“Independent” Pre-Abortion Counselling to be required in UK

The head of the Royal College of General Practitioners has warned that government moves to shake up pre-abortion counselling for women could create new barriers and set the system back 25 years.

Clare Gerada defended abortion charities, disputing accusations that they are biased in their counselling and encourage women to have abortions because they are subsequently paid to carry out the terminations.

The government has announced a change in the rules to ensure that women are also offered counselling provided independently of the charity-run services, such as the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) and Marie Stopes.

MPs who are backed by anti-abortion groups claim the move justifies the argument that there is a conflict of interest in the way services are run.

So the proposal is that we need independent counsellors because charities that provide abortion can’t be trusted. And the fact that this proposal is being made is the evidence that is being used to support the claim that the charities can’t be trusted. Nice one.

For more, go here.

(Thanks, Mr Jender.)

10 thoughts on ““Independent” Pre-Abortion Counselling to be required in UK

  1. It’s strange that the default presumption of some people is that all charities are corrupt until proven (to them) otherwise. The idea that it is a conflict of interest case is pretty funny because it assumes that the charity is interested in profit, not helping women. To think they, as a charity, are more interested in their bottom line than their professed purpose appears baseless. Sure, charities have been shown to be corrupt many times, but to assume corruption is harmful.

    In the end though they aren’t really worried about any conflict of interest; they’re worried about holistic advice that includes abortion as a viable option.

  2. Seems a little sexist to me to assume that women should get any ‘counseling’ on this matter. The assumption is that women are confused, or tramatized, and need some advice or psychotherapeutic intervention. Better clinics should be barred from offering advice or “counseling.”

    You go to a clinic, get the pregnancy test, and are asked what you want to do. If you say abort you’re asked when’s a good day and time for the procedure. That’s it. (The few) women who ask for advice or counseling should be told, “We don’t do that. We just do medical procedures. If you want tea and sympathy, go to your local shrink or priest. Goodby.”

  3. From the perspective of someone not from the UK, this was a bit confusing. In the UK, there already is some counseling for women seeking abortion, mandated by law? Am I understanding this right? And further, the counseling that’s mandated by law is provided by both medical practitioners and also some charities of some sort? How are charities part of a mandatory government program? I’m so confused.

    And does a woman have to go to both, or can she opt out of either? I’m not clear on what’s being shaken up. I followed the links, but it all sounds quite strange. Am I missing something?

    Maybe this is what I’m missing: I gather that one of the “charities” is the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (which sounds public and governmental, but I guess it’s not). Is every women with a diagnosed pregnancy legally required to go to this charity? I figure not, right, it’s every women who requests an abortion. SO it’s not a pregnancy advisory service? It’s an abortion advisory service, yes? How requisite is this? Must all women seeking abortion go to this charity, or is it any charity?

  4. What struck me as odd about all this is the assumption the charity would be biased toward encouraging abortions. Here in the U.S. we seem to have the other concern – a state wants to require pre-abortion counseling and that charity is often a right-to-life outfit that really just tries to talk a woman out of an abortion, quite often for religious reasons she doesn’t agree with. Interesting how that plays out differently in another culture.

  5. I’m in agreement with Marta… In the US, we have the opposite problem: anti-choice legislators who want to require the pre-abortion counseling, which is very often provided by anti-choice groups. It is very interesting that it is different in the UK, and probably reflective of a different cultural mindset about abortion in general.

  6. Marta, I think the concern exists in both directions in the United States, although not necessarily among the same people (one camp tends to discount the concerns of the other). The U.S. experience, though, has provided at least some evidence to support the suspicion that outfits providing abortion services are prone to encouraging pregnant clients to have abortions. Several testimonials have emerged from past employees of large abortion providers that they were instructed by their higher-ups to push the abortion option. Also, a growing number of undercover videos have been publicised showing workers for such outfits giving women/girls posing as clients a hard sell in favour of abortion, among other questionable practices. So the same concern about service providers exists in both countries.

    Jender, re the final observation in the opening post, I think the supporters’ reasoning is less circular than you are suggesting. I believe that the supporters were suggesting that the fact that the responsible agency was persuaded to make the rule change (presumably following a consultation, hearing, investigation or some other fact-finding exercise as is typically the case) provided some degree of vindication that the concerns had a rational basis and were not frivolous.

  7. PBK: Women in the UK can officially only get medically necessary abortions in the first two trimesters, which they can get for free from the NHS. Two doctors need to agree that to continue with the pregnancy would present a risk to the physical or mental health of the woman or her existing children. Some doctors oppose abortion and will never agree. Others take the view that the condition is met if the risk of continuing the pregnancy is greater than the risk of having an abortion (which is arguably always the case, given safety of early abortion). On the NHS, however, there is a waiting list, which is why women sometimes go to charities.

    I’m puzzled by the counselling as well.

  8. PBK: just to add to Jender’s clarification, the current situation (and I write subject to correction from anyone more knowledgeable than I) is that regardless of where a pregnant woman goes to seek the two physician’s consents – be it NHS or a private abortion provider – the staff are required to counsel her in the matter. I am not sure if this is mandated solely by codes of professional responsibility, by general healthcare laws, or by an abortion-specific provision of law.

    I don’t think the counselling is *necessarily* anything different from normal counsel in a medical setting, e.g., giving advice and making disclosures required for informed decision-making. (I suppose the degree of counselling required to get a person to reach a decision could vary, of course.) So someone could not opt out of receiving counsel, just as they couldn’t decide to have surgery without having a medical professional advise them. Even if the patient wanted to waive their right to receive information and advice, that would not relieve the professional’s duty to inform and advise.

    It might be better to think of “counselling” here in the more generic original sense, without focusing on the contemporary psychological and therapeutic connotations.

  9. Update on this story: the bipartisan-sponsored bill that had been proposed to move pre-abortion advising away from organisations that offer abortion procedures has been roundly defeated in Parliament after the sponsoring coalition fell apart. It’s being reported that the co-sponsor dropped his support after the Department of Health pledged to explore administrative (rather than legislative) reforms:


    In related news, the UK is now starting to see exposés similar to those that have fuelled controversy in the States about the counselling practices of abortion businesses:


Comments are closed.