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Abortion request may highlight domestic abuse

Monday July 20th, 2009

New research calls on doctors to screen women for domestic abuse when facing a request for an abortion.

The risk of violence against women increases during pregnancy. Experts at King's College London, UK, looked for a potential link between abortion and domestic violence.

They found that more than one in three women seeking an abortion had been physically assaulted by a current or former partner in their lifetime. The risk among the general population in England and Wales is one in five.

In the study, twenty per cent of women seeking abortion had been physically assaulted in the previous year, and four per cent had experienced rape.

The rates were even higher among women seeking repeat abortions - 30 per cent of women having a second abortion reported relationship violence. Women requesting a third or subsequent abortion were over 2.5 times as likely to report relationship violence.

Details are published in The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist. Researcher Dr Gillian Aston said: "Domestic violence related to abortion is a serious social and public health issue that has received insufficient attention in the UK. The risks associated with domestic violence can be acute with the health and safety of women of concern.

"Whereas different groups may disagree about the moral status of the foetus, there must be common ground that violence against pregnant women is intolerable. Doctors and health professionals working in a woman's health sector that provides abortion services are in a prime position to identify and provide support for women experiencing domestic violence."

Dr Aston and colleagues want greater awareness of domestic violence, more support for women experiencing violence, and equality in access to abortion under the NHS.

Aston, G. and Bewley, S. Abortion and domestic violence. The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Vol. 11, July 2009, pp. 163-68.

Tags: Childbirth and Pregnancy | Nursing & Midwifery | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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