'Pro-life' MPs refuse to back down over bid to change abortion advice

 

Anti-abortion campaigners are pressing ahead with a controversial amendment to the Government’s new health bill designed to cut the number of pregnancies which are terminated each year in the UK.

The Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, who is proposing the amendment, said yesterday she would not be “bought off” by the promise of a Government consultation on whether or not to offer independent counselling to all women considering an abortion.

Instead she said she wanted to change the law to strip abortion charities and doctors of their exclusive responsibility for counselling women seeking to terminate a pregnancy, and hand it to specially trained professionals.

But while she ruled out allowing anti-abortion groups the chance to bid to offer counselling services, she did not explain how the amendment would ensure that individual counsellors could be free of bias on such an emotive subject.

The move has also led to fears that anti-abortion campaigners in the UK are adopting US style tactics of trying to influence the way abortion services are delivered rather than fight on the ethical issues surrounding the principle of abortion itself.

If the ammendment is debated in the Commons the Goverment may allow its MPs a free vote on the issue. There is now a strong socially conservative bent within the Tory Party which is supported by the Prime Minister. In 2008, Andrew Lansley, William Hague and Liam Fox joined Mr Cameron in supporting a cut to the legal limit for "social" abortions from 24 weeks to 22 weeks.

Ms Dorries said that charity-run abortion services – including the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) and Marie Stopes – had a financial conflict of interest in advising women seeking terminations since they are paid for the procedures they carry out.

But the charities strongly dispute this and say that her proposal would add another layer of bureaucracy which could cause distress by delaying access to abortions.

They added that the counselling they offer is already independent and entirely separate from the other services they provide.

In addition they said any suggestion that women would have to discuss an abortion with their GP before being referred to them could deter or delay them from seeking help.

At the weekend the Government attempted to head off the amendment by proposing a consultation to examine whether independent counselling was practical.

But speaking yesterday Ms Dorries rejected the compromise and insisted it should go to a vote in the House of Commons. “The amendments won’t be withdrawn whatever the Government says,” she told the World at One.

“If they believe they are going to buy me off by making soothing noises and they are going to look at this and go into consultation… that isn’t going to buy anybody off. This will go to Parliament on 6 September. It will be debated.”

Ms Dorries said that the process and procedure of abortion was “so factory efficient” and “speedy” that she wanted to give people a chance to “talk through their own situation”.

“I don’t have the figures in front of me but I can guarantee you that 15 years ago the incidence of abortion was far, far fewer than it is today. Today we have 200,000 abortions carried out per year and we have more abortions than any other country in Western Europe.

“We don’t think it is right that the people who are giving the advice for the product procedure process should be the same people who are carrying out that process.

“So all we are saying is that Marie Stopes and BPAS are run as businesses, they are paid £60m per year of taxpayers money and what we would just like to see is that when a woman presents a GPs practice with a crisis pregnancy that she is offered counselling, not compulsory, just offered counselling.

Ms Dorries said she would be just as opposed to anti-abortion groups offering advise as she was to those charities which carried out terminations and suggested that the work could be carried out by counsellors registered with the British Association of Counsellors and psychotherapy.

“Counselling would be offered by someone who is totally independent and impartial,” she said.

“It means somebody who isn’t an abortion provider, who isn’t of a religious organisation. I can ensure you that if a catholic group said they were going to set up and offer advice I would be as against them offering advice as I am the abortion advisor.”

But BPAS Chief Executive Ann Furedi said she believed the amendment might be the start of a slippery slope restricting an individual woman’s right to choose. “BPAS is always happy to engage in debate around the ethics of abortion,” she said.

“But, as has happened in the USA over recent years, we are increasingly seeing those with a opposition to abortion trying to influence the way services are delivered rather than engage in ethical debate. Abortion care, just as any other area of healthcare, must be based on the needs of patients and clinical evidence.”

Dorries launched her campaign for the change alongside the Labour MP Frank Field. They are backed by the campaign group Right to Know, which has set up a website and Facebook page to promote the idea.

Dorries, a former nurse who says she is campaigning on the issue after witnessing botched terminations, says she does not oppose abortion. However, she has previously campaigned to reduce the abortion time limit and said that her explicit aim was to reduce the number of terminations, claiming that 60,000 could be prevented each year if women were given independent advice.

Women's voices

'I was completely unprepared': Anonymous, 26, operations manager

“I have had two abortions; the first when I was 17 and then again when I was 24.

