This morning, Nadine Dorries posted a press release on her pseudoblog which claims that the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) has backed the abortion counselling amendment that she and Frank Field have put forward for inclusion in the government’s contentious Health and Social Care Bill:
The British Association of Counsellors and Pyschotherapists (BACP) which has 32,000 individual and organisational members has declared its support for women to receive independent pre and post abortion counselling and has backed our amendment to the HSCB (Health and Social Care Bill). The following press release has been issued;
The same press release has also been published at Dorries’s ‘Right To Know‘ campaign website.
The full text of the press release – minus the usual contact guff for editors – reads as follows:
Issued by Nadine Dorries MP
For immediate release
3 July 2011
UK’s largest counselling body backs pre-abortion counselling amendment to Health Bill
THE UK’s leading professional body for counsellors and psychotherapists has declared its full support for an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill, tabled by Nadine Dorries MP and Rt Hon Frank Field MP. If passed, women considering abortion would have a legal right to independent, non-compulsory counselling.
The British Association of Counsellors and Pyschotherapists (BACP) represents over 32,000 individual and organisational members, making it Europe’s largest psychotherapy and counselling body.
In a statement the Association underlined its commitment to pre-abortion counselling:
“BACP believes that all women (and their partners if required) considering terminating a pregnancy should be offered free, independent, unbiased and ethical pre and post abortion counselling, offered by trained counsellors. Counselling can help women (and their partners if required), reflect on and understand the often complicated feelings surrounding termination, and can aid decision making.Counselling can also help women come to terms with the psychological consequences of the decisions they make. BACP respects that the laws governing termination of pregnancy in Northern Ireland are laid down in statute and fully understands that counsellors who work in this field in Northern Ireland should pay due regard to the document: Guidance on the Termination of Pregnancy: The Law and Clinical Practice in Northern Ireland.”
The announcement follows a statement by the Department of Health last week recognising that women should have access to independent pre-abortion counselling and indicating that the government is considering ways to ensure that it is provided.
Anne Milton, Minister for Public Health, is expected to hold a meeting on the issue this week.
Welcoming the BACP’s statement Nadine Dorries MP said:
“Parliament will soon be deciding how health services are delivered in England and Wales in the future. The Health and Social Care Bill provides an ideal opportunity to ensure that women considering abortion have a legal right to non-compulsory, independent counselling and to clarify who is best positioned to provide it. This announcement by the BACP is another important step in demonstrating the breadth of support for what we are seeking to do to improve the services available to women.”
“We are delighted that the BACP, an organisation with first-hand experience and extensive expertise in this field, is fully supportive of the rights that we are seeking to give women under this amendment. The fact that it represents over 32,000 members indicates that there are many trained counsellors who would be prepared to offer the kind of counselling required.”
Explaining the need for the amendment, Rt Hon Frank Field MP said:
“I think a change is needed because there could appear to be a conflict of interest in that, at the moment, very largely, charities undertake abortion work for us in this country but they are also charged with giving independent advice and in no other area would the person who is going to get the fee for carrying out a service also be entrusted with giving independent advice.”
This morning, Tim Ireland took the liberty of contacting the BACP press office with a couple of questions which aimed to clarify the organisation’s exact position on the contents of Dorries’ press release and on her proposed amendments:
Tim received a full response to his questions at 10:56 pm on 4 July 2011 and has kindly allowed me to run ahead of him with this particular ball.
So, having seen Dorries’s version of the BACP’s position, here’s the questions that Tim put to the organisation and the full response provided by Phillip Hodson, BACP’s media consultant, whose role is described on the BACP website as follows:
Phillip Hodson is a media planner and main spokesperson for BACP. He is an experienced broadcaster, presenter, author and journalist, a Fellow of BACP and accredited registered therapist. You can therefore have confidence that the contemporary face of counselling and psychotherapy in print and on air can be presented with a high degree of professionalism.
Tim put the following questions to BACP:
Can you please confirm the accuracy of this quote on the site of Nadine Dorries (in bold) and point me in the direction of the source document? I cannot find a corresponding press release on your site. I suspect it has at least been presented out of context:
[quotes press release given above and provides URL]
Also, what is your position on CareConfidential’s non-disclosure of their anti-abortion position? They claim on their website to offer “unbiased pregnancy and abortion counselling”.
And this is the ful text of the response supplied by Phillip Hodson on behalf of BACP [my emphasis]:
1. In response to an enquiry, BACP issued a statement saying it believes counselling should be an independent accountable and ethical process free from ideological bias and manipulation. This is in accordance with our Ethical Framework (see http://www.bacp.co.uk/ethical_framework/) which gives a paramount place to the needs and values of clients.
