Bernadette Smyth and abortion clinic buffer zones

One example of 'very real harassment'
One example of ‘very real harassment’

Readers of the Catholic Universe can read my comment about the case of Bernadette Smyth there.

Just a few points to note:

Bernadette Smyth has been indicted of harassment towards the dormer Northern Ireland politican, turned clinic director, Dawn Purvis. This is a charge which she denies and intends to appeal. Mrs Smyth claims that on no occasion did she ever attempt to contact Mrs Purvis, no bad language was ever used and indeed on both occasions where the harassment was deemed to take place, it was Mrs Purvis who approached her and invaded her personal space.

It is then, not clear why the judge thought fit to make remarks about women seeking abortion in Northern Ireland when the case was concerned about an unpleasant personal spat between two individuals. One may also question the appropriateness of these remarks , considering that the legal situation surrounding abortion in Northern Ireland is unclear – it is still contrary to the Offence against the Persons Act. In case anyone may be tempted to argue that this is an antiquated anomaly, the legalisation of abortion has been debated several times over the past few years at Stormont and on every single occasion MLAs have voted against any change to the law.

One could argue that those who stand outside clinics in Northern Ireland are in fact attempting to prevent a crime from taking place. In any event, the judge seems to have gone way beyond his remit in terms of making this case about the wider issue of protest outside abortion clinics. Judge Chris Holmes’ comments in this case amount to his taking of the law into his own hands and attempting to change or redefine it.

It is unsurprising that pro-choice campaigners are seeking to make hay out of this case and using it to leverage and promote legislation which would set up buffer zones outside abortion clinics, in the same way as has happened in a few US states.

One might argue that this is an inevitable consequence of pro-life campaigners turning abortion clinics into flashpoints of conflict, but it should also be noted that so far there have been absolutely no arrests of anyone involved in the peaceful 40 days for life campaign which has been running since 2010.

The only legal action which has taken place, was against Andrew Stephenson from Abort 67, the group who display graphic imagery outside clinics. The case against him collapsed due to lack of evidence.

Without re-hashing the pros and cons of different types of abortion clinic protest (my strong preference is for a silent prayer vigil, accompanied by appropriate information about foetal development and pregnancy along with resources on where to get help), the lack of arrests do not mean that the police do not have sufficient powers or that more legislation is needed.

The public order act amply covers for protection from harassment. My experience of participating in 40 Days for Life vigils, is that no harassment occurs, no filming takes place and women are neither followed nor approached. The former BPAS clinic in Bedford Square had a camera permanently trained on those participating in the vigil, which took part across the road. Any illegal or inappropriate behaviour would have been filmed, passed to the police and no doubt circulated all over the internet.

My experience of participating in silent prayer vigils is that the only aggression comes from  random passers-by and strangers on the internet who have no idea of precisely what happens. (You turn up and pray the rosary either silently, or quietly). For some people the very act of turning up and praying is interpreted as passive aggression. The very presence of people who disagree with abortion is deemed to be harassment, because women, understandably cannot bear to see a physical manifestation that there are some people who disagree with them and they find the concept that they are terminating a life very painful and difficult to bear. The night that I had hyped-up women and men, screaming obscenities and deliberate blasphemy within inches of my face and that of the 6 week old baby strapped to my chest, blaring loud klaxon horns and hurling abuse as a response to silently standing outside a clinic and praying, (when it was closed) is an occasion which is  seared into my memory.

Never before have I been confronted with such raw, visceral, violent hatred and anger, simply for standing across the road from a clinic and praying. There was nothing whatsoever about my behaviour that merited such a response, it was simply the fact that I had the temerity to publicly witness against abortion. A similar response is garnered by the Oxford pro-life group who gather outside a hospital where abortions are performed on a Saturday, when no actual proceudres are taking place. They cannot be accused of harassing women, however under these proposed new buffer zones, their protest would be illegal. The behaviour which is being objected to is of public disagreement with abortion, nothing more. If pro-lifers were accusing pro-choicers of intimidation, accusations of lying would be flying about and substantive proof demanded. Why is in then that these general accusations are being believed as Gospel truth and why are the clinics not asking the women who claim to have been harassed to point out those individuals responsible, state precisely what it was they are supposed to have done and calling the police? This could easily be done without compromising anonymity. In the case of Northern Ireland, Precious Life have been praised by senior police officers for the peaceful nature of their protests.

Comparisons with America, are moot – other than to note that there has been no history of violence of intimidation towards abortion clinic operators or staff in the UK. Ann Furedi is more than happy to debate abortion on university campuses and has never expressed any well-founded fear or threats to her personal safety. The same cannot be said for me however, before I even began writing this blog, one woman spammed me with several personal abusive emails threatening to report me to my husband’s former Anglican bishop for ‘endangering vulnerable pregnant women’ due to my pro-life views and has made several attempts to interfere with any professional or media work. I receive a number of threats, specifically wishing for my death in childbirth, and the removal of my children or for them to have an abortion, on a depressingly frequent basis. The only people ever to throw mud  and cause guilt and shame about my past abortion are themselves pro-choicers, who purport not to judge!

