Since I wrote yesterday’s post regarding the brouhaha surrounding pro-life Crisis Pregnancy Counselling Centres, (CPCs) some valuable additional information has come to light.
Speaking with one of the groups involved yesterday, it appears that all is not quite as would seem in terms of this ‘damning’ video coverage. Firstly, the undercover reporter made 4 separate visits to the counselling centre and repeatedly pushed the issue with regards to breast cancer. Not having got what she wanted, they then went to find another centre who would indeed tell them what they wanted to hear, although it’s worth replaying the video recording or watching if you have not already done so. What was said, was not the most scientific, but neither was it the most outrageous lie.
With hindsight we can think of better ways that this information could be phrased and instead of pro-life groups splitting into factions, actually we all ought to be supporting each other in terms of developing best practice. It’s not often that I agree with SPUC, but in this instance, Paul Tully’s statement regarding groups who provide pro-life counselling for women, is bang on the money. They are truly heroic. Unlike the abortion clinics or sex education providers they receive absolutely no government money (which calls into question the whole issue as to whether or not they should be regulated) and they provide help and assistance to women on the very fringes of society, typically those in low socio-economic groups who do not qualify for any sort of government help. Pro-life counselling groups, do not just counsel but they provide very real support, such as money, housing, shelter, accommodation, employment and skills-based training, life-skills and in some cases literally put food on the table for starving pregnant women. Their support is wholly unconditional, if you are pregnant and going to suffer as a result of carrying your pregnancy to term, they will provide support for you for as long as you need it.
One has to ask how representative this video tape is of an ordinary undecided pregnant woman’s experience. If the groups are guilty of anything it is of naivety, although my understanding is that they regularly receive time-wasting visitors, whom they are able to see off at the first pass, who ask suspicious questions and repeatedly request to be shown graphic images. That is not the typical reaction of a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy and neither is an in-depth grilling on potential negative consequences of abortion.
That is not to defend the the poor phrasing or, misleading information but interestingly the Telegraph reports have not included any of the accompanying literature which does include some of the statistics.
We should also remember what counselling is – as Jack Scarisbrook of LIFE said a few years ago, it is not about imparting information, but allowing a safe space away from pressures for a woman to consider all of her options. A Catholic group may well take issue with the idea of non-directive counselling, because the counsellor must allow a woman to come to her own decision, even if that entails aborting her baby. However where counselling is provided by a group like LIFE for example, it is highly likely that a woman who has come to explore her options is undecided and therefore the counsellor will help her uncover the negative feelings about her pregnancy and decide whether or not they are valid, without actually advocating any course of action. It is undeniable that a woman who is feeling unsure about whether or not to abort, when given a safe opportunity to explore her feelings will more often than not choose a positive outcome for her baby.
In terms of Catholic counselling, the idea that women are pushed, cajoled, or pressurised is again a fallacious one. A counselling session will not force a woman who is unwilling to continue her pregnancy to term, to do so. The only ‘damage’ which could be done, is that having had her conscience pricked and been exposed to a point of view which seeks to emphasise the humanity of the unborn, she could then be more prone to feelings of guilt, which begs the question as to whether or not the decision was indeed the right one for her. Guilt does not simply spring from someone pointing out an opposing ideological stance.
As to the medical data this is always supplementary information and incidental to the main decision which is always ‘can I cope with a pregnancy and young baby at this point in time’, but so long as it is presented factually and accurately, then it would be doing a great disservice to women to deny that issues and complications can and do arise post-abortion. Cases of women who were persuaded against abortion purely because of health risks are rare, although Courtney Kardashian seems to have been swayed and has not as yet expressed any regrets. In fact she consulted her doctor to learn more about the risks who said this:
“My doctor told me there is nothing you will ever regret about having the baby, but he was like, ‘You may regret not having the baby.’ And I was like: That is so true. And it just hit me. I got so excited”
How very unscientific! How very ideological! How dare he give her such an opinion, instead of a neutral assessment of the data!
And this is the point. If the NHS was subject to secret filming of what was said to patients there would be a scandal on a daily basis. Medical staff are instructed to give you information in clear, plain and understandable English, instead of lapsing into scientific jargon. They are supposed to couch things in terms one can understand. Of course they shouldn’t come out with falsehoods or give you an opinion upon a best course of action, but they frequently do and often in very strong terms.
This is often at its most pronounced in terms of pregnancy – I have frequently been told in a very forceful manner what I ought to do both in terms of how I should deliver a child and contraceptive measures. In two pregnancies, I have been advised that I ought to consider abortion by members of the NHS on what constituted social grounds, namely the spacing of my children. Like many Catholic women we have received the obligatory hectoring post childbirth about our ‘irresponsible’ use of Fertility Awareness. Frankly that is infinitely worse than what we have seen in the pro-life counselling centres yet this happens on a daily basis on the NHS. Clinical judgement always brings an element of personal opinion into the equation. Telling a woman that she ought to have an abortion and then, as happened in my pregnancy in 2012, that she ought to go for counselling to consider it further when I refused, is in many ways worse as there is little choice when it comes to whether or not to use the NHS and staff judgement carries considerable authority.
All this worry and angst is solely driven by the pro-choice brigade – god forbid that a woman may feel anything less than wonderful following an abortion. No-one wants to see post-abortive women punished or made to go through unnecessary anxiety, but neither should pro-choice be allowed to dictate the framework here, which is one of medicalising an issue of moral judgement and closing down any viewpoint which seeks to persuade that abortion could in any way be wrong.
Two years ago, Telegraph columnist Tim Stanley wrote a fascinating piece about the success of the pro-life lobby in America, noting that they had borrowed the left’s language of health and safety and used regulation to good effect in terms of forcing clinics to ensure women’s safety. The reverse is happening over here. The liberal establishment are propping up the government-funded abortion and sex education industry to make morals a matter of medics. We are seeing this in campaigns for statutory sex education and best practice which seek to exclude parents who may not share the state agenda or curriculum in providing the correct ideology and now we see it in terms of the abortion industry and counselling which needs to be on the clinics’ terms.
Pro-lifers should not capitulate or hand-wring, counsellors need to ensure that they get their house in order, that women are given the facts and information that they need but neither should we forget that at least two lives are always at stake.