A pregnant woman who told her GP she was considering having an abortion says she was left “shocked and traumatized” after being given a leaflet for an anti-abortion group.
A 38-year-old woman says she was seeking treatment for a bladder problem on 19 July when a doctor at All Saints Medical Center in Plumstead, south-east London, asked if she was pregnant.
When she said she was, she claims the male GP asked if it was “good news”, before giving her a leaflet for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) when she said she was “not sure”. And Thi is contemplating termination.
A leaflet called Abortion – Your Right to Know had phone numbers for services run by anti-abortion groups that claim to provide pregnancy support. It also listed the potential risks of abortion, which it falsely said included depression, anxiety, eating disorders, PTSD, infertility, and breast cancer.
The woman, who asked not to be named because her family did not know about the pregnancy, also claimed that the doctor had given wrong advice about fertility, and told her that having an abortion could prevent future pregnancy. his ability to do so is likely to be affected.
She says she left the appointment in shock. “When I looked at the leaflet properly, I saw that it had a day-by-day ‘what’s up with your fetus today’ calendar, and the first day is, ‘A new life has been created,'” she said. “It was really upsetting. It didn’t make me feel guilty because I have modern views on abortion, but it felt like it was designed to do that.”
The South East London Integrated Care System, which brings together NHS services and local councils, said: “We take matters like this very seriously and are currently investigating the alleged incident with GP practice.”
Guidance from the General Medical Council, which regulates medical practitioners, explicitly states that doctors should “never express their personal beliefs to patients in ways that exploit their vulnerability or cause them distress.” likely”, and ensure that the information they share with patients is objective, accurate and up-to-date. The NHS website says that having an abortion does not increase the risk of breast cancer or mental health issues, or affect a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant in the future.
The body that issued the leaflet, the SPUC, is a major anti-abortion group with a history of spreading misinformation about abortion. In 2019 it was exposed to launch a toy story-Themed campaign, aimed at children, falsely claims that fetuses can feel pain only after 10 weeks of conception.
GPs in other parts of the UK have told Observer They have been sent leaflets by an anti-abortion charity. In those cases, the patients were not given leaflets, but Dr Pam Lowe of Aston University in Birmingham, who specializes in campaigns by anti-abortion groups, said the incidents sparked widespread efforts by campaigners to target doctors in the hope that suggested that they may have delivered the leaflets, either accidentally or because they were sympathetic. “The concern is that some people may rely on that information because they are getting it from their doctor,” she said.
Dr Katie Cairns, a GP in Belfast, said she was sent unbranded leaflets promoting abortion “reversal” in 2020, an unproven treatment. Another GP from Birmingham, Dr Liz Bates, said she was sent an anti-abortion leaflet by an undisclosed source. “About 18 months ago”.
In a separate incident about three years ago, a patient in Cornwall received a SPUC leaflet in her GP surgery waiting room, according to MSI Reproductive Options. Dr Jonathan Lord, an NHS gynecologist and medical director at MSI, said the leaflets he had seen were “false, biased, designed to intimidate women and create guilt”, and that the leaflets were given to patients. Either case would be “worrisome”. , “It would be deeply irresponsible – but they may not have realized that the leaflets were even there, or how misleading they are, given the tactics used by anti-abortion groups,” he said.
Kerry Abel, president of Abortion Rights, a pro-choice campaign group, said the misinformation had the potential to “delay access to abortion, potentially making the procedure more dangerous”.
The SPUC claimed that it “provided leaflets only to those GPs who requested them”. It said: “SPUC contacted GPs between 2015-2016, informing them that leaflets are available if they wish to obtain any. Then leaflets were sent to those gram panchayats who had specifically requested them. The aim was to provide doctors with information that they could offer to patients presenting for abortion, especially those who may be unclear about their decision.”
It has previously denied spreading misinformation on abortion, claiming that its content is based on “scientific facts surrounding life before birth”.
According to Vice World News, in July, the NHS removed a listing on its website for the SPUC, prompting people to link to the group’s phone lines and for “consultation” for “abortion victims”.