Case Studies: Abortion

The underage girl

Dorothy, 14, and her mother Rachel are among the first clients to arrive. She is nervous and embarrassed, waiting to be told off for getting pregnant at such a young age. Bare-faced and wearing an Alice band and simple T-shirt and jogging bottoms, she looks painfully young.

When she discovered that she was pregnant she told her mother and visited her "pretty useless" GP. He gave her the number of a youth sexual-health service near her home in North London which, in turn, referred her here. At her first consultation a week ago, the nurse spoke to her alone to make sure that she was not acting under duress and genuinely wanted to end the pregnancy. That is a statutory duty.

The first of two drugs was administered then, and today Dorothy will receive the second. That will begin the medical abortion once she gets home.

"I am very relieved that no one is trying to make me feel terrible. I feel bad enough anyway. My mum is very upset. I am looking forward to things being back to normal," she said.

Her mother agrees. "This has all been a nightmare. I felt the world had fallen in when she told me. They were really good at the youth service. The people there were quite young and they didn't make Dorothy feel bad. They referred us here and everyone has done their best to make it easy for us. No one has made me feel I am a terrible mother."

The gap-year traveller

Jane, 27, was one week away from leaving Australia to come to England on a gap year when she discovered that she was pregnant. "I had been planning the trip for a very long time. I was so shocked. I couldn't believe it." She had recently split up with her partner and is still only "80-20 decided" on ending the pregnancy.

Although she discussed it with her family and GP at home, she decided to come to the UK anyway and called the Marie Stopes helpline the day after her 24-hour flight. Although she is calm at first, she becomes increasingly upset and breaks down at every kindness shown to her.

"I am finding it very difficult. I will not make a final decision about what to do until after this consultation, and I might have counselling as well. I called the helpline when I got here and they were very nice and took my details and then set up this appointment. That calmed me down. They didn't try and persuade me either way."

As the minutes to her appointment tick by, Jane grows more and more distressed. The specialist nurse is concerned and suggests that she speak to a counsellor before going any further. Jane, shaking, agrees and is accompanied to a private room.

The young Irish couple

Anna and James, both 19, have had an early start. They took the 7am flight from Dublin and look exhausted already. Anna is uncertain how far advanced her pregnancy is and does not know what type of procedure she will have. An ultrasound scan will determine the age of the foetus to the nearest day. If the term is greater than eight weeks and six days, it will be a surgical abortion, conducted under "conscious sedation", rather than general anaesthetic.

Anna is certain, however, that she does not want to continue the pregnancy. "We are too young," she said. "We found the clinic on the internet and called up the helpline about two weeks ago. Everybody in Ireland knows this is what you have to do - come to England. They made us an appointment straight away for Tuesday but we couldn't get here because of the [volcanic] ash cloud. Everyone has been very nice. We have been made to feel very welcome, so it helps," she said. The abortion will cost £490, a discounted rate for Irish clients because the charity knows that they have to pay hundreds of pounds for flights. The trip and the treatment are costing £1,000, with James picking up the bill.

Their families do not know about the pregnancy and the couple are booked on a 10pm return flight to avoid arousing suspicion at home. "It's a day trip. We will go shopping later maybe. We are going to keep it pretty quiet," says James.

 Source: Times 24.5.2010

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