Saturday, 3 September 2011

Louise Mensch's abortion counselling amendment is another Dorries-like danger

Louise Mensch
In response to the government's rejection late last week of the Dorries-Field amendment on abortion counselling, Louise Mensch, a newly-elected Conservative party MP, has tabled her own amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill to be debated this coming week. Here is what Mrs Mensch herself says about her amendment:
  • "The aim [of my amendment] is to satisfy pro-choice, offer extension of counseling choices whilst not restricting existing provision" [link]
  • "I have attempted to make sure every pro-choice objection to the Field/Dorries amend[ment]s are answered [by my amendment]" [link]
  • "[C]ounselling would have to include abortion advice (how, when, medical) so many [Christians] might opt out." [link]
  • "[I]f they cannot offer neutral advice on abortions they shouldn't be counsellors, by definition they must explore all options" [link]
The first part of the Mensch amendment requires the government to provide for:
"timely counselling services for women requesting termination of pregnancy, to include:
   (i) the option of counselling by a neutral organisation, with the NHS considered the preferred provider;
   (ii) the additional choice of referral to any British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy registered service
[t]o the extent the clinical commissioning group considers they will choose to use them."
The second part of the Mensch amendment interprets the word "neutral" in the first part:
"In this section, an organisation is neutral where it is neither faith-based nor ideologically based and is not a private body which itself provides for termination of pregnancies. Timely refers to a timeframe set by the commissioning authority, but which shall not unduly delay a woman's decision."
Sub-section (i) will not secure good counselling for women, because:
  • The NHS is not "neutral": it is the main provider of abortions in the UK, both directly (by performing abortions) and indirectly (by contracting-out state-funded abortions to Marie Stopes, BPAS etc)
  • It does not stop so-called "neutral" counsellors from providing advice and information about how to obtain an abortion. As Mrs Mensch has said: "counselling would have to include abortion advice (how, when, medical) ... [Counsellors] must explore all options"
  • The reference to "faith-based" and "ideologically based" organisations will be used to further exclude and defame pro-life counsellors. Mrs Mensch said that her original draft amendment would have required pro-life counsellors to be clearly labelled as "faith-based" or "ideologically based" and as opposed to abortion. Mrs Mensch said that her draft language requiring such labelling was rejected by Parliament's Table Office as too complex, but that she intends to raise the labelling proposal in this coming week's debate. Mrs Mensch is clearly seeking to police pro-life crisis pregnancy centres, one of the priority objectives of the pro-abortion lobby. She said that "[religious organisations'] advice should certainly be monitored" and pro-life counsellors "must stick to [statutory] guidance". According to Mrs Mensch's idea of such guidance, it would be "mandatory to cover all relevant topics etc. [The] Sec[retary of] State [for Health would] draw up and enforce [the guidance]." [link] That clearly means the same sort of pro-abortion guidance from health officials which SPUC has been fighting in Northern Ireland.
  • As with the Dorries-Field amendment, there is nothing in the Mensch amendment which would prevent private abortion providers from counselling women, including setting-up so-called "independent" counselling services claiming to be "neutral". Indeed, Mrs Mensch has said that she believes that BPAS and Marie Stopes "offer impartial advice" whilst pro-life organisations "clearly ha[ve] an ideological agenda".
Sub-section (ii) of the Mensch amendment achieves nothing as both pro-abortion and pro-life counselling services are among British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy-registered services.

The reference to "timely" counselling services "which shall not unduly delay a woman's decision" could easily be used to continue to fast-track women through the abortion process. Health providers can thereby omit facilitating counselling by arguing that it will cause a bottleneck, with pro-abortion GPs also arguing that pro-life counsellors "unduly delay a woman's decision".

As with the Dorries-Field amendment, the Mensch amendment only requires the government to enable counselling services "to the extent the clinical commissioning group considers [women] will choose to use them". So pro-abortion doctors can continue to downplay the need for counselling services by claiming that there is little demand for them. The cash-strapped government is likely to agree with them.

In short, the Mensch amendment is even worse than the dangerous Dorries-Field amendment.

I urge readers to share the concerns expressed here with their MPs and ask him/her to raise them in debate this coming week, and subsequently in any debate or consultation if regulations are brought forward.

