The growing cloud over British women’s right to choose


by Diane Abbott MP    
10:08 am - April 6th 2012

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Recent weeks have confirmed many of my worst fears about the direction of travel for the abortion debate.

We’re beginning to see David Cameron’s government co-operate with the most politically charged and vitriolic attack on British women’s right to choose in recent times: a witch-hunt against the abortion services provided by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), Marie Stopes and the NHS.

The allegations about breaches of the law by abortion clinics, which have repeatedly appeared in the Daily Telegraph, are very serious. Where there is bad practice, the government has a responsibility to vulnerable woman to take action. However, I have real concerns about the way this investigation has happened.

What was the evidence that led to Andrew Lansley’s raid in the first place? When was the data from the clinics processed? Why was the Daily Telegraph briefed about the checks half way through the inspection, without a statement in Parliament?

What happens now that the time spent on planning and inspecting equated to a staggering 1,100 days? Can the Care Quality Commission still even be considered to be an independent regulator after this?

I tried to sound the alarm about the government’s direction of travel on abortion when I took the difficult decision to resign from all-party group convened to discuss the rules on abortion counselling.

Bogus consultation
Now the government wants to get the same changes through the back door, without a debate in parliament by simply changing the regulations under the cover of a bogus “consultation”, scheduled to be published at the end of April.

The government’s new preferred option proposes a voluntary registration scheme for providers of abortion counselling, opening up the system to any organisation, including those which are opposed to abortion in principle.

This is fundamentally inappropriate and threatens genuinely informed consent. It is likely to cause delay, and lead to an increase in later abortions.

The proposals for a voluntary registration scheme make no mention of RCOG guidelines or the need to ensure the medical accuracy of advice delivered. No assurances are provided that advice will be genuinely non-judgemental or objective. There would also be significant cost implications if changes in procedure led to an increase in later abortions which are more expensive.

The DH draft counselling document states that that one of the benefits of Option 2 would be women receiving “consistency in the type and standard of counselling regardless of where they live”. This is not the case.

In some areas commissioners will choose to continue with current arrangements, where counselling is provided by the abortion provider and is therefore medically accurate and subject to RCOG guidelines. In other geographical areas commissioners may choose to contract anti-choice organisations to provide counselling.

The damage which is being done to our health services, with a new generation of doctors being put off from becoming involved in abortion services, and a high-profile political cloud forming over British women’s right to choose, must now be a serious and pressing concern for everyone.

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About the author
Diane Abbott is the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Feminism ,Health

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Reader comments


1. the a&e charge nurse

I can’t put it any better than this, “Lacking legitimacy like no other British government in living memory, unpopular on most issues, it (the coalition) nonetheless feels confident in riding out the storm because the opposition as expressed by the Parliamentary Labour Party is so compromising, so weak, so ultimately complicit. Labour promises that it will reverse the Health and Social Care bill if it is re-elected. Indeed, its credentials as the party of the welfare state depend on doing so. But its Blairite, pro-market shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has also made it quite clear that he has no intention of preserving the ‘status quo’. In British politics, just as ‘taking difficult decisions’ means imposing unpopular policies in an undemocratic manner, so upsetting the ‘status quo’ means abolishing rights, entitlements, and services which have served popular constituencies too well for too long. Labour may repeal this version of privatisation, but it must be assumed that it would pursue its own, milder version, and thus leave the health service in a weakened, vulnerable state”.
http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/3926632.html

The bigger picture here, is the degeneration of our healthcare which is “also part of a degenerative phase in our parliamentary democracy”, as Richard Seymour rightly points out (same link).

Arguing about abortion services in their current guise only makes sense if we believe that the NHS founding principles can remain intact – the new HSCB guarantees they won’t, and abortion providers, like all other clinical activity, will now be subject to the vagaries of the market, or the needs of shareholders.

If only a single labour spokesperson had the integrity to admit that their party is committed to a similar market driven model of health care (albeit one unfolding at a slightly gentler pace) – and with it the inconsistencies that arise once central planning is taken out of the equation.

As we know former health ministers, like Patricia Hewitt have been busying themselves on the board of private health companies in order to maximise personal financial gain once the likes of SERCO and Co are finally running the show – such unprincipled characters really are too revolting for words.

