Following the malicious reporting of Dr Tammy Downes to the General Medical Council for giving pregnant women seeking an abortion advice and support, GPs now adhere very firmly to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists guidelines, which have been widely criticised for underplaying the physical and psychological consequences of abortion.
Almost zero counselling is available for any woman presenting at her GP practice with a crisis pregnancy and what little support available is provided by the abortion provider. There is no financial provision for counselling, meaning that private abortion providers have a vested financial interest in women deciding to go ahead with the procedure. This means that women with unplanned pregnancies, who actively seek advice and support in order to help them reach a decision, currently receive little or no counselling.
Face to face post-abortion counselling is only provided if the woman returns to the abortion clinic and very often, it isn’t available at all.
Many women have an abortion without experiencing adverse consequences and that is great for them, however, many do.
The link between abortion and subsequent pre-term delivery, with all its complications and huge associated costs, is now well established. Also, a landmark paper published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2008 has shown that pregnant women who abort are 30% more likely go on to develop mental health problems than those who do not. The Royal College of Psychiatrists now acknowledges research that shows a link between abortion and mental illness and has revised its guidance on the matter and furthermore is currently carrying out a major review of the literature.
Many women are damaged by the ‘abortion process’. This is because in the quest to make abortion swift and easily accessible, many women enter the process confused, without proper information, and unaware of any physical or mental health consequences. The words ‘bewildered’ and ‘out of control’ are often quoted in the emerging case studies of those women who now feel compelled to speak out at what they see as a process which seeks to conceal information and disempower them. Women who experience a crisis pregnancy today have information regarding what they may one day experience or suffer from, deliberately withheld.
Labour MP, Frank Field, and I will lay down an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill which aims to help and support these very women.
The amendment will require new GP consortia to make provision for independent advice and counselling for women presenting at the GP's surgery with a crisis pregnancy; transferring the requirement away from the remote abortion provider, with a vested interest, to the local GP.
This means that support can be provided pre- and post-abortion in the local community. However, more importantly, it will also ensure that each woman receives the comprehensive unbiased information she needs to know before embarking upon a procedure, which to some can be traumatic, degrading and upsetting.
Doesn’t every woman have a right to know that the risk of pre-term delivery is increased in further pregnancy following an abortion? Doesn’t she have a right to know the statistics regarding metal health issues post abortion? Are women seeking an abortion not entitled to be treated in the same way as they would be if they were seeking any other type of operation? Should their consent not be fully informed?
For many women, particularly those who are coping in silence, it is powerfully reassuring to know that close to home, or even in their own home, there will be someone to provide professional help and support, before and after.
It is also an undeniable fact that some women, when sitting down and talking through the options available, decide to choose an alternative to abortion. They do so because they are informed and empowered. They have the information they need to help them make a choice and decide what’s best for them.
I am aware that in laying down this amendment there will be those who will attempt to misrepresent my position. The fact is that I am pro-woman. I strongly object to the pro-choice mantra of the 1980s which as the advocate of a streamlined, conveyor belt, factory efficient, abortion process is now doing so much to damage so many women. Swift abortion must be available for those women who know what they want and want it quickly. This amendment will not alter that.
But this amendment isn’t about them; even though they will also positively benefit from knowing that help is available should they need it. It’s about the vulnerable and bewildered… the women who feel confused and out of control… the women who need help and support and as a consequence, I hope that every member of the House, of whatever party, will be able to support it.