Abortion Counselling Plans Called Off


By Hannah Mudge

There was disappointment for Nadine Dorries this week as it was announced that the government has called off a consultation on the way counselling is offered to women considering having an abortion.

The nation's chief womb botherer has been the most vocal politician in a group of MPs who hoped to change the law by stopping abortion providers offering counselling to pregnant women, claiming a "conflict of interest" comes into play.

Yesterday, during a debate in Westminster Hall, health minister Anna Soubry announced that the plans for a consultation were scrapped because the government has no intention of changing the law or guidance on the issue. 

"There is other work we should be doing on counselling. I take the view that this is not the primary function we should be addressing and that is why I have taken the decision that I have," she said.

Last year, Dorries introduced us to her idea that organisations such as the British Pregnancy Advisory Service should not be allowed to provide counselling to pregnant women, claiming instead that they should be offered so-called "independent" advice. For some time it looked as if the government was behind her, which resulted in fury from pro-choice organisations and individuals concerned about her links to anti-choice groups, as well as the charities implicated, justifiably angry that Dorries seemed to be insinuating that they pressure women into having abortions.

dramatic U-turn came soon afterwards, however - David Cameron and other senior members of the government said they planned to vote against Dorries' amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill, the trade-off being that there would be a consultation on the "best" form of counselling for women. Ever since, the cross-party group of MPs looking into the situation has been beset by drama and Dorries hasn't improved matters by taking to Twitter to rant about her colleagues' views on the subject, and spouting misinformation about abortion in her quest to see the 24-week limit reduced.

It's a definite relief, therefore, that Anna Soubry told MPs yesterday that the government plans to concentrate on reducing the number of abortions through increased use of contraception and better counselling - not by reducing the time limit. Dorries accused Soubry of cancelling the consultation because of "her personal beliefs" and announced that she has applied for a new debate to be held in 2013 where MPs will vote on the time limit.

Dorries is keen to see this reduced to 20 weeks and she frequently cites individual cases of babies surviving after being born at 22 and 23 weeks gestation. While it's true that this happens, there have been no significant advances in survival rates in recent years that might cause doctors to change their opinion on the latest stage that an abortion should be performed.

While she may be disappointed with Soubry's announcement, it's obvious that she has no plans to give up on her crusade and that she has increasingly vocal support from anti-choice activists and campaigns such as 40 Days For Life. This "pro-life mobilisation" is currently happening in various cities around the country and has led to confrontations between the pro-life and pro-choice camps with reports of intimidating behaviour, misinformation, and reports that women seeking services have been obstructed and harassed.

Despite the fact that only 1% of abortions are carried out after 20 weeks and that these often take place in extremely difficult circumstances, an enormous amount of focus is being placed on them by anti-choicers. There's been talk of "social abortions", as if it's something women do for fun and not because they might have found themselves in extremely difficult situations due to abuse, poverty, or illness. For some people it's about what they see as the sanctity of life, with others you get the uncomfortable sense that they want to punish women for having sex outside circumstances that they approve of.

It's good to know that the government plans to tackle the issues surrounding abortion in other ways, but as the debate heats up further, you have to wonder what's going to happen next. People on both sides are stepping up their efforts to be heard and it's clear more than ever that the minority of people keen to see access to abortions services reduced want a change in the law sooner rather than later.

Hannah Mudge writes about all things news and feminism-themed for BitchBuzz, and is currently adjusting to life as a new mum. You can also read her blog, We Mixed Our Drinks or follow her tweets as @boudledidge.

POSTED IN: NEWS
Thu, 01 Nov 2012 09:30 (GMT+00)
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