Abortion law: it’s time to get tough and crack down on renegade doctors.

A host of freedom of information requests  submitted in the wake of the Care Quality Commission’s 2012 investigation into 14 abortion clinics, has revealed that 67 doctors were referred to the General Medical Council  for disciplinary action after it was discovered that they had pre-signed piles of HSA1 abortion forms.

This practice of pre-signing abortion forms is illegal and cases should be prosecuted, as Earl Howe (under-secretary for Health) confirmed recently, speaking in a House of Lords debate on 3 April:

Addressing Lord Patten’s question, Earl Howe confirmed that pre-signed forms are a clear breach of the law and if the practice is found to be happening, a prosecution should be brought. Earl Howe also confirmed that the CQC will continue to cover the issue of pre-signed forms as part of its inspections and action will be taken against any provider where there is evidence of pre-signing. Following a later comment by Lord Patten on the lack of prosecutions that have been made for conducting gender selection abortions and pre-signing forms, Earl Howe also agreed to circulate a letter to all Peers who attended the debate outlining the follow up actions that have been taken on those issues.

According to the GMC, 67 doctors were disciplined for pre-signing following the CQC investigations in 2012, none of whom had their cases referred to the police, none of whom were removed from the medical register, and none of whom had the details of their cases made public by Fitness to Practise panels. In one case, an abortion clinic continued to use a pre-signed form four years after the doctor had left.

There isn’t much to add to Jim Dobbin MP’s statement:

This is clear evidence of the abortion-on-demand culture throughout the medical establishment. 67 doctors happily referred for abortions without knowing a single thing about the woman requesting them. Worse, at the very top, senior doctors and lawyers at the GMC decided to keep these crimes to themselves. This shames the GMC and makes a mockery of the Abortion Act.
Good practice is that two doctors see and examine the pregnant woman before making a referral, for the sake of her own health. Yet the Government is in the process of liberalising this rule. In light of these revelations, I hope that David Cameron will overturn this madness and require both doctors allowing an abortion to have seen the women they are dealing with.

Regardless of where one stands on the abortion debate, the practice of pre-signing forms is a reckless endangerment of women’s health and safety. The two-doctor rule was implemented recognising that women would be put at risk by an abortion-on-demand culture and to stop doctors from acting with impunity. Abortion is a serious medical procedure which involves either internal surgery or large doses of synthetic hormones designed to bring on labour, it is imperative that a doctor examines a woman to ensure that there are no contraindications which could jeopardise her health.

The 1967 Abortion Act recognised that abortion was a grave procedure which should only take place in certain clearly proscribed circumstances, namely if the woman was believed to be at serious medical risk as a result of her pregnancy. The two doctor rule is the check and balance designed to protect the general public, in the same way that it is a mandatory requirement that a second doctor must examine a deceased person prior to a cremation?
As a point of interest, prior to a cremation, a third doctor has to oversee the entire paperwork. Why then is a living, breathing, pregnant woman and her unborn child believed deserving of less protection, especially when we know that coerced abortion, especially on the grounds of the sex of the baby or due to domestic violence, is a very real problem.
Lord Steel, the architect of the 1967 bill has repeatedly confirmed that the intention of the Act was not to usher in a culture of abortion on demand, he has said that he never envisaged the number of abortions which take place today and in a recent email  said that ‘it was just assumed that two doctors would see the patient.’
Once again, we need to ask ourselves what has changed and why have these breaches been ignored? And while we’re asking questions, the following present themselves:
– what were the doctors’ names?

– how did the GMC develop their policy of not reporting crimes of pre-signing?

– how many pre-signed forms were discovered in each case?

– what kind of abortions were pre-signed (spurious disabilities? Social abortions?)
– how far in advance of the referral the pre-signing took place. The CQC investigations said that, in one case, a doctor whose pre-signed forms were being used had not been working at the clinic for four years prior to the referral. This must be one of the 67.

 

The law needs to be upheld and if not the public is entitled to a full and frank debate with regards to the protection of pregnant women,  the status  of the unborn and should demand accountability and an explanation from their elected representatives.

This weekend I have witnessed with horror the outpouring of hatred and disgust towards a vulnerable young woman who is seemingly aborting her fully-formed unborn baby so she can go on TV and pursue her quest for fleeting celebrity fame. The abuse has not come from pro-life quarters or activists, the majority of whom have either remained silent, stated that they will pray for her or have respectfully begged her to reconsider, even offering to adopt her baby in many cases. What’s been interesting is that an overwhelming majority of young people have recognised that this woman’s child is fully-formed and that while they might sanction abortion, this is only in limited reserved instances where it would appear that the woman has little other choice. The case of Josie Cunningham is clear reflection of British attitudes towards abortion; most people are repelled by an attitude which regards a baby as a disposable object and accept that by the 18 week stage, it is fully-formed and human.

The general public’s revulsion at the callous disregard for life displayed by a young woman aborting her baby, 6 weeks before the legal limit on what would appear to be a whim, is precisely what the law is supposed to reflect and indeed a recent poll of woman by Com Res demonstrated that 9 out of 10 women believed that women seeking abortion should always seek a qualified doctor. Furthermore 80% felt that women’s health would be put at risk if women seeking abortions are not seen by two doctors and 80% also said that doctors who lie about having seen patients should be prosecuted. Well over half believed that the two doctor requirement should be more rigorously policed in private clinics.

The two doctor law is what women want. 

Doctors who treat the law with impunity and put women at risk must be prosecuted. Secondly, urgent questions must be asked of the GMC’s role in all this. Independent witnesses should be appointed to Fitness to Practice panels to prevent crimes from being hushed up.

Thirdly, the remedy for all this is for two doctors to see and examine the pregnant woman. How on earth can anyone form an opinion in good faith without ever having seen a woman and how can her safety be guaranteed? These are precisely what the 1999 RSOPs required and it is absurd that the government is currently attempting to liberalise practice which only serves the best interests of the abortion providers. These measures come at a time when abortion clinics are currently suffering from a recruitment crisis and struggling to recruit enough qualified staff.

It’s difficult to see how a stealthy and undemocratic removal of checks and balances does anything other than feed a culture of abortion-on-demand, one which endangers women.

We have rightly condemned and cracked down upon the appalling practice of FGM in the UK. It’s time to do the same with abortion, which does so much harm to women, their unborn children and society as a whole.

Big Brother’s grounds for abortion

pink range rover
More valuable than a baby?

A girl named Josie Cunningham, who is by all accounts  (in)famous has given an interview in the Daily Mirror stating that she intends to abort her 18 week-old unborn child later this week, in order that she can appear on Big Brother, ‘be famous, drive a pink land rover and buy a big house.’

The story merits comment and not for the obvious reasons; from reading a little bit about her and learning that she is unclear as to whether or not the father of the baby is a premiership footballer, a friend, or a former client (who happens to be a surgeon) from a period when she was working as a prostitute escorting, it is evident that here is an extremely vulnerable young woman who is a product of our consumer culture and who has very little self-esteem or sense of worth.

There is the possibility that Josie’s public deliberations over whether or not to keep her unborn baby is part of a cynical attempt to boost her fame and manipulate Channel 5 into accepting her as a contestant, however one has to feel desperately sorry for someone who feels driven to seek attention in such dramatic fashion, as well as for her unborn baby – the equivalent of a chance or community chest card on the celebrity monopoly board, with his or her life hanging in the balance.

