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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63 Responses to “The costs and consequences of Dorries’s abortion proposals”

  1. Mr. Sensible

    And how does Dories account for this?

    Apart from the fact that I think it is a very bad idea for reasons which I will save for the other thread on this subject, one might hae thought that the Tories would have thought about how they would pay for it before proceeding. I am pleased that Downing Street are now saying they will not support it.

  2. Martin Johnston

    The costs and consequences of Dorries’s abortion proposals: by @KumarAshwin

  3. Fabian

    Why does anybody care what she thinks anyway? This isn’t about empowering women, it’s about discouraging birth control, seeing as Dorries is a religious bigot.

  4. Rachel Reeves

    RT @leftfootfwd: The costs and consequences of Dorries’s abortion proposals < Great article by Ashwin Kumar

  5. cutchswife

    RT @leftfootfwd: The costs and consequences of Dorries’s abortion proposals < Great article by Ashwin Kumar

  6. James

    @Fabian – how is providing the option of independent counselling about discouraging birth control, unless you think more women would decide against abortion if they weren’t advised by people with a vested financial interest in one outcome? If that’s true, then it’s a good argument to support independent counselling!

  7. Tom White

    Dorries’s position is nonsense. A) Marie Stopes and the BPAS are charities, not looking to ‘make a profit’ – they *do* provide independent counselling. B) Her amendment provides no real safeguards to fundamentalist loonies being involved in counselling. C) You shouldn’t force women to have counselling if they don’t want it. So most of these comments are missing the point.

    Nadine Dorries is vehemently opposed to abortion. Having lied last time – and yes, she did lie, and it can be proved – in the hope of lowering the limit from 24 to 20 weeks, when there was no good medical evidence to support it, she’s now trying the backdoor approach. Again she’s not being honest.

    I’m not taken in by it; neither should you be.

  8. Look Left – Libya: Allies urge “reconciliation and forgiveness” | Left Foot Forward

    […] Dorries’s fellow fundamentalists are gradually restricting reproductive rights, and examined the costs and consequences of her proposals, while in the Guardian the excellent Zoe Williams […]

  9. Ashwin Kumar

    @EmilyThornberry Dorries amendment will add delay to getting an abortion: see for my estimate of likely consequences

  10. Right-wingers screeching about abortion vote are ignoring reality | Liberal Conspiracy

    […] to replace BPAS and Marie Stopes? GPs were not only opposed but also over-stretched already. The the costs and delays that would result are also significant enough to affect the NHS […]

  11. Proposals

    People have really gone mad and misusing ever thing they can..these abortion cases and divorce cases are increasing in numbers..

  12. Sara

    I don’t know for how many women the choice of abortion is made at least partly because they are stuck in an abysmal quality of life situation, but Dorries and colleagues might find another approach much more effective in reducing abortion figures. They could fight equally hard to improve the life situation of women in the most difficult positions in our society. They could fight to make society more equal, to ensure that everyone has good life chances. But do they? I haven’t noticed it.

  13. What the fox does Cameron agree with Widdecombe on? | Left Foot Forward

    […] The costs and consequences of Dorries’s abortion proposals – Ashwin Kumar, August 31st […]

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