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6 March 2014

March digest: Spanish abortion law a ‘self-made mess’

The recent top stories on Reproductive Review.

- 1. SPAIN: ABORTION LAW A ‘SELF-MADE MESS’

In an article on CNN, Ann Furedi writes:

‘The widespread opposition, both within Spain and elsewhere in Europe, indicates that the Popular Party’s interest in the abortion law is not underwritten by a wider public and political desire to restrict abortion access. Throughout most countries in the developed world, with notable exceptions such as the Republic of Ireland, women’s need for abortion is recognized by law and provided for through services, which are often publicly funded.

‘But the Spanish situation provides a shocking reminder of how quickly things can change in a country - and the extreme consequences this can have for women…’

- 2. SPAIN: RESTRICTIVE ABORTION LAW ADVANCES

A controversial bill in Spain to end women’s right to abortion on demand is set to be passed after an opposition challenge was defeated in parliament.

- 3. ANALYSIS – THE SPANISH ABORTION LAW

Our Q&A reviews how the proposed new law differs from previous Spanish legislation on abortion, and what this is likely to mean for women and the doctors who care for them.

- 4. UK: NATIONAL CONCEPTION STATISTICS CONFIRM TREND TOWARDS OLDER MOTHERHOOD

The national conception statistics for England and Wales, released on 25 February, show that:

- Between 2011 and 2012 conception rates increased for women aged 35 years and over, and decreased for women aged under 35 years.

- The largest percentage increase in conception rates occurred among women aged 35-39 (1%) and a smaller increase in conception rates was recorded for women aged 40 and over (0.7%). Conception rates for all younger age groups decreased over the last year.

- Since 1990, the conception rate for women aged over 40 has more than doubled from 6.6 to 14 conceptions per 1000 women.

- The conception rate for women aged 35-39 has almost doubled, while the rate for women aged 30-34 has risen by over one third over the same period.

Ann Furedi, chief executive of BPAS, said:

‘These statistics demonstrate the trend towards older motherhood is continuing. At bpas, we see many younger women who are choosing to postpone starting their family for a number of reasons: some have not met the right partner, whereas others want to wait until they have greater financial security, a home of their own, or progressed further in their chosen career.

‘It is important that reproductive healthcare services, whether providing contraception, abortion or maternity care, reflect this shift. While pregnancy and childbirth for older women may present particular challenges, with some mothers requiring additional support, the answer is to provide the services that they need, rather than attempt to cajole women into having children earlier than they feel is right for them.’

- 5. ANALYSIS: WHAT’S THE PROBLEM WITH OLDER MOTHERS?

Our Q&A reviews the scientific and medical debates about later motherhood, seeking a balance between understanding the biological barriers to having babies in later life, and the lived reality – that many women do have healthy pregnancies in their late thirties. It situates this discussion in its wider social context, and indicates the policy implications that might flow from a trend towards later maternal age.

- 6. BPAS TO APPEAL ‘OUT OF PROPORTION’ FINE FROM INFORMATION COMMISSIONER’S OFFICE

In a statement, the charity said:

‘On the 8th March 2012 a hacker opposed to abortion broke into the website of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas). He defaced our website with anti-abortion messages and obtained names and telephone numbers of people who had used a webform to request a callback from bpas staff to discuss issues relating to pregnancy, contraception and sexual health.

‘These were not personal medical records of women who had undergone treatment at bpas and such records were never at risk, but bpas takes any data breach immensely seriously and we were appalled that any information we hold had been compromised.

‘The police were contacted immediately and an injunction was obtained from the High Court to prevent the hacker from publishing any information he had obtained from the site. Shortly after the injunction was served by bpas, the specialist e-crimes branch of the police arrested the hacker at his home and the data was secured. He subsequently received a prison term of 32 months.’

Ann Furedi, chief executive of BPAS, said:

‘We accept that no hacker should have been able to steal our data but we are horrified by the scale of the fine, which does not reflect the fact that bpas was a victim of a serious crime by someone opposed to what we do. bpas is a charity which spends any proceeds on the care of women who need our help and on improving public education and knowledge on contraception, fertility and unplanned pregnancy.

‘This fine seems out of proportion when compared with those levelled against other organisations who were not themselves the victims of a crime. It is appalling that a hacker who acted on the basis of his opposition to abortion should see his actions rewarded in this way. We will be appealing the verdict of the Information Commissioner’s Office.’

- 7. UK: INVESTIGATIONS INTO CRISIS PREGNANCY CENTRES

Women are being wrongly warned during counselling sessions at ‘crisis pregnancy centres’ (CPCs) that an abortion could lead to serious health damage, including an increased risk of breast cancer and a propensity to sexually abuse children, an investigation by the Daily Telegraph has found. An in-depth investigation of 33 CPCs by the sexual health charity Brook, found the majority to be offering unacceptably biased and misleading information about pregnancy and abortion.

- 8. USA: MISSOURI LEGISLATES FOR 72-HOUR ‘WAITING PERIOD’

Missouri would become the third state to make women wait three days to have an abortion after seeing a doctor, under legislation passed by the state House on 11 March. The bill would triple Missouri’s current 24-hour waiting period and put the state in line with Utah and South Dakota as the only states to mandate a 72-hour time frame.

- 9. USA: ROW OVER PHARMACISTS AND PLAN B

A New York Times article on 7 February asked, ‘What Unhealthy Products Should CVS Stop Selling?’ - and the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggested emergency contraception. Pro-choice advocates have issued a strong response.

- 10. UK: STUDY CLAIMS TO SHOW COST OF OBESITY IN PREGNANCY

Pregnant women who are obese can cost the NHS over a third more than women of healthy weight, a Swansea University study claims.

- 11. UK: ANOTHER STUDY ON DRINKING IN PREGNANCY

A study by researchers in Leeds claims that even moderate drinking during the earliest months of pregnancy may be damaging.

- 12. ANALYSIS: DRINKING IN PREGNANCY – WHAT DO WE KNOW?

Health professionals and policymakers are drawing increasing attention to women’s alcohol consumption during pregnancy: to the point where women who are pregnant, or thinking of becoming pregnant, are officially advised to abstain from alcohol altogether. But how much do we know about the effects of alcohol upon the developing fetus? And does this justify the current guidance?

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