Posted in Uncategorized

Abortion: FAQs


According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 6 out of 10 unintended pregnancies and 3 in 10 of all pregnancies worldwide end in abortion. Lots of people choose to get abortions and it is a very common experience.


Pregnant people seek abortions even where it is difficult and/or illegal to access them. Amnesty International points out that abortion rates are 37 per 1000 people in countries where they are prohibited (for example illegal or only available in rare circumstances) and 34 per 1000 where abortions are broadly allowed by law. These rates are very similar, suggesting that making abortions illegal does not stop people from needing, seeking and having them. Criminalising abortion can however, make it more dangerous. The WHO lists unsafe abortion (e.g. where it is illegal and not available from a healthcare facility) as the leading cause of (preventable) maternal death.


One is medical – where someone takes medication to end a pregnancy. The other is surgical, which involves a procedure to remove the pregnancy from the womb.


All types of healthcare and lots of the things we do everyday involve some sort of risk. People have pointed out that having a (legal) abortion is safer than giving birth, running a marathon, having your tonsils out or taking viagra.


We have already seen that abortion is common worldwide. We also know that people of many religious faiths choose to have abortions. Many people oppose abortion on religious and/or moral grounds. But having access to legal abortioncare does not take away an individual pregnant person’s right to decide if abortion is spiritually or ethically okay for them.


Having an abortion is sometimes equated to ‘killing a baby’. Up to 24 weeks of development, a foetus may have some features which can look human-like. But up to this point, a foetus cannot feel pain. These collections of tissue also do not function as organs in a fully developed human would – to the point where a foetus at this stage would not be able to sustain itself outside of the womb.


Criminalising abortion disproportionately affects people who have been socially marginalised – for example by reason of race or income. Access to good, safe and legal healthcare – including access to abortioncare – is needed by everyone who can get pregnant and is an important part of reproductive rights.

Further Information:

  • Abortion Rights – organisation campaigning for access to safe, legal abortion in the UK.
  • We Trust Women – Campaign from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service to decriminalise abortion in the UK.
  • Planned Parenthood – US based organisation that provides and campaigns for reproductive rights.
  • Women on Web – an online based, international abortion service.
  • Centre for Reproductive Rights – (annual report) organisation that uses the law to advance reproductive rights around the world.
  • FSHR-RCOG – abortion factsheet.

Many thanks for support and advice on producing this information from friends and colleagues, including Maria Lewandowska (Researcher in Reproductive and Sexual Health), M and L.

Posted in contraception, Genitals: A User's Guide

Learning for Pleasure


I joined the lovely voluntary organisation Sexplain (‘Bringing sexual and relationship education into the 21st Century’) as a volunteer facilitator based on two things.  The first was an array of terrible personal experiences of Sex Ed over two decades ago during my time at school.  The second was professional surprise at how little people (particularly those with vulvas!) appeared to know about the intimate parts of their own bodies when I started working on a Gynaecology ward.

One of the things that I found a little unrelenting about my own school SRE learning experiences was how much the emphasis around sex was ‘not getting pregnant’.  It’s all very well to encourage and teach healthy sexual practices.  However, I feel the message went beyond this.   In my classroom, romantic intimacy amounted to sex and sex meant penetrative, penis-in-vagina sex only.  Pleasure, consent and masturbation were not on the curriculum.  Sex was problematic, dangerous, risky – never ‘fun’ or ‘fulfilling’.  The ultimate hazard was pregnancy and STIs.  Nothing good could come out of sex but if for some reason you found yourself having it, the ultimate consideration was to NOT GET PREGNANT.

It turns out that this world view prepared us badly for adult reality.  We learnt how effective a condom was versus a diaphragm, but not how to procure or negotiate the use of either.   We learnt that STIs cause discharge from orifices that we had only a crude understanding of.

Another classroom illusion that was challenged, by both my personal life and professional experience, was that there is a ‘perfect’ choice of contraception for each person.  For many, contraception can be a compromise, a ‘best match’, or a pragmatic move.  It can take in to account what you feel able to negotiate with a sexual partner.  Or what you can afford or have the time and resources to obtain.  Or choosing something you feel is a bit shoddy, but doesn’t leave you with the terrible side-effects of some methods.

I created ‘contraception top trumps’ because I wanted to look at contraception not as a set of absolutely rational, clear-cut decisions (you fulfil criteria x so you should use y) but as a work in progress.  You can learn about and develop an approach to contraception, depending on what is important to you… and unfortunately there’s an element of luck to the whole thing.

I’ve published a printable pdf of contraception top trumps – I would advise printing four pages to an A4 sheet for large print cards and eight for more portable ones!

The link above is for a smartened up and downloadable version of the top trumps game I published earlier this year here on this blog. One of the lovely things about doing this was the interesting and open conversations this prompted with friends.  For example -the one person who confessed she’d had a blazing row with her GP about removing the hormonal implant because she couldn’t cope with the emotional changes that came once it was fitted and had been told simply to ‘persevere’. Or the friend informed that they couldn’t have the copper coil fitted because ‘she hadn’t had children’.  Or the disbelieving faces that meet you when you look at failure rates of condoms, many peoples’ go-to!   Please download, play, share and learn these with whoever you can and start  your own conversations.


All statistics on effectiveness and general information are taken from the NHS contraception guide.

My estimate of 20% effectiveness from ‘a wing and a prayer’ was based on a statistic I saw that said 80% of couples having sex regularly would conceive within one year. So it’s probably a bit low for one single instance of sex.  However, I can’t for the life of me find that and the current online NHS advice on infertility suggests that 84% of such couples would conceive within a year, suggesting a figure of 16%.  Either way, it’s not a great method and is incredibly less reliable than actively doing something.  I just wanted to show that it was not guaranteed that you would get pregnant every time you had sex, even once, which is definitely the impression that I got from Miss Hargreaves in Year 9…

Posted in reproductive rights




In the UK, the Abortion Act 1967 made termination of pregnancy up to 28 weeks’ gestation legal. There has been tinkering around the edges with this, and of course Northern Ireland is currently exempt, which sees many women still obtain abortions, but privately in the mainland.



To the Teenager who thinks

She’s just not ready to be a parent.

To the thirty-something year old who knows

They never will be.


To the Mum of three who feels

That she is already so stretched,

That she just doesn’t have it in her

To keep another whole.


To the nulliparous (childless) woman,

With a freshly painted nursery on standby,

As she lies back and begins to comprehend

The ultrasound image and the heartbreak it conveys.


To those who can’t.

Don’t want to.

Not right now or maybe ever.

To each and every one of you.


You have



They are yours alone to make.