As His Grace pointed out on his blog earlier today, Sunny Hundal made a rather outrageous claim about the charity LIFE, describing them as “religious nutjobs”.
It’s amazing what passes for informed political comment these days however I think it is worth highlighting that LIFE are a non-denominational charity with no religious affiliation, therefore his assertion is substantially incorrect as well as being deliberately perjorative. Furthermore LIFE’s former Director of Education was an atheist, which although a strong position of faith, is patently not what is being inferred by the term.
A belief in the sanctity of life is not confined to a Christian position, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism and even Buddhism are all broadly against abortion as a principle, which is precisely why LIFE, though founded on Catholic principles, is non-denominational. I wonder whether or not Sunny Hundal would have the audacity to call a pro-life group consisting of a diverse number of faiths as being full of “religious nutjobs”? I wonder whether or not he would refer to a pro-life group consisting of Sikhs in the same derogatory fashion?
In any event the pro-life/pro-choice debate is independent to that of the theist/atheist debate. There is nothing in the pro-life position that requires one to be a theist, a fact that may be confirmed by looking at the work of Nat Hentoff, a prominent liberal atheist who is an outspoken critic of abortion and euthanasia. The pro-life position is a logical and philosophical concept which is a complementary extension of major religions but does not require a religion in order to be an adherent. To describe the belief that life begins at conception as being an extreme view born out of religious zealotry is an attempt to marginalise millions of people around the globe and deride their belief as being the product of an unsound mind. Not the most open-minded of approaches from a website that defines itself as liberal.
In relation to the point that was being made, LIFE’s counsellors, unlike those at BPAS, are all accredited by the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy and are therefore impartial, offering non-directive counselling. There is much misunderstanding and disbelief that a pro-life organisation might be able to provide non-directive counselling. With non-directive counselling you get exactly what is said on the tin. A counsellor will help someone to come to their own conclusion on a matter, to make their own mind up with regards to the best course of action, but will not offer any sort of opinion as to what that decision should be. What a counsellor will do however, is to explore the various perceieved barriers or obstacles associated with any particular course of action, to assist the person in reaching their decision. It is entirely possible that this may be done in a non-directive fashion. Dr Evan Harris recently tweeted that he believed that LIFE would be unable to offer non-directive counselling because “they would never tell a woman that she should have an abortion”, demonstrating that for such a proponent of science and evidence-based policy, he had absolutely no grasp of the concept.
In the context of a woman seeking to explore the best course of action when faced with an unplanned pregnancy, if she believes that there are financial or social barriers to her continuing the pregnancy, these need to be explored; it needs to be ensured that she is aware of any benefits, grants or other financial entitlements that she might be eligible for, i.e. that she makes a decision in possession of the full facts. Equally, she needs to be aware of what the abortion procedure itself will entail.
As the renowned pro-life lobbyist Phyllis Bowman says on her blog today, “BPAS should change its name. It does not ‘advise’ on pregnancy any more than the Mafia advises on “how to grow old gracefully. Moreover, they tell you that their advice is non-directional, at the same time leaving out half the story – all the uncomfortable bits that might put women off the abortion.”
The pro-abort advocates want to make out that this is scare-mongering, however if I were about to undergo a procedure I would want to know about the following possible complications: damage to the cervix leading to prematurity in a subsequent pregnancy, infection resulting in infertility, scarring of the lining of the womb which can cause subsequent prematurity, and the possible long-term increased risk of breast cancer.
It is the case that with any medical intervention that the risks and benefits of any treatment are outlined to the patient. Most surgeons will share x-rays and scans with the patients detailing what they intend to do. A pregnant woman considering an abortion is never shown the scan of the developing fetus, in an act of gross deception. Women should at least be offered the option in order that their consent may be fully informed, why is unacceptable for her to be aware of what stage of development the fetus has reached? Unless a woman is given the whole picture, which does not have to be emotive or directional then her choice cannot said to be fully consensual.
Of course some women will find the idea of mandatory counselling an irritation or an obstacle, having already come to their decision, in which cases the counselling session will be short, however at least it will give them the chance to confirm their decision. It is not a case of treating women like imbeciles, the reality is that at present, abortion clinics, who are set to benefit financially from a woman’s decision to abort, do not help a woman to explore all her options in any depth. As I have said frequently, I found myself in the position of being coerced into an abortion, Marie Stopes having arranged an abortion for me on the say so of a third party. The doubt as to whether or not to continue with the pregnancy was all the validation required.
Ann Furedi of BPAS, along with the feminist Deborah Orr, are both on record stating that abortion needs to be a “back-up for when contraception fails”, which completely undermines those who claim that abortion is a method of last resort, a decision reached after much soul-searching and thus counselling adds an extra and unnecessary burden to women facing unplanned pregnancies. Abortion is not contraception (clue is in the name: contra – ception), this reasoning shows a flippant disregard for the value of human life and belies the attitude that abortion is always a considered conclusion. If you fall into the category of needing abortion as a back-up then there is an alternative and 100% failsafe method of avoiding conception, one that does not require medical intervention, does not entail the wanton destruction of human life and does not cost a penny.
The assertions that the Dorries/Field proposal constitutes an attempt to restrict abortion services are hysteria. Limiting or restricting abortion is not on the table, simply that women may feel empowered in the choice they are making in full possession of all the facts and that those facilitating those decisions do not stand to make any financial profit from them. It might be that counselling may well give pause for thought and prevent some abortions from going ahead which is not such a terrible thing.
The ardent hardline pro-abort faction are enraged because to introduce mandatory independent counselling goes a small way to getting back to the spirit of the 1967 Abortion Act, which was designed to help desperate women in terrible circumstances, hence the various built-in safeguards, which have now been reduced to a rubber-stamping exercise. Counselling recognises that abortion is indeed grave matter, one concerning life and death and seeks to ensure that a woman is in full possession of all the facts before she makes a decision that could have life-long repercussions.
Feminists who advocate abortion as being a woman’s right to choose, ignore the fact that abortion co-opts misogyny. The fact that every pregnancy is now viewed purely in terms of being a woman’s choice, has meant that many men feel absolutely no responsibility for their resulting offspring or on the other hand are denied any sort of involvement with regards to a child who is genetically theirs.
In the words of Camille Paglia, a noted feminist philosopher: “When it devalued motherhood, Western feminism undermined women’s most ancient claim to dignity.”
Many people subscribe to Bill Clinton’s mantra that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare”. If this is desirable, then Dorries and Field’s proposal go some way to returning to the spirit of the Abortion Act; a last resort after every single possible option has been explored.