Train nurses to perform abortions, suggests leading medical blogger

As The F-Word reported last month, women in the UK may be facing a future of limited access to abortion due to a shortage of doctors trained in this area. Medical blogger Dr Crippen argues that the answer to this shortage is to train nurses to perform abortions:

It is not difficult work. It is boring, repetitive, tedious unchallenging work. Upsetting? Maybe for some, but they will not be doing them anyway. Delivering babies requires more skills than performing abortions. We let midwives loose on pregnant women, so why do we not train up some abortion-nurse-specialists? That would solve the manpower problem and would save money to boot.

And why not? As Crippen points out, the problem here is not a huge rise in the number of doctors who are anti-choice, it is not the technique itself, it is not , as Libby Purves suggests in The Times, due to doctors not feeling confortable performing abortions on all those silly, selfish, careless and thoughtless women who supposedly use abortion as birth control, it is simply that abortion isn’t, well, very glamorous:

When Dr Crippen was a gynaecology SHO, there were a few abortions on every operating list. They were passed down the food chain from consultant to registrar to SHO. The second thing my registrar taught me to do (after suturing episiotomies was abortions). “Right, Crippen the rest of these are yours, I’m going for coffee. Give me a shout if you need anything.”

If nurses can perform abortions then let’s get moving and train them up. We can’t allow women’s right to bodily autonomy be restricted simply because doctors don’t fancy specialising in abortion. Nor can we allow the kind of callous anti-women rhetoric displayed by Purves to go unchallenged. According to Crippen, a medical professional, “having a baby is always more risky, physically and/or mentally, than having an abortion“. So, whatever the context, if a woman decides abortion is right for her, then it is unequivocally right for her, be it because she has been raped, because the time isn’t right, because she didn’t take her pill properly or because she forgot to use a condom when drunk. If Purves and her ilk have a problem with women having abortions in the latter situations, then they should, as Crippen suggests, be campaigning for better sex education and alcohol awareness programmes, not for restricting women’s access to abortion.

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Photo by interplast, shared under a Creative Commons license