Abortion advice: long on abstinence, short on evidence


1:05 pm - July 8th 2011

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contribution by Darinka Aleksic

If you were pregnant and needed advice, and saw this ad in the Yellow Pages, you might give them a ring.

Considering Abortion? Free Pregnancy Testing Information & Advisory Service, Quick & Confidential.

Unfortunately, the Albany Women’s Centre, who posted this advert at Yell.com, failed to mention is that they don’t offer any medical services and they are, in fact, opposed to abortion in principle.

Yesterday, following a complaint made by the charity Education for Choice, the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that the Albany ad was misleading and must not appear again in its current form.

This could be dismissed as a single rogue example, were it not for the fact that anti-choice groups operate networks of pregnancy advice centres around the country. Under proposals currently under consideration by the Department of Health, organisations like this one could be given NHS contracts to provide their own special brand of ‘independent advice and counselling’ to women seeking abortion.

These calls have not come in isolation. In recent months we have seen a stream of measures signalling a distinct change of direction from the government on reproductive rights issues.

» It began in March, when Tory backbencher Nadine Dorries and former Labour minister Frank Field tabled amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill, saying abortion providers had a “vested financial interest” in withholding information about the health risks involved in abortion and encouraging women to proceed with terminations.

This ignores the fact that organisations like Marie Stopes and BPAS, which provide abortions under contract to the NHS, are charities: they have no profit motive here. And it ignores the fact that abortion providers are highly regulated, licensed by the Department of Health, and are required to follow clinical guidance on telling women exactly what the possible risks and complications of abortion are.

Women will instead be directed to unlicensed, unregulated counselling organisations, which are under no obligation to provide medically accurate information or offer unbiased advice, and which do not have to disclose an ideological opposition to abortion.

» At the end of May it was announced that LIFE, an organisation which is opposed to abortion in all circumstances and which does not provide any sexual health services, had been appointed to the government’s newly formed Sexual Health Forum, and will now be advising on health policy. The Department of Health justifies the group’s appointment (and the exclusion of abortion-provider BPAS) in the name of providing ‘balance’ on the panel – although one would have thought that a commitment to scientific accuracy and contraceptive access would be a more appropriate criterion for selection.

» There was the equally alarming news that Education Secretary Michael Gove is supporting the newly formed SRE Council. This group now includes ‘Lovewise’ a charity which “seeks to help schools and youth groups … from a Christian perspective”; it also includes ‘Evaluate’ which “supports [young people] in delaying sexual experience until a long-term committed exclusive relationship”.

US Christian group the Silver Ring Thing is in there too, making sure that teens are aware that “abstinence until marriage is not only God’s plan for their lives, but also the best and only way to avoid the harmful physical and emotional effects of premarital sex.” Again and again, organisations that rely on scientifically accurate, evidence-based information and provide non-judgemental services are being replaced with groups which are ideologically driven, religious and partisan.

» In April Conservative-run Richmond Council awarded the Catholic Children’s Society an £89,000 contract to provide support to young people on unplanned pregnancy, contraception, abortion and homophobic bullying. The award came at the expense of Off the Record, a small local charity which has been providing confidential counselling to teenagers in the borough for 20 years.

Just to be clear, the Catholic Children’s Society’s work is based on “Christian values derived from the Gospels and the teaching of the Catholic church”.

These attacks on reproductive rights are of a different nature than the past. They seek to chip away at the edges, with a series of small but far-reaching measures that can be publicly presented as eminently reasonable and even empowering to women. But they signal a change of approach and a change of climate – they tell us that our rights are not safe in this government’s hands.


Darinka is a campaigner at Abortion Rights. She will be a speaker at the pro-choice demo tomorrow

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[deleted for libellous claims]

[deleted]

an ideological driven and partisan article which does nothing to help women.

4. Chaise Guevara

@ 1 Red Maria

“Accordingly, nothing which emanates from this self-serving organisation – and who are its backers, by the way? – should be accepted at face value.”

Do you actually have any basis for criticising the OP, or are we to take your emply ad hom attack on face value?