The most responsible course of action for any media outlet would have been to completely ignore Josie instead of attempting to validate and endorse her search for fame and attention, until she actually did anything of merit. What message does this story send out to young girls today? Get the NHS to pay for breast augmentation as Josie did, generate publicity, become an escort, have a controversial abortion and your route to fame and fortune is guaranteed?! Is this really the sort of career investment which should be funded by the taxpayer? Does the potential future tax revenue from Josie’s career allow the state to co-opt her sexual exploitation by funding her unnecessary surgery and picking up her abortion tab? Are notions of self-improvement constrained to physical appearance  or economic contributions? Is this what constitutes social responsibility?

Whatever the outcome of Josie’s decision, her life and that of her child, even if she does go ahead with the pregnancy seems set to be blighted unless she gets out of the spotlight. The public needs to unlearn its habit of eager voyeurism which feeds the public car-crash of so many celebrity lives. How is her baby going to feel knowing that their mother publicly discussed getting rid of them? What about the impact upon her other two young children?

As Josie shows no inclination of keeping a low profile, Channel 5 should accept her as a contestant on Big Brother, only on the condition that she remains pregnant. If it is in fact true that negotiations stalled following revelations of her pregnancy, as a feminist statement Big Brother ought to prove that it embraces pregnancy in the workplace. Josie’s progression through pregnancy would provide a far more diverting narrative than their usual diet of has-beens resurrecting petty dressing-room squabbles of twenty years ago.

According to a poll currently running in the Mirror, 92% respondents have said that they will not watch Big Brother if Josie appears on the show having had an abortion which demonstrates the British public’s natural antipathy towards social abortion. Contrary to feminist rhetoric it is not seen merely as a woman’s choice, but rather as a necessary evil. That so many people have expressed their disgust, shows that we see an 18 week old baby as deserving of dignity, respect and above all, life.

This also busts open the popular idea that late-stage abortions are only due to difficult circumstances, Josie demonstrates a mindset which puts her own perceived needs and ambitions above the life of her child, regardless of their stage of development. It doesn’t matter that she might have felt her little boy or girl kick and move, it is her right to end her baby’s life right up until the 24 week limit if it interferes with her ambitions or plans. The published photographs of Josie posing with a visible four-month bump containing a baby who might never be born cause distress, irrespective of whether or not one takes a Catholic or absolutist position on abortion.

While no-one should condone the online abuse that Josie has suffered, it is difficult to feel sympathy for a woman who is exploiting her decision as to whether or not to end her baby’s life to make money and it will be particularly hard to swallow for those who have experienced the agony of miscarriage or infertility. Scrolling through her timeline, the insults and negativity is not emanating from professing Catholics or Christians, but from young people who are revolted by such blatant disregard for a baby’s life.

If, as Josie claims, she wants to beat the trolls, then actually the best thing she can do is to go ahead with the baby and prove her moral fibre as well as her ability to be a good mother. Who could really enjoy a house or car purchased with cash drenched in the blood of an unborn baby?

When the abortion act was passed, Baroness Knight was jeered at and derided for her ’emotive’ speech in Parliament when she stated that the law would lead to abortion on demand and that unborn children could be disposed of on a whim. She was accused of scare-mongering.

Any doctor who signs a HSA1 form agreeing to this abortion should be prosecuted as it is a clear breech of the law. If it is illegal, as Earl Howe, under-secretary for Health has recently confirmed, to abort a baby on the grounds of gender, then how can be legal to abort one on the grounds of ‘being an impediment to a pink range rover’?

How does not appearing on a reality show as a result of being pregnant constitute a grave threat to mental health, greater than that of having a baby? Surely by aborting her baby so that she may be free to continue to sexually objectify herself and define the role of female reality TV contestants, Josie Cunningham participates in her own oppression and that of women overall?

How can this choice, especially when the potential fathers of the child have expressed their wish for him or her to be born, be in any way justified? The term ‘anti-choice’ has just lost its sting.

Escaping the ‘choice feminist’ honey trap

One of the concepts that I have often struggled with when expounding on the subject of pornography is whether or not the female stars are themselves victims. Recently there has been a lot of discourse regarding the topic of sex workers in mainstream media, Women’s Hour on BBC Radio 4 recently had an illuminating discussion, in which one sex worker passionately, articulately and  convincingly argued that she was no victim.

The problem is that mainstream soft-porn such as the ubiquitous 50 shades of grey, and Belle de Jour’s Diary of a Call Girl, has brought the taboo into the mainstream, giving practices which are often seedy, grim, painful and unpleasant, an alluring and glamourous appeal. It is not sufficient to be well-educated or cultured, or professionally successful, ideally we should all be sexual gourmands willing and able to indulge in and expand the flavours of our sexual palate, if we are to be considered true sophisticates.

Catholic culture and theology will naturally eschew and reject such worldly thinking, nonetheless this narrative of women involved in pornography as victims, is a difficult one to unpick when discussing on a secular level. One doesn’t need the reams of emerging data on the dangers of pornography and of porn addiction to believe that pornography is essentially the misuse of another human person, whether that’s the person involved in the making of it, or the person viewing it. Pornography is not only damaging to the individuals associated with it or who choose to use it, but to society as a whole.

Which is why this piece, written by a mainstream feminist is an essential read, as it rejects the entire frame of sexual empowerment, expressing sympathy with someone who is the target of abuse as a result of their sexual activities does not mean that one has  to embrace their choices as valid. It rejects the frame of pornography as being an issue of individual choice and validates critique of pornography as being about the manufacture and commodification of sexual desire.

By asking “how does porn – its material production, its normativity, its wide availability, and its ubiquity in pop culture – affect our desires and our capacity for intimacy?” feminists can offer a critique of porn without falling into the honey trap.

Summing up, the author asks

“The issue isn’t whether porn is liberating for her.  The issue is:  is porn liberating for us?”

Now that’s my kind of feminism and of course it will give fuel to those who would wish to despairingly equate feminism and/or Catholicism with Puritanism, whereas actually both Catholics and feminists would agree that sex is a good and pleasurable thing which should be enjoyed by women and men alike, but we would differ on the appropriate context. The default Catholic position is one of sex positivity, so long as the parameters of sex were described as being heterosexual and within marriage. It’s not that sex per se is harmful, dirty or bad, we accept the sheer power of the thing, which is why we wish to harness the power as a force for good, namely reinforcing intimacy between a married couple and procreation.

But what really struck me about this intelligent piece was that it, perhaps subconsciously rejected individualism and moral relativism and the popular feminist mantra that woman’s choices must automatically be celebrated by virtue of her gender. Female solidarity does not mean that we have to applaud, ostracise, shun or pity women who choose the lucrative career of working in one of Hugh Heffner or Peter Stringfellow’s establishments, but rather that we ask deeper questions about the nature of female flourishing and freedoms and use reason to explain, persuade and convince others of our point of view.

The technique is similar to Catholic humanist apologetics however, feminists will be at an advantage in that they may not have to face the ‘you are an irrational believer in the sky fairy’ schtick, but that they will invariably have to fend off some critique of their appearance, sexual appeal and perceived lack of desire (such as the shameful treatment of Clare Short) demonstrates that sexism is still alive and well. This isn’t the fruits of patriarchy however but the consequences of the sexual revolution which held that every women had not only to be constantly ‘up for it’ but must also conform her appearance to a sexualised male gaze.

For all its coherence nonetheless, I couldn’t help but be frustrated, particularly when I noted that it had been picked up and tweeted, naturally enough, by pro-choice feminist and writer Sarah Ditum. If feminists are able to see the illogical and harmful stance of choice feminism, recognising and accepting that certain individual choices can contribute to and propagate wider harms, why can they not apply this principle to abortion. If they are able to identify the key issue about pornography, what it actually constitutes and signifies, then why are they quite so blind to the nature of abortion? If Naomi Wolfe, a key pro-choice feminist can state that abortion rights activists ought to acknowledge a death involved, then why is mainstream feminism unable to engage with and unpick the harms done to mother and child by abortion. And why are those of us who have been hurt by abortion, or who attempt to highlight the damage caused to womankind as a whole, rejected by the mainstream movement?