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Friday, 2 September 2011

Book now for US conference on abortion and its aftermath

Vicki Thorn
Book now for the Healing Vision International Conference on abortion and its aftermath. The conference brings together experts from both research and counselling backgrounds and promises to provide an excellent forum for all those interested in the emotional consequences of abortion.

Speakers include psychologists such as Dr Catherine Coyle, who has developed a highly effective course for men struggling to come to terms with their part in the abortion process and Althea Hayton, who survived the abortion that killed her twin and will be talking about her work with womb twin survivors.

Booking information
Location: The Radisson Hotel Milwaukee West, 2303 North Mayfair Road, Milwaukee, WI 53226.

Date: Wednesday, 26 October - Saturday, 29 October, 2011

Cost: $250 for delegates registering before 1st October, $350 after this date. The cost includes a continental breakfast each morning, lunch and a banquet on the Friday evening.
Places can be booked online or by contacting organiser Vicki Thorn at vickithorn2011@yahoo.com

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Today's must-read pro-life news-stories, Fri 2 Sep

Ramona Trevino (left)
Top stories:

SPUC publishes guidance on Dorries amendment
There is a great deal of confusion and controversy over the pregnancy counselling amendment to the health bill (Health and Social Care Bill) being proposed by Mrs Nadine Dorries and Rt Hon. Frank Field. From the very outset, SPUC has expressed serious reservations about the amendment (see Pro-Life Times, p.1), and recent reports have deepened our concerns. Please read our action alert http://bit.ly/n5xr31 and briefing http://bit.ly/nAnLMI

Polish bills on abortion defeated
The Polish parliament has voted against two bills related to abortion. A bill which sought to ban all abortions was narrowly defeated by 191 votes to 186. Some pro-life leaders had criticised certain additional elements to the bill. At the same time a bill promoting abortion, contraception and sex education was heavily defeated by 369 votes to 31. [LifeSiteNews.com, 31 August] http://bit.ly/oOSSdW

Bishop describes Spanish family's decision as act of euthanasia
A Spanish Catholic bishop has described the denial of food and fluids from a disabled person as an act of euthanasia. Jose Vilaplana, bishop of Huelva, was opposing the move by the family of a comatose stroke patient to remove her feeding tube. Bishop Vilaplana said that the right to life "must not be linked to the state of consciousness or unconsciousness of someone who is sick". [CNA, 30 August] http://bit.ly/npe84h

Other stories:

Abortion
Embryology
Euthanasia
Sexual ethics
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Thursday, 1 September 2011

Pregnancy counselling and the Dorries/Field amendment

There is a great deal of confusion and controversy over the pregnancy counselling amendment to the health bill (Health and Social Care Bill) being proposed by Mrs Nadine Dorries and Rt Hon. Frank Field. From the very outset, SPUC has expressed serious reservations about the amendment (see Pro-Life Times, p.1), and recent reports have deepened our concerns. At the heart of the matter are two key issues: one is the question of what the Dorries/Field amendments are seeking to do (and it is not at all clear what they are seeking to do), and the other is the question of whether Nadine Dorries and Frank Field are pro-life.

At one level the aim of the amendments is simple – to require GPs to offer pregnant women considering abortion the chance to have “independent” information, advice and counselling. But what will this consist of? Will the three elements (information, advice, counselling) be provided together, or separately? Who will the counsellors be? Will the information include where to obtain an abortion? Will it include sources of help to continue with a pregnancy? While Nadine Dorries and Frank Field have presented their aim as stopping BPAS and other abortion organisations from offering pregnancy counselling, their amendment would not in fact stop doctors referring women to abortion clinics for counselling as long as doctors mention independent counsellors too.

The second issue of confusion is whether Nadine Dorries and Frank Field are pro-life – in the simple sense of wanting to save unborn lives. They are not making this very evident. Nadine Dorries repeatedly stresses in press interviews and on her internet blog that she is “pro-choice”. She supports the Abortion Act. She said she “would hate to see a return to the dark days of back-street operations.“ She has also said:
“I'll say it again, no organisation which is paid for carrying out abortions and no organisation that thinks it's appropriate to bring God into a counselling session with a vulnerable woman, should be allowed anywhere near the counselling room.”
Some people think that she is just being clever. If so, this is a dangerous and foolish tactic. With powerful and well-resourced opponents in the pro-abortion lobby, she is liable to be held to account for such statements. For his part, Frank Field has refused to meet pro-life groups to discuss the proposals.

