The problem: Nadine Dorries MP and Frank Fields MP have proposed an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill which seeks to demonise abortion providers as profit-motivated and biased. The bill is currently under review and its future is uncertain, but this is a good time to remind our representatives of our opinions on these issues.
A solution: Please edit, adapt, or if you’re really rushed, copy and paste the below and send it to your MP. The majority of the British public are pro-choice (see stats below), but the pro-life minority are much more vocal. Let’s do something, quickly!
I am writing to you to express my concern regarding amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill tabled on 31/03/2011 by Nadine Dorries MP and Frank Field MP. These amendments seek to remove responsibility for counselling for women experiencing unwanted pregnancy from organisations like the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, on the grounds that any organisation that provides abortions cannot provide impartial advice to women in this situation. This responsibility would be transferred to GP consortia, who would have to make arrangements for “independent” counselling, which could be provided by a statutory body or a private body which does not provide terminations. They would also transfer the role of drawing up clinical guidelines for abortion provision from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE).
I am pro-choice, and I support women’s access to as many choices as possible when pregnant, including counselling, abortion, support carrying pregnancies to term and support raising their children. I believe that these amendments, should they pass, would be limiting to women’s choices. The amendment would allow GPs to use NHS funding to pay any organisation to provide counselling, as long as that organisation did not provide abortions, and I worry that this role could be taken by crisis pregnancy centres which try to frighten women into not having abortions. Moreover, for women who do want to take up this counselling, providing it in a different location to the procedure itself means more travel and more time off work, and possibly more childcare problems. This will restrict options for lower-income and less privileged women.
Moreover, I think these amendments are part of a move to undermine abortion providers, and to cast aspersions on them of being profit-motivated and not acting in women’s best interests. Ms Dorries has accused the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of belonging to an “incestuous” “abortion industry” in a ConservativeHome blog promoting these amendments and has claimed that women seeking terminations are not told all the relevant information because the people advising them have a vested financial interest in persuading them to abort. Such allegations are very serious and I have seen no evidence to support them. 20% of people the British Pregnancy Advisory Service see choose not to have a termination, and it is a not-for-profit organisation. Ms Dorries has also previously put forward legislation to change the abortion time limit, and I am concerned that these latest amendments are part of a move to make obtaining an abortion increasingly difficult, a tactic that has been used to great effect in the USA.
Some of the reporting surrounding the amendment has suggested that the counselling would be mandatory. My reading of the text is that it makes provision mandatory, but that it will not be compulsory for GPs to refer women to these services or for women to attend. I would welcome any clarification you can offer on this point, as mandatory counselling would present a grave problem.
I urge you to oppose this amendment, and any others that restrict a woman’s right to choose. I would like to remind you that a 2007 GFK/NOP commissioned by Abortion Rights and the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust showed that 77% of people support a woman’s right to choose in the first three months of pregnancy – it is likely that the majority of your constituents, like me, are pro-choice. I look forward to receiving a reply from you on this issue, and I would be very interested to know how you have voted on pro-choice issues in the past, and how you intend to vote in the future.