WHILE the debate rages on in the US and indeed across the globe, perhaps we can be reassured that in Great Britain, a woman’s right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy still exits.

Since the 1967 Abortion Act, a termination can be performed in any case up to 24 weeks. This date is seen as being around the time of viability, that being where a foetus could survive on their own, outside the womb. With advancing medical techniques, babies are surviving after being born earlier than this. A termination can be performed up to term, 40 weeks, in exceptional circumstances. Over 90 per cent of terminations take place before 13 weeks, and less than two per cent occur after 20 weeks.

Although it is a difficult topic to discuss, shrouded in secrecy, misunderstanding and stigma, abortions are not uncommon. Across the globe, one in four pregnancies end in abortion.

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Human behaviour does not change whether abortion is legalised or it is made a criminal offence. In countries where it is allowed under law, the rate of abortion is 37 per 1,000 people, yet where it is illegal or severely restricted, the rate is still 34 per 1,000 people.

What does change is the outcome. Performed by competent, trained individuals in an appropriate, hygienic service, the risks are low. Yet in a 'backstreet clinic', the outcomes are often catastrophic.

A staggering 40 per cent of women of reproductive age, mostly in the developing nations, do not have access to suitable termination facilities. As a consequence, unsafe abortion practices have the dubious distinction of being the third highest cause of maternal deaths. It is estimated there are 25 million unsafe abortions conducted worldwide every year.

Daily Echo:

The decision to terminate a pregnancy is a very personal one. A woman can self-refer for the procedure without the need to approach her GP. It is a woman’s prerogative to make decisions regarding her own body, including her reproductive rights. After being seen by a practitioner in a clinic facility, the individual should be offered a procedure, be that medical or surgical, within five working days. The clinic will not automatically inform the GP, unless the patient consents.

There are multiple arguments against termination, or severely restricting it. These include it being sinful, that life begins at conception, and that the unborn child is able to feel pain.

Yet rarely are religion and medicine compatible, and although no practitioner has to consent to referring a woman for a termination, they must signpost them to another healthcare professional who can. This is now largely obsolete as you do not need a GP to refer you. Not all women’s health specialists perform terminations. There is the ability to opt out.