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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A big step back

Originally posted 6th June 2011

Things are getting scary. The Christian Right are getting their claws into social politics and social conservatism is rearing its head in a big way. Abstinence based education is being endorsed and anti - abortion groups are going into the business of main stream government.

But this is not the Tea Party's vision for America, it is the reality facing Britain in 2011 under the appalling ConDem coalition. Conservative MP, Nadine Dorries found herself in hot water a few weeks back, when, whilst endorsing her ideas on abstinence based sex education in schools, she insinuated (either purposefully or as a result of very poor skill of articulation - I'll let you be the judge of that) that if more teenagers said 'no' that sexual abuse would be drastically curtailed. At best a foolishly poorly worded statement, at worst a frightening insight into this woman's views of those most vulnerable in our society. And now it appears that the Conservatives (and by virtue their coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats) have decided to take this further. Several weeks ago it was reported that the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) have been 'disinvited' from the governments new Sexual Health Advisory Board and replaced by the pro life group, Life. Life are against abortion in all circumstances lean heavily towards an abstinence based approach to sex education. I addition to this a new amendment to abortion legislation is being pushed through by Dorries and her pals. This addition to existing abortion legislation will mean that women seeking terminations, for whatever reason, will be required, by law to undergo a 'counselling session' with an organisation that does not carry out abortions. And its part of a bigger organisation known as Right to Know. In the interests of fairness I will point out that Dorries partner in crime in the former Labour minister Frank Field.

Currently the backlash to these, what can only be described as legalised incursions into our civil rights and personal lives, are causing much consternation and a big Pro Choice rally has been organised and is due to take place on July 7th. Foremost amongst those who see the threat of Dorries and her ilk and their attempts to push through antiquated and morally judgmental legislation is Labour MP Dianne Abbott and she had this to say;
    "We cannot allow Nadine Dorries and some of the anti-abortion groups currently advising the government to turn the clock back for millions of women," said Abbott. "Mainstream medical opinion is united in its agreement that, when carried out in a legal setting where sterile facilities are available, abortion is a safe procedure carrying a low risk of complications. "And we must not underestimate the chilling news that the government has appointed anti-abortion group Life to their expert advisory group on sexual health. This appointment, coupled with the retraction of an invite to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, one of the UK's leading abortion providers, signals a dangerous move." She added: "Increasingly, people up and down the country are looking to take a stand against what they see as an attempt to chip away at abortion access for women in England, Scotland and Wales. "There is a rising tide of opposition and concern about the agenda being pushed by figures in this Tory-led government, and David Cameron must come clean on where the Tories now stand on a woman's right to choose." (The Guardian, Sunday 5th June 2011)
    Depending on your own personal stance on the abortion question you may applaud or deride the actions on either side. Personally, as some one who is passionately Pro Choice (which is not the same as being Pro Abortion any more that being Anti Abortion automatically makes you Pro Life), I fail to see the good in it. Of course the argument that the new amendment would promote a greater understanding of the choice being made and allow women to make a more informed decision will be put forward in defence of this. In theory, yes. However, the truth of the matter is quite the opposite. Women should be educated and they should be informed.  The decision to terminate a pregnancy should not be one that is made lightly. But that is not what the Right to Know campaign is offering. Instead it is taking women, many of whom will never again feel more frightened, alone or vulnerable and it is bullying them. By subjecting them to counselling by a biased and subjective body they will not be given the necessary information and support to make the 'right' decision (something which is highly dependent on the individual circumstances, not the agenda of an anti abortion organisation), if anything women, already facing, for many of them the hardest decision they will ever have to make, will be left feeling guilty, confused and utterly, utterly alone. What is needed is objective, non judgmental, open and honest advice and that will not be found within the frame work being laid out by Dorries and approved by the government. Women will be stripped of their power, their rights and in the case of the younger generation of women who may also fall foul of Nadine Dorries shortsighted and possibly dangerous push for abstinence based sex education, their chance to make an informed decision about their own lives and bodies based on a free exchange of views and information rather than the outdated convictions of others.

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