Friday, May 28, 2010

First Reply from abortion provider: Debate, circulate.

I've just received a very courteous and gracious reply from Tony Kerridge, Senior Communications Manager (Press and Public Affairs)Marie Stopes International to my questions.

Here's the full text:

Dear Mr Gilbert-Smith

Thank you for your email and your honesty.

As I'm sure you will appreciate, as the senior manager in charge of MSI’s media activity around this advertisement, the past two weeks have been particularly hectic and pressurised.

I want to respond to your 20 questions, and I want to do so properly. In order to do this, I will need a little time, as the answers in this debate are never ‘yes’ or ‘no’, or black and white.

I am not in the office on Tuesday next after the bank holiday, so will pick up on these on my return.

I hope this is ok for your schedule. I wanted you to know that your questions will not be disregarded.

Regards.

Here's my reply...


Dear Mr Kerridge,

Thank you very much for you kind and swift reply. I would much rather that you replied in a careful and nuanced fashion than quickly in a way that would cause more heat than light, so I am most grateful to you for taking time to answer. I am also thankful for your commitment not to disregard my questions.

I shall delay writing any articles until I have received your reply. Though I will be saying a few words this Sunday, in representing the position of Marie Stopes I shall not say anything about you that is not on your website.

I am away for next week on a family holiday, so will not receive the email until the following week.

Looking forward to your reply.

Very sincerely,

Mike Gilbart-Smith.
 

Twenty questions for an aboriton provider who wants the taboo removed

Marie Stopes International has this last week paid for the first TV advertisements for abortion in the UK. The advertisement looks as if it is directly pregnant women to an independent helpline.

Marie Stopes have said that they hope this advertising to move the UK away from the taboos surrounding abortion. I hope at least that one effect of the adverts will be to have an honest debate about abortion.

In order to help with this debate, I've written to Marie Stopes asking 20 questions that I didn't find answers to on their website.

Here's my email... I'll publish the response if and when I receive it.


Dear Tony,

I’m writing as a pastor of a church who is going to be addressing the issue of abortion in my teaching and in some upcoming articles in the light of your recent advertising. I want to make sure that I would not be misrepresenting you in any way at all, though I should make clear to you that I do believe that abortion, and particularly providing abortion is immoral.

However, I also want to be as courteous as I can with those with whom I disagree. I do not want to assume bad motivation for what you are doing. I understand the arguments of wanting to provide “safe” (obviously for the mother and not the baby) abortion when your fear is that if “safe” abortion were not provided, then back street abortion would inevitably be sought. The compassion you show to mothers I believe to be genuine, but misplaced.

I do happen to agree with what I heard a Marie Stopes spokesperson say when she was hoping that there would be a removing of the taboo about speaking about abortion. I too hope that this taboo will be removed so that there can be an honest public debate about abortion.

To contribute to this debate I hope to write some articles about abortion and about Marie Stopes in particular. There is much information on your website, but there were some questions that I didn’t find answers to, which I would be very grateful if you’d answer.

I must also be clear that intend to distribute your answers.

If you would rather meet in person to have a face to face conversation, I would also be very glad to do that.

(I will use the term “mother” for the pregnant woman). Feel free to exchange the term for “Pregnant woman” if you would prefer that term, or to use another term of your choosing.

1)      When speaking to a mother will you always make it clear exactly what help is available to mothers who decide to keep the baby.
2)      What ongoing support do you offer to mothers who decide to keep the baby?
3)      Do you always ask mothers if they are feeling pressurised into having abortions from others (e.g. boyfriends, husbands, parents, or the general expectations of society)?
(Several women whom I have spoken to who have had abortions have told me that they felt immense pressure that in a society where abortion is legal, there will be people telling them that having an abortion is “doing the right thing” and that it is irresponsible to have the baby.)
4)      Do you always suggest to mothers that it is never irresponsible to carry a baby and give birth once they are pregnant?
5)      I’ve noticed in your FAQ’s that in more than sixty questions there is a lot of information about abortion, but there is no information on the development of the foetus. Do you think that the developmental stage of the foetus should be a factor that a mother should be informed about in order to have adequate information in making a decision as to whether to have an abortion?
6)      I understand that you must legally have a sonographic scan before an abortion is carried out. What details from that scan will you always communicate to the mother so that she might make a correctly informed decision?
a.      Will you always tell the mother the estimated age of the foetus?
b.      Will you always tell the mother what this corresponds to in terms of development?
c.       Could you outline the detail that you would go into as to the development of the foetus, with the following being a suggestive rather than an exhaustive list?
                                                              i.      Will you tell the mother whether there is a heartbeat?
                                                            ii.      Will you tell the mother whether the child has a brain?
                                                          iii.      Will you tell the mother whether the child has a limbs and fingers and fingernails?
                                                           iv.      Will you tell the mother whether the child has ears eyes and a nose?
                                                             v.      Will you tell the mother which internal organs of the child are functional?
                                                           vi.      Will you tell the mother the gender of the foetus if that is discernable?
d.      If you don’t volunteer that information do you always ask the mother if she would be interested in knowing the facts about the foetus’ development in order to help her make her decision?
7)      Do you have a policy in training staff that they avoid the terms “baby” or  “child” in reference to the foetus?
8)      Do you have a policy encouraging staff to use the term “pregnancy” instead of “foetus” or an equivalent term that would point to the fact that there is an organism other than the mother involved in the pregnancy?
9)      Do you have a position as an organisation about when a human embryo/foetus becomes a human being?
10)  Do you think that it would be morally acceptable to provide abortion even if you believed the foetus was already a human being?
11)  If infanticide were legalised in some country, would you offer that as a service?
12)  What is the minimum time allowed for a proper counselling session to look through all possible options before going ahead with an abortion?
13)  How much did the NHs pay you last year to carry out abortions?
14)  Do you think that there is any conflict of interest in Marie Stopes providing advice on whether a mother should have an abortion when Marie Stopes is paid for providing abortions?
15)  In order to get your email address I phoned the 0845 300 80 90 number. Will my call automatically be counted in your statistics as being from a woman who called for advice but didn’t receive an abortion?
16)  If a woman calls your line twenty times, will they be “counted” on your statistics of the number of women you’ve helped once or twenty times?
17)  If after an abortion, the baby (I assume we can now use this term without controversy as she is outside the womb) shows some signs of life, do you have a policy stating that the medical personnel present should act to resuscitate? Do you have a policy saying that they may not act to resuscitate?
18)  Would you carry out an abortion if the stated reason given by the woman was that she wanted a boy, and this foetus is a girl?
19)  If asked would you carry out a selective abortion in order to remove the healthy girl from the womb and leave the healthy boy in the womb?
20)  In your five abortion clinics in China, what proportion of those who are aborted are girls?

Thank you so much for your willingness to answer these questions. In removing the taboo from conversation about abortion I trust that you are wanting honest, open  and informed debate. I hope that you taking the time to answer these questions will add to the honesty and help to remove the taboo from the abortion conversation.

Perhaps if you want to add to the honesty of the debate you’d also be happy to post the answers you give on your own website?

Many thanks,
Sincerely,

Mike Gilbart-Smith

Friday, May 7, 2010