2. Our statement in its entirety reads as follows:
“BACP believes that all women (and their partners if required) considering terminating a pregnancy should be offered free, independent, unbiased and ethical abortion counselling at any point, supplied by trained counsellors. Counselling can help women (and their partners if required), reflect on and understand the often complicated feelings surrounding termination, and can aid decision-making. Counselling can also help women come to terms with the psychological consequences of the decisions they make. BACP respects that the laws governing termination of pregnancy in Northern Ireland are laid down in statute and fully understands that counsellors who work in this field in Northern Ireland should pay due regard to the document: Guidance on the Termination of Pregnancy: The Law and Clinical Practice in Northern Ireland”.
3. Since 2002, in accordance with our key message that counselling ought to be part of the nation’s healthcare, BACP has been calling for a better pre- and post-abortion counselling service. See endnote [i].
4. BACP has never suggested or implied that organisations like BPAS and Marie Stopes International should stop providing abortion advice or any of their other ancillary services. Counselling and advice-giving are in any case separate activities – “counsellors never give advice”.
5. BACP has no involvement with the organisation CARE CONFIDENTIAL and we confirm that it is not a member of our Association.
6. BACP is an acronym for THE BRITISH ASSOCIATION FOR COUNSELLING AND PSYCHOTHERAPY and not as stated in Ms Dorries’ press release. We currently have nearly 36,000 members – not 32,000 as stated in Ms Dorries’ press release.
BACP Fellow and Media Consultant
[i] A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO CHOOSE COUNSELLING BACP PRESS RELEASE JUNE 2002
Recently, an anonymous patient sued the NHS because she wasn’t offered counselling after an abortion. Nor was she warned that psychological complications can follow the operation.
This legal action raises issues of vital concern to patients, counsellors, the NHS and tax-payers.
Few people relish abortion. Even pro-choice supporters regard it as “the lesser of two evils”. Fewer still believe that surgical abortion should become a type of contraception.
But while other countries remain divided on the issue, the legal consensus in Britain has ruled that safe medical abortion ought to be available. In the process, however, abortion has sometimes come to be regarded as a routine operation.
This is a mistake.
Leaving aside the moral debate, an abortion is a totally different experience from having your appendix out. All personnel treating the patient should know this. The psychological issues involved are multiple and profound.
As soon as a woman is aware of any unwanted or accidental pregnancy she is forced to contemplate the immense consequences that will follow if she does not choose a termination.
First – and literally – there would be a child. She would become the mother. This act would determine many events for the rest of her days. The child would need a name and it would automatically be related to a wider group of people in two different families. All the relationships in that woman’s life – and by definition the future life of the child – would at a stroke be altered. She is at an emotional crossroads.
Symbolically, the child might awaken many deep-seated anxieties within the mother, especially if she has difficult childhood memories. Or the pregnancy’s timing might come to represent a form of doom. One woman said to us: “It’s the story of my life. I always desperately wanted a baby; but not now, and not with him”.
Few patients “mourn” their appendix when it is removed. Many women who choose abortion still “mourn” the lost possibilities of the life that cannot be. Several years ago the privately funded Post Abortion Counselling Service was established in London to cope with these very problems. However, that leaves the rest of the nation and those who cannot pay.
The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy very firmly believes that ANYONE who chooses to have an abortion should also be free to choose counselling to help cope with the emotional consequences. It is a basic component of “a woman’s right to choose”.
Pressurising a client to a particular course of action is fundamentally unethical and a contradiction of our profession. Counselling doesn’t happen just because somebody is ‘listening’.
Abortion can carry many complex emotional responses which are often paradoxical – eg hope AND despair or relief AND bereavement. In each case individual needs need to be treated individually.
There is a “uniqueness of reaction to a not uncommon experience”. This will decide whether a woman recovers or lapses into depression. Common sense, therefore, suggests that a greater provision of counselling services within the NHS is not just legally prudent. It is essential.
In relation to the endnote, which dates to 2002, a story which claimed that a unnamed woman was planning to sue the NHS for failing to provide post-abortion counselling was covered by several national newspapers, including the Guardian. However these were the only media reports ever made relating to this case and its not known whether the woman changed her mind about suing the NHS, sued but had her case quietly dismissed, or was offered and accepted an out of court settlement.
As regards the press release issued by Nadine Dorries, in addition to her failure to cite the correct name and membership figures for the organisation she claims in backing her amendments, it is entirely clear from Phillip Hodson’s response that…
1. BACP have issued nothing more than a general position statement in response to an enquiry – and Tim is enquiring as to who made that enquiry.
2. That BACP have NOT offered any explicit support for Dorries’s amendment, in fact the statement in  which draws a clear distinction between abortion advice and counselling and which states explicitly that:
BACP has never suggested or implied that organisations like BPAS and Marie Stopes International should stop providing abortion advice or any of their other ancillary services.
…goes entirely against the express intent of Dorries’s amendments, which do seek to prevent BPAS and Marie Stopes International providing information and advice relating to abortion.
BACP is clearly NOT backing Dorries, whose press release is both entirely misleading and ascribes a position to BACP that the organisation has neither taken nor endorsed.