Abby Johnson, the former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic is here in the UK to give a series of talks about her experiences and what motivated her to turn her back on the abortion industry.
She appeared on Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4 this morning (the interview commences at 1 minute 10 into the broadcast) against Lisa Hallgarten, former director of Education for Choice and pro-choice advocate.
What struck me about the interview was Lisa’s blanket denials that abortion constitutes anything other than an industry, claiming that abortion providers are not-for-profit charities. Being a registered charity denotes tax status only. Private schools constitute charities, because like abortion providers they are supposed to be providing a public service, they are not accountable to shareholders or take huge dividends, but their very existence depends upon demand and repeat custom. Independent abortion providers run their organisations along the same lines as any other business, they have marketing departments, formulate business plans, try to maximise revenue streams and any profits are ploughed back into consolidating and expanding their market share. In addition their managing directors are paid well above industry standards in terms of salary packages, Tim Black CEO of Marie Stopes, currently earns £125,000. Any measures that proposed to dramatically reduce the abortion rate in the UK would drastically threaten their existence, which is why we see figures such as Ann Furedi proclaiming ‘there is no right number of abortions’.
BPAS latest statement of accounts set out their financial objectives, which include generating a surplus of £2.1 million, increasing the number of NHS contracts won, notably by expanding into London, the South West and South East, as well as embedding a public education and engagement programme to build support for the BPAS mission, including lobbying for policy changes in terms of early abortion, increasing their local, national and international profile through promotion of services and to establish a network of European referrers. This is the fifth year in a row that BPAS has reported an increase in trading surplus, and the plan for 2012/2013 is to build on the financial successes of future years.
But clearly not a business. As a point of note, Ann Furedi’s salary is not listed, however 1 employee is listed as being paid between £120,000 and £130,000 per annum. Given that her counterpart at Marie Stopes earns £125,000 it’s safe to assume that Ann’s salary would be of an equivalent level. In terms of charitable activities, BPAS note that they wrote off loans to clients, totalling £2,500 and they waived abortion fees to the sum of £24, 491. That equates to 41 early medical abortions, or 24 surgical abortions between 9 and 18 weeks, or 18 late stage abortions. Compared with the £26 million of annual income generated, and the aim to increase their operating surplus to £2.1 million, £27,000 spent on helping a handful of cash-strapped clients, doesn’t strike one as the epitome of munificence for a charity claiming to be of significant public benefit.
The other point that Lisa wanted to make to counter Abby was the excellence of the service and counselling provided by abortion clinics. Correctly identifying that most women who present at an abortion clinic have already made their mind up to have an abortion, Lisa takes this as proof that their choices must therefore be informed and correct and they will have sought advice elsewhere, especially from families.
Families don’t tend to be very good at the gold standard of ‘impartial non directive counselling’ in my experience, nor are close friends. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, we are all entitled to impart our views and values if someone asks us informally for advice if they are facing a tough situation, but why is it better for a woman to be convinced that an abortion is the right course of action for her against an instinct to keep the baby, as opposed to a woman whose instinct is that she cannot have a baby to be persuaded otherwise?
Marie Stopes did not provide me with “gold standard, second to none care” in terms of counselling or the procedure itself. No-one explored other options with me and nor was there any acknowledgement or sense that I was facing a choice. Far from it, the ‘counsellor’ listened to the reasons why I felt that I should have an abortion and made no attempt to explore my fears or concerns, to test their validity, neither did she prepare me for the fact that I might face trauma, either directly afterwards, or that this may affect my mental health in future pregnancies.
I was told that an abortion was obviously the only course of action and that I was in no position to deal with a baby. Adoption was never even suggested or mentioned. The attitude was one of confirming my negativity and fears.
