Pro-choice in a pickle

As I wrote both on the blog and in the Catholic Herald last week, pro-lifers are gaining momentum, the pro-choice lobby are on the back foot following the recent scandal of sex-selective abortion with the issue of post-birth abortion hot on its heels and they don’t like it one little bit, hence they are resorting to the oldest trick in the book and as I know to my cost, the staple of those in an ideological corner – attack, which is supposedly the best form of defence.

Today has seen a flurry of articles in the paper of pro-choice propaganda, commonly known as The Guardian, fretting about the activities of 40daysforlife, whose peaceful prayer vigils, expose the self-deceit at the heart of those who support a woman’s supposed “choice”. They claim that the very presence of peaceful protestors is somehow intimidating, that it is imposing views on vulnerable women facing a difficult decision, whilst denying the humanity of the unborn child. If this is not an unborn child, but simply a cluster of cells, or an unviable fetus that would be unable to survive outside the mother’s womb, then why is the presence of those on the vigil so troublesome and disturbing? If a woman is simply exercising a choice available to her, i.e. not to have a baby, then what on earth has she got to worry about? She should hold her head high, march straight on into the abortion clinic and get them to remove the products of conception forthwith and pay no attention to the religious nut jobs praying to their invisible sky fairy. If it is simply a choice, a meaningless decision, then 40daysforlife are nothing more than an advertising campaign for the alternative choice and if a woman has made her mind up she is unlikely to be swayed.


The problem for passionate advocates of abortion rights is that many of their own, such as Diane Abbott, accept that abortion is a tragedy, because it entails the destruction of life. Even if they prefer to term it the destruction of potential life, they are some way to recognising abortion for what it is. If abortion is a difficult and burdensome decision it is precisely because those faced with seemingly impossible situations who enter the abortion clinic with a heavy heart, recognise the gravity of their actions, yet feel that there is no other solution for them. For these women who are most definitely vulnerable, the presence of those praying for them, their unborn children and the staff in the abortion facility, is problematic, because it is a tangible reminder of the seriousness of their potential choice. It makes it more difficult for women to ignore the reality of the human life within them.

Pro-life protestors are problematic for the abortion clinics and supporters of abortion because they are either an advertisement for the opposing course of action or a physical reminder of the life of the unborn, not to mention the enormous elephant in the room, namely that human nature is to seek the approval or validation of others. This is precisely why every single abortion-rights group emphasise the “one in three women will need and abortion” slogan at every opportunity. This not only reinforces the idea that abortion is a basic necessity, every mother must be able to get rid of her unborn child, but also uses social validation, a known technique for helping those who are undecided, typically in the world of retail when contemplating what product to buy, we are influenced by the decisions of others. Protestors outside a clinic are a manifestation of people who are in disagreement and who, whilst enormously sympathetic to the plight of women facing horrendous circumstances, cannot and will not condone the killing of an unborn child. What is deemed unacceptable is that there is a group of people present who disagree with the choice that is being made. It is always difficult when people express disagreement with our own personal moral choices, but that is life. Those who care about us try to sensitively point out when we are making harmful decisions. That isn’t hatred or condemnation – it’s genuine care, concern and compassion.

What happens during these vigils?

Admittedly I am yet to attend one, however this will shortly change. The highly respected and well-renowned Catholic priest Fr Stephen Wang attended a 40 days vigil at the weekend, and it was his moving testimony that has motivated me to overcome my reticence. The only reason I have not previously attended is that last year I was heavily pregnant throughout the 40 days, indeed Felicity was born in the final days of the campaign, on Maundy Thursday last year, commuting to London heavily pregnant with a toddler in tow and negotiating the London Underground was too much of a chore. Similarly during the campaign of last Autumn, I would have needed to jostle toddler and newborn single-handedly around London and felt that though worthwhile, the exercise would have been too fraught with logistical difficulties.

As Fr Stephen states, these vigils are entirely peaceful. I imagine that the non-religious would find them interminably boring. It’s literally a small group of people praying underneath a non-graphic banner with a depiction of a Dove and a Bible verse. Hardly the most chilling or gruesome of images. Look away now.

Terrifying aren't they?

As Fr Stephen notes:

People at the vigil are not there to judge, but to pray and to offer hope. And you feel the reality of this prayer and hope when you are there, even if it highlights the starkness of the choices many people are facing.

Ben Quinn wrote an uncharacteristically balanced piece, the tone of which sympathised with the staff of BPAS, but nonetheless conceded that often the protestors consist of

a solitary participant…reciting the rosary across the road from the clinic.

Sarah Ditum, on the other hand, was a lot more strident, her piece contained no direct evidence, but simply quotes from Clare Murphy of BPAS who claims that protestors “encircle” women on the doorstep. 40daysforLife is in its third year. If this alleged harassment is occurring, then why have the police not been alerted and why have BPAS not used a camera of their own in order to prove what is allegedly occurring?

Here is the statement of peace that every single attendee of the 40daysforlife vigil has to sign as a registered participant.

