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Philippa Taylor

Make bias history – a call to support moves for independent abortion counselling

Philippa Taylor is Head of Public Policy at CMF. She has an MA in Bioethics from St Mary’s University College and a background in policy work on bioethics and family issues.
The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of CMF.

Many people assume that women considering abortion have access to independent information and advice. In fact there is no legal guarantee that they do.  Where counselling is available, it is often given by the very same private providers that carry out abortions and gain financially from them!

Vulnerable women frequently find themselves on a conveyor belt that leads inexorably towards abortion, with little or no opportunity or time to consider other options, or to be fully informed of any of the risks associated with abortion.

Women cannot be sure that they are getting independent information and advice when it comes from organisations that rely heavily on charging the NHS for each abortion they carry out, and who therefore have a vested financial interest. The so-called independence of counselling by abortion providers will inevitably be compromised by a drive to encourage a decision for abortion. This conflict of interest is like a pension provider giving pension advice. As Rt Hon Frank Field MP, who has tabled the amendment, says: “In the huge scandal of pension mis-selling, Parliament quite rightly took the decision to separate advice from the process of selling. We wish, quite simply, for this basic principle to be applied to the provision of NHS abortions.”

Field, along with Nadine Dorries MP, have together put down amendments concerning the provision of independent information for women considering an abortion, which will be debated next Tuesday, 6 September.  The amendments are tabled to the Health and Social Care Bill and do two things:

Firstly, GPs would be required to ensure that woman considering abortion have access to proper advice, information and counselling. Secondly, they would guarantee that those providing help do not have a vested financial interest in providing abortion.  In other words, the amendment would remove the financial conflict where private abortion clinics currently provide both NHS counselling and abortions. Instead, advice, support and counselling would be available to women via their GP practice, in their own community, before they visit the abortion clinic.

Abortion always generates strong feelings and debate and, as expected, there is widespread media interest in an abortion onhealthy finpecia vote in Parliament.  Despite fear mongering in some of the media about delays to abortion provision counselling would not be made compulsory and access to independent counselling would only need to be offered to women under these amendments. But at the moment, as Dorries says, almost zero counselling is available for any woman presenting at her GP practice with a crisis pregnancy and the little support that is available is mostly provided by the abortion provider.

This has to change. The drive to make abortion swift and easily accessible has meant that many women enter the process confused, without proper information, and unaware of any physical or mental health consequences (despite clear evidence that abortion is linked to mental health problems for some women, along with an increased risk of a later pre-term birth).

The conveyor belt does not stop and make time for information provision on such risks.

Encouragingly, and as we have noted elsewhere, the government has already recognised the need for independent counselling and information on risks of abortion. For example, the Minister for Public Health, Anne Milton has stated that: “women should be given access to tailored, appropriate and impartial advice on their pregnancy options.”  Earl Howe has made similar commitments.

There are still unanswered questions about how to ensure that counselling is truly independent, and who will provide it, but for now there is an urgent need to support moves that will start the process towards this provision. And whilst the government has accepted the need for independent counselling in principle, it is vital that as many MPs as possible also back this.

The voices of health professionals will surely carry weight in this debate, so we strongly encourage as many people as possible to write to their MP prior to the debate on Tuesday.  Please urge your MP to support moves to guarantee that women considering abortion have full and free access to independent information, advice and counselling.

 

For more information about the amendments and what you can do, see the Right to Know Campaign here: http://righttoknow.org.uk/

 

 

Posted by Philippa Taylor
CMF Head of Public Policy

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