When it comes to the filming of women, I drive past Wistons clinic in Brighton, the home of Abort 67 on a daily basis and often walk my dog past, to take a discrete shufty. I’ve never witnessed any intimidating behaviour, unless one counts the offering of leaflets and certainly never any filming of women, which is strictly prohibited by 40 days for Life. My understanding is that one campaigner from Abort 67 has a camera permanently switched on strapped about their person, not trained on any specific individuals but rather to provide evidence of behaviour in case harassment is alleged and indeed in case they themselves are subject to attack.

Whether or not prayer vigils are prudent is one issue, but that is not the same as whether or not they ought to be illegal. In the case of Abort 67 or God’s Helpers of Precious Infants who offer passers-by literature, again this is not illegal and is no different to the very many chuggers who stand on the streets handing out material that many people would consider desperately offensive.

There is little to choose between the offensive literature of the anti-vivisectionists and political campaigners who litter the streets of Brighton displaying graphic photographs of dismembered and suffering animals, or of young children shot and tortured in the Middle East, and the material that Abort 67 hands out. When it comes to the religious nuns and older ladies who stand tirelessly outside some abortion clinics – they only offer rosaries and leaflets on alternative pregnancy resources and nothing graphic or offensive. It’s nowhere near as distressing as some of the images that my children are subjected to if I take them into Brighton on a busy Saturday. Neither is the atmosphere as intimidating as that created by the protestors who until recently stood outside the Soda Stream shop next to Waitrose, hassling and heckling passers-by and effectively preventing people from going into a shop. Same with the anti-fur folk from PETA who hound anyone who dares either to wear fur or frequent retailers who stock it.

For those who object to the comparison, if you are claiming that a baby is not in fact a human being, or a life, or anything other than a blob of non-sentient parasitic tissue which has no rights, then why is protesting against its ill-treatment and untimely death so unconscionable? Why is it okay to harangue shoppers and make them feel guilty for consumer choices or force them to look at dying animals in appalling conditions overseas or tortured in laboratories and yet not acceptable to make other people aware of what an unborn baby actually looks like, or consider whether or not abortion is killing? If we are accepting that the plight of humanity is more important than that of animals, then why are we excluding a discussion of human life at the very place that it is terminated?

One of the most unbearable aspects of this pro-choice campaign, is attempts such as these from Emma Barnett, the Jewish editor of Telegraph women, to define and impose  her version of what should constitute Christian behaviour onto others. As Laura Keynes points out, Christ did not shy away from hard truths and while He would have undoubtedly had compassion for women feeling that they had little other choice than to abort, he would not have minced his words about clinics which seek to make money from the killing of desperate women’s unborn children. There is no doubt that organisations such as the Good Counsel network perform corporal works of mercy, feeding, clothing and housing women who would otherwise be on the streets and who are already living hand-to-mouth. They are allowing the children of the poor and marginalised and very often immigrants, to be born and allowing those who would otherwise receive no benefits or medical care, to not only survive, but to thrive.

Whatever you think of the tactics of Abort 67, Andy Stephenson displays the radical  unapologetic and unashamed honesty of Christ himself and indeed causes similar outrage and scandal. We may be called to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves, but we should equally remember that Christians are not called to appease public opinion, rather than to do what is pleasing to God. Secular society wishes to define Christians as fuzzy well-meaning do-gooders, a bit like tank-cleaning fish. We are supposed to quietly and unobtrusively go about our business, sucking up and cleaning the scum or dirt, but never making ourselves visible or detracting from the other more attractive and colourful species. We can hold our funny views about abortion or whatever, but we should not be allowed to promote these to others and if possible, we ought to change them if we want the important people to like us and be nice to us.

Make no mistake, the sentiment behind those looking to create buffer zones is the same illiberality that wishes to close down abortion debate which seems to be pervading in our universities. This is not about making abortion clinics ‘safer’ places for women but about suppressing any point of view which states that abortion is wrong and takes the life of an unborn child, especially in a place which could cause women to rethink her decision. Laura is not the only one who wishes that someone had offered her a viable alternative the morning she walked into an abortion clinic, had someone been there the morning I walked in, I would not have wiped out my baby’s future either. Many of the volunteers with Good Counsel Network are those very women who were themselves helped a few years previously and who are able to tell people, exactly what is on offer. No wonder Marie Stopes wants them gone.

Some people think that abortion is wrong. The function of the law is not to protect people from hearing points of view which they find objectionable, no matter how attractive this prospect may seem at times.

Abby Johnson and the UK abortion industry

Abby johnson

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?

Hijacking the Royal Society of Medicine

Royal Society of Medicine

BPAS are advertising a conference in June which they appear to be sponsoring, called ‘abortion, motherhood and the medical profession’. It seems a strange title for an organisation who is predominantly concerned with removing motherhood, but this conference needs to be called out for what it is. An attempt at co-opting the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM), in order to endorse abortion as being a matter of medical treatment when as a recent symposium on Excellent Maternal Healthcare noted in their press release, abortion is never medically necessary to save the life of a mother. 

