This article in today's Age newspaper highlights the complexities that women can face during pregnancy, not only if they are abortion seeking, but simply in seeking appropriate supports. The focus of the article, and of the woman's expressed concerns are primarily around issues of abortion access. While abortion is legally available in the woman's circumstances, restrictions inevitably arise when there are few practitioners prepared to undertake them, and when those that do exist demonstrate their priorities with exorbitant fees.
Regardless of whether one agrees with abortion at 26 weeks of pregnancy, we have to ask why it took so long for her to get any kind of support and how it is that a hospital can have a waiting list of 4 weeks for a pregnant distressed woman to get some support. It is no wonder that so many women resort to abortion earlier in pregnancy when they face adverse circumstances, if it can be this difficult to have their needs met.
There are a few alarm bells around the health and safety of this woman that I hope will be considered without the filters of abortion ideology. At 26 weeks of pregnancy, she is at significantly higher risk of physical complications; the risk at this stage, given the added intervention she needs, is likely higher than if she continues the pregnancy for only a few weeks and delivers. Her risk of adverse psychological effects should also be considered given her mental health history.
While some consider suicidal ideation to be a reason for a woman to be offered or provided an abortion, from a mental health point of view, this should be a contraindication to abortion. It is well documented that a prior mental health history is a significant risk factor for post-abortion mental health problems, as is a later gestation termination. We should also question why a pregnant woman with mental illness, or threatening suicide is treated differently than a non-pregnant woman doing the same things.
Having worked in acute mental health care, I have nursed a number of patients who were admitted due to threats of self-harm or ideas that they simply MUST chop off a limb or kill themselves. When a woman is threatening to cut off her leg if it is not surgically amputated, we care for her mental health and social well-being, we don't refer her to an orthopaedic surgeon.
If a pregnant woman is threatening suicide if her almost term pregnancy is not terminated, and she has a history of mental health problems, and her life is in a state of turmoil, abortion is not the answer for her, in spite of her requests.
Pulling out well-worn slogans of 'woman's choice' in this case, fails to see this woman holistically; someone with a trauma filled life who is desperately trying to get some help, and currently sees her pregnancy as the one thing she can 'fix'.
If she wasn't pregnant, we'd be tending to her mental health, helping her deal with her daughter, encouraging, supporting and uplifting her. Is abortion really the best way to do any of these things?