On June 5th Conservative MP Ann Winterton will introduce a Bill to obstruct women’s access to safe, legal abortion. The Bill, modelled on hard-line anti-abortion regulations in some US states, would introduce a cruel mandatory seven day delay in abortion service provision and force a woman to receive counselling regardless of her wishes and needs. The Bill is intended to create time to persuade a woman to change her own decision to end her pregnancy. It must be stopped.
Please email your MP today and urge them to vote against this Bill.
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The Bill is part of a concerted campaign in parliament and through sections of the media to misrepresent abortion issues with the aim of winning successive restrictions in women’s rights on the road to total criminalisation of abortion. This is the third such anti-choice Ten Minute Rule Bill since 31 October 2006. Nadine Dorries’ Bill to reduce the abortion time limit and introduce delays was defeated as was Angela Watkinson’s Bill to end young women’s access to confidential services. Lobbying from supporters of a woman’s right to choose has been key to defeating these previous bills.
Ann Winterton is Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group Bill. Her bill is tabled for debate on Tuesday 5th June, from 3.30pm.
TERMINATION OF PREGNANCY (COUNSELLING AND MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS)
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require counselling of a pregnant woman as a condition of her consent to termination of her pregnancy; to require the pregnant woman to see a registered medical practitioner prior to receiving counselling; to introduce a minimum period of 7 days following counselling before registered medical practitioners may certify an opinion referred to in section 1(1) of the Abortion Act 1967; to require the forms used for certifying and giving notice of the reason for termination of a pregnancy to state risk to the physical and mental health of the pregnant woman as separate grounds for abortion; and for connected purposes.
WHY THE BILL MUST BE STRONGLY DEFEATED:
Enforced delays – cruel and unnecessary
Once a woman has made a decision to end an intolerable pregnancy, any delay can be a source of considerable distress. In reality, women already frequently face unacceptable delays in a ‘postcode lottery’ of service provision. Notwithstanding government guidelines to limit service delays to no longer than three weeks, women can wait up to eight weeks, forcing many to turn to the independent sector and pay hundreds of pounds in fees. Any mandatory further delays in the process would be cruel and are completely unnecessary.
Mandatory counselling – further obstruction
This clause shows complete disregard for women’s ability to make their own abortion decision and to choose what support to accept in forming that decision. It is part of a condescending and baseless anti-choice lobby narrative that women are not capable of, and frequently don’t, take such profound decisions about their life with seriousness, thought or appropriate discussion and support. Counselling should always be made available to women as a matter of choice but should always be non-directive and non-compulsory.
The time taken to organise compulsory counselling sessions would build in further delay to a woman’s access to services in addition to the seven day delay proposed by the Bill.
Ann Winterton’s attempt to impose mandatory counselling on women is described by her allies in the British anti-choice movement as a first step in curbing the present abortion law. Indeed the requirement has been used in this way in several US states and in Australia where such delays are frequently accompanied by a requirement for the woman to read misleading anti-choice literature. Her British allies suggest the counselling should be used to warn women of ‘possible dangers to their physical and mental health’.
In reality, successive studies have found that, contrary to anti-choice myths, terminating a pregnancy is a safe medical procedure and is less dangerous than giving birth. Studies also overwhelmingly show that choosing to have an abortion is less mentally distressing than the alternative – a woman being forced to continue a pregnancy against her will. Please follow links below for research on this.
Pro-Choice Forum: Issues in Pregnancy Counselling: What do Women Need and Want?