Abortion is a medical procedure, hence the involvement of the RSM, but this conference will obviously be incorporated by BPAS into their promotional material, with the RSM being used as leverage, in order to endorse any findings or conclusions as being those of a  professional body or allegedly evidence-based. The RSM describe this event as a joint meeting with BPAS, which raises questions about impartiality, as well as funding. Have BPAS subsidised this meeting in any way? It probably falls under costs of marketing and PR, in their Profit and Loss account.

In case of any doubt, I’ll run through the programme of events and outline the credentials of the speakers:

Introduction and Opening remarks:

  • Mrs Joanne Fletcher, Consultant Nurse, Gynaecology, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust 

An impartial consultant nurse? Actually Joanne Fletcher was the publication co-ordinator of this document about abortion care for the Royal College of Nurses in 2008. Interestingly the document was sponsored by Exelgyn, manufacturers of the abortion pill, RU486, Bayer Healthcare, who manufacture contraceptives and abortifacients. So, absolutely no vested interests there whatsoever then? Back to Mrs Fletcher, not only did she co-ordinate publication of this document but she is also a member of the RCN group – ‘Nurses working within termination of pregnancy Network’.  So it’s obvious where she stands on abortion.

  • Ms Jennie Bristow, Publications and Conference Manager, British Pregnancy Advisory Service

Fairly straightforward who this lady is, she’s in charge of commissioning and publishing research and organising conferences that promote abortion such as this one.

Foetal imaging and imagining the foetus:

This session, is chaired by Clare Murphy, Director of External Affairs at BPAS. She used to tweet as @clare_bpas before deleting her account in favour of a more professional generic BPAS account. I remember her tweeting about the appearance of some of those on 40 days for life – if one can be bothered to search through the blog, I’m sure there’s a tweet somewhere about her deriding the colour of tights of a volunteer, but again, I think we all know where Ms Murphy stands when it comes to abortion.

What intrigues me is why she is chairing a session on foetal imaging and “imagining the foetus”? Is she some sort of leading expert in the field of foetal imaging and diagnostics? Is she a qualified sonographer? My understanding is that she’s been promoted up from her original role within PR at BPAS.

What is imagining the foetus? One has a scan and sees a foetus on the screen (well actually you don’t at BPAS, they won’t show you and will dissuade you if you ask, can’t begin to imagine why). What has imagination got to do with it? Either you see a foetus or you don’t, if one is present on screen, it’s certainly not a figment of imagination.

Which is really the entire point of this session. It’s nothing to do with medical science and more to do with helping the client conceptualise her unborn child as being as un-human as possible. It’s about understanding the psychology of a pregnant woman and manipulation, by using medical terminology such as ‘gestation sac’ and ‘the pregnancy’ instead of what’s actually there, a foetus. (Fetus: Latin “offspring”, “hatching of young” “bringing forth”)

So, who have we got discussing foetal imaging and imagining, conceptualising (or lack of) of the foetus?

  • Dr Stuart Derbyshire, Reader in Psychology, University of Birmingham

A psychologist, able to discuss ‘helpful’ ways of thinking about and describing the foetus to the mother. Not only is he a reader in psychology, but he is one of the medical experts who argues against the notion that foetuses may be able to feel any pain. So no doubt, his talk will have something to do with the fact that even though the baby might look human and fully developed, it probably won’t feel any pain (how can any of us know with any certainty and besides medical opinion is divided) and so it’s perfectly okay to kill it.

  • Professor Carol Sanger, Columbia Law School

Professor Sanger is also a fellow of St Anne’s college Oxford. She writes articles on family law and women’s ‘reproductive rights’. She’s an abortion advocate who last year delivered BPAS 2012 public lecture on abortion in the US. Sanger has fought against laws in the US requiring mandatory ultrasounds for pregnant mothers.

And our final ‘expert on this session regarding foetal imaging and imagining is:

  • Zoe Williams, columnist for the Guardian

Zoe Williams frequently churns out pro-choice feminist propaganda for the Guardian. She describes her views as left-wing and feminist and has written some amusing guides to pregnancy and motherhood. Not quite sure what she’s doing on a session which is ostensibly about foetal imaging. I’ve got 4 children to her 2, have had numerous scans and know quite a fair bit about embryology and foetal development, I’d wager that I’m every bit as qualified when it comes to discussing foetal imaging…

So anyway, then we come on to the next session

Information, counselling and the law

Chaired by:

  • Dr Ellie Lee, Reader in Social Policy, University of Kent

I’m actually rather an admirer of Dr Lee, despite being co-ordinator of the Pro-choice forum and a strong advocate of abortion. She’s often on Women’s Hour and other media, advocating for abortion. Always eloquent, she has written this paper which is essential reading for any pro-lifer, discussing how the issue of abortion must be ‘de-moralised’, i.e. stripped of any notion of morality. She argues that pro-choicers have not yet won the battle on abortion and discusses ways that the issue should be approached in Parliament. Notably for pro-lifers, Dr Lee has observed that failing to sustain arguments about the sanctity of life has derailed pro life groups in the past, but nonetheless, the idea that abortion should be outside of politics is one of concern. That abortion is  political, favours pro-choicers as they well know, despite their protestations about ‘politicising the issue’. It seems pro-life hasn’t done very well, when it has deviated too far from the idea that a baby has a right to life. Her research is invaluable for pro-lifers who wish to inform themselves and develop effective strategies.

