The issue of counselling for women seeking an abortion has been under discussion for some time now. Full plans are due to be announced next week. The campaign has focused on the desirability of securing a more independent advice service for women, and proposes to make it illegal for abortion providers to offer counselling themselves. Objections to the existing situation rest on the fact that abortions are carried out by providers who are only paid if the woman goes ahead with the termination. I do see the logic of this position, but organisations such as BPAS and Marie Stopes are not-for-profits – and in any case I find it quite difficult to imagine that any of its advisers would seek to overpersuade a woman to have an abortion simply for financial gain. However it could be worth looking again at the funding mechanisms to ensure they are more outcome-neutral, if that’s the problem.
The argument that abortion providers should not give advice because of ‘vested interests’ seems less compelling when one reflects that organisations which don’t themselves provide abortion services – i.e. the ones the bill’s supporters want to step into the breach – are likely not to do so because they are strongly pro-life – in other words they may have a still more pressing vested interest. As reported here, it seems that organisations such as LIFE may be bidding to provide the advice abortion clinics will no longer be able to offer. Yet this article suggests that LIFE tries to give women a very strong steer away from abortion, rather than offer balanced, supportive advice.
Cranmer argues that ‘anyone with half a brain … knows that ‘pro-choice’ is simply a euphemism for ‘pro-abortion’?’ This seems an odd way of putting it. If you are pro-choice you are – pro-choice. You think the woman should make her own mind up. It doesn’t mean that you are actively enthusiastic about abortion. If you are anti-choice then you don’t think the woman should have a choice at all. (This isn’t to say that being anti-choice is the wrong position – just that Cranmer’s logic seems a bit topsy turvy.)
I don’t want to suggest that this is an issue which shouldn’t be discussed honestly, or that there is anything wrong with campaigning for a change in the law. But there do seem to be problems in the rationale being offered for this particular change. On that note I’d like to commend this comment on a Telegraph blog – the writer would appear to have strong reservations about abortion, from a religious perspective, but also identifies the flaws in the arguments used by some supporters of this proposed legislation.