Archive for the ‘Abortion’ Category

pink range rover

More valuable than a baby?

A girl named Josie Cunningham, who is by all accounts  (in)famous has given an interview in the Daily Mirror stating that she intends to abort her 18 week-old unborn child later this week, in order that she can appear on Big Brother, ‘be famous, drive a pink land rover and buy a big house.’

The story merits comment and not for the obvious reasons; from reading a little bit about her and learning that she is unclear as to whether or not the father of the baby is a premiership footballer, a friend, or a former client (who happens to be a surgeon) from a period when she was working as a prostitute escorting, it is evident that here is an extremely vulnerable young woman who is a product of our consumer culture and who has very little self-esteem or sense of worth.

There is the possibility that Josie’s public deliberations over whether or not to keep her unborn baby is part of a cynical attempt to boost her fame and manipulate Channel 5 into accepting her as a contestant, however one has to feel desperately sorry for someone who feels driven to seek attention in such dramatic fashion, as well as for her unborn baby – the equivalent of a chance or community chest card on the celebrity monopoly board, with his or her life hanging in the balance.

The most responsible course of action for any media outlet would have been to completely ignore Josie instead of attempting to validate and endorse her search for fame and attention, until she actually did anything of merit. What message does this story send out to young girls today? Get the NHS to pay for breast augmentation as Josie did, generate publicity, become an escort, have a controversial abortion and your route to fame and fortune is guaranteed?! Is this really the sort of career investment which should be funded by the taxpayer? Does the potential future tax revenue from Josie’s career allow the state to co-opt her sexual exploitation by funding her unnecessary surgery and picking up her abortion tab? Are notions of self-improvement constrained to physical appearance  or economic contributions? Is this what constitutes social responsibility?

Whatever the outcome of Josie’s decision, her life and that of her child, even if she does go ahead with the pregnancy seems set to be blighted unless she gets out of the spotlight. The public needs to unlearn its habit of eager voyeurism which feeds the public car-crash of so many celebrity lives. How is her baby going to feel knowing that their mother publicly discussed getting rid of them? What about the impact upon her other two young children?

As Josie shows no inclination of keeping a low profile, Channel 5 should accept her as a contestant on Big Brother, only on the condition that she remains pregnant. If it is in fact true that negotiations stalled following revelations of her pregnancy, as a feminist statement Big Brother ought to prove that it embraces pregnancy in the workplace. Josie’s progression through pregnancy would provide a far more diverting narrative than their usual diet of has-beens resurrecting petty dressing-room squabbles of twenty years ago.

According to a poll currently running in the Mirror, 92% respondents have said that they will not watch Big Brother if Josie appears on the show having had an abortion which demonstrates the British public’s natural antipathy towards social abortion. Contrary to feminist rhetoric it is not seen merely as a woman’s choice, but rather as a necessary evil. That so many people have expressed their disgust, shows that we see an 18 week old baby as deserving of dignity, respect and above all, life.

This also busts open the popular idea that late-stage abortions are only due to difficult circumstances, Josie demonstrates a mindset which puts her own perceived needs and ambitions above the life of her child, regardless of their stage of development. It doesn’t matter that she might have felt her little boy or girl kick and move, it is her right to end her baby’s life right up until the 24 week limit if it interferes with her ambitions or plans. The published photographs of Josie posing with a visible four-month bump containing a baby who might never be born cause distress, irrespective of whether or not one takes a Catholic or absolutist position on abortion.

While no-one should condone the online abuse that Josie has suffered, it is difficult to feel sympathy for a woman who is exploiting her decision as to whether or not to end her baby’s life to make money and it will be particularly hard to swallow for those who have experienced the agony of miscarriage or infertility. Scrolling through her timeline, the insults and negativity is not emanating from professing Catholics or Christians, but from young people who are revolted by such blatant disregard for a baby’s life.

If, as Josie claims, she wants to beat the trolls, then actually the best thing she can do is to go ahead with the baby and prove her moral fibre as well as her ability to be a good mother. Who could really enjoy a house or car purchased with cash drenched in the blood of an unborn baby?

When the abortion act was passed, Baroness Knight was jeered at and derided for her ‘emotive’ speech in Parliament when she stated that the law would lead to abortion on demand and that unborn children could be disposed of on a whim. She was accused of scare-mongering.

Any doctor who signs a HSA1 form agreeing to this abortion should be prosecuted as it is a clear breech of the law. If it is illegal, as Earl Howe, under-secretary for Health has recently confirmed, to abort a baby on the grounds of gender, then how can be legal to abort one on the grounds of ‘being an impediment to a pink range rover’?

How does not appearing on a reality show as a result of being pregnant constitute a grave threat to mental health, greater than that of having a baby? Surely by aborting her baby so that she may be free to continue to sexually objectify herself and define the role of female reality TV contestants, Josie Cunningham participates in her own oppression and that of women overall?

How can this choice, especially when the potential fathers of the child have expressed their wish for him or her to be born, be in any way justified? The term ‘anti-choice’ has just lost its sting.

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Three weeks after Fr Ray Blake wrote this post on Thursday 3 September, we discovered that our unborn baby Raphael had died in utero at my 12 week scan, at around 11 weeks gestation.

Raphael was provisionally scheduled to be born tomorrow, 25 March 2014 via elective c-section. It felt like a fortuitous date, not only being the feast of the Annunciation, but it’s also the tenth birthday of my eldest daughter. Our Lady has manifested herself in one way or another in all of my pregnancies – for example, I discovered that I was expecting another of my daughters on the Feast of the Assumption.

No doubt I shall find tonight’s Channel 4, Despatches, difficult viewing, both in terms of content and timing.

As I have written about previously, we were given the remains of our baby to take home and store in the fridge, following medical management of miscarriage. Their body was fully and perfectly formed, only in miniature, which can be verified by a simple internet image search of what a foetus of 11 weeks gestation might look like.

Earlier on this year, I did an interview with the national press as to the horrific circumstances surrounding our miscarriage. Robin had worked in the funeral industry and therefore knew that the hospital could store the baby’s remains, prior to the funeral directors picking them up for burial or cremation. He had done this previously for clients, reputable funeral directors will not charge for the basic cost of children’s funerals (obviously flowers and other disbursements such as a headstone are chargeable) and thought that this would be the normal procedure.

According to a leaflet that can be downloaded  here  issued by the Royal Sussex County Hospital you need to sign a P2 form in order for the mortuary to keep the remains. We therefore asked for this option when I was presented with a P1 form to sign which gives consent for mass cremation, prior to the procedure to induce delivery. Although we were not aware of the disgusting abuses which will be highlighted in tonight’s programme, that babies’ remains could be used to generate heat for hospitals, we knew that there was the possibility for error and that they could potentially be disposed of as clinical waste. Hospital procedure seems to be to shepherd parents into signing the P1 form for mass cremation if they have suffered an early loss.

It was important for us to mark the loss of our baby correctly for a number of reasons;  to acknowledge their humanity, to grieve for him or her, mark his/her brief existence here on earth, accord him/her the dignity and respect s/he deserved as a human being and to pray for Raphael. We felt it was our duty as parents, the one thing we could do to mark our love. Robin in particular felt that it was his duty – it was the one thing that he could do for his baby, ensure that he or she had a proper, dignified and holy funeral and he wanted to accompany the baby to their final resting place.

As the experience bore similarity to the medical abortion I had undergone back in 1997, albeit at an earlier stage, as can be imagined, things had a particular and awful resonance, bringing home in painfully sharp and vivid detail, the lack of respect, dignity and love that had been shown to a previous child who deserved so much more. This dreadful issue of how babies’ bodies have been mistreated throws what happens in abortion clinics and what they do with their remains, into sharp and terrible relief.

When we told the staff of our wish to make private arrangements for our baby they seemed nonplussed, this was obviously an unusual request, but said that they would sort it out. The nurse later returned to us and told us that it wasn’t possible for them to store the remains and we would have to organise matters ourselves, which would mean taking them home with us.

Thus it was, that on the morning of 3 October 2013, I was discharged from the gynaecology ward, clinging to Robin for dear life, following a horrific night in which the process of miscarrying the baby brought about a terrific blood loss, requiring some ad-hoc surgery at 1am on the ward as no theatre was available and for a few hours of IV fluids. Therefore as they gave me the form to sign from the previous day which they had amended to state that we wanted to take the remains home, I didn’t think to quibble or query. I was exhausted, could barely stand, emotionally overwrought and just wanted to go home to my own bed and sleep.

