sex and sexual health reflects in today’s statistics. Yet again we see more data illustrating why there is an urgent need for statutory sex and relationships education in schools alongside sustained investment in sexual health services.”

WHO: Urgent action needed to prevent the spread of untreatable gonorrhoea

Millions of people with gonorrhoea may be at risk of running out of treatment options unless urgent action is taken, according WHO. Already several countries, including Australia, France, Japan, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom are reporting cases of resistance to cephalosporin antibiotics – the last treatment option against gonorrhoea. Every year an estimated 106 million people are infected with gonorrhea, which is transmitted sexually. More:

Policymakers Recommit to Unfinished Agenda of Landmark Cairo Population Conference

In Istanbul, on 25 May lawmakers from 110 countries reaffirmed their support to the principles and goals of the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), emphasizing their continued centrality to efforts to reduce poverty and safeguard people’s health and rights, including sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights. Press release

 

SRH Reports from around the globe

25 May, 12 | by shellraine, e-Media Editor

International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion

The ICMA have launched a new international campaign for women’s right to safe abortion. Individuals and organisations are invited to join the campaign in advance of 28 May, the International Day of Action for Women’s Health. To read more and to register support go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CHH62F5

UNFPA announces ‘Maternal Deaths Halved in 20 Years’.

The number of women dying of pregnancy and childbirth related complications has almost halved in 20 years, according to new estimates released by the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Bank.

US regulators vote for approval of PrEP by large majority.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have taken a decisive step towards approving the use of the combination pill Truvada (tenofovir/FTC) as a prevention method for HIV-negative people. Read more at NAMaidsmap. GlobalData.com reported on 11th May – In a controversial decision on May 10, the FDA antiviral drugs advisory committee backed Gilead Sciences’ drug Truvada to prevent the transmission of HIV. The committee voted in favour of prophylactic Truvada in three populations: HIV-uninfected men who have sex with men (19-3), in HIV-uninfected partners in relationships with infected partners (19-2), and for individuals at risk of acquiring HIV through sexual activity (12-8).  Although awareness of HIV and AIDs has significantly increased throughout recent decades, the disease remains a global epidemic requiring better preventative strategies. Yet the possibility that on June 15 the FDA will approve Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) has provoked strong and divided opinions from infectious disease experts and activists. Read more at globaldata.com

Victories for Center for Reproductive Rights

Victory for Honduran Women

On May 17, 2012, the Center for Reproductive Rights held a demonstration on the steps of the Honduran Congress. Their mission: to stop the government from passing a bill that would have imprisoned women for using emergency contraception. Alejandra Cárdenas, Legal Adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean, had planned to personally hand-deliver 730,000 petitions to the Congress signed by activists in more than 80 countries in protest. In a surprise move, Juan Orlando Hernández, president of the Congress, declined to take the petitions—but not because he didn’t hear the massive outcry. In fact, Hernández said he no longer planned to bring the bill up for debate—and even proclaimed support for women’s self-determination. Read more:

Two Groundbreaking Victories in Oklahoma:

Medication Abortion Protected

Judge Donald Worthington permanently blocked a state ban on medical abortion when he ruled that the law was “so completely at odds” with standard medical practice that it “can serve no purpose other than to prevent women from obtaining abortions and to punish and discriminate against those women who do. Read more:

and Oklahoma Personhood defeated

With a unanimous decision by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the Center for Reproductive Rights has won its legal challenge to strike down a ballot initiative that would have given every fertilized egg the full legal rights of a person. It is not acceptable, they ruled, to propose amendments to the state constitution that are ‘repugnant to the Constitution of the United States.’” If passed, the amendment not only would have outlawed abortion in all cases—including in cases of rape or incest, fetal anomalies, or risk to a woman’s life—but also would have banned many forms of birth control and seriously threatened fertility treatments such as IVF. Read more:

Distress of child war and sex abuse victims halved by new trauma intervention

A new psychological intervention has been shown to more than halve the trauma experienced by child victims of war, rape and sexual abuse. Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast pioneered the intervention in conjunction with the international NGO, World Vision as part of a wider programme to treat psychological distress in child victims of war and sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Read more:

NHS flouts national guidance on contraception as cuts bite:

25 Apr, 12 | by shellraine, e-Media Editor

new audit reveals shocking truth as 3.2m women face restrictions in access to contraceptives or services

A new audit of the commissioning of contraceptive and abortion services in England has revealed a stark picture of inequality in women’s healthcare, with a third of women of reproductive age unable to choose from the full range of contraceptives or services in their local area.