1. I will only pursue peaceful solutions to the violence of abortion when volunteering with the 40 Days for Life campaign

2. I will show compassion and reflect Christ’s love to all abortion facility employees, volunteers, and customers

3. I understand that acting in a violent or harmful manner immediately and completely disassociates me from the 40 Days for Life campaign

4. I am in no way associated with the abortion facility or its affiliates by way of employment, informant, volunteer, client, or otherwise

While standing in the city right of way in front of the abortion facility:

5. I will not obstruct the driveways or sidewalk while standing in the public right of way

6. I will not litter on the public right of way

7. I will closely attend to any children I bring to the prayer vigil

8. I will not threaten, physically contact, or verbally abuse the abortion facility, employees, volunteers, or customers

9. I will not vandalize private property

10. I will cooperate with local city authorities

It hardly tallies with tales and tactics of intimidation. Where the problem has arisen, is that it seems like some over-enthusiastic participant has been spotted videoing the entrance to the facility. This is unacceptable and 40daysforlife have disassociated themselves from and condemned this action. The facts are not entirely clear, but when I spoke to Robert Colquhoun this afternoon, he confirmed that participants often do take cameras, but any photography or videoing that takes place, is not of women, but of the participants themselves, often to guarantee their own safety.

As the indomitable and heroic Clare, testifies, having been to several vigils, it is actually the protestors themselves who find themselves threatened and harangued by passers-by. When she attended a vigil outside the Marie Stopes clinic in London, a passer-by thought it appropriate to take photographs of her children, telling her that he was going to send them to Social Services as she was clearly an unfit mother. Last week at the 40days vigil in Bedford Square, a local man approached her children, telling them that their mother was doing “devil’s work” and that he was going to call the police. He made good with his threat, the police duly appeared having been informed that there were children outside the clinic who should be in school, whereupon it was explained that the children were home-educated and the policeman said no further action was necessary.

On one occasion Clare was interviewed for the Catholic TV channel EWTN, therefore a camera crew were filming quite legitimately. Robert informed me that three years of prolonged threats and insults on the vigils had toughened him up considerably, therefore though he continued to find reports such as those in the Guardian irksome in that they were full of inaccuracies, falsehoods and innuendoes, they no longer bothered him. 40daysforlife is clearly proving effective, given that the Guardian have devoted two articles in the space of 24 hours to them and has now written over 4 articles, so concerned are they by a handful of religious protestors praying the rosary. If these articles generate more national coverage of the campaign, it could well have a positive effect of encouraging more Christians to participate, or to set up groups in their locality.

On the issue of filming, this is not an activity that is carried out by 40daysforlife, nor is photography. The campaign is run on an absolute shoestring, there is no money for this type of equipment and no desire to film women entering or leaving premises. The official marshals, themselves unpaid volunteers giving up a few hours of their free time like the participants, need to remind people not to film either deliberately or inadvertently any members of the public entering or leaving the facility and will disassociate themselves from anyone who does this and ask them to leave the vigil.

When interviewed by Sarah Ditum for the Guardian, Robert was issued with a set of demands and instructions as to what 40daysforlife “should” do. Understandably he feels it inappropriate to be dictated to in an aggressive fashion by a pro-choice columnist, the peace statement is comprehensive and any participants with video equipment or using their mobile phones will be reminded not to video either the entrance or those entering/leaving.

No-one is encircled, bullied, harangued or manipulated and there is no evidence to the contrary, otherwise the police would act. Passers-by are asked if they want a leaflet. Refusals are accepted gracefully. Participants are there primarily to pray. If pregnant women are spoken to, it is because they themselves approach or speak to the participants. Women who wish to engage with the protestors, often do so because they are experiencing doubts and/or they feel that they need to justify their situation. It is this engagement that produces turn-arounds.

Being able to engage with women facing crisis pregnancies takes a lot of skill and emotional intelligence. It requires an open-hearted, non-judgemental attitude, not haranguing a woman, or telling her that she is evil, but a willingness first and foremost to listen and let her speak. There is no manipulation, women are told that there are other options and people willing to help them. There is a big sign up saying “we are here to help you”, which often provides the impetus for women to approach those on the vigil. Whether she admits it or not, a woman who approaches pro-life supporters outside an abortion clinic that she is about to enter, is subconsciously crying out for help. Any turnarounds that occur, are not due to women being “repulsed” by the protestors, if a campaign repulses one, such as say the images used by anti-vivisectionists, the normal response is simply to put ones head down and walk past very swiftly. A banner with a dove and a handful of “bead-rattlers” is hardly likely to deter a woman who is determined to abort her baby.

The spectre of the American bogeyman

40daysforlife is what it says on the tin. It’s not a 24/7 campaign. Participants give up an hour of their free time. No-one is outside Bedford Square at 3am, similarly the clue is in the name. The campaign lasts 40 days and coincides with Lent. A further campaign is takes place in the Autumn. To put it in perspective, that’s 80 days out of 365, one fifth of the year. Not a prolonged onslaught.

Both Ben Quinn and Sarah Ditum are extremely keen to compare what is going on in the UK, to what happens in America, despite the fact that the demographics and politics of the two countries are entirely different as are the abortion laws and indeed the gun laws. There can be absolutely no justification for the killings of abortionists but these need to be put in perspective. Since abortion was legalised via Roe V Wade in 1972, there has been a grand total of 8 abortion doctors killed. That is 8 too many, but these occurrences are rare. Compare that to the 50 million terminations that have been carried out since then. The pro-life movement condemns and abhors these acts of violence which are in the minority, but that does not stop people from wishing to brand pro-lifers as violent lunatics. Every year in the US, 1.2 million unborn babies are killed, compared to two tenths of an abortionist. (LifeSite News)

It’s the old slippery slope argument, that is so often derided by the so-called liberals.

