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Warning on ‘alarming’ poor health outcomes for women

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A pregnancy counselling and support organisation has expressed its deep concern for women’s physical and mental health and safety if a bill proposed by Greens MLC Tammy Franks is passed by State Parliament.

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In a statement provided to The Southern Cross, Birthline Pregnancy Support Inc says the bill proposes “a drastic relaxation” of current safeguards around termination of pregnancies in South Australia by suggesting the elimination of medical assessment, supervision and monitoring of the medical termination.

Citing statistics collated by the SA Government, the agency warns that poor health outcomes are already being reported at ‘alarming rates’ and would increase under the Franks bill.

The report, Pregnancy Outcome in South Australia 2016, states an overwhelming proportion of terminations require follow-up due to complications, including haemorrhaging, infection, ongoing pain and possible infertility.

“These instances are set to increase if abortion laws are relaxed or widened,” the statement says.

Birthline is a non-religious and a non-political organisation which welcomes anyone seeking assistance with their pregnancy whether they are considering keeping the child, offering the child for adoption or having an abortion. Should a woman wish to pursue an abortion after exploring all her available options, Birthline respects her final decision but does not refer for abortions.

The agency says some women contemplating abortion phone on the 24/7 telephone counselling line to talk about their worries around the abortion process and why they feel there are no other options than to seek abortion.

“Many women express overwhelming fear around her life circumstances or pressure to end her pregnancy,” it says.

“Some women phone Birthline to talk about their unplanned, often unwanted pregnancy and seek help in becoming a parent, which can involve facing fears and past hurts as well as putting practical supports in place.

“Some post abortion clients at Birthline speak of ongoing disappointment, anger, abandonment and subsequent mental health issues that follow their abortion. Some women express not being fully informed about abortion before the procedure and silenced in their grief afterwards.”

Birthline says the grief processes associated with “all these lived experiences” is likely to be exacerbated if the bill is enacted.

“Our wish at Birthline is for more politicians to focus on tangible women’s healthcare outcomes, like increasing emotional, financial and systematic supports so women are wholly supported; and may decide whether or not to continue her pregnancy in an environment that is protected from the stress and pressure of economic, social and political coercion.”

Adelaide gynaecologist Dr Elvis Šeman said of the 4350 (84 per week) SA women having an abortion each year, up to 30 per cent (1305) experience adverse mental health outcomes, including anxiety, depression, suicide and substance abuse.

“An even greater number of fathers, grandparents and other family members are also affected emotionally,” he said in a letter to the Catholic community.

“There are also other complications for women, such as an increased risk of breast cancer, infertility and pre-term birth in future pregnancies.”

Dr Šeman said women were “left at the mercy of a health system which fast-tracks women to abortion and offers no alternatives”.

Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ, in a pastoral letter to the faithful, said the proposed abortion bill would be the most radical in the country and drastically reduced safeguards for women and the unborn.

Responding on ABC Radio, Ms Franks said similar laws had existed in the ACT “for some time”. However, according to pro-life groups, the ACT law includes more safeguards such as prescribing that only a doctor may carry out an abortion and that it must be done in an approved medical facility.

The ACT law also criminalises concealment of a birth and provides the blanket right to conscientiously object to participating in an abortion.

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