Abortion: A pregnant woman’s right to choose – free of any pressure
I unreservedly support a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy, and I have no moral issue with abortion. But it’s precisely because I support a woman’s right to choose that I feel uncomfortable about the way that abortion services are run.
There can be few medical procedures so politically charged as abortion. Simply uttering the term polarises people. Battle lines are drawn and there is an expectation that you will join one camp or the other. For or against, pro-life or pro-choice: the narrative rarely extends beyond this simple dichotomy. And, if you are pro-choice, any criticism of abortion is considered a heresy.
I unreservedly support a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy, and I have no moral issue with abortion. But it’s precisely because I support a woman’s right to choose that I feel uncomfortable about the way that abortion services are run. That there is a financial incentive for pregnancy advisory services to undertake terminations is plain wrong. It is fair to ask, how can they offer independent advice when so much of their income comes from terminations?
Many women seeking advice are scared, upset and vulnerable. While doctors would argue that they remain impartial in the advice they give, research suggests that, although many think they are impartial, in fact they can be easily swayed by subtle external pressures. Why do we think it will be any different with abortion?
It’s not just that women might be swayed into having a termination. The opposite is also true.
Crisis Pregnancy Centres are a group of unregulated outlets across the UK that promote themselves as advisory services for women trying to deal with an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. While some may claim to be impartial, others are run by pro-life charities. These centres are not regulated by the Department of Health, yet claim to give out reliable health advice.
Worryingly, investigations by this newspaper have shown that the information they share about the physical and mental effects of an abortion is often not supported by medical evidence or in line with official advice from the Royal College of Obstetricians.
What an unforgivable mess. Where are the voices from women’s groups condemning this whole set-up? Where were the feminists after this newspaper also uncovered doctors who were willing to terminate pregnancies for women who did not want to have a baby girl? A few muted whimpers – but nothing more.
Last month, another investigation suggested that the practice has become so widespread within some communities that it is said to have led to the “disappearance” of between 1,400 and 4,700 females. Why aren’t men and women who consider themselves supporters of women’s rights up in arms about this?
What was exposed is pure misogyny, and yet, because it relates to abortion, ideological confusion creeps in. Why can’t you criticise the way abortion services are run while still supporting a woman’s right to choose?
For me, this is a clear example of how farming out services from the NHS to independent providers can go cataclysmically wrong. The entirety of pregnancy advice should be brought back into the NHS, where strict guidelines on impartiality can be enforced and there is no financial incentive for individuals to recommend one decision over another.
I’m pro-choice – and I want things to change to ensure that that choice really is the woman’s.