I don’t usually dabble in politics on this blog but something in the news this weekend really got to me – the proposed amendments to the Health and Social Care bill, led by MP Nadine Dorries (Conservative MP for CloudCuckoo Land), that the current system of providing impartial information at abortion clinics should be scrapped and replaced by any provider that bids for the services. And first in the queue – thanks to Dorries’ staunchly anti-abortion stance – are organisations driven by an anti-abortion (and often religious) ideology.
This opens the door to the possibility that the only information a woman can get access to in an abortion clinic is provided by organisations that are ideologically opposed to abortion.
If you can’t see why this might be problematic, please go away and come back when you’ve gained some skills in basic logic.
Although my personal beliefs are now moving towards the feeling that religion is a form of collective mental illness, I also believe that religious groups have the right to offer advice to pregnant women who are unsure if they want to continue their pregnancy. They can currently do this through independent counselling services that already exist, but – importantly – this is outside the context of the clinics where abortion is offered, which currently offer impartial advice about a woman’s options – *including the alternatives to abortion* – based on current medical and psychological best practice.
There is no need to change this current system of impartial advice available at the point of service, with alternative viewpoints available elsewhere should women wish to seek them out. I strongly believe that the advice offered at the point of medical care should be impartial and based on scientific evidence, without an ideological undercurrent.
Let’s be clear. This is not a move driven by people with the best interests of women and their right to have autonomy over their own bodies. This is policy driven, at its heart, by religious ideology and the belief that women cannot be trusted to make sensible decisions about there own health and wellbeing because OMG TEH TEENY DEAD BABIEZ!!
This is a great article outlining exactly why this proposed amendment is complete bullshit – please also read the comments about women’s personal experiences of seeking abortions.
Abortion is a legal medical procedure that women in the UK have a right to have. I don’t care whether you’re pro-abortion or anti-abortion – you can do what you like with your own body, but you don’t have the right to dictate to me or anyone else. The issue is about choice – the right of every person to choose what happens to their own body.
This is not just a ‘women’s issue’ – this is about fundamental human rights and bodily autonomy. Seriously, if men had to put up with half the shit about their health and reproductive choices that women do, we wouldn’t even be having this debate.
I have never had an abortion. But if I discovered I was pregnant and unsure about having the baby (because, let’s not forget, women who are 100% happy with continuing their pregnancy tend not to end up in abortion clinics…), I hope I would get access to impartial information about my options, whether to have an abortion or not, about the medical procedures available, and their potential impacts on my health and wellbeing.
I would not expect to receive incomplete or biased information because the person providing it has an ideological agenda based against me ending a pregnancy that I do not wish to carry to term, no matter how well meaning. It’s my body. I will make the decisions about what happens to it, and I expect to be given proper information to help me make that decision.
In the same way, I don’t expect to be told that my only contraceptive options are abstinence before marriage when I go to ask my GP for the pill. And when I rent a house with my boyfriend, I don’t expect to be told that I can’t because we’re not married. Both of these situations would rightly be called out for the prejudiced bullshit they are – so why do we put up with it for the anti-abortion lobby?
So. whether you’re a man or a woman, please register your concern (or outright fury) at these proposals by contacting your MP through this handy online tool from Abortion Rights. And if you’re feeling really cross, you could always bung them a donation to keep up their work in ensuring that women have the right to choose what happens to their own damn body.
If you have the time, please consider changing the standard text in the letter to express your own opinion. I did a bit of cut-and-pasting of the standard text in my letter to my MP, Diane Abbott, which I’ve copied at the bottom of this post.
Finally, you may wonder why everyone has got thier knickers in such a twist over this. In my case, it’s because I’m a regular reader of US blogs such as Shakesville. Lately I’ve been reading with wide-eyed horror as states across the US restrict access to abortion – and along with it basic sexual healthcare for women such as STD and cancer screening and contraception – purely based on religious ideology.
Although what’s happening here in the UK isn’t a patch on the desecration of women’s basic human rights that’s going on across the pond, it’s the thin end of a pretty fucking big wedge.
And finally finally, you should probably also read this: Ten things I’d say to the anti-choice fanatics.
Edited to add:
Dear Diane Abbott,
I am extremely concerned – not to mention angry – to read about the proposed changes to abortion counselling in the UK. These proposals are a threat to women’s bodily autonomy, and I believe represent the thin end of an unpleasant, misogynistic (and, in the main, religious) agenda.
The proposals require GPs to make provision for ‘independent advice and counselling’ to be made available to women seeking abortion, stripping abortion providers of responsibility for carrying out this role.
Not only is this unnecessary, it is completely misguided, leaving vulnerable women at risk of being deprived of impartial and independent advice at an extremely sensitive time.
Abortion providers are *already* obliged to ensure that women receive all relevant information about the procedure, including details of possible risks and side effects and information on alternatives to abortion.
Preventing abortion providers from offering decision-making support opens the door for organisations – such as those associated with religious groups – opposed in principle to abortion to become formally involved in counselling women on their pregnancy options. These organisations do not offer impartial, non-directive information, but rather seek to misinform and dissuade women from accessing abortion services.
This risks increasing delays in accessing abortion, which – contrary to tabloid belief is not a “lifestyle choice” – but usually a procedure required to protect a woman’s physical and/or mental health and wellbeing.
As a woman yourself, I hope you understand the importance of allowing women to maintain autonomy over their own bodies. We must be trusted to make our own decisions regarding their reproductive health – no matter how “well meaning” the alternative support offered – whether that is to keep a baby or to have an abortion.
It is vital that the information they receive remains scientifically accurate, based on medical and psychological evidence, and driven by clinical best practice rather than by an ideological agenda.
If these amendments are debated at Report Stage of the Health and Social Care Bill on 6-7th September, I strongly urge you to vote against them, to ensure that women continue to be able to exercise their right to safe, legal abortion without further impediment. And I hope you will ask your colleagues in the House to do the same.
I am extremely concerned about this move towards the erosion of women’s reproductive rights and bodily autonomy – something that we, and the generations of women before us, have done so much to secure.
Out of respect for your own body and human rights, and the right of women everywhere to make their own decisions about their health and reproduction without ideological coercion, I urge you to fight against this. A choice is only truly a choice if it is freely made, and we should respect every woman’s right to choose what happens to her own body.
Thank you for reading this.