Julian Huppert MP yesterday tabled an amendment to the Health and Social Care bill, aimed at preventing anti-choice organisations from counselling women on their pregnancy options. The amendment reads:
“all organisations offering information or advice in relation to unplanned pregnancy choices must follow current evidence-based guidance produced by a professional medical organisation specified by the Secretary of State.”
Commenting on the amendment, Julian Huppert said
“A decision about abortion is a very serious one for women to take and it is absolutely right that whatever advice they seek gives them medically accurate information.”
The move is designed to ensure that any organisation contracted by the NHS to provide advice and information to women considering abortion, follow clinical guidelines and provide medically accurate information, as abortion providers are required to do.
Abortion Rights commented:
“We are absolutely delighted that Julian Huppert has tabled this amendment.
If an organisation is genuinely unbiased in its attitude to abortion, then it will have no problem working within the requirements it sets out, as abortion providers already do. It simply seeks to ensure that women receive the best possible advice on their pregnancy options.”
Dr Evan Harris, former Liberal Democrat Health spokesman and BMA Ethics Committee member, who has been a leading voice in the pro-choice campaign added:
“The approach taken in the amendment builds on decades of previous history where the government has relied on the advice of professional medical organisations to underpin the delivery of care to these vulnerable women”.
There has been across the board opposition to the counselling amendments tabled by Nadine Dorries MP and Frank Field MP. This week equalities and women’s health groups, including the Fawcett Society, Southall Black Sisters, the Medical Women’s Federation and the Women’s Health Equalities Consortium, sent an open letter to Lynne Featherstone, minister for women and equalities expressing their collective opposition to the amendments.
Sandhya Sharma, of Southall Black Sisters commented:
“We deeply alarmed about the government’s proposed changes to abortion counselling services.
Stripping secular abortion providers of their counselling role and opening the doors to faith based groups poses a significant threat to the fundamental right of all women to sexual and reproductive autonomy, but it presents particular dangers for vulnerable and marginalised black and minority women whose access to such services is severely restricted and, who as a result, have had to mount significant struggles for personal and sexual freedom within their communities.
SBS strongly urges the government to reconsider these proposals so that all women’s fundamental liberties are protected and guaranteed.”
In a statement on their website, the Women’s Health and Equality Consortium (WHEC) said:
“WHEC adamantly opposes the amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill requiring GPs to make provision for ‘independent advice and counselling’ to be available to women seeking abortion, stripping abortion providers of responsibility for carrying out this role. These proposals are not only unnecessary, but compromise women’s wellbeing and demonstrate a serious step back in time for gender equality.”
Speaking to the Guardian, Abortion Rights said:
“We need to be clear, these amendments are an attack on women’s reproductive rights. If implemented they will limit, rather than expand, the availability of impartial advice and information to women facing unplanned pregnancy. Their aim is to restrict and deter women from accessing abortion services.”