Liberalisation of the abortion law by stealth

I’ve written the following to my local MP. It may be too lengthy, but do feel free to copy and paste and plagiarise at will when writing to your local MP, as strongly suggested by LIFE charity. One wag from there tweeted that the government’s consultation with BPAS and Marie Stopes as to these new procedures was like asking advice from the fox on how to secure the chicken coop. Couldn’t have put it better myself!
the_fantastic_mr_fox08
I may also meet with Mr Weatherly, not only about this issue, but to ask him why on earth we should vote for him when he has explicitly suggested to David Cameron that churches who do not perform same-sex ‘marriages’ should be stripped of their licence to perform weddings. Voting for him would seem to be akin to a turkey voting for Christmas, but hey-ho, let’s see if he can manage to win back Catholic and Christian support on this issue. There is a vibrant politically engaged Catholic and Evangelical community in Brighton and Hove for whom life issues are crucial in deciding where to put the cross on the ballot paper.
Dear Mr Weatherly
On Monday of this week, I was invited in my capacity as a Catholic columnist and broadcaster to debate by Oxford University’s Students for Life organisation, the following motion “This House regrets the passing of the 1967 Abortion Act” against Kate Smurthwaite, feminist comedian and deputy-chairman of the organisation Abortion Rights.
In the course of conducting some research for the debate, I came across some very telling speeches from Hansard, where even pro-choice politicians were denying that the proposed bill would lead to abortion on demand.
In particular David Steel, one of the original architects of the bill said this:
“We want to stamp out the back-street abortions, but it is not the intention of the Promoters of the Bill to leave a wide open door for abortion on request.”
 
This tallies with his subsequent remarks made in December 2013 in which he referred to the almost 200,000 abortions which take place in Britain on an annual basis and said that he never envisaged that there would be so many abortions. 
 
Another MP, Jill Knight, now Baroness Knight, had this to say in her speech to the house:
 
Although I have been sympathetic to this Bill, I could never go all the way with the suggestion that there should be abortion on demand, which, of course, is what subsection (1, c) actually means. This subsection is so wide and so loose that any woman who felt that her coming baby would be an inconvenience would be able to get rid of it.
There is something very wrong indeed about this. Babies are not like bad teeth to be jerked out just because they cause suffering. An unborn baby is a baby nevertheless. Would the sponsors of the Bill think it right to kill a baby they can see? Of course they would not. Why then do they think it right to kill one they cannot see? It seems to me that this is a most important point. I have come to believe that those who support abortion on demand do so because in all sincerity they cannot accept that an unborn baby is a human being. Yet surely it is. Its heart beats, it moves, it sleeps, it eats. Uninterfered with, it has a potential life ahead of it of 70 years or more ; it may be a happy life, or a sad life ; it may be a genius, or it may be just plain average ; but surely as a healthy, living baby it has a right not to be killed simply because it be may inconvenient for a year or so to its mother.”
 
Her speech was greeted with uproar, she was rebuked by the Speaker of the house for being ‘emotional’ when she described the abortion process, which consists of dismembering the unborn child and her prediction that subsection 1,c of the Act would lead to abortion on demand was poo-poohed as exaggeration. 
 
Those who enacted the 1967 Abortion Act, did so whilst promising that abortion would not be available upon demand. These promises are clearly not being kept and the law routinely broken.
 
In the UK, more than 200,000 abortions take place every year, which is a total of almost 7 million, in the forty-five years since the 1967 Abortion Act was passed. This amounts to almost a tenth of the UK population who are missing. 
 
An official review carried out by the National Collaborating Centre for mental health in 2011, stated that abortion does not improve mental health outcomes for women with unplanned pregnancies, despite the fact that over 98% of the abortions performed in the UK every year are done so under mental health grounds, leading Dr Peter Saunders, of the Christian Medical Fellowship, to posit that they are in fact technically illegal. 
 
The former Conservative health secretary, Andrew Lansley took steps to introduce some further, un-debated and undemocratic changes to current abortion law provision. Disturbingly he has removed the requirement for a woman to be seen by the two doctors who need by law to authorise her abortion. 
 
This provision was put into the law precisely to protect women from exploitation, recognising the serious and grave nature of abortion, that it ends a human life, a definition which even Ann Furedi Chief Executive of BPAS, the UK’s single largest independent provider of abortions would accept. According to the draft Revised Standard Operating Procedures, (RSOPs) published as part of the public consultation, one which was incidentally, not widely publicised, doctors will no longer be required to meet with a woman before signing off upon her abortion, this instead will be left to a ‘multi-disciplinary’ team which could include people who have no medical or nursing training. 
 
It’s worth noting that in 2008, when he was shadow health secretary, Andrew Lansley advocated removal of the two doctor rule, during the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill in his second reading speech, however he later backed off following adverse publicity and an amendment aimed at dispensing the two doctor rule, was never debated or voted upon.
 
Mr Lansley’s proposals were not posted on the government’s website until 6 months after  the abortion clinics were issued with them and neither were they publicly announced. 
 
The consultation surrounding them has now closed and the Department of Health is about to release these new guidelines to abortion clinics and doctors. At no point have these new proposals which radically alter the implementation and spirit of the Abortion Act been debated. 
 
I am also disturbed to learn that in response to a question from Fiona Bruce MP, the Public Health Minister, Jane Ellison MP has confirmed that the department of health had general discussions about the Abortion Act with BPAS and Marie Stopes International, and said that there are no plans to consult on a draft as the new proposals are designed to to set out the department’s interpretation of the law. I note that no post-abortive women have been consulted as to their views and experiences. 
 
Speaking from my perspective of a woman who has suffered serious consequences following an abortion procedure, which was performed in a similar type of fashion to the proposals suggested by the Department of Health, this rubber-stamping attitude caused me a lot of harm. I was not administered the medication to terminate my pregnancy by a doctor, nor was I seen by a doctor at any stage during my abortion procedure, despite the fact that I suffered from severe and abnormal bleeding. Neither was it ever explained to me that I could expect to experience a form of labour, that the bleeding could be extremely heavy, painful and prolonged. At no point did I ever receive any sort of counselling, I did not even know that this was available. My appointment consisted of my telling a woman (I have no idea if she was medically qualified or not) of the predicament I found myself in and being told that it would be irresponsible to have a baby, although there were no medical facts that would indicate that either my physical or mental health would be at risk. 
 
My mental health was however, compromised as a result of the procedure. 
 
It is an undeniable fact that not only does abortion end a human life, but it also causes very real harm to many women, either physically, emotionally or both. 
 
Abortion procedures need to be tightened up, as my experience shows women are already deprived of the support and information that they need from the abortion clinics when faced with a crisis pregnancy. 
 
Making abortion routine in this fashion, normalises the taking of human life, as well as causing untold harm to the women affected. 
 
Perhaps most importantly from your perspective, there is massive public opposition to these proposed changes. According to a Com Res poll on 7 March, 90% of women believe that women seeks an abortion should always be seen by a qualified doctor. 80% felt that a woman’s health would be put at risk if she was not seen by two doctors. Another 80% said that doctors who lie about having seen patients should be prosecuted and well over half believed that the two doctor requirement should be more rigourously policed in private clinics. 
 
We have recently seen the abhorrent practice of gendercide whereby unborn babies are aborted solely due to their female sex been exposed as occurring in UK abortion clinics. This relaxation of the rules does nothing to prevent this abuse. 
 
