Last year in Britain 207,384 women had an abortion, the highest number at any time since it became legal for doctors to provide abortions in 1968. This tragic statistic, released a few days ago, includes around a quarter of all pregnancies in England and Wales.
Public health officials, clearly embarrassed by the rising abortion count, suggest that it can be reversed by better access to contraception, which they believe has suffered from spending cuts.
But Ann Furedi, CEO of the major abortion provider British Pregnancy Advisory Service, says that even the best contraception services in the world cannot prevent the need for abortion. Writing in The Telegraph she says “the truth of the matter is that contraceptive services across Britain are among the best in the world, and uptake is among the highest.”
Ms Furedi is nothing if not candid so far.
She points out that British women can access prescribed contraceptives for free – without even the payment of a prescription charge. Young people can pick up free condoms from sexual health centres; contraception is no longer “stigmatised and inaccessible”.
“Even school clinics are no longer controversial – and teenage pregnancies have fallen as we might expect,” she adds, implying that it’s all down to contraception. It’s older women who are boosting abortion numbers – and for reasons that have nothing to do with “access”, Furedi argues.
The highest increase – by almost 20 women in every thousand last year – was among women in their early 30s, “an age by which we know about sex and contraception.” And over half who attend BPAS clinics for abortions already have children, as borne out by national statistics. The reasons include:
Contraceptive failure and the fact that “we do not always use it well”. Thus: “Unwanted pregnancies happen in the most secure and steady relationships. Abortion is that final back up, when everything else has failed. Without it, every time a fertile woman has sex, she risks motherhood.”
Careers: “Women today have more opportunities outside the home and family than at any previous time, and we expect to be able to plan when, how many and with whom we have children – if we have children at all.
Why not? “Abortion is more easily available and more acceptable than in the past. The NHS funds it and regulates it to ensure services are safe. So why would a woman, who believes having a child is wrong, not take the opportunity to ‘put things right’ if she thinks it is best for her and her family?”
Ms Furedi clearly does not think that any abortion is wrong. In fact, she is the author of a book titled The Moral Case for Abortion and has asked why women should not have abortion up to birth for any reason. But if it is always right, then it doesn’t matter how many abortions a woman has, how often and for what reasons; it would not matter, to them or to society, if all women aborted all their children.
Attempts have been made to equate abortion with a minor operation, notably by Professor Lesley Regan, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, who received a gong in the New Year’s Honours list for services to women’s healthcare.
Dr Regan famously compared abortion to “getting bunions sorted”. However, bunion removal is carried out for health reasons – after obtaining informed consent – while pregnancy is not a disease. The closest analogy is cosmetic surgery, but having a nose job does not involve killing another human being.
Abortions in the UK are paid for by the National Health Service and the practice is subject to regulations, which, Ms Furedi thinks, ensure its safety (for women). Yet some of her own “services” have been found unsafe and, quite apart from the risk of coercion and deception, the abortion pill which BPAS champions is not safe either. Furthermore, while purporting to offer compassionate help to pregnant women, the BPAS website discusses the disposal of fetal remains with “other clinical waste”.
The BPAS chief says that “207,384 women successfully requested an abortion”, but there is no evidence of any unsuccessful requests, and, apart from “safety”, she herself does not indicate any circumstances in which she would argue against abortion.
Her claim that “the best contraception services in the world cannot prevent our need for abortion” ignores the fact that the promotion of contraception has fuelled the rise of abortion, giving women the delusion that pregnancy can be achieved or prevented at will.
“[W]e expect to be able to plan when, how many and with whom we have children”, she says, while many women desperate to become pregnant find that the very opposite is true. The truth is that the “planned pregnancy” has led to the unplanned pregnancy, and the unplanned pregnancy has led to abortion.
Having indicated that women controlling the number of children they have is a good thing, Furedi admits that other reasons for abortion are not so positive. “Our nurses counsel and help women who would choose to have their child, if it were not for the impossible circumstances they face. Problems with employment, with housing, with child-care for existing infants and with benefits propel women towards terminating pregnancies they would prefer to continue.”
BPAS says they counsel women about alternatives like adoption – although they do not arrange adoptions – and their business is abortion, which leaves unemployed, homeless and helpless women with all their original problems but with the added, lifelong problem of an abortion they felt forced into.
The bottom line for Ms Furedi is female autonomy: “whatever a woman’s reasons or her circumstances – the option to end a pregnancy must be available in any civilized society as part of our collective commitment to the principle that women must be able to make decisions about her intimate life for herself. These decisions must be ours to make and own – even if they are not always in circumstances of our own choosing.”
So, this autonomous decision “is always a contingent choice, shaped by a woman’s circumstances quite as much as her values. It’s a decision we make when we consider everything that lies ahead… when all things considered it is for the best. Many women who believe abortion is ‘wrong’ in principle (‘better to have never conceived’) still believe it is right for them – because of ‘how life is now’. We know this. Some people may object to the moral choices we make – but they need to be ours to make according to our values.”
Yes, and “we know” that women in countries like the UK are having fewer children than they want, because of “how life is now”. Isn’t it time to make some social and political changes that would allow women a real choice and family life to flourish? Wouldn’t a real reformer change the circumstances, rather than leave women with Hobson’s choice?
But no, Ms Furedi’s candour fails her when it comes to defining the real problems driving abortion – the collapse of the family-centred marriage – and she leaves women with the “choice” of making the child the problem:
“It’s about time we ended the hypocrisy. Rising abortion rates, in a society where women are making their own choice, and the procedure is safe, is no cause for concern. Abortion is not a problem but the solution to a problem – women need this choice as much, if not more than ever.”
The real hypocrisy, however, is pretending that abortion is some kind of boon to women, when actually it is convenient to the State – and profitable to abortion providers, who make a living out of death.