UK Politics

Abortion Counselling: Case Unproven

6 Sep 2011 at 20:43

It is indeed risible that Nadine Dorries comes under attack from the pro-Choice lobby (whose attack on her is largely based on ther contention that she is mad) and also the pro-Life lobby, who reckon she’s selling out by not wanting to ban abortion altogether. The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children must indeed get an award for cutting off their nose to spite their face. I interviewed their spokesman last Monday on my LBC show and could hardly believe what I was hearing.

So, tomorrow the Commons gets to vote on Nadine’s amendment, which seeks to ban abortion clinics from giving abortion counselling, and instead allowing GPs to recommend “independent” counsellors. So far, Nadine has been unable to define just who these new counsellors would be. She has specifically denied she would want religious organisations or charities to be involved in abortion counselling, but if not them, then who?

In theory she has a point, that abortion clinics have a vested interest in providing counselling which in the end which results in abortion. In theory. But where’s the proof? There has been a distinct lack of women coming forward telling media organisations that they felt they got terrible advice from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service or Marie Stopes. I’ve covered this subject for three separate hours on my LBC programme and desite repeated entreaties to women to call in if they felt they had received dubious advice, not a single one did. But we did get quuite a few calls from women who felt the advice they had been given was both impartial and good. And they were from women who had gone ahead with abortions and some who hadn’t.

Nadine and others have used an analogy with the pensions industry, where pension providers are prevented by law from giving impartial advice to clients. I’ve always thought this was a rather desperate argument. In the pensions situation there is a financial gain to be had. Abortion clinics are charities. They do not exist to make money, so far as I am aware. Ah, but the chief executive of BPAS, Ann Furedi won’t tell us how much she earns, and their executives all drive expensive cars we are told by Nadine and her allies. Er, so what? Is that really supposed to persuade us that their staff are instructed to “up” the abortion rate in order to keep them in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. Well, if so, where’s the proof?

Don’t get me wrong. In my heart I am completely pro life. I hate the idea of abortion, and especially late term abortion. But you cannot allow your heart to rule your head on issues like abortion. Much as I would love to ban it, realities dictate you have to be pragmatic and try to base the law on practicalities. So we can have debates on the point at which abortions should stop – currently 24 weeks (I would vote to reduce it to 20). And we can debate what kind of counselling women considering having an abortion should get, and there may well be a case for opening it up beyond BPAS and Marie Stopes, but that case, for me, has not yet been made properly.

Instead, what we have heard from people who maybe should have known better is that Nadine’s proposed amendment would reduce the number of abortions by one third. I don’t necessarily believe that this is the prime motivating factor for her, but that’s how it looks to the outside world, and it has meant that the argument has shifted away from her original territory.

Even discussing abortion is something which, as I am, I am uncomfortable with. But too many men shy away from this debate.

The debate shouldn’t be about counselling. It should be about the reasons why British women have far more abortions than in virtually very other European countries. It should be about the number of repeat abortions. It should be about sex education and what we teach girls and boys at school about countraception and the consequences of a moment of madness. But instead, we’re spending countless time and column inches on counselling.

If there is a problem with the counselling given by BPAS and Marie Stopes, wouldn’t we have heard more about it by now? Wouldn’t we have been regaled by countless horror stories? Unless the entire media has silenced these women who have received such awful advice it seems me that it remains ‘case unproven’.

And unless a case has been proven, there can be no case for changing the law.

One other argument that the pro Life lobby have latched onto this week is the research in the US that seemms to prove that women who have abortions are twice as likely to have mental problems later in life. Even pro choice people have had to admit this research is valid. Very worrying. Until you ask yourself this. What about women who continue with a pregnancy and have an unwanted child. I wonder if any study has ever been done into their mental problems. Probably not.

One final point. Can people who disagree with Nadine on this stop branding her as ‘mad’? Just as it is unacceptable for pro life people to bran those who believe in abortion as child killers, isn’t it equally as unacceptable to call Nadine ‘mad’? Surely to goodness we can have a debate on this subject without resorting to idiotic namecalling which gets us nowhere. Yes Suzanne Moore, I mean you.

I don’t imagine my next conversation with Nadine will be an especially comfortable one. But while I admire her in many ways, and count her as a friend, on this I just don’t think she has proved her case. So while I do think that people other than BPAS and Marie Stopes should be able to provide abortion counselling, I certainly don’t want religious fundamentalists to be able to, and no one has yet been able to tell me who else is clamouring to provide this advice.

Unless you know different.

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