Post Mortem – where do we go from here?


I am a passionate defender of the rights of the unborn as well as the elderly and the terminally or chronically sick. I believe that every life is of equal value and worth , from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.

I give my time, my effort and what little spare money I have to the pro-life cause. What do the various organisations actually do to deserve my money? They did not support the Right to Know campaign, on the grounds that the potential reduction in abortions could not be quantified; it could not be ascertained precisely how many women may take up the offer of independent counselling and because Crisis Pregnancy Centres could be put at risk.

Let me address these points one by one.

  • Why does the precise number regarding the potential reduction in abortions matter? It is obvious that if women are given truly independent counselling, off the premises of the abortion provider and allowed to think and talk through all of the options, that some may well re-consider an instinctive reaction to abort a pregnancy and decide to continue the pregnancy. Even if just one life was saved, this would have been worthwhile – since when was the pro-life cause utilitarian in nature? Indeed a utilitarian attitude is the very antithesis of a pro-life mentality, one that is generous to every single individual.
  • Again, does it matter how many women may or may not have taken up the offer? Is this not ungenerous and contrary to the spirit of the pro-life cause. We know that abortion HURTS women. This is why I feel so very strongly about abortion. We know, it hurts women as much as it does their children. We provide post-abortion counselling and listening. How many times have women rung up, often in the small hours of the morning, wanting to talk through their hurt and pain with someone who will understand? Women who have felt pressured, by their partners, by their families, by the expectations of society, to abort their unborn child. Society does not allow a woman to grieve after abortion. She has exercised her choice, a perfectly valid and legitimate one, so what is there to be upset about? If she recognises that this was a life, she is told that she is being illogical, this was after all, only a cluster of cells, not a real person (despite the fact that by the time of even the earliest abortions, the foetus is fully formed), not a viable human being so there is nothing to get upset about. If the humanity of the unborn child is admitted, it only compounds the woman’s grief.
  • Part of our ministry involves helping to heal the physical and emotional aftermath of abortion. I have spent hour upon hour listening to women crying because, in their words “I killed my baby and I don’t think I can ever forgive myself”. “I didn’t want to, but I felt I had no other choice”, “if I could have my time again, I would never have done this”, “I was unprepared for the grief, it was like hitting a brick wall at 60 miles an hour”, “no-one warned me that I was going to have to experience a type of labour, until it was too late”, “the procedure left scars on my cervix which could have left me infertile”. 
  • We know the reality of abortion, we witness the aftermath all the time. There are many  women I have spoken to, who may not have changed their decision to abort their child, and whilst none of us could ever sanction the death of an unborn child, is it not better that a woman who decides to proceed with an abortion, does so in a state of informed knowledge, so that she may be prepared for the potential ordeal? An abortion, very much like childbirth, is the unknown. Nobody can experience it on behalf of the woman, nobody can say with any certainty how she will feel afterwards. Surely it is better that she may be informed of all the risks and options available to her, in order to alleviate her suffering at the other end. The study produced in the Journal of Psychiatry last week which was a review of all major studies to date, stated that women who had been through abortion were 81% more likely to suffer from mental health problems. A woman who has experienced an abortion is 55% more likely to suffer mental health issues than a woman who is forced to continue with her unplanned pregnancy.
  • Don’t we owe it to WOMEN, to have fought this issue just a bit harder, rather than focus purely on the numbers? We know that unlike the ardent pro-choicers, that we cannot assume that a woman knows her own mind. This is not sexist or misogynist, but accepting that due to the misogynist nature of today’s society, women are very often coerced into aborting their unborn babies because a pregnancy is not convenient. A woman’s fertility and subsequent pregnancies must not simply be seen as an inconvenient side effect of gender, for which a remedy must be found. To compel a woman to disregard the natural product of her innate sexuality is oppression.
  • I have heard countless women tell me that in their hearts they didn’t want to abort their babies,  they experienced a visceral reaction towards their unborn, as one woman said to me “I just wanted to be challenged”. An unplanned pregnancy is terrifying. I should know, I have experienced two. No-one can go through it for you, but just one statement “it will be fine, you can do this” is all it takes to offer comfort and support. Countless women state that there was nothing “wrong” with the counselling or consultation (although bear in mind it is the lack of counselling that women testify as being one of their regrets) it was simply that they went into an abortion clinic, stated why they felt ambivalent about the pregnancy, why they felt that abortion might be the option and this was confirmed to them, no alternatives were offered or discussed. Obviously the abortion clinics trusted that the women knew their own minds and had already made their decision. Once the doubts about the pregnancy had been outlined, the discussion was moved on to methods of abortion.