Note the emotive and suggestive language, “escalation of protests”. Note the attempt to link in the unrelated hacker who incidentally aligns himself with a group who this week hacked the Vatican and threatened to release confidential details of all the Vatican journalists. There will always be those who are unable to see the unacceptable nature of their actions. Many people felt equally strongly about vivisectionists. No calls were made to curtail the anti-vivisection protests on the basis of the illegal and shocking actions, terror and intimidation techniques of the crazed minority. These were dealt with by due process of the law. Legitimate, lawful protests are not banned on the basis that a loner may hijack the cause. Abortion protestors are no more imposing their views on anyone, than any social or political causes that you see out on the High Street or in town centres on a Saturday morning. In any event there is no history in the UK of pro-life violence, terror or intimidation techniques. The Catholic Church, whose involvement has been highlighted, condemns all acts of violence, but let’s count them in anyway to add to the perceived “lunatic fundamentalist” effect. I also noted the reference to the law requiring ultrasound in 2 US states, which has thankfully been amended in order to remove the possibility of enforced vaginal ultrasound. But let’s put that in there anyway, to scare people further, even though it’s not a reality and not even on the table in the UK.

There is a reason why BPAS are not going to go down the route of escorts for women entering abortion clinics. Firstly there is no threat and secondly, it would add to their overheads. There is a reason why BPAS are trying to fling mud at pro-life protestors – they are proving effective. Whilst the public may support access to abortion, 74% think it is too easy to obtain. There is widespread revulsion regarding late-stage abortions, gender selective abortions, abortions used in place of contraception and the 200,000 abortions that take place every year. There is a reason why people are suspicious of abortion clinics, they can see the financial motivations of these “not-for-profit” (a tax status only) organisations – the heads of both Marie Stopes and BPAS are paid in excess of £125,000 a year. There is a reason if the language of the Right-to-know campaign is being used, namely that it is true and the metaphor of the conveyer belt of the abortion facility is striking a chord with many women who have suffered abortion.

They don’t like it up ’em

There is a reason why a one-off event is being magnified out of all proportion. Opposition to abortion is growing. The 40daysforlife campaign is becoming increasingly successful, it’s managed to unite disparate sections of the pro-life lobby in a simple but effective campaign of gentle protest and prayer. The pro-choice lobby are backed in a corner like a cornered animal, hence their increasingly desperate attack.


I’m usually very sceptical of clicktivism, it is a poor substitute for direct action, but I’ve decided to make an exception. For those who haven’t heard of the anti-abortion group, Abort 67, it’s worth checking out their site here.

Their protests outside the Wistons Clinic on Chatsworth Road are currently putting the wind up BPAS, who are so concerned that they have attempted to have the protesters, who are protesting legally, arrested on multiple occasions. No charges have been brought however. I spied various pro-choicers plotting some counter-action on Twitter, apparently today they were out “undercover” although sources tell me that Abort67 are well aware of the other side’s attempts to mobilise against them and are quite happy to engage in open discourse. In fact Andy Stephenson has offered to debate Clare Murphy of BPAS live on radio, after she denounced them, however she declined the invitation, despite the fact that BBC radio were happy to host the conversation.

All credit to Abort67, who are obviously managing to unnerve the pro-abort lobby, to the extent that they are attempting to have the group banned. They are a little bit stuck however, as they admit themselves on Twitter, these protests are legal, therefore they are getting their heads together to see how Abort67 may be stopped. How very democratic!

If further proof of their success were needed, sources tell me that pro-choicers now refuse to visit those schools who have been open-minded enough to allow Abort 67 in to show presentations to their (older) pupils, to offer a counter-opinion. Such is the effectiveness of the Abort 67 presentation, the pro-abort groups know that there is little they can do to counter it, other than attempt to lobby the church in Worthing in which members of Abort 67 worship. This has conversely resulted in an upswell of support for them.

Of course the usual accusations of harassment have been thrown about, I have not admittedly manned an Abort 67 demonstration, however I can testify to having met Andy Stephenson, the leader of Abort 67, a man who gives the impression of being overflowing with compassion and who possess all the aggression of a golden retriever on valium.

One of the things that the pro-choicers were attempting to crow about was what they presumed to be the relatively low site stats of Abort67. I am currently adding them to my blogroll, as well as a link to their video – warning it’s graphic.

I think it would be really helpful if ALL Catholic and pro-life bloggers could consider adding Abort 67 to their blogrolls, and/or sporadically linking to their videos. Even better get in touch with them, steel your stomachs for their material and see about organising local protests and rallies. Even better than that, give them some financial support if you are able. I really believe that they are worthy of our support, they seem to be the first group out there, along with 40 days for Life who are managing to seriously put the wind up the abortion clinics. This isn’t a plea to support them over and above any other pro-life group, that people may have affiliations or support for, I think Abort 67 are very different to other groups in that they are engaging in direct action, they are courageously going out there, risking the wrath and enmity of the public in order to confront people with the gruesome reality that constitutes abortion. Though many have their reservations about graphic imagery, it is becoming increasingly evident to me that in a society that wishes to sanitise abortion with pastel coloured logos and the vague language of social validation designed to subliminally influence and coerce women into believing that abortion is a simple clean procedure, people need to be aware of the reality, if hearts and minds are to change. What is interesting is to note that many women who have had abortions, actually thank Abort 67 upon seeing their displays, reporting that it has given them an increased awareness and a chance to heal or grieve. Many state that had they known then, what they know now, they would not have undergone the procedure. Others are resolved to protect themselves and their loved ones from ever experiencing such violence. No wonder BPAS and MSI despise them.