  • Dr Patricia Lohr, Medical Director, British Pregnancy Advisory Service

Needs no further comment

  • Ms Jane Fisher, Director, Antenatal Results and Choices

Despite their title, Antenatal Results and Choices, whilst not overtly partisan, certainly favour abortion, Jane Fisher has spoken about the improvements in first trimester ante-natal testing which means that women can access ‘abortions they need’ earlier – a good thing in her view.

  • Professor Sally Sheldon, Kent Law School

Another abortion advocate, who argued in favour of a woman’s right to have a sex-selective abortion and states that it should be women, not doctors who decide whether or not they need one. (Unlike every other medical treatment).

After lunch (if they can stomach it) we have the following session

Testing positive, negative and in between: How the semi-quantitative pregnancy test could transform the management of abortion, miscarriage, fertility treatment and ectopic pregnancy

A semi-quantitative pregnancy test is a self-administered urine test that one takes at home, following a medical abortion, that is once you’ve taken the abortion pill. At present, women require a clinic follow up if they have taken the abortion pill, in order for either a blood test or ultrasound to check whether or not uterine evacuation is complete. This obviously increases the clinics’ overheads and the cost of abortions. You’ve given the woman the pill, had her money, sent her home, it’s obviously a bit of a faff for all concerned that she needs to come back for any sort of check in person to see whether or not the pill has done its job or whether there might still be some bits floating about inside. Of course a pill could transform management of abortion and see a significant cost reduction (wonder if this will be passed on) enabling women to do the test at home before trekking back to the clinic where a person can actually check they are alright.

With the vast majority of abortions being performed under 12 weeks and clinics pushing the abortion pill which can be taken under 9 weeks, it’s no wonder they are excited about this option. More free time to see more new clients!

So which experts have we got on this panel then?

Chair:

  • Ann Furedi Chief Executive BPAS

Say no more, Ann (kill all the unborn up until birth) Furedi

  • Professor Paul Blumenthal, Stanford University

The man who argued against the banning of partial-birth abortion in America. That’s when they deliver the baby and crush its head as its coming out. A particularly nasty and gruesome procedure which is fortunately now illegal both over there and over here.

  • Mrs Joanne Fletcher, Consultant Nurse, Gynaecology, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

As discussed above. A pro-choice activist consultant nurse

  • Dr Roy Farquharson, Consultant Gynaecologist, Liverpool Women’s Hospital

Author of a book on abortion in the first trimester

The day finishes off with the following session

Discussion: A new generation of abortion doctors – challenges and opportunities

Or, how do we entice more doctors into performing abortions, given there is an acute shortage of suitably qualified doctors, with more and more opting out of abortion procedures and training on conscience grounds, something that is naturally very concerning for abortion providers, hence they are resorting to all sorts of measures, including campaigning for the removal of conscience grounds and offering paid interships in order to train medical students.

So who do we have in this session?

  • Katharine Elliot 

A medical student from the University of Newcastle. I’m guessing she’s pro-choice. Perhaps she’s been on one of their placements and can testify to the joys of learning how to be an efficient abortionist?

  • Dr Richard Lyus, British Pregnancy Advisory Service

Again self-explanatory

  • Mr John Parsons, Consultant Gynaecologist

A doctor who believes that there are not enough abortions. 

In conclusion then, BPAS are hosting a wholly partisan conference, with a variety of pro-choice campaigners, activists and doctors and seeking to leverage the Royal Society of Medicine’s credentials in order to give the conference and any conclusions or press releases that may emanate from it, authority.

Whether you’ve read this in any depth, or simply scrolled through it to get the general gist, there can be no room for apathy. This is BPAS, this is what they do, it is extremely clever and slick manipulation, designed to fool the general public with medical terminology and assurances that their conclusions are following the deliberations and discussions of experts in the field, all highly scientific, evidence-based and neutral.

Nothing could be further from the case and no-one should be fooled. This is where some of the vast income from providing abortions for the NHS is diverted. Into promoting abortion as an option and finding ways of marketing and making it palatable to the general public, under the guise of science and using women’s rights campaigners as unofficial PR.

If SPUC or LIFE or Right-to-Life hold a conference on maternal care, this is immediately dismissed as being the work of loony nutjob fundies and therefore not worthwhile because their views on abortion are apparent in the name of the organisation. What BPAS are doing with conferences such as these, is a clever piece of PR, marketing and strategy, one that is not overtly political, but masquerades as some sort of scientific inquiry.

Pro-lifers need not only to disseminate this information, but also dispel the inevitable narratives that will pop up arising from this conference, as well as raise our game. We need to remember that there are equally well-informed experts who, on looking on the evidence available , take an opposing view, one that is peer-reviewed and evidence-based.

