Archbishop Cranmer has written a lot recently about the Dorries/Field amendment, which he describes thus:
…her modest proposal is that women should be offered independent counselling to give them a breathing space before proceeding with termination.
Ostensibly, the rationale behind giving women this choice is because abortion clinics, which provide counselling, are not independent. Cranmer even imputes that they have financial interest in counselling women to have abortions, even though they are not-for-profit institutions, because the government pays them per abortion carried out. Ergo, more abortions means more money for the clinics to…provide more abortions, I suppose.
He has also written disparagingly of Louise Mensch, who has proposed her own amendment to the amendment, to the effect that:
Mrs Mensch believes not only that women must be protected from the manifestly conflicted counselling services of BPAS and Marie Stopes International; they must also be shielded from faith groups who seek to spread their own ‘ideology’.
Faith-based pregnancy counselling does not operate under a financial conflict of interest, and is therefore independent. Cranmer would not appear to recognise that conflicts of interest need not be financial.
From what I can tell (though His Grace is free to correct me on this), the reason this ‘offering of choice’ has anything to do with legislation—when of course ‘choices’ do not need to be legislated for—is that public money is involved. The Dorries/Field amendment would prohibit abortion clinics from providing counselling to pregnant women and instead use public funds to pay for these women to have ‘independent’ counselling, with ‘independent’ bodies being defined as ‘anyone who doesn’t get paid to carry out abortions.’
This would include faith groups, presumably, because they don’t get paid to carry out abortions. Never mind that faith groups have an interest in pushing women not to have abortions. And never mind that paying faith groups to advise against abortion will, naturally, supply them with a financial conflict of interest, as they will now be given money by the government to continue urging pregnant women not to have abortions.
So here is my question for Archbishop Cranmer.
Why should government pass legislation to give taxpayers’ money to faith groups to supply pro-life arguments when pregnant women can, even now, get that same advice for free from any priest, vicar, imam, rabbi, street-corner preacher, church worker, or religious internet blogger—should they wish for that advice?
Why is Louise Mensch wrong to say that faith-based counselling is no more neutral than that provided by abortion clinics, and to object to funding counselling that is equally conflicted, but for different reasons?
Why should taxpayers’ money, if it is going to be spent in this endeavour at all, not be spent providing truly independent counselling by people and organisations that have no interest in either payment-per-abortion or saving souls?
Any why, if the Dorries/Field amendment is all about giving choice, rather than restricting it, is it continually justified in the newspapers and on your blog by the claim that it will reduce the number of abortions by 60,000? Where is the study, the proof, the methodology to show, as this number suggests, that 60,000 women or so are connived into having abortions they don’t really want because they are not availing themselves of government-subsidised advice they could nevertheless get for free?
Because that justification, it seems to me, has nothing to do with women’s welfare, but everything to do with the amendment’s apparent real objective, which is to stop women having so many abortions. It may not be obviously coercive in this regard, but it is nevertheless clear from the touting of this figure that it has nothing whatsoever to do with women’s welfare, and everything to do with using taxpayer cash to give more influence over pregnant women to pro-life, anti-abortion groups.