Shadow Public Health Minister brands government’s plans to plough ahead with controversial abortion changes as ‘unwanted, undemocratic and unsubstantiated with evidence.’
Updated 1.45pm 26.01.12
Diane Abbott has announced that she will withdraw from the Department of Health’s cross-party group on abortion counselling, accusing the government of using both the group and the upcoming consultation on the issue as a ‘front’ to push through anti-choice changes to the counselling system.
Details of the abortion counselling overhaul, published by the Telegraph at the weekend, have shocked pro-choice campaigners with the re-emergence of proposals to strip abortion providers of their role in counselling patients and to allow anti-choice organisations to offer pre-abortion advice in their place, despite MPs having voted decisively to reject the plans in September.
The campaign against the counselling amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill, tabled by Nadine Dorries, saw medical bodies, health and equalities organisations, trade unions and women’s groups united in their opposition to the proposals. Prior to the Commons debate on the issue the government was forced to withdraw its support for the amendments and advise its MPs to vote against the measures.
In her letter to Anne Milton, Public Health Minister responsible for abortion, Abbott said:
“I entered into the meetings in good faith. I was genuinely interested in improving the quality of counselling available to women. But I now believe the ‘consultation’ will be a front for driving through the anti-choice lobbyists’ preferred option without legislation or a debate on the Floor of the House.”
She continued: “There is no doubt which option the government wants to drive through. There will be no legislation or debate in Parliament. These changes are unwanted, undemocratic and unsubstantiated with evidence. I think women and families across the country will be as horrified as I am by the way the government is trying to turn the clocks back.”
Abortion Rights has campaigned against changes to the current counselling system, arguing that allowing anti-choice organisations to provide pre-abortion counselling jeopardises women’s health and their right to accurate information. Such organisations have been shown to offer misleading and judgemental advice to clients which could potentially delay access to legitimate healthcare services.
Responding to Diane Abbott’s resignation from the group, Abortion Rights commented:
“It is unsurprising that Diane Abbott has felt the need to withdraw from the counselling group. It is clear that the government is not interested in either the will of Parliament, which rejected these proposals last year, or in the results of its own consultation on the issue.
Anti-choice MPs such as Nadine Dorries have a direct line to Anne Milton. It is clear she will do their bidding, regardless of evidence, public opinion or patient safety. These plans put politics before women’s health.”