It didn’t occur to me to say “Hang on, can I have the P2 form, you’ve just crossed out the details on the P1″ or “why can’t you look after my baby”? I was tired, vulnerable and was doing as I was told. The hospital said that they wouldn’t store the remains, I wasn’t in the mood to fight with them over it, or ask why not. Maybe it’s a uniquely British trait, a class thing or a mixture of the two but like so many,  meekly accepted what I was told and fell in line with procedure.

I’ve blurred out my personal identity details, but here is the form I signed. You can see it is a modified P1, not the P2 specified on the leaflet. How many women dealing with the aftermath of a miscarriage, really think to quibble over paperwork. Robin thought it odd that the hospital wouldn’t help us by keeping the baby – but I was too tired to quibble over this wording which they had written in – “couple has requested to take remains home” and just signed what was put in front of me.

Baby Raphael Release form

We didn’t ask to take home our ‘products of conception’.

So it was, we found ourselves leaving the ward, taking the cramped tiny lift down from level 11 of the Thomas Kemp tower, so familiar to us and any families or women who have had a baby in Brighton. It was one of the most painful experiences of our married life. The lift had so many previous happy associations with pregnancy, maternity and newborns, we had carried three of our newborn children down to the car, their tiny bodies bundled in a blanket and strapped into the carseat, ready to face the world, and this time there was nothing to show for the familiar trek, aside from a tiny body in a jar in Robin’s pocket. As we were leaving the ward they apologised that they had nothing more appropriate than a sample jar, to which a generic printed label was affixed advising that the remains ought to be refrigerated.

Just as we’d stepped in the lift, another couple with their beautiful newborn in a carseat sprouting a full head of hair and a healthy pink bloom joined us. The air was heavy with anticipation and excitement. They were wearing the exhausted but happy look, intermingled with a pinch of panic and disbelief, which is the exclusive preserve of parents. We were probably the first strangers they had met since leaving the ward. What a lovely baby you have, I said, trying not to let the words catch in my throat or let on any hint of tragedy lest I should cast any hint of sadness on their special day, or spoil their big moment, trying not to think of the lifeless pallid corpse in my husband’s pocket.

So we got home, I went to bed and Robin did what the label told him to and placed the baby in the spare inbuilt  fridge we use for beakers of drinks and snacks, where they remained for the next week, before we obtained a casket and buried the baby in the grounds of our parish church. Looking back on it, I can’t quite believe that we actually did that, we put our baby in our drinks fridge! I guess we were in a state of shock and so it was easier just to mindlessly follow instructions. We stopped the children from going into the kitchen and helping themselves during that period for obvious reasons, but every time I open the fridge door, I have to rid myself of the image in my head.

The press pulled the story for legal reasons as the Royal Sussex County hospital denied that they would ever treat anyone in such a way and that we must have definitely requested to take the remains home ourselves. When you compare our story with Fr Ray’s parishioner and other testimonies about the Royal Sussex, it definitely raises questions about their attitude, especially when one sees the disrespect with which the bodies of other babies were treated around the country. Both of us have been left angered by the implication by the Royal Sussex that we are lying. No grieving parents would wish to have to take home their baby’s remains.

At least we have the comfort of knowing that we did the right thing by our baby. Our mistrust that they may not treat the remains with the respect they deserve was not unmerited. How awful for any parent who miscarried at those particular hospitals, knowing what may have happened to their babies.

This is what happens in a society with such a disrespect for the life of the unborn. I wonder what those who advocate for abortion up until birth, or at a much later stage would make of this? It takes the concept of green energy to a new level.

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I’ve written the following to my local MP. It may be too lengthy, but do feel free to copy and paste and plagiarise at will when writing to your local MP, as strongly suggested by LIFE charity. One wag from there tweeted that the government’s consultation with BPAS and Marie Stopes as to these new procedures was like asking advice from the fox on how to secure the chicken coop. Couldn’t have put it better myself!
I may also meet with Mr Weatherly, not only about this issue, but to ask him why on earth we should vote for him when he has explicitly suggested to David Cameron that churches who do not perform same-sex ‘marriages’ should be stripped of their licence to perform weddings. Voting for him would seem to be akin to a turkey voting for Christmas, but hey-ho, let’s see if he can manage to win back Catholic and Christian support on this issue. There is a vibrant politically engaged Catholic and Evangelical community in Brighton and Hove for whom life issues are crucial in deciding where to put the cross on the ballot paper.
Dear Mr Weatherly
On Monday of this week, I was invited in my capacity as a Catholic columnist and broadcaster to debate by Oxford University’s Students for Life organisation, the following motion “This House regrets the passing of the 1967 Abortion Act” against Kate Smurthwaite, feminist comedian and deputy-chairman of the organisation Abortion Rights.
In the course of conducting some research for the debate, I came across some very telling speeches from Hansard, where even pro-choice politicians were denying that the proposed bill would lead to abortion on demand.
In particular David Steel, one of the original architects of the bill said this:
“We want to stamp out the back-street abortions, but it is not the intention of the Promoters of the Bill to leave a wide open door for abortion on request.”
This tallies with his subsequent remarks made in December 2013 in which he referred to the almost 200,000 abortions which take place in Britain on an annual basis and said that he never envisaged that there would be so many abortions. 
Another MP, Jill Knight, now Baroness Knight, had this to say in her speech to the house:
Although I have been sympathetic to this Bill, I could never go all the way with the suggestion that there should be abortion on demand, which, of course, is what subsection (1, c) actually means. This subsection is so wide and so loose that any woman who felt that her coming baby would be an inconvenience would be able to get rid of it.
There is something very wrong indeed about this. Babies are not like bad teeth to be jerked out just because they cause suffering. An unborn baby is a baby nevertheless. Would the sponsors of the Bill think it right to kill a baby they can see? Of course they would not. Why then do they think it right to kill one they cannot see? It seems to me that this is a most important point. I have come to believe that those who support abortion on demand do so because in all sincerity they cannot accept that an unborn baby is a human being. Yet surely it is. Its heart beats, it moves, it sleeps, it eats. Uninterfered with, it has a potential life ahead of it of 70 years or more ; it may be a happy life, or a sad life ; it may be a genius, or it may be just plain average ; but surely as a healthy, living baby it has a right not to be killed simply because it be may inconvenient for a year or so to its mother.”
Her speech was greeted with uproar, she was rebuked by the Speaker of the house for being ‘emotional’ when she described the abortion process, which consists of dismembering the unborn child and her prediction that subsection 1,c of the Act would lead to abortion on demand was poo-poohed as exaggeration. 
Those who enacted the 1967 Abortion Act, did so whilst promising that abortion would not be available upon demand. These promises are clearly not being kept and the law routinely broken.
In the UK, more than 200,000 abortions take place every year, which is a total of almost 7 million, in the forty-five years since the 1967 Abortion Act was passed. This amounts to almost a tenth of the UK population who are missing. 
An official review carried out by the National Collaborating Centre for mental health in 2011, stated that abortion does not improve mental health outcomes for women with unplanned pregnancies, despite the fact that over 98% of the abortions performed in the UK every year are done so under mental health grounds, leading Dr Peter Saunders, of the Christian Medical Fellowship, to posit that they are in fact technically illegal. 
The former Conservative health secretary, Andrew Lansley took steps to introduce some further, un-debated and undemocratic changes to current abortion law provision. Disturbingly he has removed the requirement for a woman to be seen by the two doctors who need by law to authorise her abortion. 
This provision was put into the law precisely to protect women from exploitation, recognising the serious and grave nature of abortion, that it ends a human life, a definition which even Ann Furedi Chief Executive of BPAS, the UK’s single largest independent provider of abortions would accept. According to the draft Revised Standard Operating Procedures, (RSOPs) published as part of the public consultation, one which was incidentally, not widely publicised, doctors will no longer be required to meet with a woman before signing off upon her abortion, this instead will be left to a ‘multi-disciplinary’ team which could include people who have no medical or nursing training. 
It’s worth noting that in 2008, when he was shadow health secretary, Andrew Lansley advocated removal of the two doctor rule, during the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill in his second reading speech, however he later backed off following adverse publicity and an amendment aimed at dispensing the two doctor rule, was never debated or voted upon.
Mr Lansley’s proposals were not posted on the government’s website until 6 months after  the abortion clinics were issued with them and neither were they publicly announced. 
The consultation surrounding them has now closed and the Department of Health is about to release these new guidelines to abortion clinics and doctors. At no point have these new proposals which radically alter the implementation and spirit of the Abortion Act been debated. 
I am also disturbed to learn that in response to a question from Fiona Bruce MP, the Public Health Minister, Jane Ellison MP has confirmed that the department of health had general discussions about the Abortion Act with BPAS and Marie Stopes International, and said that there are no plans to consult on a draft as the new proposals are designed to to set out the department’s interpretation of the law. I note that no post-abortive women have been consulted as to their views and experiences. 
Speaking from my perspective of a woman who has suffered serious consequences following an abortion procedure, which was performed in a similar type of fashion to the proposals suggested by the Department of Health, this rubber-stamping attitude caused me a lot of harm. I was not administered the medication to terminate my pregnancy by a doctor, nor was I seen by a doctor at any stage during my abortion procedure, despite the fact that I suffered from severe and abnormal bleeding. Neither was it ever explained to me that I could expect to experience a form of labour, that the bleeding could be extremely heavy, painful and prolonged. At no point did I ever receive any sort of counselling, I did not even know that this was available. My appointment consisted of my telling a woman (I have no idea if she was medically qualified or not) of the predicament I found myself in and being told that it would be irresponsible to have a baby, although there were no medical facts that would indicate that either my physical or mental health would be at risk. 
My mental health was however, compromised as a result of the procedure. 
It is an undeniable fact that not only does abortion end a human life, but it also causes very real harm to many women, either physically, emotionally or both. 
Abortion procedures need to be tightened up, as my experience shows women are already deprived of the support and information that they need from the abortion clinics when faced with a crisis pregnancy. 
Making abortion routine in this fashion, normalises the taking of human life, as well as causing untold harm to the women affected. 
Perhaps most importantly from your perspective, there is massive public opposition to these proposed changes. According to a Com Res poll on 7 March, 90% of women believe that women seeks an abortion should always be seen by a qualified doctor. 80% felt that a woman’s health would be put at risk if she was not seen by two doctors. Another 80% said that doctors who lie about having seen patients should be prosecuted and well over half believed that the two doctor requirement should be more rigourously policed in private clinics. 
We have recently seen the abhorrent practice of gendercide whereby unborn babies are aborted solely due to their female sex been exposed as occurring in UK abortion clinics. This relaxation of the rules does nothing to prevent this abuse. 
The 1967 Abortion Act was brought in on the grounds of compassion in very limited cases and yet it is routinely contravened and has caused untold harm to mothers and babies alike. 
Regardless of your view on abortion, I would like to seek your opinion on whether or not a government minister can or should re-write statue law on such a vital issue in such a clandestine and undemocratic fashion, without public approval. 
As my democratically elected MP in the key marginal seat of Hove, I would very much welcome your views on this issue. 
I refer you to this excellent and comprehensive article by Dr Peter Saunders on how David Cameron’s Conservative party has presided over the largest liberalisation of the Abortion Act since 1967, without a democratic mandate. 
Yours sincerely
Caroline Farrow