Questions and answers briefing on the Dorries/Field counselling amendment

What is being proposed on 6 September?
That all women contemplating an abortion should be offered the chance of “independent” counselling, information and advice. Nadine Dorries has insisted that this should neither come from a pro-abortion nor a pro-life viewpoint. We explain below the problems with it, and what to ask MPs to do.

How would this be achieved?
Mrs Dorries and Frank Field tabled an amendment to the Health and Social Care bill to this effect. The Secretary of State for Health said that he would introduce a similar thing through regulations if the MPs withdrew the amendment (but it has not been withdrawn).

There is a particular danger that if the whole field became subject to DoH regulations, pro-life agencies could be banned from offering pregnancy counselling.

Who is proposing it?
Nadine Dorries has been Tory MP for Mid-Bedfordshire since 2005. She is a former nurse who participated in abortions and was disturbed by her experience. She has taken up the issue of abortion in Parliament, but although on paper her voting record is strongly pro-life, her proposals don’t have the overt backing of any known, dedicated pro-life group. Mrs Dorries, or her supporters, have formed a new grouping, “The Right to Know Campaign,” to give her backing. She has introduced a number of initiatives connected with abortion, including a bill for abstinence education which passed its initial stage but is unlikely to go further. Politically she is fairly right-wing and a controversial figure. She has repeatedly said that she favours “a woman’s right to choose” and she has promoted easier access to early abortion. She has also said that she does not think that Christian groups should be allowed to offer counselling to expectant mothers.
Frank Field, the veteran Labour MP for Birkenhead has a moderately pro-life voting record, though earlier in his Parliamentary career he voted with the anti-life lobby a number of times. He has now espoused the cause of independent pregnancy counselling on the basis that, as with financial advice, those with a vested interest should not be advising potential clients. This suggests that his main concern is that women should have independent advice, rather than that abortion is a radical abuse of human rights for both baby and mother. That isn’t a reason to oppose an initiative, if it is ethical and would save lives, but we must assess any initiative very carefully.

Who is supporting it?
The counselling/information/advice amendment is being backed by a campaign called the “Right to Know Campaign”. The leaders of the campaign have not been named, but we believe a Christian campaigning group is supporting it. Mrs Dorries has not said where the funding for the campaign is coming from.


Pro-abortionists are against it. Does that mean it must be a good thing?
It is true that BPAS and MSI have expressed annoyance at the suggestion that their counselling is rubbish and simply channels women towards abortions, for which they can get NHS funding. But consider these points:
• Only a small minority of BPAS and MSI clients receive counselling as such;
• The Department of Health (which now pays for most BPAS and MSI abortions) has for years licensed them as pregnancy advice services, and is clearly satisfied with them;
• The abortion lobby will be free to set up “independent” counselling services, which can expect to get NHS funding.
In light of these points, the proposals may inconvenience abortion providers, but they won’t necessarily damage them.

What would an offer of counselling achieve?
For many people the key point about the proposal is the claim that it could prevent “up to 60,000” abortions each year. But this figure is pure guesswork – a myth. There is no foundation at all for believing that an offer of “neutral” counselling will have any such impact. We are not aware of experience from other countries that suggests any such dramatic effect.

The impact of this policy would depend on two crucial factors: how many women would take up the offer of counselling, advice and information, and what the counselling, advice and information consisted of.

How many women would take up the offer?
It could be almost no-one, or it could be nearly everyone. This is an enormously uncertain factor.

What would the counselling, advice and information consist of?
This is equally uncertain.

Most professional counsellors today regard their role as helping clients to clarify their wishes and feelings, and emphatically not to advise their clients on what to do or not do. (As noted above, Mrs Dorries has made clear that pro-life or religious counsellors would not be acceptable in her view.)

Nonetheless, providing “advice” is also a specific element of the Dorries/Field proposal. Would this be done by someone else – a non-counsellor?

Providing information is another distinct element of the proposal. If the GP is required to give the information (perhaps in writing), a problem arises for pro-life doctors if the information includes where to get an abortion.

How many would decide against abortion in light of these propos¬als, bearing in mind Mrs Dorries’ assertion that counsellors in particular should not be from any Christian or pro-life group? Indeed, they might be trained and established by the abortion lobby, and they will probably be regulated by the Department of Health.

