Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Stand up for women's right to choose

Brook knows from our long history of providing pregnancy choices counselling that when a young woman finds out she is pregnant she needs support from a highly skilled professional who provides a safe space where she can understand her choices fully, and enables her to make her own decisions about whether or not to continue the pregnancy without fear of judgement or reprise. That is, I believe the right of any (young) woman who wants counselling.

This counselling for women (who may or may not go on to have an abortion) is in the news because the Health and Social Care Bill is before Parliament next week. If successful an amendment to the Bill, laid down by Frank Field and Nadine Dorries, would stop those who provide abortion such as BPAS and Marie Stopes to provide that counselling. This is an unnecessary and unhelpful amendment based on the premise that those who provide abortions are driven by profit - Hmm - interesting they are non profits. And they are regulated by Care Quality Commission.

Field said on Newsnight last night that he had no evidence of 'wrong doing'. He went on to say there was no evidence of mis-selling pensions until it was investigated. As Zoe Williams writing in the Guardian today said 'then lets investigate' instead of aiming to use backstreet politics to create policy and legislation based on myth, misinformation and lies.

I won't rehearse those myths and lies here, but this amendment is dangerous. It is dangerous for a number of reasons. Firstly it is not based on science nor is there evidence of a problem that needs fixing. Secondly stopping those who provide abortions will delay and block access - this still happens too much anyway. We really don't need more delays and blocks in the system. Those distressed young women who contact Brook because they have been blocked or experienced unbearable delays bear witness to that. And it is dangerous because the motivation of some organisations who currently provide counselling and seek to provide more 'independent counselling' is to frighten and scare women away from abortion thus restricting their right to choose (see Education for Choice mystery shopping report for more information

Finally it is dangerous because abortion law and policy cannot be driven by anything other than science. That is wrong. Other attacks such as the one on the time limit can only have legs if abortion law becomes separated from science.

Those (young) women faced with a decision to make about whether to continue with her pregnancy WANTING counselling deserve the highest standard counselling which is non-judgemental, non-directive and impartial. Full stop. This amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill will not take us closer to that goal. I urge you to write to your MP NOW and tell them you oppose the proposed changes to pregnancy choices counselling. Follow this link to FPA's website and find out how

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