49 years on, and abortion funding is shrouded in secrecy
Posted by Alithea Williams on 27 April 2017
Today marks the 49th Anniversary of the 1967 Abortion Act coming into force, six months after it received royal assent. Since then, over 8 million babies have lost their lives to abortion, and countless numbers of women and families have been damaged.
It is always important on these awful anniversaries to pause and remember the lives lost and people hurt. However, it is also important to keep questioning the legislation that brought about this dreadful situation, and how the government of the day is dealing with the issue of abortion, as well as the support given to mothers in crisis pregnancies.
This is exactly what Fiona Bruce MP, a staunch advocate for the unborn in parliament, has been doing. Yesterday and today, the answers to a number of written questions she put to the Department of Health (and one to the Department of International Development) were published. They make for some interesting, if disturbing, reading.
How much is spent on abortion?
The most simple question Ms Bruce asked of the Secretary of State for Health was "how much his Department has spent on providing abortions in each of the last five years"? Given how much scrutiny there is of government spending generally these days, you'd think that's something the department would want to be on top of. The question of abortion funding is especially controversial, as in 2011, it was found that costs were £30 million higher than thought. However, the only answer given was "information about expenditure on abortions is not collected centrally."
When asked more specifically "how much has been spent from the public purse on the provision of abortions by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service in each of the last five years", again the answer was "this information is not collected centrally". When asked how much was allocated to BPAS, either directly or through contracts, the answer was fuller but no more illuminating: "The Department has not allocated any funding directly to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. Information on contracts held by clinical commissioning groups with independent abortion providers is not collected centrally."
So the Department of Health can't, or won't, tell us how much taxpayer's money is being spent on abortion, nor how much is being given to the two organisations that profit most from it.
How is it being spent?
If we don't get to know what funding goes to Marie Stopes, with its appalling safety record, or BPAS, which is hardly much better, do we at least get to know what it's being spent on?
BPAS in particular has been very vocal in campaigning for the decriminalisation of abortion, through its We Trust Women campaign. This question therefore seems particularly reasonable and important: "To ask the Secretary of State for Health, whether public funds given to private abortion providers is ring-fenced for services only; and what steps his Department has taken to ensure that surplus made from such services is not used for lobbying to change the law on abortion." Again, the question was completely dodged. "Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are responsible for the contracting of independent sector places to perform termination of pregnancy. Information on contracts held by CCGs is not collected centrally." The Department then does not know, or claims not to know, whether taxpayers money is being spent to undermine the existing law, by the people who most stand to benefit from it.
What alternatives do abortion clinics offer?
Ok, an easier question. "What alternatives to abortion are offered by clinics which provide NHS-funded abortions when providing abortions which are so funded"? Finally, one they can answer! "The Department does not directly fund services that provide advice on unplanned or crisis pregnancies. The Government’s Framework for Sexual Health Improvement in England (2013) sets out that women considering an abortion should be referred or signposted to services which provide impartial, accurate information and, if required, counselling on the full range of options available to women." Oh, so you don't really know. And are the impartial services you refer to the ones provided by BPAS and Marie Stopes? Ms Bruce also asked what funding had been allocated by the Department itself for offering alternatives to abortion, and received the exact same answer.
To conclude, 49 years after the 1967 Abortion Act came into force, the Department of Health doesn't know or won't say how much money is being spent on abortion, can't guarantee that the profit making organisations that receive the funding aren't spending it on political lobbying, and have no information on what alternatives to abortion are being offered. As we head into a general election, let's all do our utmost to elect pro-life candidates who not only ask these questions on abortion, but pledge to do something about it.