THE CATHOLIC HERALD SEPTEMBER 9 2011
BBeeccoommee aa ffaann ooff TThhee CCaatthhoolliicc HHeerraalldd At Facebook.com
MPs to decide future of abortion counselling
Amendment to prevent abortion providers from offering counselling likely to be defeated this week
BY ED WEST
A PARLIAMENTARY amendment that would have placed restrictions on abortion providers giving pregnancy counselling was expected to be defeated as The Catholic Herald went to press.
The Dorries and Field amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill proposed that “information, advice and counselling” could only be called independent when provided by “a private body that does not itself provide for the termination of pregnancies; or a statutory body”, and that those that did would make clear to any woman who approached them that alternatives were available.
The amendment was put forward by Conservative Nadine Dorries and Labour’s Frank Field, but was expected to fail after the Cabinet refused to give its support. The amendment, which would have cost groups such as Marie Stopes and BPAS multi-million pound contracts with the NHS, was opposed by a highly organised coalition of politicians and activists.
The Prime Minister was expected to stay away from the House of Commons when MPs voted on the proposals.
Mrs Dorries accused the Coalition of “covert whipping” after public Health Minister Anne Milton sent a letter to all MPs detailing why the Department of Health was against the proposals, and stating that all health ministers would oppose the amendment if it came to a vote. Mrs Dorries said it put pressure on Tory MPs, and accused Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg of blackmailing Mr Cameron by saying Liberal Democrat MPs would not vote for the Health and Social Care Bill if her amendment was supported.
She said: “Nick Clegg has put pressure on the Prime Minister; the Prime Minister is putting pressure on MPs.”
Mr Clegg is thought to have been influenced by former Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris, a proabortion campaigner and the most prominent opponent of the amendment, who said it would push women into the hands of religious bodies not trained in counselling. But pro-life groups have pointed out that a private body that does not itself provide abortion does not have to be religious, and many private counselling organisations have no religious affiliations. Mrs Dorries describes herself as “neither pro-life nor pro-choice” and says she believes in “informed consent”.
Conservative Defence Secretary Liam Fox is the most prominent backer of the amendment. He said: “I would certainly want to support any amendments that saw the number of abortions fall in Britain. I think the level is far too high. I would certainly welcome any restrictions which enable people to think twice and get objective advice. I would actually want to see what the amendments specifically are, but I’m in favour of something that sees the high level of abortions in Britain reduced.”
An amendment by Corby MP Louise Mensch proposed that the
Pro-life groups have given only lukewarm support to the amendment proposed by MPs Nadine Dorries and Frank Field
NHS should be the main provider of counselling. Although pro-abortion groups are opposed to this amendment, so are pro-life groups, who fear that the NHS may be institutionally pro-abortion. Faithbased crisis pregnancy centres, which provide financial and practical aid to women facing unplanned pregnancies, as well as free post-abortion counselling, could be threatened. A third amendment, by Cambridge MP Julian Huppert, proposes banning pro-life groups from providing counselling at all.
Support for the Dorries amendment has been lukewarm among pro-life groups. The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) said it would not back the amendment because there was no evidence it would lead to a reduction in the abortion rate.
Olivia Darby of the Pro-Life Alliance said the amendment carried “many real risks”. She said:
“What is important at this stage is the Department of Health’s forthcoming consultation on abortion counselling.”
But Ed Rennie, clerk to the parliamentary pro-life group, said pro-life MPs would support it, adding: “It will be a shame if David Cameron got cold feet on such a
modest measure. The abortion lobby campaign has been underhand and built this straw man of religious counsellors bringing God into non-directional counselling... The Dorries amendment has very wide public support.” Mary Kenny: Page 16
PRIVATE abortion clinics may be misleading the public by inflating the numbers of women who decide to keep their babies, new statistics have suggested.
Figures obtained using the Freedom of Information Act suggest that fewer than one in 10 women who book consultations with Marie Stopes and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) decide to keep their babies.
This is half the figure of one in five often cited by the clinics. It suggests that the abortion charities maybe falsely claiming that some 14,000 women continue with their pregnancies after receiving counselling from them.
The figures added weight to the
BY SIMON CALDWELL One in 10 women given abortion advice keep their babies argument advanced by Conservative MP Nadine Dorries and former Labour Minister Frank Field that counselling must be taken out of the hands of the clinics and given to independent professionals with no financial stake in the outcome of the woman’s decision.