The audit was carried out by the Advisory Group on Contraception – a coalition of leading experts and advocacy groups interested in sexual and reproductive health – through Freedom of Information requests made to Primary Care Trusts (PCTs). The report of the audit findings, Sex, lives, and commissioning: An audit of the commissioning of contraceptive and abortion services in England demonstrates that:

As many as 3.2 million women of reproductive age (15-44) are living in areas where fully comprehensive contraceptive services, through community and/or primary care services, are not provided

  • Those PCTs restricting access to contraceptives or contraceptive services had a higher abortion rate than the national average
  • Over a quarter (28%) of PCTs responding to the audit did not have a strategy in place or under development to address unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion or repeat abortion

The audit also uncovered evidence of PCTs introducing access restrictions based on cost rather than choice or quality:

  • NHS North Lancashire confirmed one method of contraception was not prescribed “due to lack of funding/training for staff”
  • NHS Brighton and Hove confirmed that its “GP-led health centre will only prescribe Long Acting Reversible Contraceptive (LARC) methods to residents of Brighton and Hove.  Non-residents attending with a filled prescription for LARC will be provided with a fitting”
  • NHS Haringey Teaching said that from the 1 October 2011 “women aged over 25 do not receive contraception pills from the local CaSH [Contraception and Sexual Health] Service; they receive this service from their GP”
  • NHS Barnet stated that “In 2010 the PCT introduced a restriction on over 25’s accessing integrated services for generic contraceptive advice… Only patients within this age group who have complex needs can be seen by an integrated service”

Dr Connie Smith, Consultant in Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, said:

“Contraception is a very personal issue.  What is right for one woman may not be right for another.  That is why the national NICE guidelines on contraception are built around the importance of choice. 

 “PCTs that are restricting choice are getting worse outcomes.  As a result of flouting national guidance, women are paying a big personal cost and the NHS is bearing a huge financial cost.  Unintended pregnancy costs the NHS more than £755 million every year.  For every £1 spent on contraception the NHS saves £12.50, so restricting access and choice is a complete false economy, harming women and the NHS.  Those PCTs with restrictions in place need to have an urgent rethink.”

Dr Anne Connolly, a GP with a special interest in sexual health, added:

“As a GP I know how important it is to get contraception right.  We must take a personal approach to meeting women’s needs and operating a blanket ban on some services or contraceptives goes completely against this. 

 “It is very concerning that so many PCTs have no strategy in place to address unintended pregnancy and that some are introducing restrictions on contraceptives or services.  The Department of Health should urgently publish a sexual health strategy showing how the needs of women of all ages can be met, alongside clear standards about the quality of service women have a right to expect.”

The AGC has made a series of recommendations for how sexual health and contraceptive services could be more effectively planned, commissioned and delivered.  These include:

  • The Department of Health should publish its planned sexual health policy document without further delay and ensure that it sets out clearly the expectation for commissioners to commission comprehensive, open access services that reflect a life-course approach for people of all ages
  • NICE should prioritise the development of the quality standard on contraceptive services
  • Contraceptive services must be commissioned based on the principles of the NHS Constitution. Commissioners should remove any policies or contracts in place which limit an individual’s access to contraceptive services based on reasons of age or place of residence
  • Commissioners should ensure that up-to-date strategies are in place to reduce unintended pregnancy, and the need for abortion and repeat abortions, and these strategies should focus on addressing the needs of women of all ages

Journal highlights – April issue

30 Mar, 12 | by shellraine, e-Media Editor

This quarter’s Journal includes the following:

Redefinition of women’s health care

Last year the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists published ‘High Quality Women’s Health Care: a Proposal for Change’ that proposed a radical change to the structure of UK women’s health services. Andrew Horne and Johannes Bitzer discuss this exciting document from both a UK and a European perspective, commenting on its implications for sexual health provision. See page 68

Multidrug-resistant gonorrhoea

Gonorrhoea infection is increasing in the UK with a 3% increase in cases between 2009 and 2010. Last year there was a report of a ceftriaxone-resistant isolate; there is a growing concern that gonorrhoea may become incurable. The commentary by Taylor and Bignell is timely. It reviews the current position and provides clear guidelines on screening and treatment, which may prove challenging for some community services that rely exclusively on the use of nucleic acid amplification tests. See page 70