Abort 67 are passionate and courageous defenders of the unborn, who engage in direct action.They don’t impinge upon other organisations – their mission is not to provide counselling or assistance (although they will point people to organisations who will help), they are there to tell a story. They are prepared to do what many of us are not. For that they deserve our support and our prayers. Let’s give them the encouragement that they deserve, even if that is only a link on your blogroll. I do not care that Abort 67 are not a Catholic group. I do not care that they are Evangelical Christians. I care about the unborn and I give whole-hearted support to anyone, regardless of creed, race, gender or sexuality who is prepared to go out there and take action that pricks consciences and saves lives.

For those who will call us nutters or lunatics – what is that angers you so much? What is wrong with showing the procedure in all its reality? Would it be acceptable to abort a puppy or a kitten? Why is acceptable to do this to a human being? Name-calling makes very little difference in any event, in the words of Andy Stephenson:

We don’t care what you think about us. We care what you think about abortion and, the angrier you are now, the harder it will be for you to get the reality of abortion out of your head. If you have a functioning conscience and possess a level of intellectual honesty then you will eventually reason that you are right to be angry but you are just angry at the wrong people

The pictures are sick because what they portray is sick. We aren’t the ones killing the babies in the pictures, the abortionists are.

If people can look at the pictures and want to attack us that is the sure sign of a selfish narcissistic culture. When we look at pictures of the Holocaust, do we get angry at the teacher or the ones who committed the atrocity?

I think what surprised me most of all was the intellectual courage and honesty of the pro-choice feminist Naomi Woolf:

The pro-choice movement often treats with contempt the pro-lifers’ practice of holding up to our faces their disturbing graphics….[But] how can we charge that it is vile and repulsive for pro-lifers to brandish vile and repulsive images if the images are real? To insist that truth is in poor taste is the very height of hypocrisy. Besides, if these images are often the facts of the matter, and if we then claim that it is offensive for pro-choice women to be confronted by them, then we are making a judgment that women are too inherently weak to face a truth about which they have to make a grave decision. This view is unworthy of feminism.

In the meantime do you have the courage to take a look at the video below? Here is how the abortion providers describe it.

Think I’ll pass on the stuffing

You have to hand it to BPAS. My abhorrence at their latest campaign, cheekily entitled “Santa Comes” is intermingled with jaw-dropping admiration for a very slick PR job, very well done.

It seems that BPAS are so concerned by the seasonal spike in unplanned pregnancies, that they are providing a new service which enables women to obtain stockpiles of the morning-after pill in advance of the Christmas festivities, in case of an unforeseen instance of unprotected sex.

Given BPAS’ concern for the needs of women and the awareness that perhaps more women than usual might need to obtain access to emergency contraception, one might think that a charity who claim to have the best interests of women at heart, would open emergency clinics over Christmas. As a charity who are mindful of their costs, after all opening on Boxing Day would entail double-time payments and the cancelling of annual paid leave, the handing out the pill in advance is obviously an infinitely more cost-effective and practical notion.

As BPAS admit, it is more than likely that underage teenage girls will be able to access advance supplies of the morning-after pill, but well teens will be teens won’t they? It’s probably very unlikely that any girls will be coerced into ringing up or that anyone sexually exploiting teen girls will misuse the service isn’t it? No teen will contemplate passing it onto a friend or selling it will they?Parents have absolutely no right to know whether or not their children might be contemplating engaging in un-protected sex, let alone whether or not they are taking huge doses of a synthetic hormone. Parents don’t really have any need to know what might be going on, enough information is given so that the responsible young teen engaging in unplanned sex will know that if she is sick within two hours she might need another dose and that if she has a persistent pain in her lower abdomen, she will need to consult a doctor as Levonelle (the morning after pill) does nothing to prevent ectopic pregnancy.

It’s not at all irresponsible to suggest that unsafe or unforseen sexual encounters are all part of the Christmas tradition and that people will be unable to resist the lure of a quick tumble with a relative stranger after one avocat too many. Forgetting to use a condom goes hand in hand with a drunken rendition of Fairy Tale of New York does it not?

Still let’s not be too condemnatory, BPAS do chuck in some free condoms just to prick the conscience and to provide justification for their handing out of emergency contraception, which when it was introduced was intended only ever to be administered on prescription in exceptional circumstances.

Considering the evidence that the morning after pill does not have an impact upon unplanned pregnancy rates, in the words of Dr Caroline Scherf, a consultant in sexual and reproductive health with the Cardiff and Vale University Health board

the pill as emergency contraception is preferable as opposed to nothing after unprotected sex, but there is still a very high chance that they will end up pregnant

it is surely ungracious and cynical to suggest that this is merely a ploy to surreptitiously increase their customer base?

This scheme does not discourage irresponsible sex, it positively sanctions it. According to the doublethink of BPAS, planning for irresponsible sex is the height of responsibility.

Of course, compassionate souls that they are, BPAS wouldn’t dream of encouraging yet more sexual encounters that might lead to more demand for abortions now would they? After all, there is no possibility that more drunken or spontaneous sex, safe in the knowledge that there’s always a back-up, will lead to more unplanned pregnancies or STIs now is there?

And who will be the first port of call when the emergency contraception or even the free condom fails? BPAS, those caring people who gave me the free contraception in the first place. Stunning piece of marketing and indeed PR. Even if it transpires that there are no spikes in STIs or unplanned pregnancies over the Christmas period, (I hope someone monitors this)even if our young responsible girl (the advert is clearly aimed at a certain demographic) resists the lure of a quick pash on the tinsel bedecked photocopier, or her contraception works, well she’s still got the pill for another time. Together with a heightened brand awareness of BPAS. You have to hand it to them, this campaign gets their name all over the media, in the same way as Benetton’s Pope stunt; it wins the praise of pro-choicers and professional copulationists sex education advocates whereas anyone with half an ounce of sense will shake their head in despair. The scheme vastly increases awareness of BPAS in the teenage market with carefully targeted, fun and festive advertisements featuring in teen magazines and young adult glossies.