I tried to sound the alarm about the government’s direction of travel on abortion when I took the difficult decision to resign from all-party group convened to discuss the rules on abortion counselling.

Snoring does not count as “sounding the alarm”…………

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2093260/Diane-Abbott-fell-asleep-key-Westminster-debate-abortion-laws.html

3. Leon Wolfeson

@1 – Worse.

What happens to abortion advice when little semi-private health services start springing up around communities, mixing public and private funding. Some of those communities will have….objections to it. To put it mildly.

Lansley ordered this raid despite the fact that there was no evidence to suggest that any patients had come to harm. The only concern was that a legal requirement might have been flaunted – a legal requirement which is widely questioned and which has nothing to do with patient care.

Meanwhlile inspections of health facilities where there is great concern about the standard of patient care is put on hold.

Pagar,

The photos in that link actually show that Nadine was lying when she claimed that Diane ‘slept through the meeting’.

Presumably that is why they were included – they’re sufficient to act as the paper’s defence against defamation despite its smear job.

So the tories are following their masters The Republican parties “war on woman”

Just another example of Camerons lies that he has changed the the tories. Even more reason to question why the lib Dems go along with this right wing shit . It is time for Lib Dems to overthrow Clegg and his mates. If they don’t they are finished for 100 years.

@6 Sally

If they don’t? I think that ship well and truly sailed within months of them breathing life into the coalition. The Limp deems are simply a dead party walking….. it’s just a matter of how badly they do between now and the next GE. They are not going to regain the support of the 50% who have abandoned them since the last GE.

@6

If you think there aren’t Lib Dems who agree 100% with this you’re living in a fantasy land, and the rest will support it if they think there is an pay off, either electorally or literally.

Sadly there ARE Lib Dems who will go along with this, and LAbourites for that matter, just as there are Tories who viscerally won’t. Abortion has always been a conscience issue in the UK, and doesn’t divide along party lines in the same way as it does in the US.

I would point out that the reason we have legal abortion at all in this country is because of a Liberal, though…

And yet they fought so hard against women having the right to vote.

11. Dick the Prick

You’d have thought privatisation would increase the number of abortions as they won’t get paid otherwise.

To be fair introducing the profit motive is likely to make it really easy to get sex selection abortions, which rules currently forbid.

And given the governments NHS reforms, shouldn’t Nadine shut up and stop using the dead hand of the state to interfere in a free market?

13. Leon Wolfeson

As a side point, a classic article on why profit motives in health REALLY suck –

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/06/01/090601fa_fact_gawande

14. So Much For Subtlety

No assurances are provided that advice will be genuinely non-judgemental or objective.

Yeah. Who would trust Diane Abbott to tell us what is non-judgemental or objective?

13
IMO, the high health care costs in the US are the result of the main customer base being funded by private insurers, hence the patient isn’t so concerned about the cost and the provider can milk the system for profit, This results in higher premiums and fewer people able to afford health insurance.

Palin’s death list (referring to the NHS) was a jibe at agencies such as NICE who monitored the efficacy of drugs and treatments and which prevents clinicians from giving treatments that have no more affect than a placebo.

Anyone who believes that private clinics will not give abortions on demand for whatever reason are living in cloud cuckoo land.

Palin’s death list (referring to the NHS) was a jibe at agencies such as NICE who monitored the efficacy of drugs and treatments and which prevents clinicians from giving treatments that have no more affect than a placebo.

To be fair it’s usually a bit more complicated and tricky for NICE because they’re often confronted with new medicines and treatments that do have demonstrably better outcomes than existing treatments, just not in line with their cost. Along the lines of 3% increased effectiveness for a price, sorry ‘cost’, increase of 800%. When the old treatments already offer 90% effectiveness for an eighth of the price, then it’s not worth clearing it for NHS use. However once that decision is made the stories start coming out about how Grandma X died because she was refused fancy new treatment because of the penny-pinching bureaucrats at NICE said she couldn’t have it, while Ms Moneybags on private health got it and lived, etc etc. Course Palin’s ‘Death Panels’ argument ignores that in her preferred system the death panels still exist, they just make up their minds based on the content of the patient’s pocketbook instead.

I stand by NICE, there comes a point where you have to choose between the very best healthcare in the world affordable only to the privileged few, or a damn good standard that’s affordable to all.