It is not surprising what is going on here, but anyone who feels apathy as opposed to anger, needs a wake-up call. This is life and death stuff, BPAS  are attempting the hijacking of the medical opinion to justify and disguise what is going on – the wholesale killing of the unborn, paid for by taxpayers’ money and wrapped up in important sounding conferences, which are nothing more than an echo chamber for abortionists and their supporters.

Sauce for the goose

Neil Addison has just contacted me with the following email which he has sent to BPAS for clarification. Given that the abortion clinics have threatened the pro-life outreach workers who operate outside Marie Stopes with referral to the ASA, despite the fact that they are not actually advertising, then it seems only fair to hold them accountable with the same standards that they wish to impose on others. I’ve added in the UK stats in green.

Dear Sirs 

I refer to your Advertisement at http://www.bpas.org/nomorenames/ and the Statistics quoted therein namely

  • One in three women will have an abortion in her reproductive lifetime.
  • More than half of women who have abortions are already mothers. (The UK stats state that in 2011, 51% of women who had abortions, had one or more previous pregnancies that had resulted in a live or still birth, up from 47% in the previous year. So that’s technically over half, but does that equate to 51% of women already being mothers? What about those who aborted following a stillbirth for example).
  • Last year, there were nearly twice as many abortions to women over 35 than under 18. (Nearly being the operative word. Last year, 14,599 women under 18 had abortions, compared to 27,199 women over 35. That’s 8% of  abortions performed for women under 18, compared to 14%  for women over 35. Still statistics can be spun any way you like. It might contextualise this figure better to learn that 15 out of every 1,000 women under 18 had an abortion in 2011, compared to 6.9 women out of every 1,000 over 35. So proportionately more women in the under 18 age cohort are having abortions than those in the over 35 cohort. BPAS are spinning the data to suit their message)

Can you please provide me with the sources for these statistics in particular what study they are based upon, whether it is a study in the UK or elsewhere and the statistical analysis upon which the figures are based.

Do you ” hold documentary evidence to prove your claims” and are they capable of “objective substantiation” as required by the Advertising Standards Authority ? 

I look forward to receiving your reply

Sincerely

Neil Addison (Barrister)

We await the response with eagerness. If BPAS are unable to substantiate their one in three claim, then their campaign will need to be modified and referenced.

Report BPAS to the ASA

BPAS have been accused of exploiting the recent abortion limit controversy by launching a new pro-choice campaign, to be featured on billboards and in bus shelters around the country, called No More Names. 

The campaign raises a number of issues, such as whether or not an organisation which receives £25 million a year, most of which is received from the taxpayer for providing abortions on the NHS (93% of its work is NHS funded) should in fact be advertising to normalise and promote as a good, what is for very many people, a last-ditch enormously tragic procedure.

Of primary concern is the dubious claim that one in three women will have an abortion in their reproductive lifetime, abortion is therefore a necessary medical procedure and women should not be stigmatised or called names for having one. No-one is arguing that women who have abortions should be stigmatised and neither is there any evidence to suggest that any marginalisation does take place; despite claims to the contrary, none of the groups who conduct clinic vigils in the UK, either 40 days for life or Abort 67 are in the business of shouting or name-calling of women entering the clinic. There are there to help and offer alternative solutions, not to alienate and abuse women who they recognise are often in a very difficult position. No Christian with a shred of spiritual conscience,  intellectual honesty or emotional intelligence would so abuse a post-abortive woman in such a way, the default position is always one of compassion and sympathy for all involved, we know that these situations are not always easy and for many their decision has come about for a variety of reasons.

So if there is no discernible name-calling, then the entire point of this campaign is to normalise and promote abortion, which is always an ethical choice, as a necessary medical procedure, which most women will need to undergo in their lifetime. This is demonstrably false. Last year no abortions were performed under grounds F and G, i.e. in the case of an emergency to save the life of the pregnant woman or to prevent grave permanent injury to her physical or mental health. 102 out of 189,931 abortions last year were performed under ground B, which is deemed necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman. No abortions were performed solely to save the life of a woman – ground A. The 45 abortions that fell into this category, were combined with other grounds such as the most common one, ground C, which gives the most flexibility. If we then factor in the findings of a recent maternal health symposium in Dublin which ruled that direct abortion is never medically necessary to save the life of a mother, this idea of abortion being necessary, looks increasingly shaky.

If abortion is a medical necessity, then why does it need to be advertised on billboards, hoardings and in bus-shelters alongside consumer products as if it is a lifestyle choice? It rather makes a mockery of the attempted perjorative “anti-choice” label? Are these adverts, which seek to promote abortion as well as brand awareness of a major abortion provider, suitable for children and teens, who are being sold a message that abortion is a necessary and desirable procedure?