The physical care was pretty dreadful too. I wasn’t informed until after the misoprostol tablets were inserted that I could expect to experience a ‘mini labour’. The overriding image imprinted on my brain is one of ‘horseshoes’. I remember doubling over in pain in a cramped toilet cubicle, feeling as though I had been repeatedly kicked in the stomach by a horse. A nurse making a routine check of the toilets spotted me vomiting profusely into the sink. “That’s great” she said “it shows it’s really working well”. Resting my burning forehead against the cool tiles above the basin, in-between bouts of retching and convulsing into a ball on the floor due to excruciating stomach pains, I vowed never ever to go through childbirth. It’s no wonder that women who have experienced an early abortion have an innate fear of childbirth, it is forever associated with terrible pain, isolation, loneliness, desolation and despair. Pain, blood and mess with nothing to show at the end of it. I had an innate urge to walk up and down the ornate balustraded staircase (the procedure itself took place at Marie Stopes’ Barking facility) to alleviate the pain, but the staff were having none of it, trying to hustle me back into a bed. Lying still was the worst possible course of action, I was like a caged, rabid animal, pacing the premises, desperate to do something to soothe the excruciating pain wracking my body and for the whole experience to be over.
The sympathy, care and understanding from the staff was non-existent. They wanted me out of the way, safely in a ward or bed, not wandering around the joint with my contorted expressions of pain and clutching my stomach.
It’s one of the reasons why my recent miscarriage was quite so traumatic, as I had to go through an almost identical procedure, only this time my baby had already died of natural causes. The difference in care and treatment between the staff on a NHS gynae ward and an abortion clinic to whom the NHS has contracted out abortion provision, could not have been more marked. Every single member of staff I spoke to, introduced themselves with the opening phrase “I’m so sorry to have to be seeing you in these circumstances”, acknowledging that I was losing a baby, not getting rid of some unwanted unspecified lump of tissue, or treating me like a stupid adolescent who had been caught out for not taking better care of herself. Though one hears of horror stories, the staff on level 11 of the Royal Sussex County hospital offered sympathetic and compassionate care right from the moment that we learnt that the baby’s heartbeat had stopped. Whether or not a baby is wanted makes all the difference in terms of whether or not it is treated as a human being or a woman as a grieving mother. The abortion clinics cannot treat women as mothers losing a baby for obvious reasons. To do so would render their biological sophistry untenable.
In comparison to Marie Stopes who offered me nothing in terms of pain relief, the NHS offered to throw everything in their gamut, from liquid morphine to entenox if necessary. Using the same medication as on offer from the abortion clinics, I was kept in overnight and ending up losing almost two litres of blood and needing emergency treatment in the middle of the night to remove trapped placental tissue causing an enormous hemorrhage.
That the abortion providers wish to push this treatment for women to take at home, is utterly beyond me. Had I been home there could have been a medical catastrophe with the added trauma of young children as witnesses. Admittedly my miscarriage was later than the abortion, however the physical pain in both instances was identical. If abortion clinics purport to care so much about the welfare of women, why do they not provide adequate pain relief beyond paracetamol or ibuprofen?
Of course that would cost, not only in terms of the drugs themselves but also the supervision required of women who were administered opiates or entenox as well as someone competent and able to prescribe them, such as a qualified doctor. It wouldn’t help achieve the £2 million target of operating surplus. If pro-lifers were to campaign for adequate pain relief for women experiencing medical abortion, it would be written off as a wish to punish women, but god forbid we were to level a similar charge at the benevolent clinics.
Lisa Hallgarten was at pains to differentiate the UK from the US in terms of abortion provision. Personally I don’t see a lot of difference, simply that the UK’s abortion industry is more slick and has been more successful in terms of leveraging the typical British sentiment to contain messiness behind closed doors, eschew all expressions of disgust and keep the aspidistra flying.
Frederica Mathewes-Green famously stated “no woman wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg”.
Abortion clinics act as the wire-cutters, coming along to cut and disentangle the wires in exchange for a fee and often inflicting damage as severe on the trapped woman, as bad as had she gnawed her own leg off in the first place. A humane society would campaign for no traps. But what the pro-life movement and organisations aim to do is show the woman that the trap is not is not as threatening or dangerous as she feared and enable to make her way out, free of damage and intact.
Increasing the number of wire-cutters in the form of abortion clinics does nothing to prevent the laying of traps. If as a rabbit you wanted to cross a pasture full of enticing clover, littered with traps, would you really trust the man you’d have to pay for wire cutters to help you navigate a path to avoid them?