Clinical placements

A clinical placement with BPAS made me reflect on my feelings about abortion

Spending a day at a British Pregnancy Advisory Service clinic helped nursing student Becky Martinez gain perspective on her role in supporting patients, recognise women’s right to decide, and realise the need to set aside her own reservations about it

Spending a day at a British Pregnancy Advisory Service clinic helped nursing student Becky Martinez gain perspective on her role in supporting patients, recognise women’s right to decide, and realise the need to set aside her own reservations about it

Abortion_Clinic-SPL
Picture: Science Photo Library

During a clinical placement at a sexual health and contraception clinic, my mentor suggested I spend a day at a British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) clinic, where abortions are carried out.

I have strong feelings about abortion, so was initially reluctant to do it. But after thinking about it I realised that as a nurse I would need to support patients in making decisions about their care, including terminating a pregnancy, and it was important to be able put my own feelings to one side.

I wanted to ensure I could support patients objectively, even if I disagreed with their choices, so arranged a visit to BPAS.

When I arrived at the clinic I felt apprehensive. I sat in during initial consultations and then followed patients through their assessment, procedure, recovery and discharge.

Most difficult

The fundamental differences between my beliefs about the status of the foetus and those of the nurses and patients quickly became apparent. Whereas for me life begins at conception and immediately carries an inherent value, for others the embryo or foetus is simply a collection of cells. This view was reinforced by the use of medical terms such as ‘products of conception’.

The part I found most difficult was late terminations. This particular clinic only carried out terminations up to 14 weeks, but offered consultations for women up to the legal limit of 23 weeks and six days. I was particularly horrified to read about the practice of feticide, where an injection is given to stop the baby from being delivered alive.

As I sat and listened to the patients’ stories, I was struck by how lightly some of them took the situation, almost as if they were having a tooth out. I found it much easier to feel empathy for the women who were distressed and conflicted by their decision.

Guilty feelings

On reflection, I realise that part of me felt these women should feel guilty about what they were doing, but I then felt guilty about my own judgements.

I tried to imagine a world where abortion was not an option, and how the lack of choice would disempower women. Although I still feel uncomfortable about many aspects of abortion, I have accepted the necessity for it.

Although I can’t say I enjoyed the experience, it did enable me to reflect on my own beliefs and challenge my strong feelings.

I now feel confident that I would be able to set aside my own feelings and recognise that what is best for a patient may not be what would be right for me. While I may not like abortion, I would like it even less if women were denied the right to choose.


Becky Martinez is a second-year nursing student at the University of Brighton 

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