Abortions - Neither Safe Nor Pain Free (24 February 2003)


Dear Sir or Madam

The Marie Stopes chain of clinics consistently advertises their abortions as "safe" - in newspaper advertisements, on rubbish bins and at their facilities on their signage. Recently, they have also started advertising their abortions as "pain free". Neither of these claims are true, and we call on you to direct Marie Stopes not to make such false claims in their advertising.

Abortion is a difficult choice for a woman, and very few women admit publicly to having had an abortion. The psychological trauma of aborting one's own child - with the self doubt and loathing that this often provokes - makes women who have had abortions the people who are least likely to complain publicly about "service" that did not meet the advertised expectations. In fact, because guilt is almost invariably associated with abortion, women who are physically injured by the abortion often consider their injuries their just reward for their action.

Our research indicates that Marie Stopes primarily uses two methods to induce abortion - manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) and pills to induce early labour.

MVA consists of forcing a rigid tube through the woman's cervix, into the uterus, and then sucking out the contents of the uterus. This procedure is done "blind" i.e. without e.g. ultrasound to indicate that the tube is in the correct position, or that all the baby parts and placenta are removed. The tube can damage the cervix as it is inserted, puncture the uterus or puncture other internal organs. This can lead to future miscarriages, an emergency hysterectomy, or other emergency abdominal surgery e.g. colostomy. Baby parts and placenta that remain can lead to life and/or fertility threatening infections. There are a number of other possible complications which we will not list to keep this letter concise. We must emphasise that because of the guilt and shame involved, women who suffer as a result of abortions are not only less likely to complain, but they are less likely to seek medical treatment for injuries incurred.

The pills used to induce early labour have a number of side effects. They can cause prolonged bleeding and normally cause severe cramping. Because the pills take a long time to take effect, mothers often deliver their babies at home, resulting in psychological trauma as they realise that their baby is not mere "blob of tissue", but a recognisable small scale human being from 6 to 8 weeks after conception. Once again, there are a number of other possible complications which we will not list to keep this letter concise.

It is reckless and irresponsible to allow Marie Stopes to continue to advertise their abortions as "safe" and/or "pain free". No medical procedure is safe, and abortion is especially unsafe and painful. An American study estimates the immediate physical complication rate from abortion at no less than 10 % (David Reardon, "Aborted Women, Silent No More", Acorn Books, 2002, p93, citing DA Grimes and W Cates, Jr., "Abortion: Methods and Complications", Human Reproduction, 2nd edition, p796 to 813).

The fact that abortion on demand is legal in South Africa does not give abortion providers carte blanche to make untrue claims in their advertising. As the Advertising Standards watchdog, we appeal to you to apply the same standards that are applied to other advertisers to Marie Stopes. In fact, since they are advertising a medical service and that their customers are less likely to complain (rather blaming themselves), we believe that it would not be unreasonable to in fact apply higher standards to this organisation. Should Marie Stopes assert that their claims are in fact true, we believe that the onus of proving them would lie on them.

We look forward to your reply. If you need any further information, please do not hesitate to contact us - we have a broad range of research on the (lack of) safety of abortion available. Finally, we appeal to your consciences by reminding you that abortion is virtually inevitably fatal and painful to the children aborted.

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves."

Jeanine McGill
National Co-ordinator

Christian Action P.O.Box 23632 Claremont 7735 Cape Town South Africa info@christianaction.org.za - 021-689-4481 - www.christianaction.org.za
DMC Firewall is a Joomla Security extension!