For a government that wants to increase the role of charities and non-profit organisations in social provision, it is ironic for it to be intervening in an area where charities have long worked to excellent effect. But this is what will happen if the Department of Health changes the rules so that women seeking an abortion must be offered counselling independently of charities, such as Marie Stopes and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, which have offered such advice until now.
The move appears designed to pre-empt an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill that would enshrine such a change in law. But, as so often where abortion is concerned, another agenda can be divined – one that has to do less with offering good advice and more to do with discouragement.
So far, mercifully, Britain has avoided the extreme politicisation of abortion that afflicts the US. But the official climate here could be hardening. In February, the High Court ruled that women having an early medical abortion should not be able to take the second, of two, pills at home. All those who support the right to legal abortion must be alert to changes that restrict access by the back door.