Charter for Choice

Jane Fisher, ARC: We need to trust – and support – women’s individual choices in pregnancy.

Jane Fisher is the Director of Antenatal Results and Choices, ARC. 

I feel privileged to have been working for ARC since 2001. And while I am very grateful to bpas for nominating me as a ‘champion of choice’ I have to say at the outset that I couldn’t do what I do without the support and commitment of our small but dedicated staff team. For those who don’t know us, ARC is a UK-wide charity providing non-directive information and support to parents throughout prenatal testing and its consequences. We also work closely and collaboratively with health care professionals and policy makers to promote high quality care in what are often challenging circumstances.

Most expectant parents opt for antenatal screening tests hoping to be reassured – and thankfully the vast majority will be. They are aware that problems can occur but this is rarely at the forefront of their thinking as they gaze at scan images full of hope and expectation. So when they learn that their baby is not developing as expected the shock and grief is immense. At this point many parents contact ARC, struggling to process the news and to understand what the outcome might mean for them. Our job is to ensure they have the information they need and a safe space to work out a way forward in the pregnancy that is individually right for them

When a diagnosis of fetal anomaly is made, some parents will decide quickly what they need to do; others will vacillate for some time. All know it is a life-changing decision.

For women who decide to end their pregnancy it is important that they have a choice in how the termination procedure itself is managed. They know what they feel best able to cope with, physically and psychologically. However, the reality is that access to surgical termination is limited in most NHS hospitals after 13 weeks’ gestation. This means the independent sector has an important role in providing options for women. It has been great to work with staff at bpas to help improve the care they can provide women attending clinics for termination for fetal anomaly.

Overall, my experience at ARC has taught me just how crucial it is that we continue to support women’s individual choices in pregnancy. I shall continue to do all I can because I know that we can trust women to make responsible decisions, even in the most traumatic and emotionally charged situations.