The 1967 Abortion Act was brought in on the grounds of compassion in very limited cases and yet it is routinely contravened and has caused untold harm to mothers and babies alike. 
 
Regardless of your view on abortion, I would like to seek your opinion on whether or not a government minister can or should re-write statue law on such a vital issue in such a clandestine and undemocratic fashion, without public approval. 
 
As my democratically elected MP in the key marginal seat of Hove, I would very much welcome your views on this issue. 
 
I refer you to this excellent and comprehensive article by Dr Peter Saunders on how David Cameron’s Conservative party has presided over the largest liberalisation of the Abortion Act since 1967, without a democratic mandate. 
 
Yours sincerely
 
Caroline Farrow

Incorrect pre-natal diagnoses

Recently when the largely manufactured ‘scandal’ surrounding pro-life counselling and crisis pregnancy centres (CPCS) hit the headlines, some members of the pro-life movement were extremely keen to denounce un-scientific or allegedly un-ethical practice and disassociate themselves from such groups, in order that they would not be tarred with the same brush.

While this was understandable in many ways, I have come to the conclusion that harsh and over-the-top criticisms (of which I have been personally guilty myself) should be avoided where possible and any  public critique or correction should be done with charity. With that in mind, it is nonetheless important that if the pro-life movement wants to be afforded any credibility, that we do not seek to ignore or brush under the carpet any errors but rather confront the charges often laid at our door by pro-choicers and if they have any validity, publicly seek to address any shortcomings both in terms of attitudes, approaches and information given out to women.

It is in this spirit that I therefore wish to offer the following comment.

This morning, a story has appeared in the Daily Mail, regarding the case of a pregnant woman who was seconds away from taking pills to terminate her pregnancy following a diagnoses of pre-natal death. Fortunately the mother insisted upon a second scan when she returned to the hospital a few days later which demonstrated that her baby was in fact alive. The little girl has now been born, is making good progress despite being born with some congenital abnormalities, the NHS trust involved has come to an out of court settlement and most importantly changed their procedures to ensure that women are always given access to a second scan to confirm the original diagnoses before taking any action to end the pregnancy.

Admittedly I am extremely sensitive about this topic, not least because it is about now that I would have been giving birth to our baby Raphael, had he or she lived. Nonetheless, it was disappointing to see this story being picked up and spun by the normally responsible Life Charity, as follows:

I’m not denying that it is an important pro-life story and no doubt it will be picked by SPUC in their regular news round-up, however there is little point in highlighting a problem, without suggesting a viable solution. The point which is being missed, not only by the Daily Mail, but also by LIFE, is not that a woman should have multiple scans as screening is allegedly often wrong, rather that she should have access to a second independent expert opinion, as soon as possible after the original diagnosis.

In the case of Mrs Wiggins, the lady featured in the story, she should not have been sent home without a second opinion or confirmation as to the status of the baby. A second scan should not be offered days later, or immediately preceding a termination, but on the same day as the diagnosis. No woman beyond 10 weeks in pregnancy should be sent home with a provisional diagnosis that her baby has probably died but she needs to come back a few days later or in a week’s time to confirm.

If you are told that your baby has died, you should be in no doubt whatsoever, and, to be fair, cases like this are thankfully rare. Recently there has been a question mark over the diagnoses of early miscarriages, which means that organisations concerned with maternal health need to work together to ensure that existing guidelines are adhered to and the advice given to women should include advice to seek a second opinion as well as a wait and see approach before terminating a suspected silent miscarriage in the very early stages, where there is often a margin of error in terms of  dates and measurements.

I found the story distressing, as would any woman who had experienced a silent miscarriage, because like Mrs Wiggins I only had one scan and this therefore raises the horrifying possibility that I may have terminated a living child. In my case I am as confident as I can ever be that the baby had died, for a number of reasons. Firstly, the person carrying out the scan spent quite a long time examining the baby in silence before telling me that there was no heartbeat and I could see for myself that the baby was not moving. Secondly, the scan was not carried about by a midwife on a maternity ward, but a qualified  radiographer who specialised in ultrasound. Thirdly, her diagnosis was not only confirmed by her colleague recording the measurements, but a third party, whom she immediately telephoned and asked them to come to verify her findings. So while the scan  took place on a single occasion, it was confirmed by 3 different medical professionals.

This should be the model of care for all women in order to minimse distress and enable them to take the decision as to their next course of action. In my case what continued to cause distress, was due to the fact that this had occurred at the end of the first trimester, my body had not acknowledged that the baby had died and so was continuing to chuck out pregnancy hormones meaning that the foetal sac was still growing and I was still feeling pregnant and growing larger. As can be imagined I am acutely sensitive to any suggestion that I may have inadvertently killed a healthy baby, as would most women be who were in a similar situation. Casting doubt over whether or not the diagnoses were correct, is irresponsible unless you are going to offer supportive resources.

Which is why pro-life groups need to ensure that they don’t jump on sensational stories which could compound the hurt and distress of women, but offer a measured response, including reassurance that these cases are in the minority and that if there is room for any doubt, then women should not rush to terminate a suspected silent miscarriage. Better still join forces with miscarriage support groups to campaign for better treatment.

What doesn’t help is using this case to cast doubt upon the reliability of pre-natal screening. Recently there have been some notable mistakes with parents mistakenly told that their babies are disabled, but in the majority of cases, the diagnoses are correct and parents take the agonising decision to abort after several detailed scans at a later stage. While we must objectively state that such abortions cannot be condoned, neither should we do anything to compound the grief and trauma of the parents, including casting doubt on pre-natal screening and diagnoses.

Pre-natal screening is not in an of itself an evil – so long as it is used for therapeutic effect, to heal and cure babies and advance the cause of fetal and neo-natal medicine which should be curative. While we should be wary that there is scope for error, neither should we reject screening as unhelpful or out of hand. Personally if one of my children were to be born with a disability I would want to know in order that we could adequately prepare and be in a position to support our child and provide optimum care.

The right of disabled babies and children to life, should not be conflated with issues surrounding misdiagnosis and pre-natal screening not least because it runs the risk of implicitly condoning or justifying those cases where the diagnoses is correct.

Pointing out that sometimes mistakes in pre-natal screening can occur should always be accompanied by relevant advice and support in case you are affected by these issues. It’s always tempting to maximise the pro-life element of these stories and jump on the outrage bandwagon but not always the most responsible course of action.

Pro-life must always be pro-woman, it must remember that it has a duty of care to all women, which includes those of us who have experienced the pain of miscarriage and abortion. That must by necessity include telling the truth but neither must it install a sense of fear, panic or distress in those who are struggling in the aftermath of losing a child, but instead offer sensible advice, reassurance and accurate medical information and access to counselling and healing for women who may be affected.

Oxford pro-life witness: that’s how to do it!

Since 2007, a group of pro-lifers in Oxford have regularly met once a month to stand outside the entrance to the John Radcliffe hospital in order to silently bear witness to the sanctity of human life.

Their vigil takes place at the weekend, when no abortions take place, therefore they cannot be accused of harassing or distressing pregnant women and neither can they be accused of causing a breach of the peace – their witness is entirely peaceful.

Recently they have attracted the attention and ire of pro-choice activists, who have angrily tried to disrupt the witness, getting up close and personal, quite literally in the face of those standing in silent solidarity. This video footage is extremely telling – what strikes me are the tactics of intimidation attempted by the pro-choicers, who are without a doubt the aggressors here; attempting to close down a peaceful legal event, prevent freedom of expression and then quite unbelievably and perhaps predictably, claiming victim status.

Joseph Shaw has uploaded the photos of the event to his Flickr stream here.

