Abortion rules changes allow dangerously biased counselling

Nadine Dorries and Frank Field contend that the existing organisations that offer pre-abortion counselling – Marie Stopes and BPAS – must give biased and flawed counselling because they are only paid if they carry out an abortion. One blogger saysThere is an evident bias because companies like BPAS and Marie Stopes are profit-making businesses and have a vested interest in procuring abortion: when women are dissuaded, it hits the profit margin.

I have used the same argument myself against private companies hired by the DWP to carry out disability assessments so I can sort of see their point. Dorries’ solution is to change the law so that counselling cannot be given by an abortion provider. It seems reasonable to me, on the face of it, however there are problems with this approach.

  • It isn’t actually compulsory for a woman to undergo counselling prior to an abortion at all, and many argue that to make it compulsory is inherently sexist, and to do so is to to assume that a woman is not in control of her own mind and emotions.
  • Having to go to a different provider places an extra step in the way of women who want abortions. That step alone may dissuade some from an abortion. This seems to be Dorries’ intention.
  • Dorries is framing this as giving women more choice and more information. However, Dorries herself simply wants to reduce abortions which is actually less choice. Her previous attempts to get the deadline for abortions reduced from 24 to 20 weeks with no basis in evidence of any kind proves this.
  • These proposals are on track to be implemented as a regulatory change without being subjected to a parliamentary vote. Dorries and Field have been in discussion with Andrew Lansley to implement the change. This is not democracy.
  • Outside organisations that offer counselling for pregnant women are largely Christian or otherwise religious in nature. Religious counselling is not wanted by most people who are not religious themselves.
  • Current organisations offering counselling have been found to offer information that is heavily biased and even plain wrong, in order to scare women away from having an abortion.
I have written before on the subject of abortion, and I have said that I don’t like it. However, it is not my place to determine what a woman does, and whether or not she must have an unwanted baby, and neither is it the place of the government or of religious activists. This effort to reduce abortion seems to be part of a larger effort by right-wing Christians to impose their morals on a country that is largely not Christian. It goes hand-in-hand with the Tory desire to force women to stay married and to keep women in the home and raising children. It seems fairly clear that this whole change brought forward by Dorries and Field is an effort to impose their desire for less abortions on the general public, not to allow more choice, and they have no evidence of any kind on which to base their desire to change things.

Relevant links

The Telegraph: Abortion rules to be tightened in biggest shake-up for a generation

The Guardian: Ministers back anti-abortion lobby reforms


The Catholic Church and abortion to save a life

This story in the Seattle Times (Now also in the Guardian) tells us about a Catholic hospital that has had its affiliation with the church withdrawn because they performed an abortion that was the only way to save the mothers life. The woman in question was suffering from pulmonary hypertension, which could only be resolved by ending her pregnancy. Doctors gave her a 100% chance of dying within hours.

The story has been picked and written about by a prominent atheist and denounced as proof that the church is evil. Although I left the Catholic church a couple of years ago in protest at several other teachings that I disagree with, I rushed to comment and defend the church. I wanted to say that this was a misreading of what the church teaches, that it was just this Bishop that was wrong. Except that I couldn’t.

I was always under the impression that the Catholic Church would allow an abortion if it would save the life of the mother and otherwise both mother and baby would die. However on reading the catechism and New Advent it seems that I am wrong. The catechism is absolutely clear that abortion is never allowed and it makes no mention of abortion as an accidental result of life-saving medical treatment. The only exception that I could find in New Advent says

However, if medical treatment or surgical operation, necessary to save a mother’s life, is applied to her organism (though the child’s death would, or at least might, follow as a regretted but unavoidable consequence), it should not be maintained that the fetal life is thereby directly attacked.

While this allows for providing life-saving medical treatment that might inadvertantly cause an abortion, it makes no exception for performing an abortion if ending the pregnancy itself is the only way to save the mothers life.

I cannot agree with this view. What sense does it make to condemn both mother and baby to death? There is no way that I can defend the punishment of those doctors that saved a mothers life, after convening their hospitals ethics committee too, I should add. The staff at this hospital do their utmost save lives and ease suffering and to abide by the ethical and moral code of the hospital and the church. To those atheists that say the churches decision is evil; I can’t argue that you are wrong.