At last, a COC licensed for use in a flexible extended regimen

Data are presented from Phase III studies of a 20 µg ethinylestradiol/3 mg drospirenone combined pill, designed to be used in a flexible regimen. The studies evaluated the efficacy of the regimen, bleeding patterns, safety (ie, metabolic and endometrial parameters) and effect on dysmenorrhoea. Comparisons were with a fixed extended regimen and the conventional 24-day regimen. Results show good efficacy, tolerability and safety with the flexible regimen, and a significant reduction in both bleeding and dysmenorrhoea. See pages 73, 84, 94

Does hormone replacement therapy cause breast cancer? Part 4. The Million Women Study

Shapiro et al. continue their review of breast cancer and hormone replacement therapy papers, this time focusing on the Million Women Study. They conclude that despite its massive size, this study did not satisfy causal criteria. The online version of this paper has already been the focus of a great deal of media publicity and both a news piece and an editorial in the BMJ. Readers should also look at the Letters section for related correspondence that the Journal has received as a result. See page 102

A new aid to diagnosis

Ultrasound imaging has been of value to our specialty for over two decades and skills and equipment have steadily become more available within sexual and reproductive health clinics. In their article on hysterosonography using a local anaesthetic gel, Pillai and Shefras present their experience with a simple and effective new technique that takes imaging a step further, allowing clear diagnosis of intrauterine abnormalities, particularly causes of abnormal bleeding or failed intrauterine device/system (IUD/IUS) insertion, as well as aiding location and easier retrieval of IUDs with missing threads. Many readers will be familiar with the use of lidocaine gel to aid IUD insertion: not surprisingly, uterine instrumentation in conjunction with scanning was reported to be less painful with this technique. This is a promising approach to simplifying and improving the cost-effectiveness of care for women presenting with some complex contraception problems. See page 110

Abortion legislation in a changed world

In his latest Legal Opinion article, Sam Rowlands reviews legislation governing early medical abortion (EMA) and the licensing of EMA drugs in the UK and in other jurisdictions. He then looks at the ways in which such legislation has been used – or in some cases circumvented. EMA has helped to fulfil the crucial need for safe abortion worldwide, but in the author’s view the laws governing abortion in most countries are out of step with scientific advances. Readers may find the author’s conclusions and suggestions for future changes to our own abortion laws thought-provoking. See page 117

Role of doulas in abortion care

Doulas, or lay support persons, have had a longstanding role in supporting women in labour. Chor et al. argue that their role should be extended to caring for women having abortions, where they can help women relax and provide information. They suggest that engagement of the medical community will be instrumental in successfully expanding the role of abortion doula programmes within abortion provision. See page 123

Abortion in the classical world

Lesley Smith continues her series on the history of contraception and reproductive health with a look at attitudes to and practices of abortion in ancient times. It appears that even then, abortion was at the heart of much medical ethical debate. See page 125

Status of health professionals in the 21st century

Has the status of health professionals in society today fallen? If so, why? And is it a good or a bad thing? The Journal’s Consumer Correspondent, Susan Quilliam, explores the issue in her latest article. See page 127

Twenty-five years on: HIV remains a concern

In his latest ‘Then and Now’ article, Lindsay Edouard looks at topics covered by this Journal in 1987. New approaches to contraception were emerging. But was there a threat to community family planning services and would litigation faced by USA manufacturers restrict contraceptive choice? However, the major concern was the emergence of HIV/AIDS, with reinforcement of the advice that barriers should be used in addition to hormonal methods. In 2012, in the light of controversial research suggesting a possible association between hormonal contraception and increased HIV risk in some settings, Edouard draws our attention to the WHO very recent guidance regarding dual protection: 25 years on, advice has not changed. See page 131

Plus – Online Poll

Will the recent article on hormone replacement therapy and breast cancer alter your prescribing practice with regard to HRT?

Faculty News

The latest edition of FSRH News is available on the website.

