Friday, 20 September 2013

Trusting women is the right choice for politicians of all parties

This is a post by our Chief Executive Ann Furedi in advance of our fringe events at Labour Party conference in Brighton on Tuesday 24th September at 12:45pm, and Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Monday 30th September at 1pm. Both events are open to all and not just for those attending the conferences.

State support is vital to family life. Women, especially, know this. Without access to reliable, affordable childcare, women can’t work. Without access to contraception and abortion women, can’t plan to have the number of children they want, or when to have them. Without access to good schools, women can’t ensure that their children will get the education they need. We all need social resources to draw on, and the more impoverished, excluded and disadvantaged we are, the more support we may need. But our need for resources does not confer a right or an obligation to meddle in the personal decisions we choose to make for ourselves and our families.

Today, some politicians and policy makers seem to assume that people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, can’t be trusted to do what is right. And so increasingly policies are introduced that ‘nudge’ people towards what appropriate professionals decide are the ‘right’ choices, and away from the ‘wrong’ ones. This causes problems: what seems to be a quick-fix policy to influence behaviour can turn into a short-cut to calamity for individuals.

British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) runs clinics and advisory centres that provide counselling and care for more than 60,000 women each trying to avoid or manage problem pregnancies. We see the impact of playing politics with people’s personal decision-making when it impacts on their sexual and reproductive health.

We see young women pregnant because their doctors, encouraged by targets intended to increase uptake of long-acting (super-effective) methods of contraception, have persuaded them to accept an implant which they didn’t really want and, having had it removed, are reluctant to go back for the (less effective, but good enough) pills they preferred.

We see new mothers pregnant because healthcare workers have exaggerated the contraceptive effects of breastfeeding in the drive to encourage women to resist formula feeding.

We see women pregnant unintentionally having become convinced they are infertile after  being subjected to exaggerated accounts of the risks posed by common infections, such as chlamydia, by campaigns trying to  scare them into ‘sexual responsibility’

We see the fallout of initiatives to deter heavy drinking in pregnancy that advise pregnant women to avoid alcohol altogether in the belief that women are unable to gauge their own alcohol consumption: women so terrified they have harmed their fetus they consider abortion.

We suffer interference from a few politicians convinced that women are incapable of making informed, personally-intelligent choices about whether to continue their pregnancy without the involvement of an ‘independent’ outsider to counsel them.

Women need evidence-based information on which to base their choices. Our message this year to politicians of all parties is this: tell people the naked truth and trust them to make decisions for themselves. When it comes to reproductive choices women are the ones best placed to make their own decisions, from what contraception she uses to prevent unwanted pregnancy to how she gives birth to a much wanted baby. Trusting women is the right choice for all of us.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The fertility "clock strikes 12" at 35

Today there has been another wave of articles generated from the latest “fertility time bomb” warning from reproductive scientists. However, we are concerned that these admonitions are issued in a way that completely ignores the reality of women’s lives and the very understandable reasons why women are choosing to have children later in their thirties. 

In our experience there are many factors which lead women to delay starting their families into their thirties. Career pressures may be among them, but this is often closely related to women wanting financial security before having a baby, and indeed their own home. The importance of being in the right relationship is for many women paramount, as few want to take on the responsibility of parenthood with a partner they are unsure about.

We also need to be wary of overstating the risks of later motherhood. If anything many women now overestimate the difficulties of getting pregnant after the age of 35 - we see many women in this age group with unplanned pregnancies after taking chances with contraception because they believed their fertility had declined dramatically. We need to work harder to understand the reasons for later motherhood and not scaremonger or stigmatise those who make the rational and considered choice to delay starting their families until they are ready.

The Politics of Motherhood - bpas fringe events at Labour and Conservative Party Conferences

This year, we will be holding events at Labour and Conservative Party Conferences looking at the politics of motherhood.

Women's decisions about when they should have children, how they should have them and what they should do when they do have them seem increasingly subject to public scrutiny. What role can policymakers play in supporting women's choices and how far can they go?

All are welcome to join bpas and our panel to explore the politics of motherhood today.

Both events are outside the secure zones so you do not need a conference pass to attend.

Labour Party Conference

The Politics of Motherhood : Are Labour doing enough to support women's choices?

12:45pm, Tuesday 24th September
Gresham Suite, The Old Ship Hotel, Kings Road, Brighton, BN1 1NR
Refreshments provided

Speakers include: Kate Green MP, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities
                            Clare Murphy, bpas
                            Emma Burnell, Scarlet Standard blog
                            Glosswitch, New Statesman
                            Scarlet Harris, TUC Women's Equality Officer (Chair)

Join the event on Facebook event here

Conservative Party Conference

The Politics of Motherhood : Are the Conservatives doing enough to support women's choices?

1pm, Monday 30th September
Richter Room, Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel, Peter St, Manchester, M2 5GP
Refreshments provided 

Speakers include: Claire Perry MP
                            Ann Furedi, bpas
                            Eleanor Mills, Sunday Times
                            Jennifer Howze, Brit Mums
                            Cathy Warwick, Royal College of Midwives (Chair)

Join the event on Facebook here

If you have any questions about either of the events, please email katherine.o'

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Jeremy Hunt should concern himself with real issues facing women needing abortion care, not fabricated ones.

The Crown Prosecution Service, CPS, has announced that it will not be prosecuting two doctors accused of agreeing to arrange abortions on the basis of gender and released a detailed statement explaining their decision. In response, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the decision was "concerning" and has demanded "urgent clarification." 

However, it is hard to see how pursuing these cases would serve any public interest, not least given that both incidents were the result of a sting operation organised by anti-abortion newspaper. In our experience, the only women requesting abortion on the basis of gender alone are undercover journalists. 

Recently collated figures by the Department of Health show the UK's gender ratio is well within the normal boundaries for a population. We would suggest that the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has asked for "urgent clarification" of the decision not to prosecute, concern himself with real and pressing issues facing women needing contraception and abortion care rather than fabricated ones.