What has been the government’s response?
It has been reported that David Cameron and Nick Clegg are opposed to the proposals, but it is not clear whether they are objecting to the whole idea of mandatory counselling/information, or whether they simply object to making it a statutory requirement.

What should SPUC branches and supporters do?
It is not possible to know what effect the amendments will have without knowing what the counselling, information and advice will consist of.

Given this uncertainty about the effect of the amendment we cannot ask MPs to support it. We would urge you to share the concerns expressed here with your MP and ask him/her to raise them in debate on 6 September, and subsequently in any debate or consultation if regulations are brought forward.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Antenatal Results & Choices (ARC) is actively complicit in the fatal discrimination against disabled people enabled by legal abortion

SPUC is re-launching its information on charities as an online index, with new entries and updated information added as and when new information is received. Today's charity is the Antenatal Results & Choices (ARC).

Antenatal Results & Choices (ARC) was founded as “Support Around Termination for Foetal Abnormality” (SAFTA). It claims to be "the only national charity which provides non-directive support and information to parents throughout the antenatal testing process."

In July 2008 ARC lobbied MPs, urging them to vote against amendments which sought to curb abortion in limited ways. ARC's briefing for MPs cited various arguments in favour of abortion on the grounds of disability, such as:
  • "forcing a woman to continue a pregnancy when the fetus was known to be seriously abnormal would be ‘inhumane’."
  • "the majority of women are in favour of termination being available if a significant disability is diagnosed."
  • "preventing abortion on the grounds of fetal abnormality after 24 weeks would be extremely detrimental to those women who discover an abnormality at a late stage."
  • "Removing fetal abnormality as grounds for abortion at all gestations would particularly affect those parents who know they are carriers of a genetic disorder and risk having a baby with the condition."
  • "Abortion on grounds of fetal abnormality is not eugenics".
SPUC comment: ARC is actively complicit in the fatal discrimination against disabled people enabled by legal abortion.

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Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Today's must-read pro-life news-stories, Tue 30 Aug

Cardinal Ambrozic RIP
Top stories:

Abortion counselling story dangerously misleading
SPUC has warned about a newspaper story which claims that: "Abortion rules are set to be tightened by the Government in the biggest shake-up in a generation ... Pro-life campaigners suggest the change could result in up to 60,000 fewer abortions each year in Britain." (Robert Mendick, Sunday Telegraph, 28 Aug http://tgr.ph/nlR42z ) The Department of Health says it is drafting proposals which are expected to say who can be a pregnancy counsellor and what expectant mothers must be told. Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary, said: "Handing the drafting of proposals relating to abortion to the Department of Health is like putting the fox in charge of the chicken-coop. The Department of Health commissions the vast majority of abortions in Britain, and says doctors should provide abortion on demand." John Smeaton, SPUC's director, also commented: "I urge pro-lifers not to be misled by the Sunday Telegraph story. Instead, pro-lifers should write to their MPs urging them to tell the government that in any proposals put forward:
  • No counsellor should be required to be a conduit to abortion services; 
  • and counsellors who refuse on grounds of conscience or other good grounds to refer women to abortion services are not prevented from operating as pregnancy counsellors." [SPUC, 28 August] http://bit.ly/paYeFE
Call for government adviser to be sacked over assisted suicide backing
SPUC Pro-Life has called for Martin Green, the government's Dementia Champion, to be sacked after his backing of assisted suicide for elderly patients (Telegraph, 29 Aug http://tgr.ph/q3Gshg) Paul Tully, general secretary of SPUC Pro-Life, said: "Mr Green, who works for the English Community Care Association, representing the interests of care homes, is clearly not interested in caring for some dementia sufferers. He seems to want them dead. According to The Telegraph, Mr Green called for 'the mantra of choice and control' for patients to be extended to helping them to commit suicide when they could not do so by themselves ... A man with these views has no place advising the government on health policy, and is a disgrace to the English Community Care Association." [SPUC, 29 August] http://bit.ly/qBtlJg

Other stories:

Abortion
Embryology
Euthanasia
Sexual ethics
General
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Monday, 29 August 2011

SPUC Pro-Life calls for government adviser to be sacked over assisted suicide backing

Martin Green
SPUC Pro-Life has called for Martin Green, the government's Dementia Champion, to be sacked after his backing of assisted suicide for elderly patients (Telegraph, 28 Aug)

Paul Tully, general secretary of SPUC Pro-Life, told the media earlier today:
"Mr Green, who works for the English Community Care Association, representing the interests of care homes, is clearly not interested in caring for some dementia sufferers. He seems to want them dead.

