In October last year, MPs and peers were invited by the public health minister, Anne Milton, to form a cross party committee to establish the terms of reference for a government consultation document on the provision of an offer of independent counselling for women seeking an abortion.
Surprisingly, there was a great deal of unity around the table between pro-choice and pro-life members of the committee.
All except for Diane Abbott that is, whose contribution, it has to be said, could only be described as negative.
Diane used her membership of the committee as a political platform. Nothing she contributed to the process had anything to do with the health of women and everything to do with a political ideology that is out of step with reality.
Only last month, the BMA voted through a motion supporting the offer of independent counselling for women seeking an abortion.
Whilst Diane, who is the opposition public health spokeswoman, is making misguided political statements regarding women’s health, the doctors who are the first to see women seeking an abortion, voted very differently. So who should we listen to – the doctors or Diane Abbott?
Diane, attended only a handful of meetings, and as I have said in the past, arrived late for the first, fell asleep during the second and was a no show for the third.
She then, without having the courtesy to inform the Minister, via a letter to the media, resigned from the group with a fanfare, and stated that other members were leaving too. Of course, they weren’t and didn’t, but Diane couldn’t let the truth get in the way of what she thought was her good political story.
The group, despite the attention-seeking and noises-off from Ms Abbott, made excellent progress, in part thanks to the thoughtful and considered contribution from Labour members on the group. Even me, piggy-in-the-middle, who supports easy access to early term abortion, but wants to see the upper limit reduced to twenty weeks from twenty four and for an offer of independent counselling to be made to every woman seeking an abortion, was happy with what almost became the final document.
And then everything ground to a halt.
This week, the Sunday Telegraph are running a story regarding the fact that Marie Stopes International, the largest provider of abortions in the UK, has walked away from an alliance of organisations known as ‘Voice for Choice’ because it has become too militant. Voice for Choice is chaired by the Chief Executive of BPAS, Ann Furedi.
Marie Stopes, has stated that the group’s ‘very strong political views’ were undermining the work of Marie Stopes in providing services for women with crisis pregnancies and refused to sign an open letter, written by the alliance attacking Andrew Lansley, for ordering an investigation into abortion provision in the UK.
This followed hot on the heels of the revelation that some clinics were prepared to facilitate illegal abortions on the basis of the gender of the child. Three doctors have been suspended and are now under police investigation.
The Care Quality Commission’s investigation was published last week and a number of clinics and hospitals were found wanting. At the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, members of staff were discovered using abortion forms from a box pre-signed by a doctor, who no longer worked there.
In total, as a result of the investigation that Voice for Choice objected to, fourteen hospital trusts were discovered to be mismanaging the abortion process. In one report, Kings Hospital London, it was written that the process adopted ‘gave rise to a risk of unsafe or inappropriate care and treatment’.
As the Sunday Telegraph reports, Ann Furedi, wrote an open letter defending all doctors who were willing to provide terminations, and insisting it was not illegal to abort on the grounds of gender.
It is hardly surprising that MSI has chosen to distance itself from these irresponsible statements. In the last two years, MSI has made huge efforts to put the care of women at the centre of its philosophy, not political ideology.
It’s time for the government to do the same. Rumours are circulating around Westminster that just as No. 10 chose to remove its support for the vote on independent counselling last October; it has suddenly got cold feet regarding the consultation document.
The consultation gives everyone involved a say. What are the government afraid of?
If No. 10 are getting cold feet then they need to realise, this isn’t about No 10, Nick Clegg, George Osborne, or the coalition, it’s about women. Women’s health and only women should be considered.
It has taken ten months so far for a consultation document to do nothing more than sit in the Department of Health. It’s about time the Government took the consultation out of the hands of the civil servants and put it into the hands of the women and professionals waiting to have their say.