Two prominent and well-respected Catholic bloggers James Preece (Catholic and Loving It) and Ben Trovato (Counter-cultural father) (I’ll fix the links when back home) have posted interesting discussions regarding whether or not Catholics should support LIFE, given their BACP (British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy) accreditation means that they offer non-directive counselling.
When counselling a pregnant woman, LIFE cannot and do not offer any opinion as to the morality of abortion and will not do anything to deter or prevent a woman from having an abortion, instead helping her to explore her feelings on the matter. Faithful Catholics wonder whether this is an immoral approach; LIFE is openly against abortion therefore are their counsellors who are presumably pro-life, lying to themselves and misleading women when they offer no opinion on abortion? Shouldn’t women know the truth, i.e. that abortion is a destruction of life, the killing of an unborn child, to fail to point this out is in itself misleading and could be seen as endorsing or condoning abortion?
One has to feel sorry for LIFE in this regard, they are caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand they have the likes of Sunny Hundal, Diane Abbott and Evan Harris absolutely refusing to concede that they are capable of impartiality and disregarding their professional credentials, and on the other, they have Catholics who should be natural supporters, criticising them for their non-judgemental, non-directive approach and suggesting that Catholics should not offer their financial support.
The fact that some Catholics are critical of LIFE certainly verifies their non-directive stance. Though it might prove difficult for some to accept, by adopting this approach, LIFE is able to gain leverage and credence amongst a political class that would otherwise prove hostile. It gets them a seat at the table, a place on the sexual health forum, although whether or not they will be able to capitalise upon this remains to be seen. Compare LIFE’s approach of being open to what others have to say, to be prepared to listen and engage, to the attitude of other organisations who have stated their hostility and antipathy to LIFE; an organisation who have women’s sexual health as their key aim. It cannot be argued that the fewer sexual partners and abortions that a woman has, the more likely she is to enjoy good sexual health.
In the light of the cross-party amendment, proposed by Field and Dorries, LIFE’s BACP accreditation, which BPAS and Marie Stopes do not have, gives them the moral high-ground. They are impartial and have the credentials to prove it.
LIFE do much to raise awareness of bio-ethical issues in a society that wishes to turn a blind eye, ignore or deny their realities. Their work with young people is outstanding and they are one of the few organisations who put their money where their mouth is in terms of actually assisting those with unplanned or crisis pregnancies, providing financial, practical and emotional support to women, as well as housing and education opportunities. They help women to help themselves. LIFE are accredited by 23 Supporting People Authorities.
If their non directive approach enables LIFE to do work to reduce abortions by preventative means or to provide assistance which means that women are not financially compelled to abort, then that is a price worth paying. If a non directive approach actually encourages women to seek their advice and be given the full story about abortion, knowing that they will not be pressured, coerced or prevented from seeking abortion, again that is a positive fact. It will lead to less women having to suffer the physical and emotional repercussions of abortion and from a pro-life approach, will lead to fewer abortions.
An approach which from the outset tells pregnant women what they should do is, in any event counter-productive. Those who assume this is what LIFE do are massively mistaken and buy into a patriarchal culture. Any organisation that takes a hectoring, coercive or bullying approach will surely be able to be seen as what it is. Or are women so naive as not to be able to make their own decision and not able to resist or see through manipulation? What non-directive counselling does is to explore and affirm a woman’s feelings about abortion and to highlight any perceived barriers or fallacies.
From a Catholic perspective it is not immoral as it does not involve a lie. It does not degenerate into a means justifies the end dilemma. Not offering an opinion does not amount to dishonesty. Non directive counsellors do not tell untruths. The only difficulty for a specifically Catholic pro-life counsellor occurs when a woman, furnished with the whole truth, decides to proceed anyway. Should a counsellor stop her? Catholicism, like all faiths requires its adherents to come to it out of free will. God requires us to choose him. We cannot force others to act in accordance with our beliefs, which means that we cannot use our faith to prevent others from exercising their free will, in a way that society legally permits. As long as the counsellor does not procure or arrange the abortion, as long as they have done nothing to encourage it, their conscience is clear, even if their predominant emotion is that of grief.
No doubt Marie Stopes and BPAS would claim that the directive counselling they offer is non- manipulative. If organisations who are offering abortion and who stand to make a profit from it are able to offer directive counselling which does not seek to manipulate, based on their ideology that abortion is a moral good, why can’t an organisation offer the alternate view in an equally non-manipulative fashion? What Marie Stopes has in common with the evangelical organisation CARE, is that they are both motivated by ideology, upon which they base their counselling services. Where LIFE differ is that they don’t let their ideals and interest in the outcome affect the service they provide. Hence in that respect they are demonstrably the most impartial organisation in the field of abortion counselling.
LIFE offer real-life success stories, tales of women for whom motherhood or an additional child has proved a source of richness and of blessing, experiences of happiness. Theirs is a vision of hope, respect and dignity for the unborn child and for that reason they will continue to enjoy my support. The fact that LIFE don’t tell women exactly what they should or must do makes them a shining beacon of pro-life feminism.