In case you’ve been living in a tin of baked beans, Dorrie, the Tory MP for mid-Bedfordshire, has sparked controversy with her plans to reform the Government’s Health Reform Bill. This would ensure that pregnant women seeking abortions can have access to counselling and advice that is independent of those carrying out the procedure. I say ‘her’ plans – but in fact, she’s partnered on the amendment by Frank Field, Labour MP for Birkenhead. This seems to have escaped the notice of her detractors, who have made her into a poster-girl for everything from misogyny to Nazism.
As a Christian, I’m against abortion. (I’m against eating disorders too – and look where I’ve ended up). The gospel however, is for broken people. It’s not about adding further guilt to someone who’s weighed down already. This is not a diatribe about people ‘out there’ making mistakes. If that were the case, I’d be first in the firing line. But I don’t agree with the way the debate has been handled – and for reasons that go beyond my personal convictions.
If an abortion advice service is owned by people who make a profit from supplying abortions, it’s a conflict of interest. That to me seems indisputable. What Dorrie’s opponents fear is that independent counsellors will bring their own prejudices, discouraging women from having abortions or seeking them in the first place. That too is entirely plausible. But does it make it wrong?
No-one is impartial. That’s obvious from those making personal attacks in the name of tolerance. Or criticising a woman as ‘rumpled’ and ‘grizzly’ in the name of feminism.
To be human is to operate within some kind moral and philosophical framework. As Andrew Brown writes in The Guardian: ‘The arguments over abortion show very clearly that the kind of godlike and impartial judgments about relative pain that a consistent utilitarianism would demand are simply impossible’.
Even from a utilitarian perspective, the question is not if those offering counselling have interests – it’s whether or not such interests are declared.