5. Flowerpower

The award came at the expense of Off the Record, a small local charity which has been providing confidential counselling to teenagers in the borough for 20 years.

Since you’re so keen on “evidenced based” decision-making, maybe you could tell us whether unplanned pregnancies and abortions in the borough had gone up or down during those 20 years?

Whoa, the smell of astroturf round here is getting overpowering…

7. Flowerpower

@ 1 Red Maria

who are its backers, by the way?

According to its latest draft accounts it is a charity that raised last year a paltry c£2,500 in donations, but secured a whopping c£90k from “government and local authority grants” plus c£57k described as “other”.

Not sure any of the points in the original post stand up to scrutiny.

Yes, there was a misleading advert (the only evidence presented of wrong doing), but this has nothing to do with government policy, or even any group other than the Albany Centre offering advice. You may object to groups offering advice who are opposed to abortion, but if that is your point, make it, don’t try and smear by association.

You then suggest that charities have no profit motive – but that does not mean charities do not have a motive at all. Funding is still a motive you know – although if BPAS etc can’t spin their clinical and advice services into discrete organisations, there is something very wrong. I agree that Dorries and Field seem to be trying to attack abortion here, but I would point out that neither are members of the Cabinet (and indeed, if anything, Frank Field has more influence over the government…).

You then criticise an appointment to a newly formed group of one anti-abortion group. Yet they do represent a point of view which has to be heard (because we live in a democracy you know) before it can be dismissed.

As for the SRE, Mr Gove’s support (trumpeted up by the press announcement) was apparently this statement:

I’m so sorry I can’t be with you at today’s event but I hope you will accept my best wishes for a successful launch. Nothing is more important than making sure children grow up confident, safe and healthy.

And if we’re to ensure that our schools do the best possible job in preparing children for adult life then parents have to be given a bigger voice and clearer say in our education system.

As you will know, the Conservatives ensured that the last Government was stopped from legislating to impose centralised state controls on sex and relationship education. We ensured the Labour Government were stopped when they wanted to remove parents’ right to remove children from inappropriate lessons.

We will continue to work with parents to ensure their rights and wishes are respected. I look forward to working with you all in ensuring that the interests of families are put at the heart of our policies.’

I suspect if you launched a pro-abortion network (under the pretext of good sexual health education) you’d get an almost identical statement of vague support and political opportunism – anyway, as far as I can see this is about abstinence, not abortion – whether to have sex and what to do if you get pregnant are two different issues. Promotion of abstinence does not seem to me to be an attack on abortion (yes, those promoting it might oppose abortion, but that is still a different argument). To be honest, if people want to promote abstinence for kids, that’s fine by me (because they are clearly religious nutters in the main, who will therefore be ignored).

As to the Richmond decision, is there a neutral view on this – why was it done? Presumably the Catholic Children’s Association is required by the terms of the contract to discuss the full range of options available, and knows this – so is there any evidence they will not discuss abortion (or indeed oppose homophobic bullying) or are you just assuming this from the word Catholic? Remember, there are plenty of Catholics who disregard the bans on contraception and abortion, because they do not believe they are God’s will.

You might be right – these might be parts of a pattern. But having a representative of a charity which has fairly politicised backers (We would like to thank The Feminist Review Trust , UNISON’s General Political Fund, and Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust for the generous financial support they have made towards our campaigning activities. – from Abortion Rights’ website) and which is heavily dependent on government funding suggest there is a government plan afoot and oppose charities with different agendas getting funding from government is not the best way of making a point.

Abortion should be an automatic right whenever – but that does not mean that those opposed to it have to be ignored as the choice is for the individual. This reads like a creed of unrelated issues being spun as a plot. My worry would be that it is more likely to make people think of those supporting the right to abortions (i.e. almost all of us on here) as idiots rather than work as a rallying cry.

9. Chaise Guevara

@ Watchman

“This reads like a creed of unrelated issues being spun as a plot. ”

Agreed. Lone pro-life group uses misleading ads? Shame on them, but only on them. Politicians want kids to learn about abstinence? That’s a good thing, although the move is pretty redundant (I doubt that any school that teaches sex ed pretends that sex is mandatory). Same politicians want independent abortion counselling? Seems to be the answer to a question nobody asked, but again it’s not a bad principle in itself. Government listens to the full spectrum of views when making policy? Good.

