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Category: Informed consent (Page 1 of 3)

Hidden Forces.. shining a light on abortion advocacy


Marie Stopes, one of Australia’s biggest abortion providers recently released a draft White Paper entitled Hidden Forces: Shining a Light on Reproductive Coercion.   As expected from an organisation heavily invested in marketing and delivering abortion services the paper has a very strong emphasis on coercion related to continuation of pregnancies with coercion to terminate barely warranting a mention.

In a culture where abortion advocacy is the dominant force the majority of published literature on reproductive coercion is biased toward coercion related to contraceptive sabotage and pregnancy continuation.   It is no surprise therefore that the literature drawn on in the references to the White Paper rarely addresses coercion to terminate.  For the most part coercion to terminate is no longer differentiated from coercion to continue a pregnancy, both being lumped together under the tidy label of ‘pregnancy outcome control’.   

The White Paper spends a lot of time within its 50+ pages lamenting a lack of clear definition of coercion.  I suspect this will remain a long-term problem as abortion advocacy organisations seek definitions that meet their ideological objectives of keeping abortion positively framed.  Acknowledging abortion coercion becomes hugely problematic for such groups, especially when coercion in these circumstances must also include many of the reasons that the majority of women seek abortion.  

Most abortions occur in the setting of women lacking necessary resources to continue a pregnancy, whether these are practical, economic, relational or supportive.  When this is combined with subtle or overt coercion by other people, or by a dominant discourse that offers abortion as a solution for these social inequities, it seems very obvious that coercion toward abortion must be significant.  

With leading abortion advocates and providers denying the existence of the dozens of women who change their minds every year after commencing medical abortions, we have a baseline for how such ideologues view the existence or prevalence of coercion to terminate.   ‘These women simply don’t exist’.  

While ignoring the prevalence of coercion toward termination, the White Paper makes a giant leap when it labels the Federal Government’s 2006 pregnancy support counselling scheme a form of reproductive coercion because it doesn’t allow abortion provider counsellors to access the Medicare rebate for counselling.  They suggest that abortion providers, who only get paid if a woman proceeds to abortion, demonstrate no bias in decision making counselling.    Perhaps the suggestion is that more effective counselling could be provided by abortion providers with more financial incentives?  

It is also interesting to see the perceived threat by the very few, mostly unfunded and volunteer driven pregnancy support services continue to be to abortion advocates.   In spite of the fact that not all of these services have a religious basis, and many of them are volunteer staffed by qualified professionals, they are deemed to be incapable of providing accurate information without bias.  In fact they further suggest, in the absence of any evidence, that such services can inflict psychological harm on women. 

There is a very interesting statement made in the midst of this section, in relation to pregnancy support counselling services:   ‘In no other sector can such unregulated practises occur without legal ramifications.”   I would argue that in no other sector of health care can women demand a medical or surgical procedure for no reason other than that they want one, and doctors be forced to provide access to it either directly or indirectly.   Of course the preference within this White Paper is that no doctor ever be allowed a conscientious objection to abortion because this is also a form of reproductive coercion.    Apparently women are autonomous, intelligent decision makers who don’t need help or support in deciding whether abortion is right for them, but if they happen to come across a doctor who doesn’t provide them with an immediate referral, they may be forced to ‘continue a pregnancy against her wishes or seek abortion at a higher gestation’.  

While Marie Stopes is being encouraged to take this process of investigation into reproductive coercion forward, it is prudent to note their own record of ignoring any pressures toward abortion from their 2008 survey entitled Real Choices.    In their questions on why women resolved their unintended pregnancies in particular ways, parenting, adoption, abortion, their response options reveal exactly what they are looking for.

MS Real Choices

(click on picture for clearer view)

This paper does nothing but pay lip service to the idea of reproductive coercion.  Unless abortion providing organisations are prepared to put their ideological biases aside and face the reality that the majority of abortions are only undertaken because continuing a pregnancy is not supported, then they might as well go back to putting their efforts into marketing their services.  You know.. the kind of alarmist marketing common among abortion advocates,  that falsely states that abortion is up to 100 times safer than childbirth and women will die if it isn’t freely accessible. 

University Censorship

Notre Dame University’s Fremantle Student Association has denied affiliation to a LifeChoice group on the campus, describing the group as anti-choice and accusing similar groups of a range of negative behaviours and impacts.   They offer no evidence of such claims which include that LIfeChoice groups ‘put out material that is misleading and distressing’ or that they ‘have a real and negative impact on the wellbeing of some students.’

I have been invited to speak at two events held by LifeChoice groups at their universities over the years, and my experience could not be further from these assertions.   In fact, my wellbeing was at risk of being negatively impacted by the actions of self-proclaimed pro-choice students who used tactics of abuse and intimidation to try to prevent me speaking, both before and during the event.  

The focus of my presentation on both occasions was two-fold; to educate students on risk factors for negative psychological impacts after abortion, and to discuss the reasons women often feel pressured toward abortion when their needs are not being met.    The purpose for this group was to  equip them to provide accurate, evidence-based information when they speak about the issues and to begin to develop services and supports for pregnant and parenting students to ease some of the pressures.

These were events that typified the purpose of such a group; to ensure that women experience more than just the pressure of ‘choice’ toward abortion and have real options to consider.  

As I arrived on campus for my first presentation, I was alerted to the posters that had advertised the event.   The picture accompanying my bio had been defaced by graphic drawings of coat hangers dripping blood and abusive language.    

