Link between abortions and domestic violence highlighted
NHS workers need to be more aware of potential link between abortions and domestic violence, report argues
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Friday, 17, Jul 2009 02:05
NHS workers should be more aware of the potential link between abortions and domestic violence, it has been argued.
A report in the Obstetrician and Gynaecologist (TOG) journal said a "significant number" of women requesting an abortion have been or are still in a violent relationship.
One in three has reportedly experienced a lifetime of domestic violence.
The report's authors are demanding a greater awareness about domestic violence; claiming the research underlines the need to support women seeking to terminate unwanted pregnancies associated with violent partners.
Thirty per cent of women having a second abortion reported being in a violent relationship and women having a third or subsequent abortion were over 2.5 times as likely to report a history of physical or sexual abuse by a male partner.
The authors express concern at the widespread disparities and inequalities in access to abortion under the NHS. This may be particularly difficult for women who fear disclosing pregnancy or termination to violent partners, and for women who have been isolated from sources of social support.
They stress that some women are protected by abortion from continuing with unwanted pregnancies and are enabled to escape violent relationships. Proposed liberalisation or restrictions of abortion law may particularly affect those women presenting late, in violent relationships or with little social support or financial resources.
Lead author of the study, Dr Gillian Aston, from the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery at King's College London, said: "Domestic violence related to abortion is a serious social and public health issue that has received insufficient attention in the UK. The risks associated with domestic violence can be acute with the health and safety of women of concern.
"Whereas different groups may disagree about the moral status of the foetus, there must be common ground that violence against pregnant women is intolerable. Doctors and health professionals working in a woman's health sector that provides abortion services are in a prime position to identify and provide support for women experiencing domestic violence."
Jason Waugh, editor-in-chief of TOG, commented: "These findings highlight the need for health professionals to be aware of, and sensitive to, the possibility of violence in the lives of women seeking abortion. Our society should have zero tolerance for domestic violence.
"Given the high prevalence of violence in pregnancy, it is important to ask women seeking both maternity and abortion services about domestic violence. Knowing about domestic violence can help to ensure that women are provided with the support and information that they need."