Santa’s coming, how witty, how risqué, what a clever and sophisticated double-entendre. I can think of a much more responsible slogan in a similar vein.

“Say no to the stuffing”.

A victory for feminism?

Tomorrow a “pro-choice” rally takes place in central London, in response to the Dorries/Field right-to-know campaign, which aims to make independent counselling a mandatory part of the abortion process. The well-rehearsed slogans and soundbites regarding a woman’s autonomy over her own body and her right to access safe healthcare are being shrieked across the ether with increasing ferocity.

Tomorrow’s rally is perplexing in that a woman’s right to choose is not under contention. Abortion “rights” are not being eroded, the right to procure an abortion is not under threat, the only threat is to those clinics with vested financial interests.

In its submission to the Charity Commission in January 2011, BPAS states “our main priority in the coming year is to ‘grow’ our business by utilising and expanding our capacity to treat clients and extending our collaboration with the NHS”. A collaboration which proves extremely profitable. According to their accounts, the provision of abortion services accounted for £23 million of their income in 2010, but these services cost them £22 million thus they only made a profit of £1 million. When outlining the overall financial health of the ‘charity’, BPAS state that they are now in a better position than previously because “it has relieved itself of the burden of a previously underfunded pension scheme to improve its overall position”. BPAS’s charitable feelings obviously don’t extend to their employees. In terms of its aims for the forthcoming year BPAS says that it wants “to increase the number and value of contracts with NHS commissioners” as well as “extend services nationally to meet the needs of a greater number of clients”. As the organisers of the rally note, “they are professionals, not volunteers”, these extra abortions are not going to be carried out free of charge out of the goodness of their hearts. Just so they don’t feel left out, Marie Stopes, mention in their annual accounts that in 2008 they received £59.9 million in governmental fees and reimbursement for providing sexual and reproductive services globally. In 2009 this figure had risen to £71.4 million.

It’s worth bearing the above in mind amid all the slogans. If abortion is the ‘healthcare’ that women have a right to, then in common with every other medical procedure women should accept that the final decision lies in the hands of the medical practitioner. A doctor is always a moral arbiter to a certain extent, in that they recommend the appropriate course of treatment for the patient, one that may not always accord with the patient’s wishes. A patient cannot simply demand a particular course of medical treatment solely based upon their gender or their feelings in any other situation. A pregnant woman seeking a caesarian section needs to satisfy the consultant that she has strong grounds for what is major abdominal surgery, that she understands the risks and that the alternatives are unworkable in her situation. She cannot just see her GP and be instantly booked in for surgery.

Safe healthcare is a right that everyone should have access to, which is one of the reasons why BPAS lost their bid to permit women to take the RU486 without medical supervision. Safe healthcare needs to be appropriate to the needs of the patient. Pregnancy does not, for an overwhelming majority of women, require medical intervention in order to save the life of the mother. In 2010 98% of abortions in the UK were carried out for social reasons under category C of the Abortion Act provisions. If a woman feels that she is psychologically at risk from continuing a pregnancy, then counselling needs to be an important part of the decision-making process, as it is with any other medical procedure, one in which the potential risks are clearly outlined. Only then may her ‘choice ‘ such as it is, be said to be truly informed, consensual and ‘safe’.

The irony is that by removing counselling from those who may profit from a certain outcome, Dorries and Field are actually reinforcing women’s choices, rights and health. What are the vehement pro-choicers so scared of? That a woman might not have an abortion? That abortion rates might go down? Or that she might be “manipulated” into keeping a child by an organisation which doesn’t worship the god or ideology of “evidence based practice”, subscribed to by abortion clinics, who hold that abortion is a good or at worst, morally neutral. That an organisation might give her the idea that killing an unborn child is wrong and give her practical, emotional and financial support, advice and encouragement throughout her pregnancy?

What could be more of a victory for feminism than women empowered to overcome social, cultural, financial and emotional constraints to pregnancy? If enough of them do it, society really will be transformed in terms of gender equality. A woman’s ability and right to bear children at any time in her fertile years being taken as a given and factored into employment and benefits legislation and filtering into attitudes. But whilst abortion continues to be debated in terms of an indefatigable right and inherent gender-privileged choice, regardless of circumstance, then the debate about support for women with childcare needs will never be advanced as motherhood will always be seen as a “lifestyle choice” and the demand for widespread abortion will increase, making the cause so much harder for those very few genuinely tragic and hard cases for whom the 1967 Abortion Act was designed.

Blind prejudice

Sunny Hundal is persisting with his calumnious claim that LIFE are “religious nutjobs”. I would suggest that someone who continues to doggedly defend Johann Hari’s journalistic integrity, despite the increasing flow of plagiarised material lifted quotes, needs his critical faculties examining. Still Sunny and Johann are comrades in arms, never ones to let truth get in the way of a good story.

Not only Sunny, but also Diane Abbott seems to be intent on peddling the lie, that “basic abortion rights” are under threat. For as long as they continue to push this, it must be pointed out that this is absolutely not the case.