The advert itself could be construed as pro-life, featuring a photo of a beautiful baby. The agency either missed the irony of putting a photograph of a baby on a clinic that provides abortions and suggests that we should call women who have had abortions, “mother”, or more disturbingly, wants to present an idealised stylised image of motherhood in the same way as any company wishing to sell you a product to make you buy into an image or vision. In this case we have a picture of a beautiful young model and her baby. The message is clear, unless you are in a position to have the perfect yummy mummy lifestyle with the beautiful blond haired blue eyed angelic looking baby, then abortion is the answer. Abortion advocates have switched to using worrying new tactics – unless you can live a sepia-toned, airbrushed vision of motherhood, the kind of lifestyle promoted by manufacturers of baby products and magazines, then you should not be having children. It is not life that matters, but presumed quality of life and nothing less than a sanitised, white teeth and baby-Boden vision will do. If you can’t live the yummy mummy dream, then you should not be having children.

The choice of models is equally telling, they are all middle-class, and bar one, all young and white. Abortion is obviously the choice of the young beautiful white people, whereas the statistics tell us a very different story. 49% of women who had repeat abortions in 2011, were Black or Black British, 45% were mixed race, 33% were Chinese or another group and 32% were Asian or Asian British. Statistically speaking it is not the white middle classes who are having to resort to abortion, which begs the question why the advert does not reflect this, unless of course they are seeking to extend their client base, hence the unrepresentative models.

The crux of the advert, is the claim that one in three women will have an abortion. I previously wrote about who the one in three women are, but I’ve been doing some digging as to the basis of this statistic, which has been provided by the Guttmacher Institute, the research body funded by Planned Parenthood, America’s biggest abortion provider. BPAS provide no breakdown or statistical analysis of how they have produced this figure, other than it has come from the Guttmacher Institute.

The Guttmacher’s figures relate solely to the American population, so is it statistically correct to extrapolate this to the situation to the UK? Secondly the figure appears to be some sort of straight averaging, which is again misleading. A woman who has had multiple abortions (36% of abortions carried out in the UK IN 2011 were repeats) is going to skew the figures. Furthermore it seems that abortion is defined in these statistics as a Dilatation and Curettage (D&C), which is not strictly used for abortion. Many women require a D&C post natural miscarriage, or in my case, following the birth of my first child, therefore it is inaccurate to include D&C procedures within abortion statistics. Perhaps a third of women will require a D&C at some point in their reproductive life, but that is not the same as a third of all women requiring abortion.

The Advertising Codes laid down by the ASA state that advertisements must not mislead or offend. The BPAS advert definitely falls into the former category and for a significant majority of the population, the latter. It misleads as to the number of people who have an abortion, the type of people who have an abortion, provides no statistics to back up any of it claims, either in terms of the amount of women who have abortions or the perceived stigmatising of post-abortive women. It is offensive in that it portrays an ethical decision which results in the destruction of an unborn child and often severe trauma to the mother, as being a medical necessity and/or a consumer choice. The complaint form is here. 

Women who have abortions are mothers, sisters, friends. They all deserve better.

Perfectly Simple

A few thoughts occurred to me with regards to the glut of stories and accusations, mainly emanating from the Guardian, in relation to 40 days for life.

If women are being hassled, harangued, bullied and intimidated by those on the vigil, then why on earth is no-one actually doing anything about it other than writing angry and inaccurate features in the pro-choice press?*

Think about it for a moment. If you were the manager of a business and a clearly mentally unbalanced individual or a drunk was stood outside threatening and harassing your customers as they entered, then naturally you would take steps to have them removed, such as calling the police. Section 5 of the Public Order Act is very precise as to what constitutes a criminal offence.

(1)A person is guilty of an offence if he—

(a)uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or

(b)displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,

within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.

Women entering into abortion clinics are undoubtedly vulnerable and it could well be argued that they are likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress. Surely if the vigils are threatening or intimidating as claimed, then the police should have been called and arrests made? No-one on vigils from 40 Days for Life has been arrested or even warned. BPAS keep a camera trained on the vigils at all times. Surely if anyone has engaged in the type of behaviour which they claim, then why hasn’t the evidence been provided to the police and a prosecution ensued?

Furthermore Ann Furedi said in her recent interview on Radio 4’s Today programme, that very often there is only a solitary person and there is nothing that requires the presence of official escorts such as some clinics in the US employ.

So, there’s no criminal offence being committed and no action is necessary to protect those entering the clinics. But it’s still a bit of a problem though isn’t it? You’ve got people standing opposite your premises, mainly praying, but 1 of whom may offer a leaflet dissuading that potential client from using your services. A bit like an anti-globalisation protestor standing outside Starbucks or McDonalds, questioning the ethics of their business. That is not for one moment to equate a woman considering an abortion with someone going for a hamburger or coffee, but the effect upon the business or provider is the same. They don’t want people to be dissuaded and so the arguments they employ are all about the protection of their customer, and of course are able to co-opt the admittedly vulnerable client to this aim.

There’s no physical threat, there’s nothing that constitutes harassment otherwise the police would be called on a regular basis and there’s nothing to suggest that any violence or intimidation may be in the offing. Surely a business would be seeking to reassure their clients that they are perfectly safe, they won’t be harassed and should not be worried about entering the premises? Isn’t it rather irresponsible to claim that a non-existent concern exists, couldn’t this actually deter women from entering the premises, far more than the actual sight of a few people praying a rosary? Very often the fear is much greater than the reality. Any business that truly cared for its clients would be seeking to reassure them that there would be no problem, just to ignore, after all, no-one is forced to engage with those on the vigil.