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Recently when the largely manufactured ‘scandal’ surrounding pro-life counselling and crisis pregnancy centres (CPCS) hit the headlines, some members of the pro-life movement were extremely keen to denounce un-scientific or allegedly un-ethical practice and disassociate themselves from such groups, in order that they would not be tarred with the same brush.

While this was understandable in many ways, I have come to the conclusion that harsh and over-the-top criticisms (of which I have been personally guilty myself) should be avoided where possible and any  public critique or correction should be done with charity. With that in mind, it is nonetheless important that if the pro-life movement wants to be afforded any credibility, that we do not seek to ignore or brush under the carpet any errors but rather confront the charges often laid at our door by pro-choicers and if they have any validity, publicly seek to address any shortcomings both in terms of attitudes, approaches and information given out to women.

It is in this spirit that I therefore wish to offer the following comment.

This morning, a story has appeared in the Daily Mail, regarding the case of a pregnant woman who was seconds away from taking pills to terminate her pregnancy following a diagnoses of pre-natal death. Fortunately the mother insisted upon a second scan when she returned to the hospital a few days later which demonstrated that her baby was in fact alive. The little girl has now been born, is making good progress despite being born with some congenital abnormalities, the NHS trust involved has come to an out of court settlement and most importantly changed their procedures to ensure that women are always given access to a second scan to confirm the original diagnoses before taking any action to end the pregnancy.

Admittedly I am extremely sensitive about this topic, not least because it is about now that I would have been giving birth to our baby Raphael, had he or she lived. Nonetheless, it was disappointing to see this story being picked up and spun by the normally responsible Life Charity, as follows:

I’m not denying that it is an important pro-life story and no doubt it will be picked by SPUC in their regular news round-up, however there is little point in highlighting a problem, without suggesting a viable solution. The point which is being missed, not only by the Daily Mail, but also by LIFE, is not that a woman should have multiple scans as screening is allegedly often wrong, rather that she should have access to a second independent expert opinion, as soon as possible after the original diagnosis.

In the case of Mrs Wiggins, the lady featured in the story, she should not have been sent home without a second opinion or confirmation as to the status of the baby. A second scan should not be offered days later, or immediately preceding a termination, but on the same day as the diagnosis. No woman beyond 10 weeks in pregnancy should be sent home with a provisional diagnosis that her baby has probably died but she needs to come back a few days later or in a week’s time to confirm.

If you are told that your baby has died, you should be in no doubt whatsoever, and, to be fair, cases like this are thankfully rare. Recently there has been a question mark over the diagnoses of early miscarriages, which means that organisations concerned with maternal health need to work together to ensure that existing guidelines are adhered to and the advice given to women should include advice to seek a second opinion as well as a wait and see approach before terminating a suspected silent miscarriage in the very early stages, where there is often a margin of error in terms of  dates and measurements.

I found the story distressing, as would any woman who had experienced a silent miscarriage, because like Mrs Wiggins I only had one scan and this therefore raises the horrifying possibility that I may have terminated a living child. In my case I am as confident as I can ever be that the baby had died, for a number of reasons. Firstly, the person carrying out the scan spent quite a long time examining the baby in silence before telling me that there was no heartbeat and I could see for myself that the baby was not moving. Secondly, the scan was not carried about by a midwife on a maternity ward, but a qualified  radiographer who specialised in ultrasound. Thirdly, her diagnosis was not only confirmed by her colleague recording the measurements, but a third party, whom she immediately telephoned and asked them to come to verify her findings. So while the scan  took place on a single occasion, it was confirmed by 3 different medical professionals.

This should be the model of care for all women in order to minimse distress and enable them to take the decision as to their next course of action. In my case what continued to cause distress, was due to the fact that this had occurred at the end of the first trimester, my body had not acknowledged that the baby had died and so was continuing to chuck out pregnancy hormones meaning that the foetal sac was still growing and I was still feeling pregnant and growing larger. As can be imagined I am acutely sensitive to any suggestion that I may have inadvertently killed a healthy baby, as would most women be who were in a similar situation. Casting doubt over whether or not the diagnoses were correct, is irresponsible unless you are going to offer supportive resources.

Which is why pro-life groups need to ensure that they don’t jump on sensational stories which could compound the hurt and distress of women, but offer a measured response, including reassurance that these cases are in the minority and that if there is room for any doubt, then women should not rush to terminate a suspected silent miscarriage. Better still join forces with miscarriage support groups to campaign for better treatment.

What doesn’t help is using this case to cast doubt upon the reliability of pre-natal screening. Recently there have been some notable mistakes with parents mistakenly told that their babies are disabled, but in the majority of cases, the diagnoses are correct and parents take the agonising decision to abort after several detailed scans at a later stage. While we must objectively state that such abortions cannot be condoned, neither should we do anything to compound the grief and trauma of the parents, including casting doubt on pre-natal screening and diagnoses.

Pre-natal screening is not in an of itself an evil – so long as it is used for therapeutic effect, to heal and cure babies and advance the cause of fetal and neo-natal medicine which should be curative. While we should be wary that there is scope for error, neither should we reject screening as unhelpful or out of hand. Personally if one of my children were to be born with a disability I would want to know in order that we could adequately prepare and be in a position to support our child and provide optimum care.

The right of disabled babies and children to life, should not be conflated with issues surrounding misdiagnosis and pre-natal screening not least because it runs the risk of implicitly condoning or justifying those cases where the diagnoses is correct.

Pointing out that sometimes mistakes in pre-natal screening can occur should always be accompanied by relevant advice and support in case you are affected by these issues. It’s always tempting to maximise the pro-life element of these stories and jump on the outrage bandwagon but not always the most responsible course of action.

