Informed consent is a basic ethical requirement for all healthcare treatments, and abortion is no exception. In fact, the model of delivering abortion care via standalone reproductive health clinics has allowed providers to develop more comprehensive counseling and informed consent protocols than other areas of medicine. Unfortunately, in the United States, the informed consent process is often marred by the inclusion of medically-incorrect information mandated by the state through anti-abortion laws. Further, anti-choice agencies (frequently known as “crisis pregnancy centres”) are known to deceive, confuse, and scare women with misinformation about abortion. In other words, it is anti-choice proponents who are often guilty of depriving women of proper informed consent around abortion – not providers.
The only reason abortion is legal and abortion clinics exist, is because it is women who have always requested and demanded abortion care. When abortion is illegal, women seek abortions anyway, and many will knowingly risk their health and lives with unsafe abortion. The anti-choice movement insults women by claiming they don’t consent to abortion or don’t understand what they’re doing. Most women having abortions already have at least one child (59% in the United States and 55% in the UK), so they understand what pregnancy means and what an abortion does.
Most women contacting an abortion clinic have already decided to have an abortion. Other women may be unsure or ambivalent, and need time and discussion with trusted people. Abortion clinics employ professional counselors that are available to all women. Counseling is tailored to ensure that women are clear and resolved about their choice and have addressed any possible emotional issues, or if women are unsure, they are guided compassionately to help them arrive at the best decision for themselves. Many women who were unsure will decide not to have an abortion after counseling. But those going forward will receive all the information they need about the procedure and what will happen, and how it may affect them. Often, women who are sent away because they are unsure come back in a week or two for the abortion.
The Express (UK), Rise in proportion of women who are already mothers having abortions (2017)
Guttmacher Institute, Induced Abortion in the United States (2017)
Guttmacher Institute, State Abortion Counseling Policies and Fundamental Principles of Informed Consent
National Women’s Law Centre, Crisis Pregnancy Centers