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/ The government has veered off course with its political pursuit of changing abortion counselling
Diane Abbott MP, the Shadow Public Health Minister, accused the government of veering off course with its pursuit of changing abortion counselling:
‘Rates of abortion for women under 25 have fallen since 2001, whilst rates for women over 25 have increased. I think this partly reflects the last Labour government’s strategy of working to improve sexual education and sexual health services for young people, but also a culture where there are more active sex lives among older women.
‘Broadly, the abortion rate remains stable, and I think these figures show just how dramatically the government has veered off course with its pursuit of trying to let anti-choice organisations take part in abortion counselling. There is work to be done to protect and educate young people, especially those that are vulnerable, and to provide the right kind of empowerment and contraception access in order to reduce repeat abortions. Although Britain’s repeat abortion rate is comparable to or lower than other Western countries, we need to provide the right access to support and contraception to reduce our rate of repeat abortions.
‘And yet, the discussion has really become sidetracked by the Department of Health’s political pursuit of changing the current abortion counselling system in order let anti-choice groups be a part of it, and the misinformation that has been put out by the right-wing of the Tory party.
‘These figures show a high proportion of terminations taking place at under 13 weeks gestation - this is when the procedure is safest and most straightforward. What the Department of Health is pushing us towards with their current approach is an increase in late abortions.
‘The big sexual health charities, FPA and Brook, are having to scale back their services and for the first time this year they will receive no core government funding. Contraception and sexual health clinics are having to reduce their opening hours. Brook has lost funding for its education work. This will have a big impact on uptake of contraception and incidence of STIs as well as teen pregnancy. These are the agencies that will encounter young people with complex problems and catch them before they ‘fall’'.
She attacked the government’s new preferred option of a voluntary registration scheme for abortion counsellors, for which the government will launch a consultation soon:
‘The government is proposing 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 will disrupt the care pathway for women.’
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