It’s always revealing when an article doesn’t criticise the developments under advisement directly, but instead accuses them of “signaling a change of climate”. It tends to mean the author wants to create drama out of nothing.

I’m sure the Rich tax payers alliance will get straight on this story that a council has given thousands to the Catholic church.

Oh wait…they have no problem with that. It fits their extreme right wing agenda.

Once again the tories show they hate science and are copying the far right American agenda.

And just like the usual cowardly right wing they do it in a undercover way. Abortion is still legal, so all these Christian wack jobs can fuck off and leave me alone if I won’t an abortion. I don’t want to talk to them, and I don’t want to read their lies and bullshit.

Flwerpower @ 5

Since you’re so keen on “evidenced based” decision-making, maybe you could tell us whether unplanned pregnancies and abortions in the borough had gone up or down during those 20 years?

What difference does that make? How does that inform us how effective ‘Off the Record’ were in their advice?

Surely we should be measuring the quaility of the advice, not a completely different set of statistics?

Watchman @ 8

Yes, there was a misleading advert (the only evidence presented of wrong doing), but this has nothing to do with government policy, or even any group other than the Albany Centre offering advice. You may object to groups offering advice who are opposed to abortion, but if that is your point, make it, don’t try and smear by association.

Hold on a minute though. It is not just a misleading advert, though, is it? It is a ‘State funded’ misleading advert. These people where given funding by the State to give advice on the options open to pregnant women. Advice that they clearly are unable to give. This group of anti abortionists are not fit for purpose and have clearly been given money under false pretences.

If I accept payment from anyone to carry out a service and I do not carry out that service, then that is either theft or fraud depending on the exact circumstances.

If I am a politician, and I award a tender to a group of people to knowingly carry out my political ideology (or the political ideology I represent), instead of the goals of tender, then, I can see no other word than corruption.

The ruling party of the day may be ‘anti abortion,’, but that does not give them the right to award the political backers contracts to espouse that view money that is earmarked for giving women the advice they need to make informed choices during pregnancy.

If they want to stand up and amend the law then do so. However, if you spend all that time in opposition bleating about public money being spent for political causes you can expect to called corrupt hypocrites in governments.

Shorter watchman…..its fine to lie, if you have a right wing agenda.

These tories just love handing out our money to their nut supporters. Welfare for the religious nuts. I think it is getting time to tax the church’s.

Watchman @ 8

PS

Yet they do represent a point of view which has to be heard (because we live in a democracy you know) before it can be dismissed.

Hmm, first of all, no one has the ‘right’ to be heard. They may have the right to speak, but that does not translate into the right to be heard.

Even if they have the right to speak (and the implied right to be heard) they do not have the right to fraudulently receive State funding to publish misleading adverts. If religious fruitcakes want funds for putting forward their religious ideals, then by all means go and rattle tins under noses, do not steal money meant for decent people.

If the Government of the day want to push education programmes about the virtues of abstinence, then fine, put up some cash, but for fucks sake, don’t siphon of money from important programmes that are supposed to help women. Take from a budget for religious nutters, but not the health budget.

Jim you are wasting your time with this troll. The best bit is he ties himself in knots trying to be…. oh so reasonable. But then he just comes out with the same warmed over tory clap trap.

Watchman “Yet they do represent a point of view which has to be heard (because we live in a democracy you know) before it can be dismissed.”

So the govt can give me shed loads of money so I can push my views then?

I recall Brooks Advisory Service having similar adverts displayed on the London Underground for years. I moved out of London a decade ago, so don’t know if it still happens. Isn’t that the same, just from the opposite side of the debate?

Dominic @ 17

What ‘other side’ of the debate?

Do you mean that they published ‘truthful’ adverts paid by the state in accordance with the remit that the government set out?

Yes, and?

I mean, they only offer solutions based on ONE side of the abortion / life debate. Both Brooks and the Albany ad are targetted at people who could well be in two minds as to having an abortion. When whats needed is impartial advice governing all available options, they both provide advice only on their options. IE abortion in the case of Brooks, and birth, in the case of Albany.

