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New RCOG Guidance is a step towards removing stigma in abortion care




 

We welcome the new guidance published by the RCOG, and their concern at the increasing number of police investigations after later gestation abortion and pregnancy loss.


This guidance gives clarity to healthcare pros around their legal and professional obligations, and possible consequences of breaching patient confidentiality. RCOG has said healthcare staff should not report women who have sought to end their own pregnancy to the police as prosecutions are never in the public interest.


This guidance works towards removing abortion care from criminal law, placing it instead under medical regulation like every other healthcare provision. This is also a big step towards removing the stigma of criminal law from abortion care provision for patients and their care team.


Recommendations for healthcare professionals within the report include:


  • Do not call the police or external agencies if a woman divulges, or you are suspicious, that she may have sought to end her own pregnancy unless she has given explicit consent to do so, or you consider it justified in her best interests.

  • Do not divulge information to the police or external agencies without a woman’s consent unless you are concerned for her safety or the safety of others.

  • Healthcare professionals and organisations must be able to justify any disclosure of confidential information.

  • Do not take blood tests or other samples at the request of the police unless you are sure the patient has given their fully informed consent, or there is a court order instructing you to do so.

  • Where police request information and state that the patient has given consent, healthcare professionals and organisations must satisfy themselves that this consent is valid.

  • Only information that is relevant to the stated need of the investigation should be released.

  • Where faced with a police or coroner’s enquiry, clinicians should seek the advice of senior staff in their organisation prior to communicating with any external agency unless they have an overriding concern over the safety of the woman or others.


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