Whether or not every woman has a “basic abortion right” is nonetheless a contentious issue. The law makes provision for legal abortions to be carried out provided that certain criteria are met. This is not the same thing as a “basic right”. The 1967 Abortion Act was designed to enable abortions to be performed in sterile conditions by qualified staff in an attempt to prevent maternal deaths, which is a far cry from the precept that every pregnant woman has the automatic right to abort her unborn child. The legistlation was drafted in a very precise way, detailing the specific circumstances under which abortion may be legally performed and why the signature of two doctors are required, recognising that abortion is a serious business and not a basic right.

Diane Abbott tweeted “Cameron is showing arrogant disregard for women across the country by pushing changes to abortion without debate or vote”. She should have more integrity (although she has form in the hypocrisy stakes) than to imply that major changes in the accessibility of abortion are in the offing. This is clearly not the case. The proposed independent counselling that will be required prior to abortion, will not prevent women from procuring an abortion. To imply anything else is disingenuous.

It is no surprise that abortion “charities” are bitterly opposed to these changes, the fewer abortions that they get to perform, the less money they receive. Not a week goes by without the Guardian running at least one piece of propaganda, employing not-so-subtle devices such as putting the word independent in inverted commas, in order to highlight their doubt that anyone other than an abortion provider may be able to give a balanced and non-directive perspective. LIFE have BACP counsellors, Marie Stopes and BPAS do not, we only have their word that they are “impartial and non-judgemental”.

Ann Furedi of BPAS highlights the statistic that 80% of abortions are carried out within the first ten weeks of pregnancy. Get the client in, prescribe the abortion pill as swiftly as possible and bill either them or the NHS for £600. Of course they don’t want any delay in this procedure, it could massively impact their revenue stream. The motivations for expediting the process could not be any more explicit.

As Phyllis Bowman says,  “when BPAS was launched  they made it abundantly clear that their aim was to promote the availability of abortion to girls. It was unlawful (as it is still) for clinics to advertise to the public – so BPAS was set up “as a charity counselling service” to fill the gap. If abortion clinics had been able to advertise to the public, there would have been no need for BPAS – and very soon BPAS set up their own clinics so they could do the abortions for women who came.”

No wonder the “charities” are firing on all cylinders in terms of aggressive lobbying and PR campaigns, they have a lot to lose.

As for Diane Abbot, I am surprised that a woman of her intelligence  and cultural background displays such little awareness of the eugenic element to abortion. In 2010 48% of women having an abortion who had a history of 1 or more abortion were either Black or Black British. I’d be interested to know what she thinks of the holocaust of black unborn children?

If wanting to stick up for the rights of unborn ethnic minorities makes one a nutjob, it’s a label I’ll wear with pride. It is not David Cameron who is showing the arrogant disregard for women of his own cultural background.

Home Alone

*Warning: This post is a lengthy discussion of the issues concerning Early Medical Abortion. It contains information that some may find distressing.*

Today is the final day of the High Court hearing where the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) are challenging the Department of Health, in order that women may be allowed to take the Abortion Pill, RU486 at home. Under the current system, the woman is prescribed and given two pills at the clinic, which block the pregnancy hormones and cause the developing embryo to detach from the womb lining where it cannot survive. The second set of pills is given in the clinic 48 hours later, which will cause her to miscarry. What the BPAS wish to do is challenge the 1967 Abortion Act which states that ‘any treatment for the termination of pregnancy’ must take place in a hospital or clinic and allow women to take the second set of pills at home, their main argument being that a woman will be able to better manage ‘a natural miscarriage’ in the comfort of her own home, where she will be better physically and emotionally prepared to cope.  Ann Furedi, the Chief Executive of BPAS claims that many women describe the cramping and bleeding as a “blessed relief”. The Abortion Pill, or EMA (Early Medical Abortion) “isn’t a period, but is probably the closest thing to it there is”.

A pill-popping exercise and Post-Abortion Syndrome

Stop right there. First of all, one of the many problems with the RU486, is that it turns abortion into nothing more than a pill-popping exercise. Many will not see a problem with that, but regardless of whether or not you believe the unborn child to actually be a child and have any rights, (for a photo of a 9 week fetus click here) abortion is the destruction of unborn life. Many many women, and I know, I have spoken with enough of them, suffer lasting emotional trauma after an abortion, when the reality of their choice has kicked in. The vast majority of women who undergo an abortion do experience a measure of guilt and pain, which society does not want to recognise, because such a recognition means an identification of what abortion is. Therefore a woman struggling with the after-effects of an abortion is unable to seek support of her close friends or family, who will condemn her for two reasons, either that she had the abortion itself, or more commonly, that she is experiencing grief and pain. Society embraces and endorses abortion as being a valid lifestyle choice and so a woman who suffers unforeseen emotional consequences as a result of that choice is seen as being self-indulgent and/or undermining the validity of that choice. Phrases like “well it was for the best, it was what you wanted to do”, “it wasn’t really a baby anyway” being all too common. A woman suffering from Post Abortion Syndrome or abortion related PTSD needs to be able to vocalise her experiences to a non-judgemental listener, one who will seek to ascribe neither blame, nor validation to her decision, but simply be there to listen and also to help her find ways of marking her loss. Many women who have been through an abortion  and need help beat themselves up in almost unimaginable ways, they don’t need any more guilt than they already have. Now when you make the woman physically responsible for the ending of her pregnancy, this only compounds the potential after-effects.