This is exactly how pro-life witness should take place, quietly, peacefully, en masse and without making the pro-life movement vulnerable to spurious claims of harassment. It is patently obvious that no harassment or provocation by the part of the pro-lifers has taken place and yet the handful of protestors intent on disrupting the witness nevertheless audaciously attempt to claim otherwise.

The other interesting point to note here is that, to the best of my knowledge, this witness has not been organised by any of the major pro-life charities or lobby-groups, this is activism at its best, a group of like-minded people getting together to take some practical action. This kind of thing  reminds us that actually that in some situations we don’t need to be sheep, waiting to be herded and marshalled into action by someone else or an official group, complaining that ‘nothing ever gets done’. Provided we stay within the precepts of the law, then there is nothing to stop similar witnesses taking place up and down the country and this is precisely what vigils such as Forty Days for Life are attempting to achieve.

For those who mutter about whether or not vigils are the best tactic to win hearts and minds or are ‘effective’, once again I want to scream at you – ‘prayer is never wasted’.  Furthermore I’d also wonder whether or not succumbing to secular unease about prayer in the public square is advisable. Only one group of people stand to benefit from fewer public pro-life vigils and it isn’t the vulnerable pregnant women!

Finally, there has been a lot of chatter on social media over the past few weeks regarding attempts to disassociate the pro-life moment from overt displays of religiosity, in order to make it more ‘inclusive’. I would strongly agree that there needs to be more secular initiatives, a pro-life attitude does not require any recourse to theism as several atheist or even wiccan pro-life colleagues of mine would testify. I agree that pro-life sentiment needs to move beyond being perceived as being solely within the realms of ‘religious whackjobs’, which is why we have several official non-religious pro-life charities and lobby groups, which incidentally, does not make them immune from attack. The abortion ideologues will attack from whatever angle they can, they simply find the religious stereotype the easiest one to deal with.

What the above video demonstrates however, is the effectiveness of these witnesses  – how a group of people standing in silent solidarity or singing a simple timeless Latin chant can arouse such irrational anger. Obviously they are thought to be dangerous in terms of swaying public opinion  -why else would these handful of extremists go to such lengths to counter their message and issue empty threats?

What those within the pro-life movement need to remember is that while some may not been inclined towards overt displays of religiosity (although I know of several pagans who participate in 40 Days for Life), attempts to remove or conceal prayer, are misguided. Pro-life is never purely about the politics or PR, it will always for the Christian involve prayer and practical action.

Furthermore Catholics are the core constituents in the movement, the ones most likely to give of both their time and their money and as shown above, the ones most inclined to actually get off their backside and do something, whether that be attending a vigil, volunteering with or donating to a pro-life charity, or organising some sort of fund-raiser. It is never a matter of mere ideology. Efforts to be inclusive, should not write off or alienate the stalwarts such as the good people in this video in their well-intentioned aim to soften the sceptic and hardened neo-liberal hearts.

Congratulations to all those involved in Oxford – cages are obviously being rattled.

(Note the amount of young women taking part; quite a contrast from the middle-aged feminists and the man ludicrously holding the ‘my body, my choice’ banner).

Rejecting the frame

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.

Crisis pregnancy centres ‘scandal’

Perhaps in an attempt to be ‘balanced’ following their excellent exposes of breaches of the law carried out by abortion clinics in 2012, the Daily Telegraph have decided to set their sights on the other side of the coin, and targeted pro-life crisis pregnancy centres as being their latest target of ire.

The formidable investigative journalism carried out by the Telegraph last year, never sat particularly well with their attempt to hitch their wagon to the online feminism zeitgeist. There was always some dissonance between their condemnation of gender-selective abortion and wholesale abuses of the law such as clinics having batches of forms pre-signed by doctors who would never actually have any contact with the patient, let alone examine them, and the timbre of articles carried in their new Wonder Women section, launched last year, which has been populated by predominantly pro-choice feminists.

Emma Barnett, editor of Telegraph Wonder-Women, has written 5 articles in the past 24 hours, busting ‘abortion myths’, reporting unscientific things said in two crisis pregnancy centres, outraging women by reporting on how people could be scarred for life or be manipulated into taking a certain decision, by non regulated pregnancy centres. There’s another op ed by deputy women’s editor, Lousia Peacock, breathily mouthing “since when did Britain become pro-life America?

Screenshot 2014-02-11 13.00.53

Perhaps having failed in their previous attempts to force discussion, the Telegraph are looking for an easy ‘win’ such as the crisis pregnancy centres, however despite their interactive map, showing the location of every single crisis pregnancy centre, they have only been able to find two, who gave out contentious information. How many other centres did they actually attend? Acres of bandwidth and ink will be spilt with post-abortive women justifying their decision, and saying how harmful it would have been if anyone told them it was wrong or how they felt guilty, however will anyone talk to those women who feel that they were bounced into abortion and not given comprehensive information by abortion clinics? And if a woman feels guilty following an abortion, blaming those who gave her an alternative point of view which pricked her conscience is dishonest. Autonomy means taking control and owning our decisions, no matter what someone else may think of them. So another woman may choose not to abort following a session at a CPC. What’s the biggie? Is it really such a worry if women decide not to abort because they are worried about the physical risks?

Before we go any further, let’s consider the accusations and their implications. Emma Barnett is concerned that women may be persuaded to keep their babies upon the basis of unsound scientific evidence. It’s not up there with aborting a baby because of their gender or not even bothering to examine a patient, or follow proper safeguards which could prevent a coerced or forced abortion. Only last week one organisation tweeted that they had spotted a woman being shouted at by a male  and hustled to get inside the clinic, when she appeared to be hesitating.

While women facing crises have a right to access reliable and factual information, the decision as to whether or not to have an abortion will always be based upon her own subjective ideology and interpretation of her circumstances. She will put her own interpretative lens on the science, whether that be with regards to the humanity of the fetus, or the weighing up of risks.

The accusation that having an abortion will make women child sex abusers is sensational and not what was actually said, which was as follows:

 “an increased statistical likelihood of child abuse” because women had to break “natural barriers that are around the child that you don’t cross” in order to terminate a pregnancy.

There is a link between abortion and mental health problems, including depression, substance abuse, violence, replacement pregnancies and difficulties in bonding with subsequent children. That is not to say that every single woman who has an abortion is going to experience such difficulties, but these are also factors which are linked to child abuse. Nowhere did the counsellor mention that the abuse would be of a sexual nature, emotional abuse can be every bit as damaging and neither did she say that this was a foregone conclusion or inevitability. There are individual clinical assessments linking post-abortion trauma with subsequent child abuse. (1)

While this might not be the wisest thing to say, neither is it as outrageous as the headlines would suggest. I would baulk at the suggestion that due to an abortion I am at risk of abusing my precious children, (the root of abuse is complex, abortion can be but one factor in the sequelae) but I would openly accept and acknowledge that the anti-natal depression I experienced in all of my pregnancies, especially the unplanned ones, have their root in the fact that I aborted my first baby. In any event, the counsellor in no way said that post-abortive women are likely to sexually abuse children.

In terms of the breast cancer link, an extremely recent meta-analysis of studies of Chinese women having induced abortions (as is common due to the one child policy) showed that just one abortion will increase the risk of breast cancer by 44%.  Two abortion will increase the risk by 76% and the risk will almost double following three abortions or more. The meta-analysis covered 36 studies, covering 14 provinces in China, comparing the risk of breast cancer amongst post-abortive women and those who had never had an abortion. This came following a similar study in Bangladesh indicating that women who had an abortion were 20% more at risk of developing breast cancer. The Chinese study was published in a prestigious medical journal Cancer Causes Control, confirmed the pioneering work of Dr Joel Brind and challenged the consensus held by professional bodies such as the Royal College of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians. There are now over 50 studies showing a positive link between breast cancer and abortion – these cannot be ignored.

