In the full knowledge of what is involved in late abortions, and the widespread distaste for them among the medical profession, I would ... support an amendment proposing 16 weeks [as a legal limit].
I am not alone. Within the [UK's National Health Service], the majority of doctors are refusing to carry out late abortions. Three quarters of late procedures are now carried out by private clinics. At Eastbourne Hospital, where I worked for 19 years, the medical staff eventually decided we would perform no abortions on social grounds after 14 weeks.
When I was at Addenbrooke's in Cambridge we agreed on 16 weeks. When I worked as a consultant, and later as medical director for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, I maintained my stance, leaving any "social" abortions which went beyond 16 weeks for colleagues who did not share my qualms.
Now, with increasing specialisation in gynaecology, many younger doctors are avoiding abortion completely, preferring to go instead into areas such as IVF or cancer treatment. Abortion has become the part of gynaecology that no one wants to be associated with, and late abortion is the least popular type of work of all.
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For some doctors their objections are religious or ethical. Often, as with me, it is based on a distaste for carrying out a procedure which is so traumatic.Even a firmly pro-choice doctor—who has personally performed abortions for decades—draws the line at this barbaric procedure.
Most people do not realise just how distressing late abortions can be. The procedure remains the last taboo. While heart and brain surgery are regularly shown on television, the reality of a late abortion has never been seen on British screens.
There are two main types of procedure ... [T]he surgical procedure [dilation & evacuation] uses instruments to remove parts of the dismembered body from the uterus, limb by limb. It is hard to describe how it feels to pull out parts of a baby, to see arms, and bits of leg, and finally the head.
Dismembering a 20-week baby is obviously inhumane. It undermines the integrity of the medical profession. And it ought to be stopped.