Pro-lifers should be wary of mandatory counselling before abortion

Pro-lifers protest against abortion outside the Houses of Parliament (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

I have blogged about abortion before; it is hard to avoid the subject. When I do, there is invariably a post in reply that tells me how smug my views are in the light of the abortion this person had to have for medical reasons and which has caused anguish ever since. I am deeply sorry for their experience – but I still maintain that abortion is never the solution to a social or medical predicament. Indeed, it is the opposite.

The subject is on my radar again because when I was driving my disabled daughter to her day centre yesterday I turned on the car radio. It was Woman’s Hour and Jane Garvey, the host, was interviewing Nadine Dorries MP and Ann Furedi, chief executive of BPAS (formerly the British Pregnancy Advisory Service). Dorries, along with Frank Field MP, is pushing for an amendment to the forthcoming Health and Social Care Bill which would transfer responsibility for drawing up clinical guidelines on abortion from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) to Nice (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence).

Nice is accountable to Parliament; the RCOG isn’t. Furthermore, as Dorries has pointed out elsewhere, of the 18 members of the RCOG who have drawn up the draft guidelines, 11 are identifiable as abortionists; thus they have a vested interest. Not surprisingly, the RCOG declined to take part in the programme.

Dorries and Furedi argued politely but there is clearly no love lost between them. Dorries challenged the kind of counselling that Furedi says BPAS gives to vulnerable women, given that the abortion industry generates an income of £60 million a year. Another vested interest? In its mission statement BPAS says, “We support reproductive choice by advocating and providing high quality, affordable service to prevent or end unwanted pregnancy with contraception or by abortion.” Quite so. It tells its clients that “If you are considering abortion it’s important to know that you’re not alone. One in three women in Britain will have an abortion by the time they are 45 years old.” Quite so.

Although Dorries and Furedi have different perspectives, it must be pointed out that Dorries is not pro-life. She supports “a woman’s right to choose”; she simply wants such a choice to be properly informed. In another amendment to the Bill she and Frank Field have pushed to create a new precondition for any woman having an abortion to receive advice and counselling from an organisation that does not itself carry out abortions.

Some pro-life campaigners are wary of this, for good reason. It would establish a condition to be met in order to qualify for an abortion. What information would be given to women? Who would give it? If counselling were required, some sort of certification would also be required. If pro-life groups were to give this counselling they would have to issue certificates. This was the very situation in Germany with Church groups who got involved. In 1998 and 1999 the late pope, John Paul II, wrote to the German bishops instructing them to stop Church counselling services from issuing certificates that could then be used to obtain an abortion. Mandatory counselling might sound a good thing but it is not as straightforward as one might think.