"According to The Telegraph, Mr Green called for 'the mantra of choice and control' for patients to be extended to helping them to commit suicide when they could not do so by themselves. Mr Green is presenting a false and evil argument. It is one thing to offer people choices like whether they are cared for at home or in a hospital - it is altogether different to ask suffering patients whether they think their quality of life is too poor, and whether they want to commit suicide. This will put intolerable pressure on many vulnerable people. It is not unusual for elderly and disabled people to become depressed, and depression is a major factor in suicidal thinking and behaviour. Mr Green argues that suicide is a normal behaviour of capable people. It is not.

"Not only would legalising assisted suicide for the elderly create insecurity and a sense of worthlessness among older people, it would also provoke discrimination and prejudice among carers and care home staff. Imagine a government advisor on race relations saying that immigrants found it difficult to commit suicide and so should be helped to do so.

"The 2005 Mental Capacity Act already allows hospitals to kill certain dependent patients who require assisted feeding and fluids by withholding that care. Dementia patients who have signed documents such as a healthcare power of attorney under the 2005 Act would be sitting targets if assisted suicide became a healthcare choice as Mr Green suggests.

"A man with these views has no place advising the government on health policy, and is a disgrace to the English Community Care Association."
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Sunday, 28 August 2011

Sunday Telegraph story on government tightening abortion rules is dangerously misleading

A story in the Sunday Telegraph this morning is boldly headlined: "Abortion rules are set to be tightened by the Government in the biggest shake-up in a generation".

The story goes on to say: "Pro-life campaigners suggest the change could result in up to 60,000 fewer abortions each year in Britain." To put it mildly, this is dangerously misleading. Here's the story so far.

Worries that abortion agencies are offering no counselling, or biased guidance, to pregnant women, have led MPs to propose that women should be offered independent counselling. Frank Field MP and Nadine Dorries MP have suggested that any woman who has an unplanned pregnancy should get an offer of seeing
an independent counsellor.

This suggestion is now being taken up by the Department of Health. The Department says it is drafting proposals which are expected to say who can be a pregnancy counsellor and what expectant mothers must be told. These proposals will be published in the form of a consultation, the terms of which have yet to be announced.

Here's how the government replied earlier this month to a question put by Baroness Gould: "To ask Her Majesty's Government when they will finalise their proposals for all women seeking an abortion to be offered counselling; and who will be consulted in determining the proposals"

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) replied:

" ...  For the minority of women who require formal therapeutic counselling, services should have formal care pathways in place with access to trained counsellors with appropriate expertise. We are looking to strengthen these existing arrangements and are drawing up proposals to enable all women who are seeking an abortion to be offered access to independent counselling. We would want the counselling to be provided by appropriately qualified individuals. Detailed proposals are being worked on. We plan to consult widely on those later this year and will finalise our plans in early 2012."

Here's what my colleague, Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary, says about the government's latest announcement (in the current edition of the Pro-Life Times):

“Handing the drafting of proposals relating to abortion to the Department of Health is like putting the fox in charge of the chicken-coop. The Department of Health commissions the vast majority of abortions in Britain, and says doctors should provide abortion on demand. Successive governments have regarded abortion as an answer to unmarried teenagers and other vulnerable women who get pregnant.

“Since 2004, most NHS abortions have been transferred to private clinics, and the health department now funds more than 9 out of 10 abortions at these clinics. If the Department now want counsellors to help pregnant women avoid abortions, it would represent a major change of heart. We remain very wary of the
proposals and the Department’s involvement.”

Paul Tully adds: “Pro-life counselling can save many lives but independent counselling is not the same thing. It all depends on the approach of the counsellor and the information provided.”

I urge pro-lifers not to be misled by the Sunday Telegraph story. Instead, write to your MP urging him or her to tell the government that in any proposals put forward:
  • No counsellor should be required to be a conduit to abortion services; 
  • and counsellors who refuse on grounds of conscience or other good grounds to refer women to abortion services are not prevented from operating as pregnancy counsellors.

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