Pro-life must always be pro-woman, it must remember that it has a duty of care to all women, which includes those of us who have experienced the pain of miscarriage and abortion. That must by necessity include telling the truth but neither must it install a sense of fear, panic or distress in those who are struggling in the aftermath of losing a child, but instead offer sensible advice, reassurance and accurate medical information and access to counselling and healing for women who may be affected.

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Since 2007, a group of pro-lifers in Oxford have regularly met once a month to stand outside the entrance to the John Radcliffe hospital in order to silently bear witness to the sanctity of human life.

Their vigil takes place at the weekend, when no abortions take place, therefore they cannot be accused of harassing or distressing pregnant women and neither can they be accused of causing a breach of the peace – their witness is entirely peaceful.

Recently they have attracted the attention and ire of pro-choice activists, who have angrily tried to disrupt the witness, getting up close and personal, quite literally in the face of those standing in silent solidarity. This video footage is extremely telling – what strikes me are the tactics of intimidation attempted by the pro-choicers, who are without a doubt the aggressors here; attempting to close down a peaceful legal event, prevent freedom of expression and then quite unbelievably and perhaps predictably, claiming victim status.

Joseph Shaw has uploaded the photos of the event to his Flickr stream here.

This is exactly how pro-life witness should take place, quietly, peacefully, en masse and without making the pro-life movement vulnerable to spurious claims of harassment. It is patently obvious that no harassment or provocation by the part of the pro-lifers has taken place and yet the handful of protestors intent on disrupting the witness nevertheless audaciously attempt to claim otherwise.

The other interesting point to note here is that, to the best of my knowledge, this witness has not been organised by any of the major pro-life charities or lobby-groups, this is activism at its best, a group of like-minded people getting together to take some practical action. This kind of thing  reminds us that actually that in some situations we don’t need to be sheep, waiting to be herded and marshalled into action by someone else or an official group, complaining that ‘nothing ever gets done’. Provided we stay within the precepts of the law, then there is nothing to stop similar witnesses taking place up and down the country and this is precisely what vigils such as Forty Days for Life are attempting to achieve.

For those who mutter about whether or not vigils are the best tactic to win hearts and minds or are ‘effective’, once again I want to scream at you – ‘prayer is never wasted’.  Furthermore I’d also wonder whether or not succumbing to secular unease about prayer in the public square is advisable. Only one group of people stand to benefit from fewer public pro-life vigils and it isn’t the vulnerable pregnant women!

Finally, there has been a lot of chatter on social media over the past few weeks regarding attempts to disassociate the pro-life moment from overt displays of religiosity, in order to make it more ‘inclusive’. I would strongly agree that there needs to be more secular initiatives, a pro-life attitude does not require any recourse to theism as several atheist or even wiccan pro-life colleagues of mine would testify. I agree that pro-life sentiment needs to move beyond being perceived as being solely within the realms of ‘religious whackjobs’, which is why we have several official non-religious pro-life charities and lobby groups, which incidentally, does not make them immune from attack. The abortion ideologues will attack from whatever angle they can, they simply find the religious stereotype the easiest one to deal with.

What the above video demonstrates however, is the effectiveness of these witnesses  - how a group of people standing in silent solidarity or singing a simple timeless Latin chant can arouse such irrational anger. Obviously they are thought to be dangerous in terms of swaying public opinion  -why else would these handful of extremists go to such lengths to counter their message and issue empty threats?

What those within the pro-life movement need to remember is that while some may not been inclined towards overt displays of religiosity (although I know of several pagans who participate in 40 Days for Life), attempts to remove or conceal prayer, are misguided. Pro-life is never purely about the politics or PR, it will always for the Christian involve prayer and practical action.

Furthermore Catholics are the core constituents in the movement, the ones most likely to give of both their time and their money and as shown above, the ones most inclined to actually get off their backside and do something, whether that be attending a vigil, volunteering with or donating to a pro-life charity, or organising some sort of fund-raiser. It is never a matter of mere ideology. Efforts to be inclusive, should not write off or alienate the stalwarts such as the good people in this video in their well-intentioned aim to soften the sceptic and hardened neo-liberal hearts.

Congratulations to all those involved in Oxford – cages are obviously being rattled.

(Note the amount of young women taking part; quite a contrast from the middle-aged feminists and the man ludicrously holding the ‘my body, my choice’ banner).

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Rejecting the frame

Since I wrote yesterday’s post regarding the brouhaha surrounding pro-life Crisis Pregnancy Counselling Centres, (CPCs) some valuable additional information has come to light.

Speaking with one of the groups involved yesterday, it appears that all is not quite as would seem in terms of this ‘damning’ video coverage. Firstly, the undercover reporter made 4 separate visits to the counselling centre and repeatedly pushed the issue with regards to breast cancer. Not having got what she wanted, they then went to find another centre who would indeed tell them what they wanted to hear, although it’s worth replaying the video recording or watching if you have not already done so. What was said, was not the most scientific, but neither was it the most outrageous lie.

With hindsight we can think of better ways that this information could be phrased and instead of  pro-life groups splitting into factions, actually we all ought to be supporting each other in terms of developing best practice. It’s not often that I agree with   SPUC, but in this instance, Paul Tully’s statement regarding groups who provide pro-life counselling for women, is bang on the money. They are truly heroic. Unlike the abortion clinics or sex education providers they receive absolutely no government money (which calls into question the whole issue as to whether or not they should be regulated) and they provide help and assistance to women on the very fringes of society, typically those in low socio-economic groups who do not qualify for any sort of government help. Pro-life counselling groups, do not just counsel but they provide very real support, such as money, housing, shelter, accommodation, employment and skills-based training, life-skills and in some cases literally put food on the table for starving pregnant women. Their support is wholly unconditional, if you are pregnant and going to suffer as a result of carrying your pregnancy to term, they will provide support for you for as long as you need it.

One has to ask how representative this video tape is of an ordinary undecided pregnant woman’s experience. If the groups are guilty of anything it is of naivety, although my understanding is that they regularly receive time-wasting visitors, whom they are able to see off at the first pass, who ask suspicious questions and repeatedly request to be shown graphic images. That is not the typical reaction of a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy and neither is an in-depth grilling on potential negative consequences of abortion.

That is not to defend the the poor phrasing or, misleading information but interestingly the Telegraph reports have not included any of the accompanying literature which does include some of the statistics.

We should also remember what counselling is – as Jack Scarisbrook of LIFE said a few years ago, it is not about imparting information, but allowing a safe space away from pressures for a woman to consider all of her options. A Catholic group may well take issue with the idea of non-directive counselling, because the counsellor must allow a woman to come to her own decision, even if that entails aborting her baby. However where counselling is provided by a group like LIFE for example, it is highly likely that a woman who has come to explore her options is undecided and therefore the counsellor will help her uncover the negative feelings about her pregnancy and decide whether or not they are valid, without actually advocating any course of action. It is undeniable that a woman who is feeling unsure about whether or not to abort, when given a safe opportunity to explore her feelings will more often than not choose a positive outcome for her baby.

In terms of Catholic counselling, the idea that women are pushed, cajoled, or pressurised is again a fallacious one. A counselling session will not force a woman who is unwilling to continue her pregnancy to term, to do so. The only  ‘damage’ which could be done, is that having had her conscience pricked and been exposed to a point of view which seeks to emphasise the humanity of the unborn, she could then be more prone to feelings of guilt, which begs the question as to whether or not the decision was indeed the right one for her. Guilt does not simply spring from someone pointing out an opposing ideological stance.

As to the medical data this is always supplementary information and incidental to the main decision which is always ‘can I cope with a pregnancy and young baby at this point in time’,  but so long as it is presented factually and accurately, then it would be doing a great disservice to women to deny that issues and complications can and do arise post-abortion. Cases of women who were persuaded against abortion purely because of health risks are rare, although Courtney Kardashian seems to have been swayed and has not as yet expressed any regrets. In fact she consulted her doctor to learn more about the risks who said this:

“My doctor told me there is nothing you will ever regret about having the baby, but he was like, ‘You may regret not having the baby.’ And I was like: That is so true. And it just hit me. I got so excited”

How very unscientific! How very ideological! How dare he give her such an opinion, instead of a neutral assessment of the data!

And this is the point. If the NHS was subject to secret filming of what was said to patients there would be a scandal on a daily basis. Medical staff are instructed to give you information in clear, plain and understandable English, instead of lapsing into scientific jargon. They are supposed to couch things in terms one can understand. Of course they shouldn’t come out with falsehoods or give you an opinion upon a best course of action, but they frequently do and often in very strong terms.

