The abortion debate rumbles on.
Many years ago when I was in my teens and early twenties, I worked for the largest abortion agency in the UK, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. Over the years I had a number of roles there including pregnancy testing and giving results. It often seemed to me that those women who were desperate to become pregnant had negative tests and those who were not had the opposite. Happily, one of my enduring memories of pregnancy testing was seeing a lady whose two small children had tragically died in a house fire. She had been trying to get pregnant for two years and finally got her longed for positive result. We all cried tears of joy with her.
I also ran the contraceptive clinic at BPAS for a while, doing some innovative and sterling work in schools and colleges to prevent pregnancy amongst teenagers. The last role I had there before I left was in the fertility clinic where I coded and stored sperm for artificial insemination by donor. (AID.) It always saddens me when I read strong criticism of BPAS from journalists who only see it as a provider of abortion, it is so much more than that. I won’t go into the arguments for and against termination of pregnancy. I confess I have always been ambivalent about abortion. I believe in a woman’s right to choose but I do think we should have much more post operative support available since contrary to the opinion of some, it is never an easy decision for a woman to make to have an abortion and I know that women can and do grieve terribly after terminating their pregnancies.
My mother grew up in the nineteen hundreds when for nearly three quarters of the century abortion was illegal in the UK. She clearly recalled seeing a young woman being carried away on her street atop a stretcher, bleeding profusely after some botched up job she had suffered at the hands of an illegal abortionist. That is what I fear returning to.
Nadine Dorries, the Conservative MP, and former Labour Minister Frank Field want an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill stipulating that women must be counselled for abortion in the first instance by their GP. The pair argue that counselling of pregnant women must be taken out of the hands of private clinics and given to independent professionals with no financial stake in the outcome of the woman’s decision. But what if your GP’s religious beliefs mean that he or she is unable to support you to have an abortion? I remember many young women over the years, coming along to BPAS for advice when they were 12 – 16 weeks pregnant having been stalled as long as possible by their GP. How wicked is that?
But the real agenda here and without a doubt is very different to simply stating that all women seeking abortion should be able to access independent counselling. Having refused to be public about who is financing their campaign, it now comes to light that funding is coming their way from a group of individuals who are devout Christians. No surprises there then and I think we can be sure that Ms. Dorries and Mr. Field’s hidden agenda is to ensure that women are delayed, confused and refused abortions or at the very least, have pressure put upon them to continue their pregnancy.
We shall know the result on Wednesday this week. The amendment does not have a lot of support. Abortion is already thoroughly regulated in the UK, and like any medical procedure, requires the informed consent of the patient before it can be carried out. Healthcare providers are already legally obliged to provide the patient with all necessary information in order to make an informed decision. However, so strong are the arguments for and against abortion, it polarises public opinion. I have no doubt the debate will rumble on a great deal longer……