The next event, where I was one of a number of speakers, had to move off campus due to threats of protest and poor behaviour, but that didn’t prevent a group of students from setting up at the door of the venue.   They screamed, hurled insults, drew graphic pictures and profanity with chalk on the sidewalk where pedestrians, including children were passing.    As I walked up to the venue I invited a couple of the young women in, to hear what we were saying and to participate, to ask questions.   The response I received was loud and abusive as was the noise the group continued to make outside the event windows for about an hour after it began.

The flyer produced by this ‘pro-choice’ group described the speakers at the LifeChoice event as being ‘notorious for providing biased and discriminatory information’, with no evidence of such a claim and no willingness to hear the information firsthand when invited.

Their flyer further asserted that LifeChoice ‘distributed incredibly misleading information about the drug RU486, exaggerating the risks and ignoring all the benefits of the medication in order to scare women out of making their own decisions’.     This claim was in itself incredibly misleading and scaremongering and one that I was particularly interested in given that I had developed the Medical Abortion pamphlet that was being distributed.     The pamphlet uses the drug providers own information on adverse harm and contains accurate and comprehensive information, complete with references.     It should be of grave concern to anyone truly supportive of informed choice that these university students are incapable of understanding evidence and checking references and one wonders what information they would provide to a woman considering medical abortion.

Universities are supposed to be places that encourage critical thinking, freedom of thought and at the very least the ability to discern facts from rhetoric.   The pro-choice groups which work to deny the right of pro-life groups a voice on campus reduce the choices available to students in significant ways.   Censorship of pro-life views reduces the information and options available to students.  Information about supports available to continue a pregnancy should be an integral aspect of reproductive decision making.  

Pro-choice groups have a focus on availability and accessibility of abortion only, and I am yet to see any on-campus pro-choice groups advocate for those who want to parent and be educated.

Pro-choice groups are unwilling to participate in open and healthy discussion about abortion or the needs of pregnant students thereby demonstrating that they would be unable to provide full information to such students.

Where LifeChoice groups exist on campus, a pregnant student can access accurate information about the full range of options, and can have many of her practical needs met.   LifeChoice groups are not just about rhetoric but about identifying and meeting the real needs of pregnant and parenting women in ways that I am yet to see a pro-choice group do.

When I toured New Zealand universities a few years ago, I spoke to audiences with the full range of ideological views.    At the end of one such talk a small group of young women came up to me and excitedly announced,  ‘We’re with the women’s collective and we’re pro-choice’.    I welcomed them and thanked them for coming, then asked them what their group was doing to enhance services for pregnant students.    ‘Well we make sure they know where to go for abortion’ was one young woman’s response.        I asked her ‘what if she wants to be pregnant.?’    The rest of her group looked a little uncomfortable, and one asked ‘so what can we do?’

This allowed for a helpful discussion about ‘choice’ and what it actually constitutes:  a decision made between at least two genuinely supported options.   It was agreed that the lack of childcare facilities and inflexible classes at their campus was probably a barrier to parenting that could be addressed. 

Pro-choice groups in Australian universities have demonstrated their complete lack of ability to research facts, resorting to censorship, alarmism and marginalisation to uphold a position even they do not fully understand.  Regardless of ideological positioning, we should all be open to hearing alternate views, particularly in universities.    The Fremantle Student Association are succumbing to pro-choice rhetoric that falsely portrays life groups as deceptive without bothering to check the facts themselves.  Surely that latter is a skill we should expect every university student to have.

State sanctioned rape of children

As parents, we generally want to do everything we can to protect our children against life's harshest circumstances.  Many of us go to great lengths to do so.  Some may work very long hours in undesirable jobs to make sure their children are well fed, clothed and educated.   Parents often make personal sacrifices so that their children's lives are somewhat better than perhaps their own had been and to make sure they have every opportunity to succeed.  Parents would surely do everything humanly possible to protect their children from physical and emotional harm, and it would be hard to hold back the outrage against any person who threatened or hurt them.

Imagine then, a scenario where your 12yr old daughter comes to you because she has been sexually assaulted.   You call the authorities, or take her to a local doctor, first of all to ensure that she is physically okay, and secondly to find out what you need to do to ensure the perpetrator is brought to justice and your child will be safe.  She might be examined and probably questioned about what happened to her.   She is then told that there is something even worse than this that could happen.. in fact, it is so bad, that the first thing that needs to happen is that her body needs to be chemically altered to ensure it is impossible.   A small metal rod needs to be inserted under her skin so that she won't fall pregnant.   Having a baby would be terrible.   She might wonder how on earth she would be having a baby;  you are probably wondering the same thing; perhaps concerned that you're misunderstanding; perhaps they think she might already be pregnant and that's what they are talking about.

The doctor then explains to you that 'no, she isn't pregnant, but we don't want her to get pregnant do we... you know.. when this happens again.'

What you have just been offered is the solution currently on offer to a number of Indigenous communities in our country, where pregnancy is considered intolerable, but rape of children is tolerated.  Children from Indigenous communities in Queensland are being given contraceptive implant to prevent pregnancy when it is known they have been sexually abused, sometimes for years.   They are then sent back to the perpetrators, who are not charged, and are perhaps expected to be happy that they have been saved from a fate worse than repeated rape:  an 'unwanted' baby.   Tolerated isn't in fact a strong enough word for this.  When we sterilise girl children so that they won't get pregnant, knowing that the most likely way this will happen is if they are raped, you are not only condoning the actions of rapists, but encouraging them. 

In what ways must a mother have given up hope for her own life, and the life of her child, for her to give her consent to such an action?  What are we saying about the value of the lives of these little girls when we tell them that having a child would be worse than being raped, therefore we are going to ensure the former doesn't happen and send you back to the danger? 

Why isn't this making every national headline, repeatedly?  It is nothing short of state sanctioned rape of vulnerable children, and it has to stop. 

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