This is often at its most pronounced in terms of pregnancy – I have frequently been told in a very forceful manner what I ought to do both in terms of how I should deliver a child and contraceptive measures. In two pregnancies, I have been advised that I ought to consider abortion by members of the NHS on what constituted social grounds, namely the spacing of my children. Like many Catholic women we have received the obligatory hectoring post childbirth about our ‘irresponsible’ use of Fertility Awareness. Frankly that is infinitely worse than what we have seen in the pro-life counselling centres yet this happens on a daily basis on the NHS. Clinical judgement always brings an element of personal opinion into the equation. Telling a woman that she ought to have an abortion and then, as happened in my pregnancy in 2012, that she ought to go for counselling to consider it further when I refused, is in many ways worse as there is little choice when it comes to whether or not to use the NHS and staff judgement carries considerable authority.

All this worry and angst is solely driven by the pro-choice brigade – god forbid that a woman may feel anything less than wonderful following an abortion. No-one wants to see post-abortive women punished or made to go through unnecessary anxiety, but neither should pro-choice be allowed to dictate the framework here, which is one of medicalising an issue of moral judgement and closing down any viewpoint which seeks to persuade that abortion could in any way be wrong.

Two years ago, Telegraph columnist Tim Stanley wrote a fascinating piece about the success of the pro-life lobby in America, noting that they had borrowed the left’s language of health and safety and used regulation to good effect in terms of forcing clinics to ensure women’s safety. The reverse is happening over here. The liberal establishment are propping up the government-funded abortion and sex education industry to make morals a matter of medics. We are seeing this in campaigns for statutory sex education and best practice which seek to exclude parents who may not share the state agenda or curriculum in providing the correct ideology and now we see it in terms of the abortion industry and counselling which needs to be on the clinics’ terms.

Pro-lifers should not capitulate or hand-wring, counsellors need to ensure that they get their house in order, that women are given the facts and information that they need but neither should we forget that at least two lives are always at stake.

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Perhaps in an attempt to be ‘balanced’ following their excellent exposes of breaches of the law carried out by abortion clinics in 2012, the Daily Telegraph have decided to set their sights on the other side of the coin, and targeted pro-life crisis pregnancy centres as being their latest target of ire.

The formidable investigative journalism carried out by the Telegraph last year, never sat particularly well with their attempt to hitch their wagon to the online feminism zeitgeist. There was always some dissonance between their condemnation of gender-selective abortion and wholesale abuses of the law such as clinics having batches of forms pre-signed by doctors who would never actually have any contact with the patient, let alone examine them, and the timbre of articles carried in their new Wonder Women section, launched last year, which has been populated by predominantly pro-choice feminists.

Emma Barnett, editor of Telegraph Wonder-Women, has written 5 articles in the past 24 hours, busting ‘abortion myths’, reporting unscientific things said in two crisis pregnancy centres, outraging women by reporting on how people could be scarred for life or be manipulated into taking a certain decision, by non regulated pregnancy centres. There’s another op ed by deputy women’s editor, Lousia Peacock, breathily mouthing “since when did Britain become pro-life America?

Screenshot 2014-02-11 13.00.53

Perhaps having failed in their previous attempts to force discussion, the Telegraph are looking for an easy ‘win’ such as the crisis pregnancy centres, however despite their interactive map, showing the location of every single crisis pregnancy centre, they have only been able to find two, who gave out contentious information. How many other centres did they actually attend? Acres of bandwidth and ink will be spilt with post-abortive women justifying their decision, and saying how harmful it would have been if anyone told them it was wrong or how they felt guilty, however will anyone talk to those women who feel that they were bounced into abortion and not given comprehensive information by abortion clinics? And if a woman feels guilty following an abortion, blaming those who gave her an alternative point of view which pricked her conscience is dishonest. Autonomy means taking control and owning our decisions, no matter what someone else may think of them. So another woman may choose not to abort following a session at a CPC. What’s the biggie? Is it really such a worry if women decide not to abort because they are worried about the physical risks?

Before we go any further, let’s consider the accusations and their implications. Emma Barnett is concerned that women may be persuaded to keep their babies upon the basis of unsound scientific evidence. It’s not up there with aborting a baby because of their gender or not even bothering to examine a patient, or follow proper safeguards which could prevent a coerced or forced abortion. Only last week one organisation tweeted that they had spotted a woman being shouted at by a male  and hustled to get inside the clinic, when she appeared to be hesitating.

While women facing crises have a right to access reliable and factual information, the decision as to whether or not to have an abortion will always be based upon her own subjective ideology and interpretation of her circumstances. She will put her own interpretative lens on the science, whether that be with regards to the humanity of the fetus, or the weighing up of risks.

The accusation that having an abortion will make women child sex abusers is sensational and not what was actually said, which was as follows:

 “an increased statistical likelihood of child abuse” because women had to break “natural barriers that are around the child that you don’t cross” in order to terminate a pregnancy.

There is a link between abortion and mental health problems, including depression, substance abuse, violence, replacement pregnancies and difficulties in bonding with subsequent children. That is not to say that every single woman who has an abortion is going to experience such difficulties, but these are also factors which are linked to child abuse. Nowhere did the counsellor mention that the abuse would be of a sexual nature, emotional abuse can be every bit as damaging and neither did she say that this was a foregone conclusion or inevitability. There are individual clinical assessments linking post-abortion trauma with subsequent child abuse. (1)

While this might not be the wisest thing to say, neither is it as outrageous as the headlines would suggest. I would baulk at the suggestion that due to an abortion I am at risk of abusing my precious children, (the root of abuse is complex, abortion can be but one factor in the sequelae) but I would openly accept and acknowledge that the anti-natal depression I experienced in all of my pregnancies, especially the unplanned ones, have their root in the fact that I aborted my first baby. In any event, the counsellor in no way said that post-abortive women are likely to sexually abuse children.

In terms of the breast cancer link, an extremely recent meta-analysis of studies of Chinese women having induced abortions (as is common due to the one child policy) showed that just one abortion will increase the risk of breast cancer by 44%.  Two abortion will increase the risk by 76% and the risk will almost double following three abortions or more. The meta-analysis covered 36 studies, covering 14 provinces in China, comparing the risk of breast cancer amongst post-abortive women and those who had never had an abortion. This came following a similar study in Bangladesh indicating that women who had an abortion were 20% more at risk of developing breast cancer. The Chinese study was published in a prestigious medical journal Cancer Causes Control, confirmed the pioneering work of Dr Joel Brind and challenged the consensus held by professional bodies such as the Royal College of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians. There are now over 50 studies showing a positive link between breast cancer and abortion – these cannot be ignored.

One can argue over the statistical analysis, as indeed a leading  male pro-choicer frequently attempts to do, but the science is simple.

Induced abortion boosts breast cancer risk because it stops the normal physiological changes in the breast that occur during a full term pregnancy and that lower a mother’s breast cancer risk. A woman who has a full term pregnancy at 20 has a 90% lower risk of breast cancer than a woman who waits until age 30.

Breast tissue after puberty and before a term pregnancy is immature and cancer-vulnerable. Seventy five percent of this tissue is Type 1 lobules where ductal cancers start and 25 percent is Type 2 lobules where lobular cancers start. Ductal cancers account for 85% of all breast cancers while lobular cancers account for 12-15% of breast cancers.

As soon as a woman conceives, the embryo secretes human chorionic gonadotrophin or hCG, the hormone we check for in pregnancy tests.

HCG causes the mother’s ovaries to increase the levels of estrogen and progesterone in her body resulting in a doubling of the amount of breast tissue she has; in effect, she then has more Type 1 and 2 lobules where cancers start.

After mid pregnancy at 20 weeks, the fetus/placenta makes hPL, another hormone that starts maturing her breast tissue so that it can make milk. It is only after 32 weeks that she has made enough of the mature Type 4 lobules that are cancer resistant so that she lowers her risk of breast cancer.

Induced abortion before 32 weeks leaves the mother’s breast with more vulnerable tissue for cancer to start. It is also why any premature birth before 32 weeks, not just induced abortion, increases or doubles breast cancer risk.

By the end of her pregnancy, 85% of her breast tissue is cancer resistant. Each pregnancy thereafter decreases her risk a further 10%.

Spontaneous abortions in the first trimester on the other hand don’t increase breast cancer risk because there is something wrong with the embryo, so hCG levels are low. Another possibility is that something is wrong with the mother’s ovaries and the estrogen and progesterone levels are low. When those hormones are low, the mother’s breasts do not grow and change.

