Life supports vulnerable pregnant women, focussing on crisis pregnancy counselling, education, practical provision (like free baby clothes), and homeless pregnant women. Its mission is ‘to uphold the utmost respect for human life from fertilisation (conception) until natural death’. Stuart Cowie, Life’s head of education responded to its inclusion by saying: “We are delighted to be invited into the group, representing views that have not always been around on similar tables in the past.”
But the Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), has expressed surprise that a group opposed to abortion would be invited to such a forum. It itself is not a member of the new forum (having been part of a previous group which the forum replaces). Meanwhile, former Liberal Democrat MP Dr. Evan Harris is also opposed, saying the inclusion of Life could ‘prevent the advisory panel having frank and open discussions because you have a group there that is committed to opposing current policy.’
It’s worth noting that the Department of Health emphasised the need for a variety of views to be represented, recognising that Marie Stopes (an abortion provider like BPAS) is a member.
Surely the very point of a ‘forum’ is to allow an exchange of views? How can this happen if organisations or individuals who do not ‘toe the line’ over current policy are excluded? The fact that debate has been stifled in the past is not justification for doing so now or in the future.
The latest abortion statistics show that a quarter of abortions in the under-25s took place in those who had undergone a previous termination of pregnancy. Another year-on-year rise in the number of abortions carried out in the UK contributes to a more significant long-term trend, with an 8% rise in abortions over the last decade.
Unsurprisingly, pro-choice groups have called for greater investment in contraceptive services – but even if this happens, will the number of abortions really fall? Wider access to contraception doesn’t seem to have had an impact on the figures over the last few years.
A change in policy will never come about if only groups who support the current policy are allowed to participate in discussion. This reason alone is sufficient to welcome the Department of Health’s inclusion of a group such as Life, and to hope that other such fora also hear a wider range of views in future.
Posted by Laurence Crutchlow
CMF Associate Head of Student Ministries