The pair introduced an amendment to Health and Social Care Bill this week stipulating that women must be counselled in the first instance by their GP.
They say the measure may reduce Britain’s abortion rate by about 60,000 a year.
Health Ministers do not support the amendment and Downing Street sources have said that the Prime Minister, David Cameron, does not believe that Marie Stopes and BPAS “should be excluded”
from offering counselling. Mrs Dorries said, however, that figures from a snapshot of six Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) raised serious questions about the efficacy of counselling services offered by abortion providers.
“They [the clinics] are wildly exaggerating the number of women who don’t go ahead with abortions,” she said.
The figures from the Trusts from the 2010-2011 financial year show the numbers of women referred to the abortion providers and the numbers who eventually went ahead with abortions.
They reveal a consistent pattern of about one in 10 women – 9.7 per cent deciding to go ahead with their pregnancies, with the rest opting for abortion.
In Hammersmith and Fulham, for instance, 1,051 consultations resulted in 968 abortions while 83 decided against the procedure, meaning about 7.9 per cent of women kept their babies.
In Milton Keynes 1,029 women were referred to the clinics and of these 937 had abortions, with just 92, or 8.9 per cent, going ahead with the pregnancy.
In South East Essex 695 consultations produced 624 abortions while 71 women – 10.2 per cent of the total – opted to continue with the pregnancy.
More than 150 PCTs were approached but only a handful provided sufficient information for analysis.
Marie Stopes and BPAS are paid about £60 million a year to carry out nearly half of the country’s 200,000 annual abortions, with BPAS specialising in the more costly late-term procedures.
Professor Jack Scarisbrick, the national chairman of Life, a pro-life pregnancy counselling charity, said that between a third and a half of all women who were counselled by his staff continued with their pregnancies.
“Our complaint about BPAS and Marie Stopes is that they want a quick turnover,” said Prof Scarisbrick.
“They don’t want women to have a chance to think, to cool down and to assess what pressures are on them.
“All the feedback we have had from women who have had abortions with Marie Stopes and BPAS
is that they are conveyor-belted. A proper counselling session is going to be at least 45 minutes and then a woman might want to go away and come back again – it might be two or three sessions. BPAS isn’t going to accommodate that.”
Ann Furedi, the BPAS chief executive, last month insisted during an interview with BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour that 20 per cent of women who approach the organisation do not proceed with an abortion, a figure which is replicated in BPAS literature.
“At the moment about a fifth, or one in five, women who come to us decide not to proceed with an abortion with us,” she said.
“If you want evidence that women come into the service, they get the support and counselling they need, it’s all there,” she said.
“I really don’t know why politicians consider this a problem. In our service, where people are getting counselling, it’s 20 per cent.”
A spokeswoman for BPAS said, however, that the organisation had since “double-checked” its own records on the numbers of women opting to continue pregnancies and found that it is “15 per cent”.
She said. “I would imagine if there is a discrepancy it is because of the time frame in which we gather information.”
A spokeswoman for Marie Stopes said that its records showed between 21 and 23 per cent of potential clients decided against abortion.
Catholic schools embrace Gove’s academy reform Vaughan Parents’ Action Group
Professor the Lord Alton, Professor Philip Booth, Professor David Crystal, Professor Felipe Fernandez -Armesto,
Patti Fordyce, Professor Luke Gormally, Michael Gormally, Lord Grantley, Paul Johnson, Sir Paul Kennedy QC, Edward Leigh MP, Lord Lexden, Colin Mawby, Charles Moore, Professor Judith Mossman, Cristina Odone, Professor Thomas Pink, Piers Paul Read, Dr John Martin Robinson, Dr Richard Shephard, Anthony Speaight QC, Sir Swinton Thomas QC, Dr Ralph Townsend, Professor Mark Watson-Gandy, Ann Widdecombe
AN HOUR OF PRAYER
THE CARDINAL VAUGHAN MEMORIAL SCHOOL
7 p.m. on Thursday 15th September
Westminster Cathedral Piazza
The Vaughan Parents’ Action Group invites parents, past pupils, friends and supporters to an hour of prayer and hymns and to help us to present our petition to Archbishop Vincent Nichols.