We owed it to women to get this amendment through, which is why I vehemently supported it. Not simply to reduce the numbers of abortions, not just to abolish the one-stop-shop nature of the abortion clinic, but to help women and avoid some of the terrible stress and trauma that will be experienced by so many women. I wonder how the 600 women who had an abortion today are feeling? I wonder how many of them had access to truly independent counselling? I wonder how many of them really had absolutely no other option?

This was so minor, it would have done absolutely nothing in terms of changing the laws surrounding abortion, but it could have done a great deal to alleviate suffering and distress and we absolutely stuffed this one up.

Let’s be honest, everyone knows that Nadine Dorries is something of a political liability. She has a tendency to be rather elastic with the facts, her parliamentary style has something to be desired and she is considered a loose cannon by the Conservative Party. Whatever she did in the run-up to Wednesday (I have heard some unsubstantiated rumours) it upset her own political ally enough that he basically told her to shut up and sit down in Parliament and then proceeded to desert her in battle, in a humiliating and unprecedented switch to the other side. Whatever Nadine had done, it had seriously riled Frank. He treated her with utter ruthlessness, as did the Conservative Leadership.

But let’s not just blame this on Nadine. We know what her style is and her personal reputation. We know that she is a PR disaster and yet she ploughs on regardless. We know that whatever else she is principled and crucially we also know that she surrounds herself with a team of numpties. This campaign was a disaster from start to finish. Way back in March, those in the know predicted, look, this isn’t going to go anywhere. They know Nadine’s history and saw the utter carnage of the 2008HFE bill. Those running the Right to Know campaign made some basic and fundamental errors and were lacking in professionalism. One example being that templates for people to contact their MPs were noticeably lacking.

We know that the pro-choice lobby would blow this amendment out of all proportion. We know how slick their PR operation is. It should have been obvious that they would attempt to carry out a sting operation on Crisis Pregnancy Centres and thus pro-life organisations should have had their house in order. What in the name of all that is holy, is Care Confidential still doing with a manual that bangs on about “sin and grieving God” etc etc. What an own goal. The pro-life cause already has an image of being weird religious fundamental Christians, despite the fact that there are many secular adherents. Stuff like this does not help and is really indefensible, both in terms of PR and more importantly in terms of practice. Now that I am a practising Catholic, I would obviously find religious spiritual counselling enormously helpful. When I had my first unplanned pregnancy I was a lapsed Catholic, more agnostic than anything else, and had a counsellor attempted to talk to me about God, I would have gone running straight to the first abortion clinic. Women who are frightened do not need to be given religious guidance, unless they specifically seek it. It is utterly counter-productive and loses all professional credibility.

ALL of the pro-life organisations who carry out counselling should have foreseen this and should have had their house in order. The PR handling by LIFE of the Guardian sting was a joke. It was left to bloggers like Archbishop Cranmer to sort out the mess and LIFE owe His Grace an enormous thank you. They are lucky to have such an erudite, principled, influential and impassioned supporter. Even if he is dead. It says something when they leave it in the hands of someone who died over 500 years ago. I gave this month’s donation to His Grace’s collection plate. He was a much worthier recipient than any of the so-called professionals.

I am hoping that Damian Thompson will elaborate further, but believe me the emails I have seen between Ben Quinn of the Guardian, Sex Education for Choice and certain individuals at LIFE defy belief. My dog could have done a better job. These stings should have been preempted, those volunteers requiring additional training should have been identified, so that what scant “evidence” there was, could have been disregarded. Furthermore LIFE had the opportunity to launch a pre-emptive strike and did not.

So we’ve utterly failed. SPUC can laugh at LIFE’s incompetence whilst not grasping the reality that absolutely nobody takes them seriously in the first place. Crisis Pregnancy Centres are now at risk, NOT because of Nadine’s amendment, but because they didn’t have their house in order. Everybody blames Nadine and yet her amendment did not have the potential to threaten them, it was their own ineptitude.

