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What Real Informed Consent Would Look Like
Is self-referral really good enough for something as life-changing as abortion?
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• You Don't Have to Consent to an Abortion to Get an Abortion

I posted the following idea of "informed consent" in my old Forum when I was still with About.com, and got positive responses from both prolife and prochoice folks. Now I submit it for the commentary/perusal of visitors here:

First, the woman should be told that panic is normal, and that it usually passes. She should be informed of the normal psychology of pregnancy so that she can get a handle on whether she's just in the throes of normal early pregnancy stress, or if there is somthing bigger going on. She should also be told about the impact of stress on decision-making, so she can assess to what degree stress may be coloring her choice, overriding her real wishes and needs.

Second, she should be informed of the range of responses women have from abortion, from the satisfied customer to the women who suffer unspeakable anguish the rest of their lives. She should be given a collection of post-abortion women's writings, and an opportunity to speak to women who have had abortions, along the spectrum of experience. And she should be given information on risk factors so she can assess which is more likely to be her reaction to abortion.

Third, she should be informed of the particular physical risks of pregnancy and abortion as they relate to her specific case, including her age, any medical conditions she has, etc. This should include telling her exactly how much controversy there is in the medical community about exactly how high the risks are, to her body and to subsequent pregnancies. And she should get this information from people without an axe to grind -- say, a prochoice ob/gyn who does not perform abortions but has treated abortion complications, or a perinatologist who has experience with high risk pregnancies, depending on her specific situation.

Fourth, she should be informed about the entity that the abortion will destroy, including being shown a realtime ultrasound of her embryo or fetus, and pictures or models. After all, she's bound to find out sooner or later, so better to find out while she is still able to back out or go ahead. And she does need to be prepared for what she might see if she expels a whole fetus or fetal parts. She should explore her own ideas of when prenatal life is entitled to protection, and when it is wrong to kill an unborn entity. She should be warned that any moral qualms she has now will likely only intensify after the abortion, rather than fade.

Fifth, she should be informed of resources available to her, not only in her community, but national groups such as The Nurturing Network should she choose to go elsewhere to complete the pregnancy. This should include information relevant to her specific needs, particularly if she is considering abortion for maternal or fetal indications.

Sixth, she should be offered a consult with a clergyperson of her faith -- one whose beliefs are similar to her own. No taking the one prolife Unitarian minister in the county, or the only prochoice Roman Catholic priest. If she's a prochoice Unitarian, get her a consult with a prochoice Unitarian. If she's a prolife Unitarian, it'll be a little tough, but she should be able to sort out the spiritual ramifications of what she's considering while she's still making up her mind, and not when it's too late.

Finally, she should also be offered the opportunity to meet with people who've suffered any complications she has uneasiness about, like a colostomy or a hysterectomy.

The decision to end a pregnancy with a dead fetus instead of a live baby is a one shot deal that she'll carry with her for the rest of her life. We trivialize it, and then trivialize her pain if she's rushed into a bad choice. That's not right.

Tell us what you think!

Do you think these ideas constitute appropriate informed consent for an abortion? Do they go too far? Not far enough? Join us in the RealChoice blog.

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