Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Having worked as a family physician in Ontario for the last 19 years, I have been involved with many women dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.

I care about this issue. I care that many women have felt let down by the care provided to them by healthcare professionals, medical doctors in particular. I care that these women have felt alone at a time when they needed guidance and support. I care that many of these women suffer remorse and regret that often remains unspoken. I care that many have felt they had no other option but to abort their pregnancy.

As I ponder our current response to the issue of an unplanned pregnancy, I realize that our focus has been so centred on abortion — in support of or against — that we have left a large, gaping hole in the treatment of the patient seeking care. For a woman with uncertainty about how to proceed with an unplanned pregnancy, the options available between the discovery of a pregnancy and the ultimate appointment at an abortion clinic are not always easy to find, at least in a way that feels real and accessible.

I see the lack of cohesiveness in our response as a medical community. Women are often left on their own to research the options regarding adoption or pregnancy support. We can talk about the option to parent or pursue adoption, but words can seem empty when you feel frightened, trapped or pressured.

To be a true option, a choice has to feel real, tangible and accessible. I do not believe that abortion providers are in the best position to ensure that women have truly considered the other choices available before terminating their pregnancy, nor are they set up to ensure that women have a full understanding of the gestational development of their baby. By the time a woman travels to a clinic to terminate, is she really in a position to reflect on the other options?

For women to be empowered and to have a true choice in how they handle their unplanned pregnancy, they need to make a decision without fear and with a full understanding of their options, and those options need to be tangible and accessible.

My hope is that as a medical community, we would improve our triage of this common dilemma — in Canada, at least 100,000 women per year choose to abort. It shouldn’t be complicated. We can easily implement a process that links all resources in one location, ensures women understand fetal development before opting to terminate, provides accurate information on abortion procedures, and provides access to pregnancy centres and adoption agencies.

Those who support abortion should not fear this integration. Knowledge and real options empower women. Let’s shift our focus to establish true choice.

Dr. Laura Lewis, Huntsville