"If pregnancy were a book they would cut the last two chapters." Nora Ephron
Pregnant women have once again been on my mind as the new Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, said in an interview for The Times that he would support a reduction in the time limit for legal abortion from 24 weeks to 12. There has been some debate around the acceptable legal limit for several years, as neonatal intensivists have increased the survival chances of babies born at 22-24 weeks. The scale of the potential reduction is unprecedented and while we await further announcements, we speculate on the motivations for it.
The abortion rate has continued to fall from its all-time high in 2007. In the latest figures released this month, 49% of procedures are performed for women who have a partner and 16% are within marriage. Only one in 10 are performed beyond 13 weeks of gestation. Reducing the limit will force women, who for whatever reasons, are unable to access care within 12 weeks, to seek help from services outside the protection of UK law. Potentially these women may have to travel abroad - just as 6,151 women did in 2011 - to have their treatment in the UK.
In other news, pregnant women are now being offered pertussis vaccination after an eight-fold rise in cases reported this year. I saw a case in a thirty-year-old lady who thought she had been vaccinated last month. To refresh your knowledge of presenting features and management (as I did!) see our updated pages on Pertussis and Pertussis vaccination.
And lastly to anyone expecting your baby soon, remember that: 'Having a child is surely the most beautifully irrational act that two people in love can commit.'
What's your view about this suggested change to the legal abortion limit? Share your opinion by adding a comment below.
What's new this month: latest updated professional resources on patient.info
At patient.info we continually update and review our patient information pages and related medical resources to reflect the latest changes in guidelines. Updated and reviewed pages for medical professionals on patient.info for October 2012 include: