John Mason claims 'considerable scepticism' about informed consent sought by medical staff around abortions

A SNP MSP has claimed there is “considerable scepticism” around the requirement for informed consent during medically approved abortions in Scotland.

Monday, 9th May 2022, 12:15 pm
Updated Monday, 9th May 2022, 6:09 pm

John Mason, the Glasgow Shettleston MSP, made the accusation despite assurances from medical experts all patients must provide informed consent before going through any medical procedure.

Mr Mason had sparked outrage over the weekend after claiming clinics “push abortion without laying out the pros and cons”, which Nicola Sturgeon has described as “wrong”.

In a letter, Central Scotland MSP Monica Lennon subsequently urged Gregor Smith and Jason Leitch to give assurances there was no evidence to support Mr Mason’s claims on abortion care.

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John Mason has made claims against abortion services as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says his comments are 'wrong'. (Photo: ED Jones/AFP via Getty Images)

The Labour MSP wrote: “Considering your own roles and responsibilities as chief medical officer and national clinical director, I seek your assurances that there is no evidence to support Mr Mason’s claims."

Ms Lennon said the remarks by an MSP were significant and influential.

Mr Mason told The Scotsman: “I think there is considerable scepticism about this requirement for ‘informed consent’.

“Women have reported how they were told there would be few, if any, side effects when in fact they then had huge physical, mental, and emotional problems sometimes for years afterwards.”

Medical experts have expressed anger at Mr Mason and have accused him of spouting misinformation under the SNP badge.

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Dr Audrey Brown, an abortion provider based in Glasgow, said: “He needs to reconsider what he is saying. People accessing abortion in Scotland have a full consultation with a highly trained clinician and consider all their options.

"The clinics are there to support people to make their best decision, whatever that decision is. Absolutely no-one is pushed into having an abortion by staff in the clinic.

"Everyone having a medical procedure has to provide informed consent and you cannot get this without explaining the pros and cons.”

Mr Mason also said the “actual abortion procedure is certainly not easy for a woman”. However, he added: “But it does not seem to be difficult to access an abortion given that so many have taken place and continue to do so.

"During Covid, ‘at-home abortions’ were permitted and this makes it even more likely that a woman can be pressurised by her family or her partner to have an abortion even if she does not really want one.”

However, a new study from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) has shown women who accessed abortions during the pandemic “overwhelmingly support” telemedical abortion.

Despite backing from doctors and women’s organisations, the Scottish Government has failed to implement permanent telemedical provisions.

In England and Wales, telemedicine abortion was made permanent early this year – a decision “warmly welcomed” by the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

The change means women will have continued access to home use of the first pill used for an early medical abortion (mifepristone), following a virtual consultation with a qualified nurse or midwife.

Asked whether he has ever stepped foot in an abortion clinic, Mr Mason said: “I would have no reason to go inside an abortion clinic – or any other clinic for that matter. But I have heard women speak who have had very bad experiences of abortion.”