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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