Why is it then that they use the only means available to them, such as the mainstream media and the internet in order to whip up an irrational fear of those on 40 days for life? Could it actually be because they are effective? Because they have got people rallying to their cause and *sharp intake of breath* praying? Could it be because there is a danger that they could bring about a renewed public discussion about the nature of abortion and the role abortion clinics have to play? Or could it be a simple distraction technique to divert attention away from the recent exposes of the abuses of the law and the incidents of fraud and neglect that are a daily occurrence in these clinics?Abuses such as gender selective abortion, abortion-on-demand with no questions asked, doctors pre-signing huge batches of forms without ever even seeing the patient. Or perhaps they are trying to detract attention from the recent CQC finding that the counselling provision in many clinics is poor or non-existent?

It certainly seems that they are scraping the bottom of the barrel in their recent report, attempting to link 40 days for life with the lack of doctors prepared to carry out abortion. There are a few reasons why there may be a dearth of doctors prepared to carry out abortions:

  1. They’ve read the Hippocratic Oath which swears to protect life and take it seriously
  2. They’ve studied anatomy and understand fetal development
  3. The NHS is contracting out the majority of abortion provision to clinics hence junior doctors lack the skills, as a rotation in gynae may not equip them with these skills, particularly not when it comes to late-stage provision
  4. Having spent time in maternity, they are increasingly uncomfortable with carrying out abortion procedures, especially at a late stage

As the report itself admits, there are less than a dozen doctors in the UK who are prepared and able to carry out late-stage abortions and a dearth of doctors lining up to join the abortion clinics, although many are happy to provide early stage provision, as part of a repertoire of clinical skills on the NHS. Perhaps a career solely devoted to aborting unborn babies does not appeal? Can’t think why that might be?

It’s obviously a concern for the abortion clinics. There they are expanding their territory and customer base (as referred to in their annual reports), building shiny new clinics and yet there will be a dearth of staff to fill them. What to do? Blame 40 days for Life, that’ll work?

For those who still maintain that they are a “charity” providing good works and services, I have just one teensy little question. Most charities provide charitable relief and assistance to others for free. How does BPAS fit into this mold. Most charities want to work to reduce the need for their services, not increase them.

Of course the clinics have a point, in that a climate or public opinion, that does not favour abortion on demand is not going to help their business of providing abortions for money, one little bit. No wonder they are chucking absolutely everything they have at those who oppose them – there is a lot to lose.

*Postscript:

The Guardian have posted a video on-line which purports to show the harassment of women by 40daysforlife at my local abortion clinic, Wistons, in Brighton. Apparently the reporter was ‘approached.’ The narrative doesn’t fit with the recording. Here is a transcript of the conversation. (My thanks to Neil Addison for providing this). Harassment? Or poetic licence? No wonder the clinics are concerned. It’s not about the women at all:

Reporter: Is this the Wiston Clinic?

40daysforlife: Yes can I give you some information before you go in?

Reporter: What is it?

40daysforlife: We’re here to offer help and support if you feel you would like to reconsider. I don’t know what you’re going in for; but we’re standing here (inaudible) options.

Reporter: Do you work with the clinic?

40daysforlife: No. No. We don’t work with the clinic. We’re 40 Days for life. Some people come because they feel they have no other option. We’re here to say if we can help or support you come and speak to us. Are you going to have a scan this morning? (This section of video ends at this point, however it certainly does not demonstrate any evidence of harassment by the 40 Days for Life participant, nor does it demonstrate any attempt to mislead)


You pay your money, you take your choice

Ever keen to push a bit of PR for her company that has the tax status of a charity, Clare Murphy, director of Press and Public Policy, from BPAS has written an article in today’s Independent claiming that those who are using the language of business and commerce for abortion clinics are insulting women who choose to have an abortion.

She starts off by the customary dig at Nadine Dorries for her use of the word “industry” and goes on to state that this is not an original term, it has been borrowed from the US abortion lobby. It’s important that pro-abortionists mention the US at all times, because since 1973, 8 members of abortion staff have been killed. Never mind that equates to two-tenths of an abortionist a year, that regardless of the small number the vast majority of pro-lifers abhor and condemn such mindless acts of violence for which there is no justification and that all of the perpetrators have been caught and brought to justice, the general public need to be taught to fear pro-lifers and view them in a suspicious light. If you support the right of the unborn child to live, then you must be an unreasonable extremist who will resort to tactics of violence and intimidation. Let’s put to one side the notion that it is precisely the act of violence of killing an unborn child and elderly or sick people, to which pro-lifers object. It’s also important to ignore the very different political climate in the US, with its distinctly Christian demographic and relaxed gun laws.

But this is not an industry, and the people who provide this care are not tycoons.