Pointing this out to women is not harmful or manipulative – if we are talking about making an informed decision, why should a woman not be made aware of the significant consensus of medical opinion that holds that abortion carries a breast cancer risk. Why should she be deemed incapable of interpreting the information for herself, even if she decides to ignore it, or comes to the conclusion that it is flawed?

The other ‘scandalous’ piece of advice is that abortion can increase the risk of infertility or carrying a future pregnancy to term. Clearly the stat of 25% is wrong, there is no need to make fallacious claims and to do so damages the pro-life cause, however it would be wrong to deny that abortion carries no medical risk, especially if it is surgical; there is always a risk of infection and scarring when introducing surgical instruments into bodily cavities. Anecdote is not the plural of data, but a friend of mine had difficult conceiving following the removal of a Fallopian tube due to an ectopic pregnancy. The ectopic pregnancy was caused by scarring – she had previously had three abortions. Someone else I know of reported cervical scarring requiring emergency surgery post an abortion. When she reported excruciating pain and bleeding immediately following the surgery, the clinic were disinterested. I was warned of the risk of uterine rupture when offered a surgical procedure following the death of our unborn baby – why would abortion be any different?

Furthermore any injuries, complications or infections post abortion are not counted in official statistics if they present or are reported once the woman has left the abortion clinic premises. If you go to the doctor or A&E with a post operative infection following an abortion, it will not be included in the clinic’s official figures.

Pointing out associated risks to abortion is no different to an anaesthetist being filmed pointing out the risks of surgery or anaesthetic or a pharmacist reading out the manufacturer’s leaflet that accompanies medication. Pro-lifers should not undermine their authority with incorrect information, there is no need to do so, we should condemn this practice, but it is irresponsible reporting to over sensationalise what was actually said.

Naturally the Telegraph’s report has caused a massive media sensation, with calls for these centres to be shut down and monitored because they do not provide ‘medically accurate’ information. Abortion is rarely simply a medical decision, there has not been a case in the UK of a woman needing to have an abortion to save her life, for many many years, it is always a moral judgement, which takes into account various clinical factors.

It is impossible to take a neutral stance upon abortion from a counselling perspective, even if you are supporting a woman to come to her own decision, regardless of what that decision is, that is in itself an ideological stance, taking the view that whatever a woman decides is right. We don’t apply such reasoning in other circumstances, it is not deemed acceptable to terminate a full term pregnancy on the grounds of gender for example, simply because a woman decides that it is not right for her.

Every single organisation that provides abortion counselling has an agenda of some sort or another. One cannot shut down organisations who are aiming to counsel women with crisis pregnancies simply because they are not providing what is deemed to be ‘acceptable’ medical interpretation. Where clinics are providing erroneous information then obviously they need to sharpen up their practice, but it’s likely that organisations such as these will soon establish a bad reputation locally. Ultimately no-one forces women to attend them, no-one forces women to listen to their advice and no-one forces a woman to continue an unwanted pregnancy, not even these allegedly reckless organisations.

It is also grossly unfair of the Telegraph to conflate independent local organisations with LIFE, who regardless of where one stands on their counselling provision, are accredited by BCAP and for good or ill provide non directive counselling.

If a woman wants an abortion, the Telegraph has demonstrated how easy it is for her to obtain one, no questions asked, paid for by the NHS up until 24 weeks.

Throwing in the old canards about being linked to religious organisations and throwing in the inevitable comparisons to the US (which allowed butchers such as Kermit Gosnell to operate) is an attempt to whip up fear, as is the mandatory reference to 40 days for life, who have successfully been conducting peaceful incident free vigils for the past four years in the UK. There has been no incidents of pro-life violence, nor are there any proposed bills limiting abortion in the offing, so the comparisons with the US are moot.

When I was pregnant with the baby I aborted, Marie Stopes gave me no medical information whatsoever, aside from what the procedure would entail, which they massively downplayed. I did not even know that I was receiving ‘counselling’. I told the counsellor why I wanted an abortion and she nodded grimly, adding that I had no choice and was not equipped to have a baby, it would be irresponsible. Impartial medical advice or ideological?

Why shouldn’t a religious organisation attempt to promote an alternative point of view which might persuade women that not only can they keep their babies but they are capable of being good mothers? Why can’t an organisation propose the point of view that a woman is at risk of harm from abortion?

This is an attempt to close down any point of view which might seek to persuade a pregnant woman that abortion is the wrong decision, using a contentious definition of ‘harm’. It is never harmful for a woman to decide not to kill her unborn baby, only a paternalism or totalitarianism would state otherwise. Who are we to decide that women shouldn’t be advised that abortion is not a good option, whether that be on ideological, moral or medical grounds?

The only real scandal here is that the failure to acknowledge compelling medical evidence linking breast cancer to abortion and the refusal to include post abortion complications presented after leaving the clinic in official statistics.

The scandal is trying to pretend that the decision to abort is solely a medical or clinical one and that arguments about the development or humanity of the foetus are irrelevant. The scandal is the attempt to deny that abortion can cause very real harm to women. The scandal is the attempt to close down debate on the harmful effects of abortion and deprive women of all the information they need. And if no organisation with any abortion activists should be allowed to give advice, as Nadine Dorries proposes, that would rule out abortion clinics too, who actively promote and market abortion. The head of BPAS is a frequent public abortion apologist.

The outrage being whipped up here is that a woman facing an unplanned or crisis pregnancy  might be told that abortion is not alright, is not the solution,  ends the life of an unborn child and could cause her long term harm. And that would never do.

(1) Benedict, et al., “Maternal Perinatal Risk Factors and Child Abuse,” Child Abuse and Neglect, 9:217-224 (1985); P.G. Ney, “Relationship between Abortion and Child Abuse,” Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 24:610-620, 1979; Reardon, Aborted Women – Silent No More (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1987), 129-30, describes a case of woman who beat her three year old son to death shortly after an abortion which triggered a “psychotic episode” of grief, guilt, and misplaced anger.

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women exploited by abortion

As true now as it was then

The abortion laws in this country are clearly in a mess. For the past eighteen months the media has confirmed what most people who have ever experienced an abortion know to be the case – namely that we have abortion on demand, with the provisions of the 1967 Abortion Act totally ignored.

Nothing better illustrates the ‘slippery slope’ argument than the story of the abortion narrative in the UK. Brought in under the auspices of compassion, in a misguided attempt to prevent the handful of tragic deaths resulting from illegal abortions in either unsanitary conditions and/or performed by unskilled amateurs, the Abortion Act nonetheless recognised the inherent right to life of the unborn child and prescribed a series of strict criteria under which abortion could be performed. Abortion was treated as such a serious matter that it required the signature of two separate doctors in order to prevent abuses and exploitation of vulnerable women. Two doctors were supposed to rigidly assess the medical facts presented before them and use their  judgement as qualified professionals as to the medical ethics of abortion in a particular given set of difficult circumstances.

The law that was brought in as a result of a determined pressure group, was designed to be strictly applied to a limited  number of women on the grounds of compassion, in circumstances where it was believed that there was little other choice, has mutated into an industry responsible for almost 200,000 abortions a year. Of the 97% funded by the NHS, 62% are subcontracted out to the private sector and a staggering £1 million a week is spent on repeat abortions. Even Lord Steel, one of the architects of the 1967 Abortion Act said that he “never envisaged that there would be so many abortions”. Speaking today, following the revelation that in only 46% of cases is there a record that a doctor has met the woman seeking an abortion to check that she is able to give fully formed consent, he described these figures as ‘regrettable’ and ‘against the Spirit of the 1967 Act’.

As the Daily Telegraph has repeatedly demonstrated with numerous exposes, the carefully-crafted rhetoric of abortion being purely a complex medical decision between a woman facing a seemingly impossible dilemma and her doctor, is a sham. In an investigation by the Care Quality Commission, clinics and hospitals were discovered operating illegal practices such as having batches of forms pre-signed by two doctors. In another investigation clinics were found to be offering to perform illegal later-stage gender selective abortions of baby girls.

This week the hypocrisy of the feminist movement has once again been laid bare, which keeps quiet over the abortion of baby girls, stating that women’s choice has to be paramount, the reason for terminating a pregnancy is irrelevant, what matters most is the woman’s decision itself, given that it is her who will be tasked with completing her pregnancy, giving birth to a child and presumably raising him or her. It begs the inevitable question as to whether or not they would still continue to insist that it is always a woman’s choice should a woman wish to abort her child on the equally unsavoury grounds that they would be of a certain race, or if an ante-natal test for sexuality were to be discovered. As the law currently stands, it is perfectly acceptable to terminate a baby up until the moment of their birth on the grounds of disability; in practice, if you discover that you are not having the longed-for gender, it is permissible to abort your baby for the lack or addition of a penis, up until the 24 week mark.

