British Parliament Is Pro-Common SenseSeptember 7, 2011 No Comments
There has been a massive sigh of relief amongt pro-choice people in Britain today as a proposal to change regulations surrounding pre-abortion counselling were soundly voted down in Parliament today by a margin of 250 votes.
The amendment that was put before Parliament by Conservative MP Nadine Dorries and Labour MP Frank Field would stop organizations that provide abortions, such as Marie Stopes and British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) from offering counselling to women considering a termination. Dorries and Field claimed that these two organisations had a vested interest in providing abortions. Except both organisations are non-profit charities and they not only provide abortions – they provide birth control, STI testing for men and women, vasectomies and tubal ligations. They’re not existing to make doctors wealthy.
Further pesky facts ignored by Dorries and Field include the fact that counsellors at both organisations are regulated and licensed by the Department of Health, meaning they must follow strict ethical guidelines. Counsellors at Marie Stopes belong to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. Never mind that plenty of women have come forward with their stories about caring and sensitive counselling, including those who decided to continue their pregnancies.
But today in Parliament there were astounding scenes before the amendment was finally voted down. Dorries gave a bizarre and rambling speech with no real facts or attributable statistics to back her claims. At one point she talked about how she had plenty of emails from mothers who don’t want their daughters to go through abortion. No idea what she was trying to prove there. That pro-choice mothers are knocking down the door of Marie Stopes to get abortions for their daughters? That abortion is compulsory for every pregnancy? That mothers should have the final say over their daughters’ choices?
One of her biggest logic failures was a diatribe about how many women feel pressured into having abortions early in the pregnancy and the decision is rushed. Yet on her blog, she tells the story of her distressing experience with a botched late-term abortion and she has in the past tried to reduce the maximum term for abortion from 24 weeks to 20 weeks. All this confusion from a woman whose amendment could cause women to delay abortions so more late-term abortions rather than less take place.
Her speech went on so long that even her supposed ally in all this, Frank Field, suggested less was more when it came to talking about the amendment. By the time her speech ended, there was just 32 minutes remaining for other members of Parliament to have their say. After all this chaos, Field himself ended up voting against the amendment after reassurances from Anne Milton, the health minister, that the government would try and implement “the spirit of the amendment.”
“The government is … supportive of the spirit of these amendments and we intend to bring forward proposals for regulations accordingly, but after consultation,” Milton told Parliament. Here’s hoping the consultation is focused on facts and real women who have used the services of Marie Stopes and BPAS get a chance to share their experiences. Free birth control is already available in the UK – perhaps Dorries will get behind plans to make sure all women are aware of this and can easily access it. Perhaps she would also like to put regulations in place to make local adoption easier in the UK for women who choose not to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.
And perhaps Marie Stopes and BPAS can get on with doing their good work and Britain can remain a great place to be a woman.
Georgia Lewis is a journalist who lives in London. Contact her here.