Every woman who needs an abortion should get it on the NHS

I’m pro-choice. Whatever your view on the ethics of abortion or your judgement of any particular woman’s reasons for having an abortion, it seems an unqualified wrong for anyone other than the pregnant woman herself to have the first choice and the final say on whether she will terminate or continue any pregnancy. Her body, her health, her life: her decision. Attempts by the state to deny a woman safe legal abortion merely result in higher rates of unsafe illegal abortions – the pro-life ideology is lethal to women: and is own brother to the idea of forcing women to get pregnant.

No one in the UK who needs an abortion should have to work out how to pay for it. It’s a crying shame, as well as a tragedy, that UK citizens in Northern Ireland, who pay the same taxes for the NHS as everyone else, should have to go private when they come to mainland UK to get an abortion, while abortion in the Republic of Ireland is banned completely.

From the Abortion Support Network’s case files:

A woman who was 19 weeks pregnant with 3 children, including one under the age of one. Initially she looked into trying to self-abort as felt could not afford to pay for a termination. She was in a desperate state when she called Abortion Support Network. She knew she was pregnant at 10 weeks but could not book an abortion because she had no funds. After saving for 8 weeks, she managed to put aside 600 Euros. She was worried about her own health but ‘terrified’ to go near a hospital in case they would force her to have the baby. Abortion Support Network agreed to pay for her flights and the remainder of her clinic fee.

Ireland’s outsourcing of its abortions to mainland UK has been found to be in breach of international human rights law because in a recent test case, an Irish woman with a clear health need to abort had found that:

“neither the medical consultation nor litigation options, relied on by the Irish government, constituted effective and accessible procedures which allowed the third applicant to establish her right to a lawful abortion in Ireland”.

From 30th April 2012, Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) ruled, private clinics will be allowed to advertise abortion services – and pro-life centres that do not provide medical referrals for abortion will have to make that clear in their advertising.

Not-for-profit pregnancy services are already allowed to advertise on television and radio and for-profit clinics can already advertise in all other media, including newspapers.

Under new rules clinics will have to make it clear in all advertising if they do not offer referral for termination.

This was because of strong public health grounds, BCAP said.


This has caused astonishment in the US, where human rights activists are fighting a rearguard action on both contraception and abortion and volunteer escorts can be needed just to get a woman safely inside a clinic.

I believe private abortion services in the UK shouldn’t be needed because the NHS should be providing all abortions. The wretched way in which the Irish government simply dumps women who need abortions on the UK health services should be handled by having everyone from Ireland who comes to mainland UK to get an abortion get it on the NHS – Northern Irish women as of right, as they pay for NHS healthcare, and women from the Republic of Ireland can be counted anonymously and the bill for their abortions presented to the Oireachtas at the end of every financial year. (They won’t pay it, but at least it would publicly terminate the fiction that the Irish don’t have abortions.)

Nonetheless, as EconomistaDentata notes:

Private health services are allowed to advertise. I’m not happy about this, at all, as I support an NHS free at the point of use, and their entry into the health market undermines that principle, but there we go.
Given that this is the case, private organisations who offer abortion were bound to want to advertise. I cannot see how they are to be prevented from doing so, given the current classification of ‘reproductive services’ as a ‘health issue’.

Other and really damaging private healthcare services are allowed to advertise aggressively for new business:

The numbers of Britons seeking cosmetic surgery has more than tripled in the past eight years and, as competition increases, many providers are resorting to the sort of marketing ploys used by high-street stores and catalogue firms to win custom. Interest-free loans, gift vouchers, loyalty cards and promotional discounts are among the incentives offered by almost all of the biggest firms to minimise the financial barriers and to help project the image of surgery as a routine lifestyle choice.

The cosmetic surgery business needs to advertise aggressively because most people don’t need cosmetic surgery. Making more and more people unhappy with their bodies the way they are, and providing financial excuses for not thinking too hard about whether they really want this, is the only way a private business in cosmetic surgery can make a continuing and increasing profit.

