UK abortion law may change to require “independent” counseling for patients

My Mind My Body My ChoiceNext week, Members of Parliament are scheduled to meet and decide on a new bill being pushed by anti-choice MP Nadine Dorries that would strip abortion providers’ rights to counsel patients and make in mandatory to send those seeking abortion to “independent” counseling before the procedure.

In other words, this could be a potential CPC-style takeover of abortion rights in the UK.

It’s no news that not only is this is a way to tack more time onto the process (patients already have to get the consent of two doctors to obtain an abortion), but those “independent” counselors will not be other abortion providers — in other words, it’s very likely they could be anti-choice groups or crisis pregnancy centers.

While Dorries assures that religious groups should be allowed “nowhere near” a counseling room with a “vulnerable woman,” The F-Word points out her previous efforts to restrict abortion access were done in partnership with anti-choice Christian groups, therefore we can’t be too trusting of what she says.

This also brings up what is one of the most troubling contentions this bill makes (and that so many anti-choice legislators push in the U.S.): the myth that all individuals seeking abortion are “vulnerable,” “troubled” and simply aren’t capable of making the decision on their own. It just further stigmatizes the procedure (and the people who get it).

While the government has flip-flopped on their decision to support the anti-choice measure and are now opposing it, there’s no knowing which way the vote will go next week. If you live in the UK, contact your MP.

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  • Kathleen Lewis Greenwood

    The amendment to the bill won’t make it mandatory for women to have counselling before an abortion, it’ll make it mandatory for abortion providers to offer counseling (which may be freely declined) from an organisation that’s not linked to the one providing the abortion. Pre-abortion counselling is already widely available in the UK and there are no suggestions that women using it are unhappy with it,or have felt pressured into terminating pregnancies. Dorries’ and Field’s campaign is not in any way a response to actual observed criticisms.

    The suggestion that abortion providers cannot provide unbiased advice because they are invested in abortion is really ridiculous when coming from a government who are gleefully dismantling the state health care system and putting it up for grabs to the highest bidder.

    Frank Fields (who worked with Dorries on this amendment and is generally regarded as the more principled and serious of the two) is a committed christian, Dorries doesn’t really provide enough of a coherent platform to ascertain her true position on faith or anything, but I think it’s fair to say that her main influence is a sort of overall christian-tinged nervousness and negativity about timid maidens in the big bad world (see: abstience only sex ed, for girs only).

    It doesn’t really matter whether she’s actively intending for religious groups to take over crisis pregnancy counselling or, like it appears with so many of her proposals, just hasn’t thought this one through, because at present the only independent organisations with the training and resources to plug the gap should the bill be made law are those such as Care, Life, and Spuc, which are either explicitly christian in their mission or else officially impartial but funded and staffed almost entirely by people holding radically pro-life convictions.

    Of course, there’s absolutely no reason why secular women’s organisations can’t get organised to provide this counselling, or support those women who do wish to parent with the practical and emotional help with will empower them to do so.

  • Victoria heritage