When women consent to have an abortion, is it an informed consent?

Here’s an interesting article from the Ottawa Citizen by McGill University ethicist Margaret Somerville. (H/T Laura Welch)


Anna explained, “Everyone in Quebec thinks that abortion is normal; nothing to fuss or be upset about; the obvious and easy solution to an unplanned pregnancy.” But, when she unexpectedly found herself pregnant, she didn’t feel that way and sought support to continue the pregnancy. Everyone told her, however, to “get on with it” – have an abortion.

Anna, first, asked her mother whether she would help her, if she had the baby. Her mother flatly refused, saying, “I do not want to waste my life babysitting.” Her male partner said he “wasn’t interested in a kid” and their relationship has since broken up. She tried to get an appointment with her gynecologist to discuss her options, but the first available one was two months away. She then contacted an abortion clinic, which gave her an appointment in two weeks, at which time Anna was nine weeks pregnant. She said, “I went to them to get information on abortion, to know more about my options, the consequences of an abortion. I was open to getting an abortion, because that was what everyone around me recommended I do. I saw abortion as an option, but was really not sure. I was hoping for some answers.”

Anna met, first, with a nurse for a “consent interview.” She said, “The nurse told me that at this stage of the pregnancy the fetus is just a bunch of cells. I also asked her if the abortion would have any impact on my health, my future pregnancies, and so on. She said abortions had no impact at all, no consequences at all, that all that I had read (to the contrary) were myths. The nurse said, ‘In two weeks, it will be as if all this never happened’.”

Anna changed into a hospital gown and was taken into an examination room where a technician proceeded to do an ultrasound. Anna asked what the fetus looked like and could she see the ultrasound. She said, “The technician told me she was not allowed to show me the images and I was unable to see the screen,” which showed the fetus. At nine weeks gestation, it would have had a beating heart. The technician then picked up the printout of the ultrasound, but dropped it on the floor. She scrambled to gather it up quickly, saying, “You don’t want to see this.” But that’s exactly what Anna did want.

Anna says she was left “waiting alone in a little room in the blue gown,” before a nurse took her to the operating room, “where they gave me the sedative injection. At that point I was just crying, I was just thinking of all the reasons people told me I had to get the abortion, and that I did not have any help anyways, so I was crying. The doctor asked me if I was here on my own will and I said, ‘Yes’, while crying. So they gave me a double dose of sedative to calm me down. At that point, I felt it was pointless to protest further and that I couldn’t back out at that stage and would just have to go ahead.” So, she closed her eyes and let the abortion proceed.

Do you think that this woman was informed about what she was doing? If not, then how was she able to give her informed consent?

6 thoughts on “When women consent to have an abortion, is it an informed consent?”

  1. This is really just sickening.

    “All who are genuinely committed to the advancement of women can and must offer a woman or a girl who is pregnant, frightened, and alone a better alternative than the destruction of her own unborn child.” – Mary Ann Glendon


  2. I read this story before, and it just horrifies me. If this were any legitimate medical procedure, it would be grounds for a malpractice suit. What is described is a coerced abortion. She went in to get information, not for an abortion. Can you imagine going in to get information about options for breast cancer, only to end up with a mastectomy? Abortioneers might reduce the fetus to a “clump of cells,” but they’d freak if someone coerced a woman into having her mammary glands lopped off under similar circumstances.


      1. Yeah, that “clump of cells” argument is incredibly absurd for anyone who’s studied embryology. I mean, we could just as accurately say that *all of us* are merely clumps of cells.


  3. That is such a sad story. And this is probably how it is, often. I had never given fetal development much thought before I became pregnant, and I was just as ignorant. Now, I was happy to be with child, mind, but when I saw my first kid at 11 weeks gestation, I was astounded by his “babyness” and his activity. It’s because of our abortion culture that I assumed the image would be less human, and above all, still and unmoving. A mass, basically.

    A real eye opener, that sonogram image. That’s why abortionists don’t want women to see it.


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