Sunny watch.

Sunny Hundal has taken it upon himself to become the new champion of women’s rights. Somewhat rather self-importantly, he has decided to give “a series of daily briefings” regarding the proposed amendment to the Health and Social care bill.

He asks if BPAS and Marie Stopes are prevented from carrying out counselling, who will take their place, where will the hundreds of thousands of counsellors emerge to cater for the 200,000 thousand abortions a year?

He really hasn’t got the point yet has he? The counselling is OPTIONAL. Not every single woman will chose it. The abortion providers have not yet provided figures on how many woman change their mind as a direct result of counselling. That would be an interesting statistic. To claim that all of a sudden the capacity for 200,000 counselling sessions needs to be found is disingenuous.

I found the following job advertisement for a Marie Stopes counsellor. It’s quite interesting, in that it states that a counsellor must be pro-choice. Under BACP guidelines a counsellor must not divulge their opinion or feelings, non-directional counselling specifically allows for the woman to make her own mind up, so surely the counsellor’s own views are irrelevant. Although it might be highly unusual, why couldn’t a pro-life counsellor give non-directional counselling in a Marie Stopes clinic? So long as they stuck to the guidelines and kept their own personal opinions out of the matter, what would be the problem? Or are pro-lifers incapable of giving independent advice. Only pro-choicers who support abortion are able to follow the guidelines are they? How could we trust that a supporter of abortion could be truly impartial? Non-directional counselling is just that, so it shouldn’t matter what the counsellor’s particular views are.

Another interesting point about this advert, which proves Sunny wrong, is that it states that the counsellor must be BACP accredited (proof that they will be impartial) and provide their own supervision. This is the point. Like other professionals, counsellors hold their professional qualifications, independent of the organisation for whom they work. If abortion providers cannot provide counselling, the presumably these counsellors may work on a self-employed basis or for another organisation, which does not have a financial interest in the outcome of the counselling. They do not need to form part of the NHS as Sunny implies, this will not put the onus on the NHS to provide the counsellors in-house but to recommend and commission independent groups. Surely the cost should be of no import to Sunny, what matters is that the woman makes the decision that is right for her? There is nothing to suggest that the quality of advice will fall, simply due to a potentially increased volume or uptake.

The advert also specifies that the counsellors must have an understanding and commitment to the mission of MSI.  The mission of MSI is to prevent poor people in developing countries from breeding provide contraceptive and abortion services to people worldwide. Specifically in the UK, they wish to expand the scope and reach of their abortion services. It’s all there in their annual accounts. They are every inch the ideologues that pro-lifers are. Except Marie Stopes are the “right” kind of ideologues. Marie Stopes in the UK is not a charity. It charges a counselling fee and charges for its abortion services and ploughs that money back into the business for expansion and to pay its executives high salaries. In some ways their charitable status could be equated with private schools, except that private schools do not rely on government money for income. Private schools are at least transparent about their aim and are being thoroughly investigated by the charities’ commission.

The capacity for counselling is already there, it just needs to be restructured. How would the counselling be regulated? By BACP and the Department of Health. Nadine has been clear that groups with any sort of agenda in the outcome will be disbarred. The plans do not require women to go to two independent health providers. He just doesn’t get that does he? The plans require independent counselling to be offered. How many times does this need to be stated. A woman can still say “no, I don’t want counselling, I’d like to proceed with the abortion”. Nothing will change.

The evidence that MSI and BPAS aren’t offering independent advice is that they do not appear to offer any sort of practical information or aid in relation to choosing to keep the baby. A good counsellor should play devil’s advocate to a certain extent. Not just affirm your innate feelings, but go through the realities and possible outcomes of both courses of action. We know that the assistant in a dress shop is likely to tell us we look fabulous and may treat their exhortations with a healthy amount of scepticism, but not so an abortion provider. It is very clear with an organisation such as LIFE, what their aims are and any woman would instinctively know this (the clue is in the name and the picture of the unborn baby in utero). With organisations such as MSI and BPAS, their bias is hidden to vulnerable pregnant women. You are referred there by your doctor, it’s a clinic, it seems to be all about health, you see leaflets telling you that having an abortion is very common (we look to other peoples’ choices for affirmation when faced with a dilemma) and it probably will not occur to the pregnant woman, that the counsellor who is “helping” her works for an organisation who will be paid should she proceed with an abortion. It’s presented under the guises of health, of medicine but the decision to abort for purely health grounds consists of around 1% of pregnancies. The decision to terminate is not simply one of medicine, you are not treating an ailment.

Women will not have to face a delay in procuring an abortion, but given an opportunity to stop and think to discuss it further if they wish. Post 9 weeks they will require surgery. There is no difference in technique between 9 and 15 weeks; between 15 and 20, the procedure is still surgical and similar risks, but a different technique is used. A short delay might only have an impact on whether or not the RU486 abortion pill can be used. Is an artificially induced miscarriage during which you get to pass the fetal sac and experience a mini-labour, any more or less traumatic than a swift surgical procedure under local or general anaesthetic? The answer is entirely subjective.

Sunny seems to wilfully miss the point. The counselling is not compulsory and will not delay those whose minds are already made up. He assumes that everyone who requires counselling will require an abortion and that independent counselling is unnecessary as it already exists at MSI and BPAS. There is nothing to suggest that they do not overcome the obvious conflict of interest. If this amendment gives more  women the opportunity to thoroughly consider their decision, instead of feeling rushed, if it does result in fewer abortions and fewer cases of post-abortion stress disorder, how on earth can that be damaging to women’s health?

I shall be sharing further servings of Sunny Delight as and when required.

3 thoughts on “Sunny watch.

  1. This is a v interesting post but with respect I think you don’t quite get what “pro-choice” actually means. It isn’t the opposite of “pro-life,” and it isn’t “pro-abortion.” It is pro-CHOICE. In other words: not divulging their opinion or feelings, non-directional counselling specifically allows for the woman to make her own mind up, so surely the counsellor’s own views are irrelevant. As per the counselling guidelines.

    You can be pro-life and pro-choice as well. Pro-choice is the opposite of wanting to push your opinions on other people; the opposite of wanting the state/doctors/churches/etc to tell other people what decision to make. Not the opposite of having a personal belief that abortion is wrong.

  2. Good to see someone is on top of this. Happy to provide any information needed from my own experience with Marie Stopes. For the record I wasn’t offered counselling before or after. This is in addition to the poor care I received at that traumatic time. Informed choice? No such thing.

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