One can argue over the statistical analysis, as indeed a leading  male pro-choicer frequently attempts to do, but the science is simple.

Induced abortion boosts breast cancer risk because it stops the normal physiological changes in the breast that occur during a full term pregnancy and that lower a mother’s breast cancer risk. A woman who has a full term pregnancy at 20 has a 90% lower risk of breast cancer than a woman who waits until age 30.

Breast tissue after puberty and before a term pregnancy is immature and cancer-vulnerable. Seventy five percent of this tissue is Type 1 lobules where ductal cancers start and 25 percent is Type 2 lobules where lobular cancers start. Ductal cancers account for 85% of all breast cancers while lobular cancers account for 12-15% of breast cancers.

As soon as a woman conceives, the embryo secretes human chorionic gonadotrophin or hCG, the hormone we check for in pregnancy tests.

HCG causes the mother’s ovaries to increase the levels of estrogen and progesterone in her body resulting in a doubling of the amount of breast tissue she has; in effect, she then has more Type 1 and 2 lobules where cancers start.

After mid pregnancy at 20 weeks, the fetus/placenta makes hPL, another hormone that starts maturing her breast tissue so that it can make milk. It is only after 32 weeks that she has made enough of the mature Type 4 lobules that are cancer resistant so that she lowers her risk of breast cancer.

Induced abortion before 32 weeks leaves the mother’s breast with more vulnerable tissue for cancer to start. It is also why any premature birth before 32 weeks, not just induced abortion, increases or doubles breast cancer risk.

By the end of her pregnancy, 85% of her breast tissue is cancer resistant. Each pregnancy thereafter decreases her risk a further 10%.

Spontaneous abortions in the first trimester on the other hand don’t increase breast cancer risk because there is something wrong with the embryo, so hCG levels are low. Another possibility is that something is wrong with the mother’s ovaries and the estrogen and progesterone levels are low. When those hormones are low, the mother’s breasts do not grow and change.

Pointing this out to women is not harmful or manipulative – if we are talking about making an informed decision, why should a woman not be made aware of the significant consensus of medical opinion that holds that abortion carries a breast cancer risk. Why should she be deemed incapable of interpreting the information for herself, even if she decides to ignore it, or comes to the conclusion that it is flawed?

The other ‘scandalous’ piece of advice is that abortion can increase the risk of infertility or carrying a future pregnancy to term. Clearly the stat of 25% is wrong, there is no need to make fallacious claims and to do so damages the pro-life cause, however it would be wrong to deny that abortion carries no medical risk, especially if it is surgical; there is always a risk of infection and scarring when introducing surgical instruments into bodily cavities. Anecdote is not the plural of data, but a friend of mine had difficult conceiving following the removal of a Fallopian tube due to an ectopic pregnancy. The ectopic pregnancy was caused by scarring – she had previously had three abortions. Someone else I know of reported cervical scarring requiring emergency surgery post an abortion. When she reported excruciating pain and bleeding immediately following the surgery, the clinic were disinterested. I was warned of the risk of uterine rupture when offered a surgical procedure following the death of our unborn baby – why would abortion be any different?

Furthermore any injuries, complications or infections post abortion are not counted in official statistics if they present or are reported once the woman has left the abortion clinic premises. If you go to the doctor or A&E with a post operative infection following an abortion, it will not be included in the clinic’s official figures.

Pointing out associated risks to abortion is no different to an anaesthetist being filmed pointing out the risks of surgery or anaesthetic or a pharmacist reading out the manufacturer’s leaflet that accompanies medication. Pro-lifers should not undermine their authority with incorrect information, there is no need to do so, we should condemn this practice, but it is irresponsible reporting to over sensationalise what was actually said.

Naturally the Telegraph’s report has caused a massive media sensation, with calls for these centres to be shut down and monitored because they do not provide ‘medically accurate’ information. Abortion is rarely simply a medical decision, there has not been a case in the UK of a woman needing to have an abortion to save her life, for many many years, it is always a moral judgement, which takes into account various clinical factors.

It is impossible to take a neutral stance upon abortion from a counselling perspective, even if you are supporting a woman to come to her own decision, regardless of what that decision is, that is in itself an ideological stance, taking the view that whatever a woman decides is right. We don’t apply such reasoning in other circumstances, it is not deemed acceptable to terminate a full term pregnancy on the grounds of gender for example, simply because a woman decides that it is not right for her.

Every single organisation that provides abortion counselling has an agenda of some sort or another. One cannot shut down organisations who are aiming to counsel women with crisis pregnancies simply because they are not providing what is deemed to be ‘acceptable’ medical interpretation. Where clinics are providing erroneous information then obviously they need to sharpen up their practice, but it’s likely that organisations such as these will soon establish a bad reputation locally. Ultimately no-one forces women to attend them, no-one forces women to listen to their advice and no-one forces a woman to continue an unwanted pregnancy, not even these allegedly reckless organisations.

It is also grossly unfair of the Telegraph to conflate independent local organisations with LIFE, who regardless of where one stands on their counselling provision, are accredited by BCAP and for good or ill provide non directive counselling.

If a woman wants an abortion, the Telegraph has demonstrated how easy it is for her to obtain one, no questions asked, paid for by the NHS up until 24 weeks.

Throwing in the old canards about being linked to religious organisations and throwing in the inevitable comparisons to the US (which allowed butchers such as Kermit Gosnell to operate) is an attempt to whip up fear, as is the mandatory reference to 40 days for life, who have successfully been conducting peaceful incident free vigils for the past four years in the UK. There has been no incidents of pro-life violence, nor are there any proposed bills limiting abortion in the offing, so the comparisons with the US are moot.

When I was pregnant with the baby I aborted, Marie Stopes gave me no medical information whatsoever, aside from what the procedure would entail, which they massively downplayed. I did not even know that I was receiving ‘counselling’. I told the counsellor why I wanted an abortion and she nodded grimly, adding that I had no choice and was not equipped to have a baby, it would be irresponsible. Impartial medical advice or ideological?

Why shouldn’t a religious organisation attempt to promote an alternative point of view which might persuade women that not only can they keep their babies but they are capable of being good mothers? Why can’t an organisation propose the point of view that a woman is at risk of harm from abortion?

This is an attempt to close down any point of view which might seek to persuade a pregnant woman that abortion is the wrong decision, using a contentious definition of ‘harm’. It is never harmful for a woman to decide not to kill her unborn baby, only a paternalism or totalitarianism would state otherwise. Who are we to decide that women shouldn’t be advised that abortion is not a good option, whether that be on ideological, moral or medical grounds?

The only real scandal here is that the failure to acknowledge compelling medical evidence linking breast cancer to abortion and the refusal to include post abortion complications presented after leaving the clinic in official statistics.

The scandal is trying to pretend that the decision to abort is solely a medical or clinical one and that arguments about the development or humanity of the foetus are irrelevant. The scandal is the attempt to deny that abortion can cause very real harm to women. The scandal is the attempt to close down debate on the harmful effects of abortion and deprive women of all the information they need. And if no organisation with any abortion activists should be allowed to give advice, as Nadine Dorries proposes, that would rule out abortion clinics too, who actively promote and market abortion. The head of BPAS is a frequent public abortion apologist.

The outrage being whipped up here is that a woman facing an unplanned or crisis pregnancy  might be told that abortion is not alright, is not the solution,  ends the life of an unborn child and could cause her long term harm. And that would never do.

