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The BMJ Editorial and Feature both describe pregnant women seeking abortions as patients(1,2). The best evidence shows that by far the commonest reason women request abortions is a lack of financial resources or concern the effect the pregnancy and child will have on education or career progression. To then reframe the problem so as to describe these women as patients only serves to medicalise a socio-political problem. Once it is medicalised, society can then surreptitiously abdicate its responsibility of addressing poverty and gender inequality in education and the workplace. Abortion must and can never be used as a solution to economic inequality and gender-based discrimination. Both medicine and politics refuse to address why women request abortions; rather the issue is placed on the door step of doctors by labeling pregnant women as patients. Then abortion is proffered as the panacea solution when it is easier not to engage the real problem.
(1) Hurley R. Toward healthier abortion and drug laws BMJ 2019; 367 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l6382
(2) Griffin N. Patients, not criminals: Northern Ireland grapples with how to provide legal abortion. BMJ. 2019 Nov 1;367:l6318.
(3) Finer LB, Frohwirth LF, Dauphinee LA, Singh S, Moore AM.Reasons U.S. women have abortions: quantitative and qualitative perspectives. Perspect Sex Reprod Health. 2005 ;37:110-8.
(4) Chae S, Desai S, Crowell M, Sedgh G. Reasons why women have induced abortions: a synthesis of findings from 14 countries. Contraception. 2017; 96:233-241