@1 the a&e charge nurse

If only a single labour spokesperson had the integrity to admit that their party is committed to a similar market driven model of health care (albeit one unfolding at a slightly gentler pace) – and with it the inconsistencies that arise once central planning is taken out of the equation.

There are already large inconsistencies arising from seemingly minor local differences; just to give one example, there is a fully equipped & paid for (at a cost of several million) BPAS clinic in Bristol ready to perform late term abortions – the only one in the entire South West. but it can’t begin operations because some undisclosed apparatchik in BRI refuses to sign the transfer agreement they need by law in order to ensure their patients have access to NHS services in case of emergency. So women from all over the SW have to go to London if they need a lat term abortion, which is an effective barrier to access for a low income young person from, say, Plymouth.

But your point stands – all the political parties in Parliament are committed to a marketisation of health services, because they’re committed to capitalism and the market in general. And one thing that the market doesn’t like is too much equality & choice among the unwashed masses.

@4

“Lansley ordered this raid despite the fact that there was no evidence to suggest that any patients had come to harm. The only concern was that a legal requirement might have been flaunted – a legal requirement which is widely questioned and which has nothing to do with patient care.

Meanwhlile inspections of health facilities where there is great concern about the standard of patient care is put on hold.”

So you are cool with the law being broken as long as no one complains right? No? that is what you are saying. A legal requierment IS the law and it is required to be kept to.

If you brought a car that had been clocked – but you didn’t know – would that be right as well? Same legal requierment, same issue of a potential criminal offence by not complying with it. Same nonchalence?

As for the questioning of said requierment – go ahead, fill your boots. But until that law changes it remains the law of the land. If you cannot respect the laws of the country you are in then why bother arguing at all – why not just ignore them completely and see where that leads.

This isn’t an argument taken out of proportion – it is simply the reminder that although the world may not be as you would like it you have to play by the rules in place – even whilst setting out to change them.

The nature of the arguments over pro-life / pro-choice are so polarised and heartfelt that commentors really need to ensure they are arguing from a point of integrety right from the start.

@ Jennie 9.

Exactly. Unlike the US, where the Republicans seem to be the party that can galvanise a religious vote, here in the UK all parties are able to do so. Doubters should spend time talking to RC Labour voters in Liverpool, or non-conformist Labour voters in the Welsh valleys rather than trying to portray this as a Labour / Liberal / Tory issue. I’ve come across plenty of pro-choice tories, as well as plenty of anti abortion Labourites and Liberals.

It’s true that abortion became legal as a result of a Liberal, though it’s also true that David Alton was a Liberal too – say no more.

I by the way, am pro-choice all the way.

20. Chaise Guevara

@ 16 Cylux

Yeah, apparently “death panel” is an appropriate term for people who decide whether you live or die, whereas without those people, you’d just die. Seems to me that “life panel” would be more appropriate, or perhaps “triage board”, but then I’m not an intellectual juggernaut like Palin so I probably just don’t grasp her clever reasoning.

It also amuses me that the American right decided to campaign against state-sponsered healthcare by citing British articles complaining that we need MORE state-sponsered healthcare…

21. Leon Wolfeson

@16 – NICE? Not really relevant. Every single part of the new Doctor-funded NHS will have to make it’s own decisions.

ANY treatment for rarer diseases is going to be too expensive, of course. And if the doctor believes in *insert untested treatment here*, then it will be offered!

22. tigerdarwin

”So you are cool with the law being broken as long as no one complains right? No? that is what you are saying. A legal requierment IS the law and it is required to be kept to.”

As I understand two doctors were signing the slips so no law was being broken.

In the last govt a committee recommended the law should be changed – that was a signal for relaxation.

In you world the prisons would be overflowing with moral wrongdoers. Presumably something like the Phillipines hey. That is the neo con nirvana isn’t it.

This is indicative of the nasty influence the US Right is having on Conservative policies in this country. Ashcroft and his minions are close to many ugly unsavory characters in the US Rep party.

No doubt a handy little piece of editorial advice is given by some Tory goon in a phone call to the editor of the Telegraph- keep on chipping away.

Many of those advising the Tory party have strong links to the US Right – if you have have shit on your shoe it is going to stink just like the Torys are- Republican lite.


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