Speaking in the Catholic Herald, in a horrendous and false capitulation to abortion providers, which no-one can condone,  Josephine Quintavelle says that the Dorries amendment was flawed from the start and warns about it splitting the pro-life movement. What pro-life movement? A disparate group of organisations, none of whom seem to be able to produce any coherent or united message. LIFE, despite being a non-denominational organisation have to fight off accusations of “religious nut jobs” whereas SPUC are quite happy to go with that. On the one level, there’s nothing wrong with an openly Catholic pro-life organisation, except, ahem, surely this should be the responsibility of the CATHOLIC CHURCH? Where were they in all this? Where were the Catholic MPs? Why doesn’t the Catholic Church in the UK speak out more about abortion, why does it not do something to build up a solid pro-life movement, instead of handing thousands of pounds of parishioners’ money to organisations that are as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike?

If the Catholic Church was able to martial the huge amount of grass-root support in the pews into a tangible organisation, then no longer would people be able to claim that Catholics weren’t all against abortion. Moreover there would then be a very strong and influential arm that could add considerable weight to any secular or political pro-life organisation. What I really don’t get is why there are so many different disparate pro-life groups? It’s incredibly confusing for someone wanting to engage in activism and wanting to know which mast to affix one’s colours. They are all sinking ships.

I commented  in support of LIFE on Iain Dale’s blog the other day and was instantly worried that by supporting one group, I may then alienate another. It shouldn’t have to be like this. Why can’t everyone unite and pool resources and expertise, or is that just too simplistic? So and so did x to so and so and ne’er the twain shall meet. Meanwhile SPUC rule themselves out of serious discourse by focusing upon internal politics and rulings of the Catholic Church, discussing seemingly irrelevant issues such as homosexuality, LIFE leave themselves open to stings, Right to Life fights valiantly led by a stalwart of the movement, one for whom I have enormous respect, but who is now an octogenarian and I have absolutely no idea what the Pro Life Alliance do, other than to sit back and blame the convenient scapegoat and say whatever seems politically expedient.

Damian Thompson said that young pro-lifers are in despair. I don’t know if he counted me amongst those, but he is right. His suggestion was that we scrap the lot and start again. I’d love to Damian, it shouldn’t be down to me, a mother and student, to be analysing stats and finding interesting narratives, such as I did in the teenage pregnancy rates. I found another interesting one the other day, which would have supported Dorries’ campaign no end. I rang someone up and asked them what to do with it. “Sit on it” I was advised, “it will come in handy later, Dorries’ campaign is going nowhere and her people won’t know how to use this information properly.” I was stunned that no-one else seemed to have highlighted my discovery which upon further expert discussion was not only feasible but entirely logical. Why had no-one else drawn attention to it? Why was this missed?

I don’t want to start another pro-life organisation, I have neither the political expertise or experience, though I don’t think anyone could doubt my passion. It would only be just another splinter group. What I want to achieve is cohesion and unity. Let’s have one strong pro-life group together with a very strong Catholic movement. Membership of the  two do not need to be mutually exclusive, however we need to ensure that there is a group not only for Catholics, but for those of all religions and none. If we couldn’t get this trifling amendment through, against the mighty budgets and slick operation of the pro-choice groups, what chance do we have on the bigger, more substantive issues?  I have expended so much emotional energy for this, and I will continue to fight and fight, but right now it seems like a losing cause. If we’re not careful all pro-life organisations are in jeopardy and buoyed up with this success, I shouldn’t be surprised if we see forays into getting the second signature removed and time-limits extended. The Conservatives have shown they have little stomach for the cause, it’s not politically expedient. The most worrying implication of this, and believe me this will have implications for Catholics and Christians everywhere, is that votes of free conscience seem to be under threat. This is a huge threat to democracy and society as a whole and yet no-one seems to have batted an eyelid.

For those who didn’t support this because it didn’t mean an end to abortion or the numbers weren’t big enough, or they were too embarrassed by Dorries, next time I speak to a distressed woman, who feels that she was pressured into a quick decision or wasn’t given all of the available information, I shall comfort her as usual and tell her that she must not blame herself. She should blame all of those who let their ideology get in the way of  an amendment that could have meant the difference between life and death.

One thought on “Post Mortem – where do we go from here?

  1. the main and only reason this didn’t go thru is because it needs to be worked out. i thought that was pretty clear from Ann Milton’s statement. Don’t get hung up on the vote, changing a policy like this isn’t always straight forward and this debate is far from over.

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