I am not saying that Albany are right, I am saying that the same standards she be applied to both sides of the debate.

Dominic @ 19

I mean, they only offer solutions based on ONE side of the abortion / life debate

Nope, you are wrong about this. Read the OP. The Anti Abortionists are not given money to promote ‘non abortion’ alternatives. They are given money from a budget that is supposed to give advice to woman on ALL of the options available to them. A job they are actually unable to do.

They have been awarded money by fraud.

If the Tories want to promote their anti abortion agenda then devise a fund with new money that promotes abstinence or alternatives to abortion. However, it appears that the cowards would rather not have the debate, instead just quietly push this type of crap on the nod.

To be absolutely fair to the Tories, this is more to do with a lack of credible opposition than the natural misogyny of the Right.

@ 12:

“What difference does that make? How does that inform us how effective ‘Off the Record’ were in their advice?”

If they’re offering people advice on contraception, and that advice is good, we should expect unplanned pregnancies to go down.

@ 13:

“Hold on a minute though. It is not just a misleading advert, though, is it? It is a ‘State funded’ misleading advert. These people where given funding by the State to give advice on the options open to pregnant women”

Actually, according to the OP:

“Under proposals currently under consideration by the Department of Health, organisations like this one could be given NHS contracts to provide their own special brand of ‘independent advice and counselling’ to women seeking abortion.”

So, this organisation hasn’t been given any money, the money might not go to them but to “organisations like them”, and the proposal is still “under consideration” and might not be adopted at all.

What was it you said? Ah yes, “Read the OP.”

I have read the op. Now try reading my post. And try keeping party politics out of it. To imply that all on the right are anti abortion and all on the left are pro is just daft.

I am saying that the ads are no more misleading than the Brooks ads which have been around for ages. I am not saying the ads are right, because quite frankly, I thought both their ads and the Brooks ads were misleading.

My basic point is this: it is hypocritical to have a moan about one side of a debate doing wrong, while ignoring the fact that people on the other side (yours) are doing it as well.

Sorry, that was aimed at 20: Jim.

24. the a&e charge nurse

Isn’t it rather sad that some women are sufficiently disconnected from their own sense of self that they would entrust a momentous decision (terminating a pregnancy) to a third party.

Most of the bread and butter advice about medical vs surgical termination can be obtained after a quick google – while negative psychological effects (feelings of guilt, sadness, etc) will be par for the course for some women.

There are no proven associations between induced abortion and subsequent ectopic pregnancy, placenta praevia or infertility.
http://www.rcog.org.uk/induced-termination-pregnancy-and-future-reproductive-outcomes-–-current-evidence

There seems to be an undercurrent in the OP (although I be wrong about this) that today’s women do not know their mind so will be easily persuaded by smooth talking advisors?

25. Limiting Factor

Curious website for the Albany Women’s Centre – there’s no section about their personnel, their backers, their influences, their inspirations, and not even any information on who designed the site, nothing but the text and graphics. Also, they seem to have two offices, one at 73-75 Bell Street, NW1, and another at 57 Lisson Street, NW1, according to the company info site, cylex-uk.co.uk. But hang on! – a further search under ‘Albany Women’s Centre 57 Lisson Street’ turns up an entry under the name Adam’s Women’s Centre at the same address. Hmm. Isnt that curious.

dominic @ 23

In what way where the ‘Brook advisory’ adverts missleading?

XXX @ 21

If they’re offering people advice on contraception, and that advice is good, we should expect unplanned pregnancies to go down.

Why? No-one is forced to go for advice on contraception, are they? What we need to know is how good the advice is. If the number of unplanned pregnancies go up among women who have never set foot in the centre, in what way would count against the centre?

So, this organisation hasn’t been given any money, the money might not go to them but to “organisations like them”, and the proposal is still “under consideration” and might not be adopted at all.

However, you are missing the point. What we are look at is the dishonest ways anti abortionist work. What ‘Watchman’ was suggesting is that anti abortionists (like this Albany mob) should be allowed public money to put their point across. However these people are printing missleading adverts.