(Incidentally it is worth noting that neither BPAS or Marie Stopes offer any free emotional post-procedure counselling, their websites talking about the importance of having a good friend, counselling only being available on an appointment basis, in contrast to all the major pro-life charities, who are there at the other end of the phone 24/7, free of charge. )

So that’s the issue with pill-popping, it puts the burden and responsibility back onto the woman herself and reduces a devastating procedure into the routine everyday action taking a pill to alleviate an ache or pain. The comparisons that Ann Furedi makes with a patient who suffers from, for example, high blood pressure, only seeks to trivialise the issue further and is a straw-man argument. A patient with high blood pressure needs pills or medication to alleviate or control the symptoms of his condition and hopefully cure it. Pregnancy is not an illness or disease, an unborn child is not a symptom that needs to be eliminated.

A quick, safe decision?

Let’s look at the next issue surrounding the Early Medical Abortion, namely the time limit. The RU486 may only be taken before the woman has reached 9 weeks of pregnancy, therefore woman wishing to take this option need to do so quickly, the quicker the better. I can testify, having had 2 unplanned pregnancies, that in those first early weeks, one is in an absolute state of shock. Your hormones are all over the place, you are extremely tired, emotional, terrified of the future and often unable to think clearly. Even if, as with my second child, the baby is planned, you are still rather overwhelmed and incredulous that you are pregnant. It doesn’t seem real, apart from the two lines on the stick; there is no obvious physical manifestation that you are actually carrying a child. For me the weeks between 4 and 8 are the hardest, you know that you are pregnant, but you don’t actually have anything to show for it and it’s easy to go into a state of denial, particularly as you are bound to silence, for obvious reasons.

Though I need to be wary of disclosing too much private information, I feel it is appropriate to share some information regarding my pregnancy with my first daughter. As most know, my husband is not the biological father of our eldest child. Her biological father, with whom she now enjoys a close, loving and fulfilling relationship had always been explicit that he never ever wanted to have children. When I became unexpectedly pregnant, it is not melodramatic to state that for him, it was a total and utter disaster. It soon became very clear that at some point a choice would need to be made between the child and my relationship and that the relationship would not survive a child. Both sets of parents were extremely concerned, I took many phonecalls from his father urging an abortion and my mother also put pressure on me, stating that perhaps now was not the right time. His parents were terrified of the effect of an unwanted child on their son, my parents were terrified that our relationship would split up. At some point, someone well-meaning booked me in for an appointment at Marie Stopes. I rang them to discuss the situation when I was 7 weeks pregnant, about a week after I had taken the test. They informed me that I had an appointment to be prescribed the RU486 the next day. I stated that I was unsure as to my decision, (at that point I was pro-life though not practicing my faith) briefly outlined my circumstances, i.e. unplanned pregnancy, desperately unhappy partner, worried parents and had only begun a new job 5 months previously. Their response was that it sounded like an abortion would be the best option for me, the EMA was definitely the safest and most recommended method as it wouldn’t involve surgery, however they pressed home that I was really short of time, I desperately needed to act quickly. I asked for counselling, in order that I could discuss my options more fully and their response was to give me a counseling slot, half an hour before the time I would be given the clinical slot, but they did not want to cancel the clinical slot.

I decided there and then to cancel the entire thing, knowing how rubbish I am at saying no to people, and already under enough pressure, I felt that the sheer existence of this clinical appointment, looming immediately after the counseling might tip the balance or that I might be persuaded to make a quick decision. I was also concerned that the person on the phone, did not seem willing or able to discuss the alternatives. Marie Stopes were also guilty of using the oldest salesman’s trick in the book, namely of not only emphasising my limited time, but also of stating that if I didn’t take the given appointment that they couldn’t guarantee that there would be any available in the allocated time. It was a now or never scenario. I felt enormous pressure to abort with Marie Stopes keen to endorse and facilitate the decisions of others, not once did anyone ask “how do you feel about this, have you considered keeping your baby?”

I went home in floods of tears and announced somewhat melodramatically that I was keeping the baby and although I knew he would think I was mental, that I couldn’t abort because that would mean that I would burn in hell forever! I need to add that is not my stance now, but my daughter’s birth was an enormous turning point in my journey of faith.

What got me through those incredibly awful early weeks, was the determination that I couldn’t hurt my baby and the support of a very good friend, who helped me to see that what I saw as obstacles were not really obstacles at all, and that the very worst thing I could do would be to rush into a decision. 9 weeks may seem like plenty of time, but in reality, many women do not find out until they are at least 6-7 weeks pregnant, and 2 weeks is not sufficient to get one’s head around the enormity of the decision and make any kind of rational judgement, particularly when you are being pressured by an abortion provider. It worried me that counseling was not offered for a decision of this gravity. Let’s contrast the attitude of Marie Stopes/BPAS with that of a responsible Family Planning Clinic, which my friend visited aged 17. She had suspected that she was unexpectedly pregnant, went to the FPC who confirmed this, whereupon her first reaction was “I want to get rid of it”. Admittedly this was some time ago, attitudes are now different, but she was told “you’ve just found out that you’re pregnant five minutes ago. You cannot possibly make that decision. You need to go home, have a week to think about this, spend some time and come back next week, if you still feel the same then we will discuss options”. Her daughter is now 13 years old, she also has an 11 year old and despite having been kicked out of home as a result of her pregnancy, is a qualified staff nurse.