"During my first experience, like many women I opted for a medical termination which I was assured was the simplest method. I felt reassured but the process began far earlier than anticipated and as a result I was completely unprepared for what I witnessed and for the physical and emotional pain afterwards.

“I do not remember being offered any counselling, only being given wads of leaflets detailing the benefits of contraception. I chose to deal with it in secrecy and it wasn’t until a few months later when all aspects of my life: academic, social and personal began to suffer did I actively go and seek help.

“Seven years later I found myself in the same position again. The same contraceptive advice was administered but on this occasion before I underwent the process and not during, as it was the last time. It was a well known private clinic and the members of staff were indeed more attentive but the experience nevertheless was impersonal.

“Whilst ideally the process should be as quick and as pain-free as possible, the real care should be invested into women’s mental health following the termination and for as long as is necessary. On that first occasion, I remember feeling so angry towards the other girls on the ward who were laughing and joking. I now realise that it was probably because they hadn’t been able to face up to it yet and more importantly, they hadn’t been warned. You are discharged as being physically well but the emotional toil has yet to kick in.

“There is definitely a need for a separate charity with women who have shared experiences, shared ways of dealing with the fragile emotional states women are left it.

“However, it is certainly not appropriate to involve religious groups to dole out advice to women who are already battling with insufferable guilt.”

'This is a cynical and patronising policy': Anonymous, 24, public relations

“Some people say that an abortion is the hardest decision a woman ever has to make. I have to disagree.

“Of course for some women it is. And those women need access to sound, impartial advice. But for a lot of women it is one of the easiest decisions they will ever make. Not a nice decision to have to make, but for some, an easy one.

“When I had an abortion in a country where it was illegal – on a semester abroad when I was 20 – I had no access to any advice, just a whispered, rather judgmental indication of what steps to take next.

“To have had the option to speak to a medical professional about the options available would not have gone amiss, but luckily I knew that for me I was making the right decision.

“Nadine Dorries's call is cynical, patronising and unnecessary. To assume that charities such as Marie Stopes and BPAS [the British Pregnancy Advisory Service] offer weighted advice seems terrifyingly naive and unfounded. I also don't even understand the aim, which she has stated explicitly, which is to reduce the number of terminations by 60,000 procedures a year.

“To assume that somehow these 60,000 terminations could be saved or prevented is completely the wrong way to look at it. These women don't need more advice once they are already pregnant and time is a real factor, they need advice before they even get pregnant.

“Sex education in the UK needs a new approach. Treating women like they are unthinking children and family planning charities as if they have an agenda is not going to help anyone.”





'They just want to restrict our access': Anonymous, 30, healthcare worker

“I was 17 and I was coerced into sex with someone who thought a baby would bond us forever - he actually wanted me to be pregnant.

“I had to sit my A-levels with morning sickness and then arrange an abortion. Because of all the other things going on in my life (leaving school, planning university etc) and because the whole thing was so traumatic, I waited until I was 8 weeks pregnant before going to a GP.

“Because I saw a sympathetic GP and was able to see a gynaecologist quickly, and because the waiting list in my area was short, I was able to have an abortion at 10 weeks, which meant a lower risk of complications.

“I don't think the advice is a real issue. It's a red herring. An abortion/termination of pregnancy is a medical procedure. Every medical procedure you have in the UK, you have after being fully informed and signing a consent form. To say women need extra counselling for one particular procedure is patronising as well as derailing from the more important issue, which is the agenda of some members of the government who want to restrict access to abortion.

“The requirement for 'independent' counselling is going to delay abortions, and it isn't necessary. There is no evidence for it.

“In any case, I didn't regret having an abortion, and I feel I was informed well beforehand. To be honest, though, this is a data-rich age and I was already well informed - I had read about what it would entail beforehand.

“Why can't we just assume people will know their own minds, as with any elective surgery?”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
One of the 'princesses' in the video
videoYouTube reinstates sweary video after takedown for 'violating terms'
Sport
Mario Balotelli (left) trudges off at half-time last night, to be substituted during the interval
football
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
Life and Style
tech

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

News
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday

Actress sees off speculation about her face in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

EBD Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

Part Time SEN 1:1 Teacher

£40 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an experience SEN Te...

ICT/Business Studies Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: ICT/Business Studies ...

Front end web developer - URGENT CONTRACT

£250 - £300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT** Our...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?