Under their own steam that is ‘okay’ as they are wasting their own money, but when they are telling lies with our money then they have recieved this money via fraud. When the Government of the day gives them a contract, knowing full well that they will push an agenda outwith the terms of the contract, then that is corruption
In April Conservative-run Richmond Council awarded the Catholic Children’s Society an £89,000 contract to provide support to young people on unplanned pregnancy, contraception, abortion and homophobic bullying. The award came at the expense of Off the Record, a small local charity which has been providing confidential counselling to teenagers in the borough for 20 years.

Nearly ninety grand given to religous nutters? Why?

27. tom mcghee

good to see the catholic church getting involved. the most corrupt institutuion in world history that has spent the last twenty years watching 2 million plus die across africa while they continue to bleat about the evil of contraception. abortion is solely a womans issue and should be available freely to any woman who wants, full stop. keep religious wack jobs out of this,


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

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  2. Liberal Conspiracy

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  3. Louise Johnson

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  4. Abortion Rights

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  5. Kerry Abel

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  6. Hannah Lownsbrough

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  7. James D

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  8. David McMillan

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  9. Kamaljeet Jandu

    Tory attempts 2 take UK back 2 Victorian era-Abortion advice: long on abstinence, short on evidence – LibCon http://t.co/wkcFIyG via @libcon

  10. Mustafa Ozbilgin

    “@libcon: Abortion advice: long on abstinence, short on evidence http://t.co/hUq1FDt” anti-abortion people suck big time!!!

  11. Rachel Gooch

    I find the government's trajectory on abortion rights deeply worrying: http://bit.ly/qhkicT

  12. sunny hundal

    Darinka from @AbortionRights explains why we're protesting tomorrow. This is the start of a long campaign http://bit.ly/rcCqeW

  13. Charlotte Cooper

    Darinka from @AbortionRights explains why we're protesting tomorrow. This is the start of a long campaign http://bit.ly/rcCqeW

  14. Charlotte Cooper

    OK my prochoice beauties! Go out onto the streets of London tomorrow to remind the country what's at stake http://t.co/yape6mT

  15. Kate Sheill

    RT @sunny_hundal: Darinka from @AbortionRights explains why we're protesting tomorrow http://bit.ly/rcCqeW #prochoicedemo2011

  16. Abortion Rights

    Darinka from @AbortionRights explains why we're protesting tomorrow. This is the start of a long campaign http://bit.ly/rcCqeW

  17. Brook

    Darinka from @AbortionRights explains why we're protesting tomorrow. This is the start of a long campaign http://bit.ly/rcCqeW

  18. cathredfern

    Darinka from @AbortionRights explains why we're protesting tomorrow. This is the start of a long campaign http://bit.ly/rcCqeW

  19. Jules Hillier

    Darinka from @AbortionRights explains why we're protesting tomorrow. This is the start of a long campaign http://bit.ly/rcCqeW

  20. Esme Peach

    Darinka from @AbortionRights explains why we're protesting tomorrow. This is the start of a long campaign http://bit.ly/rcCqeW

  21. Eleonora

    Worrying http://ow.ly/5zNAJ #health

  22. Amber of the Island

    Darinka from @AbortionRights explains why we're protesting tomorrow. This is the start of a long campaign http://bit.ly/rcCqeW

  23. Jeevan Rai

    Darinka from @AbortionRights explains why we're protesting tomorrow. This is the start of a long campaign http://bit.ly/rcCqeW

  24. STUC Women's Cttee

    Darinka from @AbortionRights explains why we're protesting tomorrow. This is the start of a long campaign http://bit.ly/rcCqeW

  25. STUC Women's Cttee

    Why we need to protest > RT @libcon: Abortion advice: long on abstinence, short on evidence http://t.co/yrF14o7 #prochoicedemo2011

  26. Martin Campbell

    The anti-choice lobby is taking us in a very unpleasant and dishonest direction. http://bit.ly/pbn4HC

  27. Maureen O'Brien

    Darinka from @AbortionRights explains why we're protesting tomorrow. This is the start of a long campaign http://bit.ly/rcCqeW





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