According to a story in the Independent, gender selective abortion in socially progressive Britain has reduced the population of women from ethnic minority groups by up to as many as 4,700.

The government’s response to such abuses of the law, is staggering, rather than to enforce and tighten up on the law as it currently stands, especially in relation to gender-selective abortions, their answer is to loosen it yet further and remove the requirement for a woman seeking an abortion to even seek a doctor. Furthermore a doctor will not need to give individual requests consideration before approving them.

So in effect a woman may, for whatever reason, decide that she wants to destroy her unborn child and she will therefore be given licence to do so, irrespective of the circumstances. Far from being an advancement in the cause of women’s rights, this is an abuser’s charter, giving green lights to statutory rapists in relationships with girls under the age of consent, as well as anyone else who seeks to force, coerce or pressurise a woman into an abortion.

The law was drafted precisely to protect vulnerable women, removing the requirement for this to be seen by two independent doctors, does nothing but harm the cause of women. I speak from a personal perspective of someone who had the experience of a rubber-stamped, no-questions- asked-abortion. No-one questioned me, however gently as to whether I was really aware of what I was doing, or informed me as to the potential future physical and emotional repercussions. Neither did they prepare me for the horrors of the procedure of itself and its immediate aftermath. I saw a GP just once, who referred the whole thing onto Marie Stopes.

It was assumed that I knew what I wanted and knew what I was doing. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I believe that had I been correctly counselled, with all options laid out in front of me, and possible future consequences, along with the ethical considerations, I would now be the proud mother of a seventeen year old young adult. In all of my subsequent pregnancies I have suffered from mild to severe crippling ante-natal depression. It doesn’t take Freud to work out why, nor can this been blamed on a religiously indoctrinated guilt complex – abortion was never discussed in religious terms at school but  couched in vague ethical terms. Prior to having an abortion I had never once seen graphic depictions, nor indeed been presented with an intelligent,  reasoned or scientific  pro-life case.

The statement “Nurses are often much better at dealing with the emotional and psychological needs of women”, from Tracey McNeill, director of Marie Stopes International, seems to pander to outdated paternalistic sexist claptrap in presuming that nurses are women. The midwife who delivered my second baby and latched her onto my breast was a male. He was more than capable of dealing with my emotional and psychological needs, as was my husband. This seems to buy into old-fashioned and unhelpful stereotypes about the gender and bedside manner of doctors. What’s needed is someone with excellent counselling skills together with bucketloads of empathy and compassion, regardless of their level of medical qualification or gender, though the thought of un-surgically experienced nurses carrying out surgical abortions, doesn’t seem to have moved us much further on from  pre-1967 practice. Mandy Rice-Davis’ infamous words come to mind: with a desperate shortage of doctors willing and able to become involved in the practice of abortion, clinics increasingly need nurse practitioners to fill the gap, hence “they would say that, wouldn’t they”?

It’s baloney. The female sonographer who roughly manhandled me and spoke in monosyllabic grunts when performing a pre-abortion ultrasound was hardly in tune with my emotional and psychological needs, neither was the ‘counsellor’, who again said so little to me, that I didn’t even realise that this was supposed to constitute an official counselling session, all she did was to nod and brusquely tell me that abortion was for the best and proceed to book in the abortion. Neither was the nurse who administered the abortion pills internally, only thinking to inform me afterwards that I would experience a ‘mini labour’ more in tune with my needs than any other medical practitioner, neither was the receptionist who shouted at me reducing me to tears and certainly not the ward nurse who expressed grim satisfied delight as I shook with fever and chills, poured with sweat and threw up, repeatedly attempting to physically force me back into bed and stop me from pacing around to alleviate my pain.

As for taking pills at home for the expulsion of the foetus, I’ve written about that before, however my experience of both medical abortion and a miscarriage is that this is a frightening and potentially dangerous procedure that requires medical supervision. A brief look at the miscarriage threads on a site such as Mumsnet, will throw up numerous stories of women panicking about the amount of pain and bloodloss experienced even when their loss is at an early stage, with a significant proportion requiring emergency treatment and in rare cases it fails. Giving women this treatment with no supervision, even if it is only for the initial stages, is reckless, prioritising the needs and capacity of the healthcare facility, before the physical health of the woman.

Ignoring the provisions  and protections of the Abortion Act caused me (and my unborn baby) irreparable harm as it has to countless women. Doubtless some women will find the requirement for two signatures an irritant, believing that they know their own mind and body, however this is about the protection of the many, including the unborn child. The question of whether it is ever ethical to terminate the life of an unborn child, to which the law says only in certain medically prescribed circumstances, is as relevant now as it was forty five years ago. Every single recent opinion poll in the UK demonstrates that women are overwhelmingly against any further liberalisation of the law.

If every case and every woman’s circumstances are different, then surely she is being let down by not having her case subject to the most stringent medical safeguards and close scrutiny by two doctors  in order to ensure that her best interests are really being served? Forty five years ago, the law decided that the unborn child merited protection, and should not be arbitrarily disposed of. What has changed to make that principle redundant?

Pope Francis’ words about the throwaway culture, even of people, embodied by abortion and euthanasia, seem more penetrating than ever.

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Robert Colquhoun has organised the following event which looks certain to be a sell-out. I strongly recommend for anyone with an interest in promoting the pro-life cause in their local parish, the timings are designed to be convenient for both families and pastors and priests. The seminar is open to Christians of all denominations.


Breaking the silence in the Church


St Wilfrid’s Hall, Oratory House, Brompton Road, London, SW7 2RP

The talk is at 3pm on 28 January 2014 and is repeated at 7pm.

Helping Christians respond with humility, compassion and understanding

Robert Colquhoun and Jonathan Jeffes

The purpose of the seminar is to introduce you to a programme called Breaking the Silence. It is a teaching resource to help Christians navigate the sensitivities and raise the issue within their own Churches.

Over one third of all women in Britain will have an abortion at some point in their life. Despite its widespread acceptance in contemporary society, a powerful and uncomfortable silence has grown up around abortion in the Church.

What should Christians think and say about abortion?

This talk aims to help Christians to break the silence.

YOU will discover…

  •  An overview of tradition Christian teaching and theology
  • Analysis of why there is an uncomfortable silence in the Church
  • A simple strategy for change to help Christians listen to others and respond to the issue with humility, compassion and understanding.
  • Practical advice including guidance on speaking about abortion with sensitivity in a Church setting, and on handling it compassionately as a pastoral issue.

Jonathan Jeffes is a crisis pregnancy counsellor and has led post-abortion recovery groups for women and men for over twenty years. It is from the perspective of those who have experienced abortion in the past that Jonathan writes and speaks from. He is a regular speaker in Churches and theological colleges in the UK and is the author of two books on the subject.

Robert Colquhoun is the UK campaign director and international outreach co-ordinator for 40 Days for Life.

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UK Social media and feminist blogs buzzed on Boxing Day following the publication of a leader article in The Times by Tim Montgomerie, who noted approvingly that the ground is shifting in the abortion debate and made the following extremely powerful point.

Many people are simply too frightened of having to raise a disabled child. Although the UK currently recognises that a 24-week-old foetus deserves the full protection of the law, this protection is not afforded to babies that might be disabled in some inadequately defined way.

Predictably the angry young feminist women emerged with a glut of articles about men interfering in women’s reproductive rights and the difficulties inherent in bringing up a disabled child.

Glosswitch focused upon what she saw as a misogynist and patronising attitude of pro-life male columnists towards pro-choice women and her point was hammered home by disabled campaigner Hannah Buchanan at the New Statesman, who bitterly resented what she coined as ‘being used as a totem’ or pawn by men who wish to restrict women’s bodily autonomy.

Both pieces are worth reading as they raise issues which pro-lifers should be aware of, namely the quality of life for those with disabilities and the difficulties encountered by their loved ones in terms of caring for them. Politicians who promote a pro-life or anti-abortion point of view deserve to be pilloried for their inconsistencies if they are a member of a political party that promotes measures  and policies which make life intolerable or even more difficult for our disabled or chronically unwell members of society. These are people who deserve the utmost protection from the very moment that they are conceived.