 

 

 

CQC visits to Abortion clinics announced to media ahead of providers

23 Mar, 12 | by shellraine, e-Media Editor

This report from Jennie Bristow (editor, Abortion Review)

23 March 2012

UK: Health Secretary launches shock wave of inspections on abortion clinics

The Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, yesterday announced to the UK media that the Care Quality Commission (CQC) would be carrying out a series of ‘unannounced inspections’ on abortion clinics throughout the UK to ensure that doctors are complying with the ‘spirit and the letter’ of the 1967 Abortion Act. Jennie Bristow reports.

This action, which Lansley confirmed in a statement to Parliament today, 23 March, is allegedly a response to concerns that doctors are ‘pre-signing’ the HSA1 abortion forms. ‘The process of pre-signing certificates where the doctor does not know who the woman is for whom that certificate may be used in relation to that abortion is in itself illegal. I am not prepared to tolerate a failure to respect the law,’ Lansley said in a press statement yesterday.

He further stated: ‘The CQC has agreed to undertake unannounced inspections to identify the scale of this problem and we will set up a special team comprising of all the necessary regulators… to look at how we stamp out bad practice in abortion clinics.’

The BBC gives a more measured explanation of the law regarding the HSA1 form. ‘Except in emergencies, the law says two doctors must certify an abortion. However, there is no requirement for them to have actually seen the woman – only that they should have seen and assessed the necessary clinical information about her case, which could have been taken by another doctor or nurse.’

Lansley’s concern is that this ‘second signature’ is being provided before the doctor has reviewed the relevant notes. This is not the practice of most abortion providers, including British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS). However, launching a wave of CQC inspections on the basis of forms potentially being pre-signed in some other clinics is a strange and heavy-handed action, for three reasons.

First, the second doctor’s signature has been long understood to be a legal, rather than a clinical, safeguard; arising from attempts in the 1960s to pass a controversial new law in the form of the Abortion Act. As such, many politicians – including Lansley himself – have questioned whether it is necessary to retain this cumbersome and clinically irrelevant requirement in the 21st century.

As the BBC explains, ‘The requirement for two doctors’ signatures was criticised as long ago as 2007, when a report by MPs on the Commons science and technology committee recommended it be removed because of the potential for abortions to be unnecessarily delayed.’ And Andrew Lansley himself, during the debate about the abortion law that took place in 2008, said:

‘If a woman needs an abortion in terms sanctioned by the Abortion Act 1967, it must surely be better for it to be an early, medical abortion than a later, surgical one. I therefore hope that the House will consider whether the requirement for two doctors to consent to an abortion being performed, and the restrictions on nurses providing medical abortions, need to be maintained.’

So it is strange indeed that the Health Secretary, busily engaged as he is in controversial reforms of the entire health service, should now view strict adherence to the ‘two doctors’ requirement as a sudden issue of major clinical concern. His quote in yesterday’s press statement could not be more different from the temperate approach that he took four years ago. On 22 March 2012, Lansley argued:

‘I am shocked and appalled to learn that some clinics – which look after women in what are often difficult circumstances – may be allowing doctors to pre-sign abortion certificates. This is contrary to the spirit of the Abortion Act. The rules in the Abortion Act are there for a reason – to ensure there are safeguards for women before an abortion can be carried out.’

The second peculiarity of this shock wave of inspections is that the ‘evidence’ upon which they have been launched seems remarkably thin. It seems to have come out of police investigations launched on the back on the Daily Telegraph’s investigation into ‘sex selection’ abortions last month, which itself found little evidence that such abortions were carried out.

There may be more basis Lansley’s concerns than a flimsy newspaper investigation – but we do not know. And this is the third and most striking peculiarity of today’s Parliamentary statement: that the media were briefed about it before any of the clinics whose work it might concern.

Ann Furedi, chief executive of BPAS, said: ‘Abortion doctors provide an important service to women who are often in difficult circumstances. Their work is already intensely scrutinised, with clinics regularly inspected by the CQC.

‘Mr Lansley says he is shocked and appalled by the practices he has uncovered. BPAS is shocked and appalled that Mr Lansley has found it necessary to inform journalists of alleged breaches of the abortion law before he has informed those responsible for providing the services that have been investigated, and before the investigation is concluded.’

