The costs and consequences of Dorries’s abortion proposals

There’s no question Nadine Dorries’s proposal forcing women to be counselled somewhere other than their abortion provider will add delay and cost to the process.

Ashwin Kumar is an economist and a former director of the consumer watchdog Passenger Focus

There’s no question the Dorries proposal to require women to go for counselling somewhere other than their abortion provider will add delay to the process. But little discussion has happened about the consequences.

Putting an extra step in the abortion process is likely to increase the number of later abortions; the number that involve a surgical procedure; the number of women who experience complications; and the costs to the NHS.

As a society we’ve made substantial progress in reducing the number of abortions that take place after nine weeks of pregnancy – down from 74,000 to 44,000 – a 40 per cent drop in the last decade alone.

But if the process starts taking longer we can expect that progress to reverse. With only one week’s average delay caused by these proposals, we can expect to see an additional 18,500 abortions take place at 10 weeks or more – a jump of more than 40%.

And later abortions come with many consequences.

First and foremost is the type of abortion. About half of earlier abortions (up to nine weeks) require a surgical procedure – the other half take place using an abortion pill. But for later abortions (from 10 weeks onward), around 80% involve surgery. So one consequence of the Dorries proposals is a likely increase of 15,000 in the number of surgical abortions.

Abortion, thankfully a very safe procedure in this country – complications are only experienced in 1 out of a 1,000 cases for earlier abortions – but the risk does increase the later an abortion takes place. From 13 weeks, the complication rate is 1 in 200 and it doubles to 1 in 100 from 20 weeks.

Taking into account these rates, it’s not difficult to calculate that an average delay of one week to abortions because of counselling requirements is likely to lead to an 11% increase in the number who experience complications.

Finally costs: later abortions cost more as they are more involved procedures. Delays caused by counselling requirements are likely to push some women into time bands where they require more expensive procedures. So we can expect a 4 per cent increase in our NHS bill as a result of such delays.

To sum up, delays of even one week caused by more complicated counselling requirements could see:

• Later abortions up 40%;

• Surgical procedures up by 15,000,

• Eleven per cent more women experiencing complications, and

• An increase of 4% in NHS costs.

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