Furthermore I don’t believe that Tim Montgomerie’s assertion that many women are too frightened by having to raise a disabled child, is a value judgement upon women, rather a statement of fact and one that should fill the reader with compassion, regardless of where you stand on the pro-life/pro-choice spectrum.

If women are indeed frightened of raising a disabled child (and frankly who can blame them, I know I  would be equally daunted) the resulting outrage should not be directed at women, nor those who have identified their fear, but at those factors which have resulted in such terror. Both sides should surely be working to mitigate and eliminate the reasons why women feel that it will be impossible for them to be able to care for a disabled child, rather than accepting abortion as the de facto solution.

I share the rage of the feminists however my hackles are not raised by those men defending the rights of the unborn who are amongst the most vulnerable in society, their very existence being denied and obscured in a web of pseudo-medical sophistry, my anger is directed at the self-identifying feminist men who passionately argue for a woman’s ‘right to choose’ and claim that pro-lifers are unable to empathise what it is like to be faced with a crisis pregnancy.

One’s sex should not act as an automatic disqualification from discussing the subject of abortion and neither should it be assumed that being in possession of male genitalia renders empathy impossible. What makes me angry is that these men who advocate for abortion as being a perfectly acceptable and respectable option, are directly responsible for and contributing to a culture that abrogates their responsibility for a child resulting out of sexual intercourse and shifts the whole issue onto the shoulders of women. The ‘her body, her choice’ omits the logical conclusion and underlying premise of  ‘ her responsibility  and her consequences to face’.

This attitude of shifting all responsibility onto the woman has to be one of the biggest single contributory factors in terms of the stigma that single mums face – the opprobrium does not result from having sex, but being ‘stupid’ enough to be caught and presumably a state scrounger into the bargain without a father to support her. The proliferation of abortion means that women who choose to continue a pregnancy in less than ideal, chocolate-box, double-page magazine spread circumstances have to face a barrage of  pressure either directly from displeased employers, partners, friends and family or from softer indirect cultural pressure such as that in the mainstream press and media.

The notion of ‘reproductive rights’ is a canard sold to women which does nothing but harm them, advancing the false utopia of consequence-free sex.  There is no such thing as a right to abortion, in the same way that there is no guaranteed right to any medical procedure. Abortion is still technically an offence according to UK, legislation, a woman may only be granted permission to abort her unborn child if she fulfils certain criteria, none of which mention anything about it being her natural human right or even that her wishes should be paramount, although her feelings about the pregnancy would in practice be taken into consideration when weighing up mental health grounds. Dr Peter Saunders posits that 98% of UK abortions are in fact performed illegally.

The change observed by Tim Montgomerie, is one that I wrote about for the Catholic Herald back in March 2012; slowly but surely, public opinion is turning against the idea of abortion being of little consequence or import. This is an important first step because for the past twenty years, women have been fed the notion that abortion, particularly if it is in the early stages is nothing more than a vital piece of women’s clinical health care, a removal of  unwanted or malignant tissue similar to a procedure like a pap smear or colposcopy.

Magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Marie-Claire have sought to support this idea, providing soft marketing for organisations such as Marie Stopes, heavily promoting the idea of a walk-in lunchtime abortion and advocating pro-abortion groups such as Women on Waves, in uncritical terms. I should know, I was an adolescent in the nineties and grew up surrounded by these messages, reinforced by films such as Dirty Dancing, which subtly gave out the message that without abortion, women would die as they did back in the postwar era when a dirty backstreet knitting needle was one’s only option.

The stats however do not back that up, deaths from abortions prior to the 1967 Abortion Act numbered less than 50 per year. Not that 50 deaths a year  to illegal abortion should be regarded as anything but an extremely grave concern, as is the death of any woman for any preventable reason, but it’s far less than deaths from smoking or alcohol related diseases, two wholly legal pursuits, if we are going to play the numbers game. There are still a handful of legal abortion related deaths that occur on an annual basis in the UK and US in any event, the book LIME 5, an expose of the US abortion industry, explains that from 1992 to 1993, at least 23 maternal deaths were caused by abortion in America. These were reported to state agencies, but only 18 were reported to the Federal Center for Disease Control. When the official CDC report was released on mortality figures, there were only 2 deaths. Just as the CDC’s coding system  rejects abortion as a cause of death, similarly in the UK, deaths and injuries from abortion are not recorded once the woman has left the clinic premises.

Thank God, I thought, for the right to safe, clean, legal abortion and due to its existence, like many women, I therefore succumbed to pressure to put myself in unsafe situations and agreed with my boyfriend that should an unplanned pregnancy occur, we’d nip it in the bud as quickly as possible, without ever really understanding what that meant, either in terms of taking a life, or the physical and mental consequences that aborting an unborn child would bring.

Where my anger emanates from is the discussion of abortion from women and men alike, who have no notion of what it must be like to be pregnant and therefore project their feelings onto women. There is nothing worse than a feisty young feminist screaming about women’s right to choose and control their bodies who has no idea of what it is like to experience pregnancy, ditto a man. Because once you find yourself pregnant, everything fundamentally changes – this is no longer an intellectual or philosophical ideal, but a living growing being inside your body that one way or another that you need to deal with.

Intuitively and instinctively you know that you are carrying a child, no matter what stage at your pregnancy you are at and especially if you have been pregnant before, which is where there are common areas of agreement with the above writers, who understand all too well the dilemmas that pregnant women face. I have had many unplanned pregnancies, I have lived the terror and uncertainty combined with the conspiracy of silence of the abortion clinic. I don’t judge women who’ve walked the path that I did, but I reserve my anger for those who aided and abetted my self-delusion and participation in what was the most evil and wantonly destructive act of my life and which has haunted me through every single subsequent pregnancy. Feminist men who advocate for women’s right to abort, ought to experience an unplanned pregnancy and abortion, before flag-waving in the name of compassion.

Where Hannah Buchanan is wrong is to describe the decision to abort a disabled baby as a complex medical one. Even today’s sophisticated ante-natal sonography is unable to give a detailed prognosis as to the severity of a condition or quality of life experienced by a disabled person, instead everything is pathologised into a worst-case scenario. The mother or parents are given a likely prognosis and then weigh up whether or not they believe that they will be able to cope with a child in that situation. Concepts of love, joy, happiness are rarely mentioned whereas pain, despair, misery, panic and logistics are top of the agenda.

The decision to abort a disabled child is not a medical one in that a mother is not weighing up risks to her own life, which abortion statistics tell us are incredibly rare, but social factors. We should not allow ourselves to be befuddled by the clinical language and pathologisation of conditions, which all add to the fear factor – medics tend to speak in the abstract – of likelihoods, possibilities, forgetting that this is a human life at stake, a defenceless baby as opposed to a hypothetical scenario.

Ultimately the angry women are right to be angry, but not at the men who seek to defend all human life, but those who wish to place all the responsibility for the consequences of sex and the upbringing of children upon women whilst getting a sexual free ride. We should all be angry at incoherent and inconsistent politicians who are not prepared to politically follow through on their duties to the disabled unborn.

Glosswitch is right in her analysis that abortion is morally messy and difficult. This is a truth which the abortion industry are trying their hardest to counter, because once we admit that, then we admit that abortion is not morally neutral, good or a desirable thing, which is what every pregnant woman intuitively knows. It’s why we see organisations like Education for Choice desperately trying to dissuade young people otherwise and it’s why Tim Montgomerie has acknowledged that the ground is shifting and why we see rad-fems pushing back against the notion that every abortion is a tragedy. Pro-choicers who acknowledge this cede vital ideological ground in the abortion debate.

Glosswitch says:

It would be brilliant if pro-choicers were simply deluded. If “look, it’s actually a baby!” was the only answer we needed. That’s not how it is. “Look, we’re all human beings, we all make difficult choices, we all have to own our bodies and lives” is the less satisfactory answer. It is, nonetheless, the most honest and humane one we can give.

‘It’s actually a baby’ is the inconvenient truth. That we’re all human beings, we all make difficult choices is true and we all have to own our bodies and lives, is also true, however we do not own the bodies of other people, including those of our children. Killing unborn children is the less satisfactory answer, and we should reject any ideology which seeks to promote it as honest or worst still ‘humane’.

We can respect the right of other women to own their bodies, we can give our love and support to women free of insult and invective, but this can not be extended to supporting the right to terminate lives because the alternative comes at too much cost. This is where our anger is most usefully directed.

If we can create an environment where smoking is largely taboo, yet smokers do not on the whole face social ostracism or censure, then why can we not do the same with the life of an unborn child, regardless of whether or not they are able-bodied?

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