The reality of the procedure

Pressuring women is not the responsible option. Having subsequently been motivated to do some post abortion counselling work, almost every woman I have spoken to who was prescribed the RU486, has an absolute horror story to relate. To describe the cramping and nausea as being similar to period pain is a cruel deception. Women are not properly informed as to their potential ordeal until it is too late. Clinical sanitised language is employed and it is only once women are given the second set of pills, or in some cases, pessary, are they told “what you are are about to experience is a mini labour”. Not every woman suffers from period pain, so for many this is a meaningless comparison, many women think they will just experience a mild tummy ache. I have heard stories of women in agony for hours, one that I think will stick with me forever, was of one woman who had an intuitive compulsion to walk up and down the stairs of the clinic to alleviate her terrible pain, with some nurse Ratchett type urging her back into bed and to stay still. She had a dreadful fever, was throwing up and all the nurse could say was “oh good that proves its working well”. The RU486 is a taste of labour for many women, but instead of the relief described by Ann Furedi, it is accompanied by emptiness and grief, the labour bringing home to them exactly what they have lost. Those of us who have children and have experienced the pain of labour, can also testify to the joy and wonderment when our children are finally delivered, your body having been working up to this for several hours.

Not so for women affected by the RU486, they have absolutely nothing to show for their pains and are often so scarred that they are deterred for life from ever experiencing the empowering nature of childbirth. They associate it with an ugly outcome. Though I attempt to refrain from being graphic in these matters, the outcome is horrific. Women are given a carboard kidney dish in which to “pass the sack”, which then needs to be put into a paper bag allegedly resembling a lunchsack, whereupon it is checked to ensure that it is intact. Then they are sent home with paracetamol to deal with the fall-out and get on with life.

The argument goes that it is much kinder to let women manage their abortions in the comfort of their own home. From the stories I have heard, home is the very last place that women need to be, they need medical support and assistance, even if it is of a very brusque nature. Sometimes women need serious pain relief and intervention and a clinic or hospital is undoubtedly the best place. Complications such as incomplete or failed abortions which require surgery or problems associated with bleeding are not rare. What concerns me about this, is that it will be the vulnerable who will be most at risk. Teenage girls taking this pill without the knowledge or support of their parents, quietly taking the pill all alone in the privacy of their bedrooms, experiencing excruciating pain and potentially serious complications and too scared to ask for help or support. Apparently clinics will have a manned helpline for those concerned with symptoms, but the helpline will be of no practical support if someone needs urgent medical attention. All sorts of things could happen. The so-called ease and convenience of this pill could mean that many are pressured into taking it by boyfriends or abusive partners, relatives or even pimps without the proper care and support. Worse still, it is not beyond the bounds of imagination that women may be unknowingly duped or forced into taking it, particularly given the amount of women estimated to be working illegally in the sex industry. It seems so simple, go to the clinic take a few pills, go home, then take a few more 48 hours later and problem solved. Just a little bit of tummy ache to contend with. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Many women do experience natural miscarriages at home, with a significant proportion needing follow-up medical attention. Furthermore most women who do experience a natural miscarriage have the support of friends, families and partners who understand that this is an emotionally and physically gruelling time for them, with time off work often granted for compassionate reasons. I cannot see women taking the RU846 at home being accorded anything like the same amount of support, the myth is take the pill, solve the problem and get on with life. Besides, a miscarriage is a dreadfully traumatic experience for any woman, and yes probably they are more comfortable tucked up in bed, or curled up on the sofa. Not so for the woman going through a mini labour on the quiet, who has absolutely no idea of what to expect, whether or not her pain or blood loss is normal and no-one to talk to about it, unless she can sneakily use her mobile whilst locking herself in the bathroom or bedroom, unable to physically manifest any sign that she might be in pain in case someone suspects. The bedroom or bathroom will forever be associated with horrific memories and associations, a constant reminder of her ordeal.

There is also the issue of disposal of the fetus. Existing Department of Health guidelines state that dignity and respect should be afforded to fetal tissue and to leave women to deal with this aspect not only contravenes existing guidelines but is downright cruel.

Holistic healthcare – body and soul, or an expedited solution?

This is being sold under the premise of healthcare and concern for the woman, whereas if healthcare was the main issue, proper counseling would be mandatory before any abortion takes place, so that the woman is able to fully consent to the procedure and knows exactly what to expect. Since when did mental health cease to become a healthcare issue? The whole point of the 1967 Abortion Act was to ensure that abortion was as safe as possible for women. A successful challenge would totally undermine the spirit of the act, would compromise women’s safety and put abortion safely back behind closed doors.

And if you still think that this is done in the name of altruism, consider this. BPAS charges £530 for a medical abortion, although the NHS funds 93% of abortions carried out by them. Marie Stopes charges the same, although they will let you have your consultation over the telephone  rather than face-to-face and will charge an extra £35 if you need them at the weekend. Do you think that if all of a sudden women are allowed to take their pills at home, with no medical supervision, that the prices will fall? If the challenge is successful, the clinic’s overheads are reduced, meaning plenty more money in the pot to guess what sell and promote even more speedy abortions to even more women. It’s a nice little earner for them, make no mistake. And for those who are sceptical, check out Planned Parenthood in the US. A similar “altruistic” organisation, providing choice for women, abortions given, no questions asked, who have this week been uncovered not only covering up cases of child abuse and statutory rape, but also giving advice to pimps and sex traffickers who bring in their clients for a no questions asked service.

Regardless of one’s views on abortion, today’s challenge is motivated far more by profit than altruism. If you truly care about women facing crisis pregnancies, you’ll enable them to make a properly informed, wholly consensual choice, instead of rushing them into a course of action which will have serious long-term emotional and physical repercussions. To any woman who has ever suffered a miscarriage, to equate it to being the closest thing to a period, shows how out of touch BPAS and Ms Furedi really are.