Right – this is not industry, despite BPAS describing themselves as “the UK’s leading abortion specialist” as the leading strap line on their website? Presumably if they are the leading specialist, then other specialists must exist, ones that aren’t quite as good as BPAS? That indicates that several abortion providers exist, there are several to choose from, but BPAS is the “leading” operator. Why would one wish to describe oneself as that, if one did not want to attract several clients? If a woman requires an abortion, surely she will attend the abortions service to which her local GP may direct her? So long as the clinic operates according to strict medical guidelines, what does it matter if one is the leading clinic? Do they not all operate to equally high standards? That’s certainly what the abortion providers have been at pains to repeatedly point out of late, claiming harassment by Andrew Lansley and the Care Quality Commission who have had the audacity to inspect them to ensure that they are adhering to standards laid down by the law and following best practice.

But no, it’s not an industry, because an industry may be defined as “A particular form or branch of economic or commercial activity”. Providing abortion in exchange for money, be that from the NHS or private individuals, may not be described as commercial activity, according to Clare Murphy. It is an act of selfless generosity, from which the abortion providers do not “profit” because they do not pay out a dividend, not having any commercial shareholders. Let’s ignore the fact that for the past 2 financial years BPAS have made a profit surplus of £1million. In their accounts they state that they have managed to reduce costs by slashing the staff pension scheme that was proving too expensive. But, no, absolutely not a business. Nor an industry, the fact that different specialist abortion providers exist is a mere coincidence. And my name is Bernard.

Here’s two of their aims for the forthcoming year, as submitted to the Charity Commission.

Goal 2: Increase the proportion of abortions in the UK that bpas provides.

Goal3: Ensure performance is in line with agreed budgets.

But no, not a business, absolutely not.

Here’s how they met some of their targets:

Increase in Market Share

We acheived this by Further development of internet and multi media,Opening of 4 new Daycare units, Development of specialist resources for referers, and obtaining new NHS contracts

Performance in line with agreed budgets

We acheived this by putting an Investment and refurbishment programme in place, significantly reducing our borrowing and obtaining a satisfactory discharge of our commitment to a closed final salary scheme

Build upon our position as “thought leaders”

We acheived this by Increasing our media impact, promotion of local services, and acheiving clarification of the law in relation to Early Medical Abortion

But, not a business, dear me no. Obtaining new NHS contracts, increasing market share, bowing out of a final salary scheme and increasing media impact are all acts of charity. As are the forthcoming TV adverts. Employing marketing managers and business development officers is not a commercial activity and neither is attempting to increase market share. And my old man’s a mushroom.

On the subject of tycoons, whilst no-one would deny the right of those to be paid a fair day’s wage for the work that they do, no matter how unsavoury, BPAS’ annual accounts state that Ann Furedi earns between £110-£125,000. My guess would be that the figure falls somewhere into the higher end of that bracket, because if we look at what her peer, Tim Black from Marie Stopes earns, it is £125,000. As BPAS are the “leading” UK abortion provider, then one would expect Ann’s salary to match that at least. Last year Mr Black earnt £111, 000 but this year had a 12.7% pay rise to £125,000. The identical bracket to Mrs Furedi.These figures would not include other benefits such as pensions, expense accounts or company cars for example, which would considerably add to the value of the overall package. But no, Ann and Tim are definitely not “tycoons”, but they are definitely wealthy , as opposed to oligarchs. Whether millionaires or not, both run multi-million pound companies. Marie Stopes may well contest whether or not BPAS are the leading provider of abortion services in any rate, as last year, Marie Stopes UK had an income of £39 million, as opposed to BPAS’ meagre £25 million.

Interesting to note also that in BPAS’ accounts, termination of pregnancy services generated an income of £23.8 million, but cost £21.6 million. Their vasectomy provision is a loss-leader, losing £44K and their contraceptive provision makes a relatively small profit, sorry surplus of £100,000. Overall their contraception and vasectomy services constitute a tiny proportion of their main business, perhaps that is why they feel justified in describing themselves as “specialists”?

Anyone spot the irony, that Mrs Furedi and Mr Black earn more than the heads of Save the Children, Bernandos, Help the Aged and so on? Much better to end the lives before they start rather than alleviating the symptoms of poverty and disease and/or looking for a cure. One thing that I find it hard to get my head around is how well-paid the executives of these “charities” are in comparison to their peers. Tim Black ranks at number 3 in the top 10 of charity Chief Executives’ salaries, earning considerably more than say, the head of Marie Curie Cancer care, who has over double the income and yet earns £30,000 less. Even if Mrs Furedi does earn the bottom figure of £110, 000 that still puts her at number 9 in the top 10 of charity earners.

According to Clare Murphy, Nadine Dorries is quite in the wrong to use this language as it is obviously encouraging and inciting others to see beyond the abortion providers’ rhetoric of being charities simply in it to help vulnerable women. Though the similarities between them and a business are striking, the Department of Health must be lobbied in order to stop this dangerous terminology being used. We can’t possibly point out the information that is publicly available as a result of their choosing to apply for a certain tax exempt status.

Truth hurts. It’s more than obvious who is being insulted and exploited.