Gavin Shuker, Labour MP for Luton South, called for an Adjournment Debate on pregnancy counselling which was held yesterday in the House of Commons.
This debate covered the Amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill tabled by Nadine Dorries MP and Frank Field MP which proposed changed to abortion counselling requirements. Oh, you thought the fact that it was comprehensively rejected by Parliament in September meant it was over? Ha! And again ha!
One constituent claimed not to have been offered counselling and that her boyfriend had pressured her into an abortion “I was crying and screaming as I went for the abortion but they still went through with it…It is the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing at night.”
Another constituent, Patricia says she too was not offered counselling but given a pill and sent home.
Shuker followed these anecdotes with the foreboding “It is tempting to dismiss these experiences, but they are real”. They are also, thankfully, in the minority.
Shuker, Dorries and Fields et al claim that the current, regulated, abortion care in the UK is too biased in favour of abortion and does not provide adequate counselling services. Services are accused of pushing abortion for financial gain.
Far too often it is assumed that all those entering a clinic are on their way to have an abortion. Before we go any further let’s just list the services Bpas provides.
People entering such a clinic could be going for-
- A vasectomy – which would reduce abortions, does that sound like the actions of a clinic trying to make money by flushing foetuses?
- A vasectomy reversal – For men who have made a choice with their partner that they would like a child.
- A discussion about erectile dysfunction
- STI testing
- Contraceptive advice and provision
- Pregnancy Testing
- And of course, counselling. Available before and after an abortion.
On the Bpas website they carry the warning,
“Please be aware that some organisations advertising free pregnancy testing and counselling on the internet and in phone books are strongly opposed to abortion…If they talk about abortion as an option at all, it may involve negative…or untrue claims, or statistics.”
This is the fear regarding these independent services being touted by a collection of MPs. Obfuscations regarding mental health, fertility and abortion providers could be used, delaying the pregnant woman in making her choice.
Andrew Selous MP was present at the debate and mentioned, “I have a wonderful lady in my constituency, Sarah Richards, who receives no funding for the women who come to her. She does not badger them in any direction.”
Why Mr Selous didn’t feel he needed to elaborate on Sarah Richards is beyond me. All we need to know is that he reckons she should be paid, just as Bpas is.
For all we know Ms Richards is a very popular cashier at Tesco in Bedfordshire. ‘Oh she’s a little nosy but she knows what she’s talking about when it comes to other people’s foetuses’.
This omission is odd in itself. It also brings up the question how independent services would or could be monitored.
Sarah Richards runs a crisis pregnancy service called Options (thanks Google) but beyond a twitter feed with tweets such as ““Watching the story of the woman on @itvthismorning about her Downs baby abortion. Just makes me cry” and “the lady's abortion story is sadly all too familiar. When will we wake up as a nation and allow women time.” I can’t find any evidence of training in counselling.
Currently abortion clinics are regulated by the Department of Health and the Care Quality Commission. They must adhere to clinical guidelines established by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
Evidently some women have not received the service they needed. If these women felt mistreated when they requested an abortion then their concerns do need to be addressed. The answer is surely not, however, to open up such a delicate and sensitive service to all and sundry.
Throughout this debate the absence of important questions loomed every larger. Why was the debate seemingly started on the notion no woman knows her own mind? How come men took a greater part in this debate (4 male MPs and 3 female MP’s spoke)? If counselling is so important, why not work to make it free to all those seeking abortion advice? Why was the subject of contraception not broached until Anne Milton MP took the floor?
If we can’t ask the right questions, we won’t get the right solutions. MPs need to be braver when discussing abortion and the importance of reproductive rights. The Pro-Choice mustn’t be cowed by the Anti-Choice’s implication that it means Pro-foeticide or Pro-abortion.
Pro- Choice means every child a wanted child; every abortion a wanted and safe abortion.