As part of her personal research, a friend phoned the British Pregnancy Advisory Service to ask about an abortion. The first question they asked was for her post code in order to locate her nearest BPAS clinic. The second was for her credit card details.
Despite soft-focus spin the abortion industry is increasingly hard-nosed, commercialised and cash-flow oriented. From small charitable beginnings forty years ago when terminations were based on genuine concern for the mental and physical health of pregnant women, the business has developed into an £60m+ behemoth undertaking nearly 200,000 terminations a year frequently for life-style or convenience reasons. Money-making brings vested interests, so in addition to the well-paid CEOs and target-setting business development managers (here), the industry engages lobbyists, PR agents and professional activists to generate the spin and promote their cause.
And business expansion brings industry competition and an appetite for market share. So it’s no surprise that BPAS as market leaders have leapt at the growth opportunities offered by next year’s Olympics and this month’s opening of the massive Westfield shopping centre – Europe’s largest – at Stratford in east London. They have taken over ground floor premises of a residential block of 20 flats owned by the affordable-homes supplier One Housing Group close to Stratford town centre and a few hundred metres from an all-girls school with over a thousand 11 to 16 year olds. They obtained the necessary CQC certification on 9th August and are now open for business. And it’s right on my doorstep.
As suits an activity that deals in death, the whole operation has been covert and clandestine. It’s only the excellent eagle-eyed researchers at the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children who have uncovered what’s been going on:
BPAS made no attempt to inform local residents of their intentions of course. Their planning application to Newham Council (here) and even the Council’s own statutory letter of consultation with local residents made no mention of an abortion facility.
But most deplorable of all has been the role of landlords One Housing who haven’t seen fit to explain to their tenants upstairs that terminations will take place on the ground floor and that clinical ‘waste’ will be put into a locked storage unit just by the entrance. Residents were left completely unaware.
Yet One Housing’s own blurb (here) highlights its social responsibility and commitment to residents, and without irony claims that the group does much more than provide a place for the tenants to live. Quite. In Stratford they now provide a place for the unborn to die.
This summer however some low-profile activities of BPAS and other abortion providers have become high-profile. The irrepressible MP for Mid Bedfordshire Nadine Dorries is no saint – except perhaps in the technical New Testament sense – but she has courage, flair and publicity skills. The author of two parliamentary attempts to reduce the time limit for abortions (here) and (here) for which she received death threats from pro-choice activists, she has promoted a Just Say No campaign for teenage girls (here) and this month proposed an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill to stop abortion providers like BPAS from also providing abortion advice.
She argued rightly that the industry has a financial vested interest in encouraging more abortions, and pointed to the pensions industry where pension provision has been decoupled from pension advice. She proposed fully independent abortion counselling so that pregnant women can, unpressurised, make a calm and properly informed choice.
I sat in the House of Commons gallery during the 7th September debate and was sorry but not surprised at the heckling aimed at Ms Dorries. This followed attacks on TV, radio and the internet, denouncements in the press and even a protest demo outside Parliament (here).
Pro-abortionists claim they are ‘pro-choice’ and Nadine Dorries cleverly and correctly described her initiative as ‘pro-informed choice’. And although the amendment overwhelmingly lost the vote it’s clear that, perhaps for the first time, the pro-life side emphatically won the parliamentary and media debate. Pro-abortionists struggled to find any reasoned argument against the purpose of the amendment – how can anyone argue against better informed choice? – and were left ludicrously fulminating about the “Christian fundamentalism” they said was behind Ms Dorries. It was a classic case of what C S Lewis called ‘bulverism’ – when they lost the argument they attacked the speaker. Fortunately Ms Dorries seemed unfazed by the abuse.
Health minister Anne Milton MP supported ‘the spirit’ of the amendment and promised a government review of current counselling arrangements. It was progress – if not the ‘victory’ that the Mid Bedfordshire MP claimed.
Stratford residents are currently formulating a challenge to the underhand opening of the BPAS branch in their neighbourhood. They’re going to need a dose of Nadine Dorries’ courage to take on such entrenched vested interests.
(This post appeared as an article in The Church of England Newspaper on 23 September 2011)