Monday, November 05, 2012

Another Government U-turn

The UK Government has done a U-turn on plans to hold a consultation on whether women contemplating abortion should be offered independent counselling.

The then health minister Anne Milton was working with Department of Health officials on an overhaul of abortion counselling provision - pro-lifers pointed out that counselling by abortion providers like Marie Stopes and BPAS involved a conflict of interest - and a consultation was promised.

There were differences on the subject in the Coalition Government, and a cross-party group of 10 MPs considering the proposals was reported to be deeply divided.

In a parliamentary debate on abortion in Westminster Hall last week, recently-appointed health minister Anna Soubry said she had decided to scrap the consultation because the Government had no intention of altering either the law or guidelines on abortion counselling.

Conservative MP Nadine Dorries accused Ms Soubry, whom she described as "as pro-choice as many Labour women MPs," of imposing her personal belief on her role as minister.

Pro-life campaigners, who believed independent counselling would lead to a reduction in the number of abortions, were disappointed.

Dr Dan Boucher, of CARE, said "To shut down the consultation commitment which was promised in response to concerns about financial conflict of interest is a monumental political misjudgment."

A BPAS spokesman said "Current abortion counselling arrangements serve women well. BPAS is pleased to see the Government has dropped its plans to unnecessarily overhaul services.

"BPAS hopes the Government policy can now focus on efforts to support women trying to prevent pregnancy and ensure the highest quality care for those who do need abortion services."