(1) Benedict, et al., “Maternal Perinatal Risk Factors and Child Abuse,” Child Abuse and Neglect, 9:217-224 (1985); P.G. Ney, “Relationship between Abortion and Child Abuse,” Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 24:610-620, 1979; Reardon, Aborted Women – Silent No More (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1987), 129-30, describes a case of woman who beat her three year old son to death shortly after an abortion which triggered a “psychotic episode” of grief, guilt, and misplaced anger.

What’s changed since 1967?

women exploited by abortion
As true now as it was then

The abortion laws in this country are clearly in a mess. For the past eighteen months the media has confirmed what most people who have ever experienced an abortion know to be the case – namely that we have abortion on demand, with the provisions of the 1967 Abortion Act totally ignored.

Nothing better illustrates the ‘slippery slope’ argument than the story of the abortion narrative in the UK. Brought in under the auspices of compassion, in a misguided attempt to prevent the handful of tragic deaths resulting from illegal abortions in either unsanitary conditions and/or performed by unskilled amateurs, the Abortion Act nonetheless recognised the inherent right to life of the unborn child and prescribed a series of strict criteria under which abortion could be performed. Abortion was treated as such a serious matter that it required the signature of two separate doctors in order to prevent abuses and exploitation of vulnerable women. Two doctors were supposed to rigidly assess the medical facts presented before them and use their  judgement as qualified professionals as to the medical ethics of abortion in a particular given set of difficult circumstances.

The law that was brought in as a result of a determined pressure group, was designed to be strictly applied to a limited  number of women on the grounds of compassion, in circumstances where it was believed that there was little other choice, has mutated into an industry responsible for almost 200,000 abortions a year. Of the 97% funded by the NHS, 62% are subcontracted out to the private sector and a staggering £1 million a week is spent on repeat abortions. Even Lord Steel, one of the architects of the 1967 Abortion Act said that he “never envisaged that there would be so many abortions”. Speaking today, following the revelation that in only 46% of cases is there a record that a doctor has met the woman seeking an abortion to check that she is able to give fully formed consent, he described these figures as ‘regrettable’ and ‘against the Spirit of the 1967 Act’.

As the Daily Telegraph has repeatedly demonstrated with numerous exposes, the carefully-crafted rhetoric of abortion being purely a complex medical decision between a woman facing a seemingly impossible dilemma and her doctor, is a sham. In an investigation by the Care Quality Commission, clinics and hospitals were discovered operating illegal practices such as having batches of forms pre-signed by two doctors. In another investigation clinics were found to be offering to perform illegal later-stage gender selective abortions of baby girls.

This week the hypocrisy of the feminist movement has once again been laid bare, which keeps quiet over the abortion of baby girls, stating that women’s choice has to be paramount, the reason for terminating a pregnancy is irrelevant, what matters most is the woman’s decision itself, given that it is her who will be tasked with completing her pregnancy, giving birth to a child and presumably raising him or her. It begs the inevitable question as to whether or not they would still continue to insist that it is always a woman’s choice should a woman wish to abort her child on the equally unsavoury grounds that they would be of a certain race, or if an ante-natal test for sexuality were to be discovered. As the law currently stands, it is perfectly acceptable to terminate a baby up until the moment of their birth on the grounds of disability; in practice, if you discover that you are not having the longed-for gender, it is permissible to abort your baby for the lack or addition of a penis, up until the 24 week mark.

According to a story in the Independent, gender selective abortion in socially progressive Britain has reduced the population of women from ethnic minority groups by up to as many as 4,700.

The government’s response to such abuses of the law, is staggering, rather than to enforce and tighten up on the law as it currently stands, especially in relation to gender-selective abortions, their answer is to loosen it yet further and remove the requirement for a woman seeking an abortion to even seek a doctor. Furthermore a doctor will not need to give individual requests consideration before approving them.

So in effect a woman may, for whatever reason, decide that she wants to destroy her unborn child and she will therefore be given licence to do so, irrespective of the circumstances. Far from being an advancement in the cause of women’s rights, this is an abuser’s charter, giving green lights to statutory rapists in relationships with girls under the age of consent, as well as anyone else who seeks to force, coerce or pressurise a woman into an abortion.

The law was drafted precisely to protect vulnerable women, removing the requirement for this to be seen by two independent doctors, does nothing but harm the cause of women. I speak from a personal perspective of someone who had the experience of a rubber-stamped, no-questions- asked-abortion. No-one questioned me, however gently as to whether I was really aware of what I was doing, or informed me as to the potential future physical and emotional repercussions. Neither did they prepare me for the horrors of the procedure of itself and its immediate aftermath. I saw a GP just once, who referred the whole thing onto Marie Stopes.

It was assumed that I knew what I wanted and knew what I was doing. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I believe that had I been correctly counselled, with all options laid out in front of me, and possible future consequences, along with the ethical considerations, I would now be the proud mother of a seventeen year old young adult. In all of my subsequent pregnancies I have suffered from mild to severe crippling ante-natal depression. It doesn’t take Freud to work out why, nor can this been blamed on a religiously indoctrinated guilt complex – abortion was never discussed in religious terms at school but  couched in vague ethical terms. Prior to having an abortion I had never once seen graphic depictions, nor indeed been presented with an intelligent,  reasoned or scientific  pro-life case.

The statement “Nurses are often much better at dealing with the emotional and psychological needs of women”, from Tracey McNeill, director of Marie Stopes International, seems to pander to outdated paternalistic sexist claptrap in presuming that nurses are women. The midwife who delivered my second baby and latched her onto my breast was a male. He was more than capable of dealing with my emotional and psychological needs, as was my husband. This seems to buy into old-fashioned and unhelpful stereotypes about the gender and bedside manner of doctors. What’s needed is someone with excellent counselling skills together with bucketloads of empathy and compassion, regardless of their level of medical qualification or gender, though the thought of un-surgically experienced nurses carrying out surgical abortions, doesn’t seem to have moved us much further on from  pre-1967 practice. Mandy Rice-Davis’ infamous words come to mind: with a desperate shortage of doctors willing and able to become involved in the practice of abortion, clinics increasingly need nurse practitioners to fill the gap, hence “they would say that, wouldn’t they”?

It’s baloney. The female sonographer who roughly manhandled me and spoke in monosyllabic grunts when performing a pre-abortion ultrasound was hardly in tune with my emotional and psychological needs, neither was the ‘counsellor’, who again said so little to me, that I didn’t even realise that this was supposed to constitute an official counselling session, all she did was to nod and brusquely tell me that abortion was for the best and proceed to book in the abortion. Neither was the nurse who administered the abortion pills internally, only thinking to inform me afterwards that I would experience a ‘mini labour’ more in tune with my needs than any other medical practitioner, neither was the receptionist who shouted at me reducing me to tears and certainly not the ward nurse who expressed grim satisfied delight as I shook with fever and chills, poured with sweat and threw up, repeatedly attempting to physically force me back into bed and stop me from pacing around to alleviate my pain.

As for taking pills at home for the expulsion of the foetus, I’ve written about that before, however my experience of both medical abortion and a miscarriage is that this is a frightening and potentially dangerous procedure that requires medical supervision. A brief look at the miscarriage threads on a site such as Mumsnet, will throw up numerous stories of women panicking about the amount of pain and bloodloss experienced even when their loss is at an early stage, with a significant proportion requiring emergency treatment and in rare cases it fails. Giving women this treatment with no supervision, even if it is only for the initial stages, is reckless, prioritising the needs and capacity of the healthcare facility, before the physical health of the woman.