Celebrating International Women’s Day

9 Mar, 12 | by shellraine, e-Media Editor

“This International Women’s Day, the world’s women have much to celebrate: maternal mortality rates are declining after years of stagnation; the importance of maternal health is receiving unprecedented attention; and one solution in our efforts to save women’s lives during childbirth, misoprostol, is gaining significant traction globally. But we have further to go for the world’s women.”  IWD website has links to a number of events happening around the globe and asks supporters to publish and share their initiatives

fpa and Brook join forces with Durex

Two of the country’s leading sexual health charities and the biggest condom brand in the UK have announced a major collaboration with a three year programme to deliver a number of sexual health initiatives; information events, public awareness campaigns and learning materials.

Media Reaction to Abortion – gender selection and legal issues

in the ongoing debate around gender-selection abortion an Open letter of support for doctors who provide abortion services was published by Reproductive Health Matters, the international journal for sexual and reproductive health and rights, signed by members of Voice for Choice, leaders in womens’ health and abortion care. The letter clarifies many of the misinterpretations of legal issues that have been voiced in much of the ‘popular’ press.

Sexual Health Trainersnew PGA Med Ed (SRH)

The FSRH website has details of the planned changes to ‘training the trainers’.  The current letter of competence (Loc MEd) will be replaced by the new Post Graduate Award in Medical Education (Sexual and Reproductive Health).  In collaboration with Keele University the course is aimed at doctors working in CASH, GP’s, those in GUM and nurses who wish to gain a recognised teachers qualification in sexual health. This PGA will, for doctors, be accepted as appropriate for Primary Trainers for DFSRH purposes.

The GMC Education Update (Feb 2012) includes notification of a consultation on the recognition and approval of trainers.

New Clinical Guidance – Management of Vaginal Discharge in Non-Genitourinary Medicine Settings

The FSRH Clinical Effectiveness Unit (CEU) have published their latest clinical guidance document which updates previous guidance from 2006. Changes include: new tests for gonorrhoea and chlamydia; changes to treatments available for vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) & bacterial vaginosis (BV); and new advice on combined hormonal contraception (CHC) and antibiotics.

BPAS website hacked

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service website has been the subject of attempted hacking.  A 27 yr old man has been arrested on suspicion of offences under the Computer Misuse Act.  In a statement issued today BPAS say that:

“Around 26,000 attempts to break into our website were made over a six hour period, but the hacker was unable to access any medical or personal information relating to women who had received treatment at bpas.”

America and abortion

17 Feb, 12 | by shellraine, e-Media Editor

America finds itself in the throes of abortion furore again – in real life and virtually.

In a case that could potentially have long term consequences (whatever the result) in the same way as the Roe v Wade landmark legal decision did in 1973 Jennie McCormack’s fight is set to make its way up through the US justice system. As a financially struggling, single mother of three she found herself in an impossible situation when she became pregnant last year.  What marks her case out particularly, among the many other tragic tales, is that she lives in Idaho and the only solution she could find to her dilemma was to try and terminate the pregnancy herself when she heard about mifepristone being available via the internet.  Many women find themselves in similar difficult situations, particularly in conservative, ‘bible-belt’ states in America, of trying to acquire a legal abortion with the many hoops required to achieve this and the costs involved. The added problem in Idaho is that it has a law which bans women from carrying out their own abortion, though this has never been enforced before. Though the case was dropped for lack of evidence she could still be prosecuted and her lawyer has taken the decision to try and prevent this by bringing a suit on her behalf claiming the law is unconstitutional. As well as hoping to protect Jennie, herself, from prosecution they hope to set a precedent so that other women in Idaho and other conservative states will be free to access treatment via the internet and not have to suffer the additional anguish inflicted on them by the current situation in the US. Not that this will stop the persecution she is experiencing at the hands of her neighbours in small town Pocatello where she has been ostracised and subjected to all kinds of abuse so that she has become virtually a prisoner in her own home.

In an strange twist of art imitating life it seems that she may have found an unexpected ally in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and for the uninitiated – mostly those who don’t have children – this is an award-winning, cult US TV series/feature film/computer game/comic strip phenomenen). She too finds herself pregnant and needing to access an abortion. As the Guardian newspaper highlighted last week: The new issue of the weekly Buffy comics sees Buffy taking some time off from staking vampires through the heart to deal with what publisher Dark Horse called “a rather personal problem”. The creator, Joss Whedon is quoted as saying he doesn’t usually get soapboxy but feels strongly the need to support the debate which is eroding a woman’s right to choose. This will bring home the dilemmas many women face in real life to a whole new audience and may facilitate some interesting parent/child TV dinner conversations.

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