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Medics told not to report illegal abortions to police

Healthcare workers are being told not to report women to the police if they believe their patients may have illegally ended their own pregnancy.

The Royal College of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians (RCOG) says "deeply traumatised" women are being prosecuted following abortions.

By law, patients' data must not be disclosed without their consent.

The new guidance follows a recent rise in police investigations into abortions.

NHS staff can breach confidentiality rules to give information to the police about possible crimes, but only if it is in the "public interest". The RCOG says it is "never" in the public interest to report women who have abortions, and that they must be safeguarded.

In the first official guidance issued of its kind, a healthcare worker must "justify" any disclosure of patient data or "face potential fitness to practice proceedings".

The organisation says it is "concerned" by the rising number of police investigations following abortions and pregnancy loss, and the effect this might have on "especially vulnerable" patients.

Dr Jonathan Lord, RCOG's medical director, told the BBC: "A law that was originally designed to protect a woman is now being used against her.

"We have witnessed life-changing harm to women and their wider families as a direct result of NHS staff reporting women suspected of crimes, and we just don't think that would happen in other areas of healthcare.

"We deal with the most vulnerable groups who may be concerned about turning to regulated healthcare at all, and we need them to trust us".

.Read full story

Source: BBC News, 22 January 2024


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