Ignoring the provisions  and protections of the Abortion Act caused me (and my unborn baby) irreparable harm as it has to countless women. Doubtless some women will find the requirement for two signatures an irritant, believing that they know their own mind and body, however this is about the protection of the many, including the unborn child. The question of whether it is ever ethical to terminate the life of an unborn child, to which the law says only in certain medically prescribed circumstances, is as relevant now as it was forty five years ago. Every single recent opinion poll in the UK demonstrates that women are overwhelmingly against any further liberalisation of the law.

If every case and every woman’s circumstances are different, then surely she is being let down by not having her case subject to the most stringent medical safeguards and close scrutiny by two doctors  in order to ensure that her best interests are really being served? Forty five years ago, the law decided that the unborn child merited protection, and should not be arbitrarily disposed of. What has changed to make that principle redundant?

Pope Francis’ words about the throwaway culture, even of people, embodied by abortion and euthanasia, seem more penetrating than ever.

Babies in the fridge

I’m in two minds over the effectiveness of online petitions, one the one hand they can be extremely useful in terms of raising public awareness of a particular issue, on the other, there is no guarantee of them getting to debate stage and even if they do, overwhelming public opinion seems to be ignored when MPs are voting on legislative issues. The petition against the redefinition of marriage serves as useful illustration; despite garnering over 668,000 signatures, an unprecedented number in contrast to the 66,203 signatures in favour of the redefinition, the measure comes into force on the 29th March, with my home city Brighton and Hove, likely to offer the very first ceremony, taking place in the Royal Pavillion at one minute past midnight, for a selected winner of a competition. (One of the comments on this is very telling, stating that same-sex couples have not previously had the opportunity to ‘try’ marriage).

Regardless of where one stands on the issue of same-sex marriage, democracy and public opinion do not seem to have been served well by online petitions which seem to be little more than a gimmick designed to present the illusion of democracy in action.

With that in mind, I have come across an extremely worthy online petition which due to its unsensational nature will probably receive very little support. It is unlikely that even 100,000 signatures will take this to debate stage, but it will nonetheless trigger a response and hopefully a legislative change.

The Mariposa Trust, who are responsible for the Saying GoodBye organisation who organise services of remembrance for those unborn babies lost to miscarriage in Cathedrals spread throughout the UK, are wishing to campaign to legislate for the treatment of women who are experiencing miscarriage.

Saying Goodbye offers Anglican Services, which unsurprisingly are often customised with secular elements, nonetheless their ministry is an important one, contributing to  and consolidating a pro-life ethos in the UK, because they recognise that parents lose a baby and grieve no matter what stage in pregnancy they were in. These services give parents a formal opportunity to mark and mourn the loss of their child, which is often denied to them, thanks to the way that miscarriage is dealt with by hospitals.

While it is not right to attempt to claim Saying Goodbye for the pro-life movement, I have no idea where the founders stand on the subject of abortion and would not wish their organisation to be leveraged, they exist purely to help bereaved parents and not to judge, nevertheless their very existence makes life uncomfortable for those who would promote early stage abortion. The issue of bereavement is a complex one, it is undoubtedly true that parents who experience miscarriage do suffer very profoundly. As do many women who have been through the process of abortion, even if it was what they believed to be the right option. This young woman describes how she cried and grieved for her baby after an early stage abortion – fortunately the medication did not work, her baby is due later this year and she bitterly regrets opting for an abortion in the first place.

Not every women who experiences an abortion will suffer from grief, however Saying Goodbye would not disbar post-abortive women from attending their services which are open to all and therefore it is highly likely that they could prove a source of comfort both to women and extended family alike. Their sensitively worded blurb, invites anyone who has experienced any type of infant loss to attend the services, no matter how historic, although they are not a specific ministry for post-abortive mothers.  We shouldn’t adopt a partisan attitude – an organisation that seeks to acknowledge and recognise the humanity inherent in the unborn child, by accepting and marking a loss, deserves our full support and makes a valuable contribution to the dignity and protection of the unborn.

Anyway, the petition itself wishes to end the practice of women being instructed by hospitals to keep the bodies of their miscarried babies in their fridge, until such time as the hospital is ready to accept the baby. This is common practice, especially at weekends and is particularly barbaric. When we lost Raphael a few months ago and were waiting to see if a miscarriage may occur spontaneously, this is what we were instructed to do and I was dreading the process of having to retrieve his or her tiny body. Woman are reporting being instructed to buy tupperware containers precisely for the purpose of storing the baby, indeed we had an ice cream tub at the ready.

The internet was a tremendous source of help and practical information which was not given to us by the hospital and upon reading various Mumsnet threads, I was horrified to discover that women are by and large expected to miscarry at home if they opt for a medical management of the procedure. I read numerous terrifying tales of women having to be blue-lighted into hospital due to excessive blood loss, as well as of incomplete procedures. Coincidentally a woman privately hooked up with me in the Brighton area who had also discovered that her baby had died. As her pregnancy was not as far as advanced as mine, she was not admitted into hospital, being given the medication to administer at home, which had not worked. She frantically messaged me to ask about bedspace and staff on the ward as she was desperate for medical attention, support and reassurance. Following repeated attempts to induce the miscarriage with medication, a process that involved several hospital trips and being what she felt was ‘fobbed off’, she ended up needing surgery six weeks later. As far as the stretched department at our local hospital was concerned, she was not in any immediate danger, her baby had died and while her distress was unfortunate, she was not a priority.

No petition is going to ease the pressure on the over-burdened NHS, however I was left with the impression that overall the standards of care for women who suffer a miscarriage are very patchy. We were fortunate to receive excellent and compassionate care, although there was a brief crisis due to a lack of available doctors and theatre at 2am, but judging by Mumsnet threads, I seem to be in the minority.

Woman are routinely encouraged not to request remains of a 13 week baby, standard procedure is that they are kept by the hospital and sent to the crematorium to be sensitively dealt with en masse with your baby’s name or details being added to a book of remembrance. Most mothers are in too much of a fug to want to think about ‘foetal remains’ as they are called and so this often seems like the easiest and most straightforward option, although from our perspective we felt a duty and responsibility to our baby to accompany them on their last journey and accord Christian burial rites and so we requested the remains.

The hospital were quite flummoxed, there were the inevitable paperwork snafus as this was an unusual request and upon leaving we were given a container with the foetus inside, they were unwilling and unable to store this for us until such time as we could arrange for burial.

And so it was that as I left the hospital in which I had given birth to three live children, leaving the floor and the lift forever associated with newborns in carseats and ante-natal appointments, clinging on to Robin feebly due to having lost almost 2 litres of blood, instead of the newborn in the carseat, Robin had the foetus in a jar in his oversized coat pocket.

We weren’t able to bury the baby for another 10 days, so for that time they remained in the fridge, which was tricky and distressing with four children in the house. It was only thanks to Robin’s contacts in the funeral industry that we knew that a tiny wicker casket could be sourced and again thanks to the support of our parish priest that we were able to lay Raphael to rest in the memorial garden/flowerbed of the church. It’s enormously comforting having a resting place.

(Trolls who suggested that I was faking or simulating my pregnancy ought to come and have a word with my husband. Likewise while you were hectoring me and writing letters in green ink to my employers because you were annoyed by some petty account for which I was not responsible and would not engage with or acknowledge, digital engagement was not a priority for me at this time, perhaps you ought to rethink that with our baby in the fridge we had other more pressing matters to think about). 

At time of writing I should be into my third trimester of pregnancy and Christmas was difficult at times – there will always be a missing stocking. The comfort of our religious faith has made this an easier time than for many, both in terms of accessing available support and the logistics of organising a burial.

No mother should be instructed to keep her baby in the fridge at any stage in gestation or for any period of time and neither should she be treated as inconvenience if she finds herself needing to access counselling services weeks later, for which there are often long NHS waiting lists. Which is why I believe that this petition is worth signing.