I am opposed to private clinics performing abortions, because I am opposed to private medicine. The idea that a woman who goes to a private clinic ought not to be able to see a counsellor on the premises because the clinic will want the woman to have an abortion is absurd: a licenced, trained therapist will be looking to support their client to make the best decision for her. This ought to apply if a woman has gone to a licenced therapist who works for a pro-life organisation, too: the only difference would be that if the woman’s decision was for abortion, the therapist at the pro-life charity would have to tell the woman to go elsewhere. So the idea that pro-life charities ought to be the only purveyors of pre-abortion counselling for women turns out to be simply a means of setting a stumbling-block in the way of a woman who wants to talk through her decision with a therapist, but ultimately comes to the decision that she will have an abortion. The chilling news that

The Department of Health (DoH) has drawn up plans to radically reform the assistance given to thousands of women with crisis pregnancies.

will not reassure anyone who cares about women’s healthcare on the NHS – the Tories do not have a good record for supporting either healthcare or human rights. (Though Margaret Thatcher was solidly pro-choice. Bless her heart.)

Diane Abbott yesterday quit the cross-party abortion group in Westminster, calling it a “front” for “anti-choice lobbyists”. Nadine Dorries, who is campaigning to have licenced therapists and counsellors taken away from charities and clinics that provide abortion, is strongly linked to

the lobby group Christian Concern, which, along with the UK-based Christian Legal Centre (CLC), is linked to a wealthy US evangelical organisation, the Alliance Defence Fund (ADF).

The ADF has been making common cause with British right-wing Christians for some time. The ADF is a coalition of 35 Christian Right groups, founded in 1993, including D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries, Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association, and James Dobson of Focus on the Family. These groups are homophobic, anti-Islam, and of course against women having access to safe legal abortion.

The Telegraph published claims by Mark Bhagwandin, from the pro-life charity Life, that

“This will trivialise and commercialise the decision to terminate a baby, putting it on the same footing as choosing other products advertised on television. I have no doubt that we will see a rise in abortions as a result of this.”

The kindest way to describe this kind of thinking is confused.

Bhagwandin seems to think that after a woman pees on a pregnancy test strip and it comes up positive, if she then switches on the TV and sees an advert for an abortion clinic, she’s going to think “Woo woo! I could go down to the clinic and have an abortion!” Sort of like the idea that you see an ad for Disneyland, you want to go there: I think Bhagwandin envisages a newly-pregnant woman dancing round the house like one of the kids in those obnoxious Yay! We’re going to Disneyland! adverts, only instead Bhagwandin has nightmares that she’ll be shouting Yay! We’re going to have an abortion! (Note to parents: This doesn’t work the way you think it will from TV.)

The most common reason around the world, in every culture, under every regime, for a woman needing to have an abortion is that she has an unwanted pregnancy. Decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies and you decrease the number of abortions. That’s how the Netherlands has the lowest abortion rate in the world.

This had nothing to do with the pro-life movement’s gyrations, which unbelievably, is fond of comparing abortion to the Holocaust. (Bad idea. Please stop.) In point of fact, the Nazis passed (and East and West Germany kept) very restrictive pro-life legislation against abortion and Hitler was as strongly against women having access to contraception as any pro-lifer could wish. (Abortion became a death penalty offense in Nazi Germany in 1943.) And a woman from the Federal Republic of Germany could even be prosecuted for having an abortion in another country where it was legal. This does not, of course, justify comparing modern pro-lifers to Nazis: they may be controlling, aggressive, at times scarily violent people who do not believe in human rights for women and promote their extremist views with lying propaganda, but they are not Nazis, and it would be wrong to say so: we’re better than that.

Speak Up, Speak Out For Human Rights

On Holocaust Memorial Day 2012, people across the world will be choosing to make their voice heard by taking inspiration from the past. As part of your action for Speak Up, Speak Out you can make a pledge to challenge the language of hatred and commit to using words which reflect respect for the dignity of those around you.

I speak for choice: all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. We are endowed with reason and conscience and we should act towards one another in a spirit of sisterhood. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, no matter who they are or where they live. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with her privacy or her family, nor to attacks upon her honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including her own, and to return to her own country. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. For all of these reasons, and because recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world, I am pro-choice.

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Filed under Healthcare, Poverty, Women

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