We petition His Grace:
• to nominate two current parents as Foundation Governors of the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School; • to advise and encourage his nominees on the Governing Body to conduct the selection process of a new Head so as to bring about an appointment that will command the support not just of the Archbishop’s nominees but also of other sections across the unhappily divided Governing Body.
The Vaughan’s success has always depended on dedicated teachers supported wholeheartedly by Catholic parents. The hostile actions of the Westminster Diocese Education Service – in particular the imposition of its own Director, Paul Barber, on the Governing Body – threaten to undermine this harmonious and fruitful collaboration. Vaughan parents chose the School for its distinctive and unambiguously Catholic ethos. They want it to be cherished and protected. This is why they do not want a new Head to be selected while they are still under-represented on the Governing Body.
THE NEW HEAD WILL BE APPOINTED IN OCTOBER. This Hour of Prayer may be our last opportunity before then to show Archbishop
Nichols just how worried we are about the future of our wonderful School. Please see our website for further details or if you wish to sign our on line petition : www.savethevaughan.com
BY ED WEST
THIRTY-SEVEN Catholic primary and secondary schools are to become academies this year after the Government approved their applications.
Among the schools that will opt out of local authority control are the flagship London Oratory School in Fulham, the hugely successful St Joseph’s College in Stokeon-Trent and several schools in Bishop Malcolm McMahon’s Nottingham diocese. On top of this there are four Catholic-sponsored academies and four joint Catholic and Church of England-sponsored academies.
The schools, 11 of which have finalised the process, will have far greater control over their budgets and curriculum. They follow about 150 schools classed as “outstanding” which became academies during the first round of conversions last year.
The changes have been made with the apparent blessing of the Church hierarchy, after the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales (CESEW) was initially hostile to the changing status. Last year Chief Executive Oona Stannard said: “We would be very unwise to trade this for an uncertain future and a higher level of risk.” But after the Government addressed Church concerns about land ownership and the rights of trustees, Bishop McMahon, chairman of the CESEW, announced in February that Catholic schools could become academies. Among the schools ranked as outstanding by Ofsted to have been approved is the Becket School in Nottingham. It will join other schools in the diocese in forming a combined local academies trust, with the diocese as trustee.
But, not all dioceses have allowed their schools to go ahead. Mgr Kevin McGinnell, director of education for the Diocese of Northampton, said officials were still deciding whether to go ahead.
He said: “No schools from our diocese have so far applied to become academies. Our diocese and others are still considering the academies question and we are awaiting information on the programme.”
But Bishop Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth, one of the dioceses that had given the go-ahead, said his diocese was deciding on a case-bycase basis to allow schools to change “according to whether it benefits that school and the Church in that area”.
A total of 1,568 schools expressed interest in becoming academies last year, among them were 84 Catholic schools. Educational feature: Page 11
EAST AFRICA CRISIS
Ten million people are facing a devastating drought in East Africa. Very poor rains have led to crop failure, serious food and water shortages and the deaths of tens of thousands of animals in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan. With no rain expected until September, the situation can only get worse. The UN says that in some regions the drought is the worst in years. We urgently need your support to get life-saving aid to people now.
Please make a donation today. Your gift will help to provide life-saving food for the most vulnerable, as well as water-points, medicine and emergency support for families whose animals are dying.
Please give to the East Africa Crisis Appeal. Your help WILL reach people who need it most.
cafod.org.uk/eastafrica or call
Alternatively, complete and post the coupon to the address below. Here is my gift of £ £ £ £ or my preferred amount is £ for the East Africa Crisis Appeal
I enclose: a cheque/postal order (please make payable to CAFOD) OR please debit my:
Visa MasterCard CharityCard American Express Switch/Maestro Card number: Expiry date: Valid from: Switch/Maestro Issue no:
Please send to: Freepost RSHJ-KJBY-YXLT, CAFOD, Romero House, Westminster Bridge Road, LONDON SE JB
Date: / /
Gift Aid Declaration (only valid with full name and address as filled out above) – please tick as appropriate:
I would like CAFOD to treat all donations I have made from 6th April 2007 and until further notice as Gift Aid donations. My UK Annual Income Tax and/or Capital Gains Tax is more than the tax CAFOD will reclaim in the appropriate tax year. OR
I am not a UK taxpayer.
Registered charity no.