That Dorries thing…

Below is the letter I sent to my MP, and I submitted an excerpt to CiF. Not sure if I’m brave enough to face the trolls though, should I stick it in the comments thread or not? I really think we need to ‘come out’ about abortion, and sexual health in general. No more taboos!

Anyway, here’s the letter:

‘The Department of Health’s proposed changes to access to abortion are entirely unnecessary and will be harmful to women.

The current service works well, and I know from personal experience with Marie Stopes in Brixton that all options are discussed in a caring and confidential manner.

The argument that BPAS, Stopes and others are profit-motivated and cannot be trusted to give impartial advice is entirely untrue, and runs counter to Lansley’s current ‘any qualified provider’ proposals for the NHS. This is an attack on women’s rights – so hard fought for -by a tiny minority of MPs.

A surprise pregnancy can be a devastating shock for a woman, and when she is in such a vulnerable and emotional state, receiving support and unbiased advice are crucial. Adding another step into the process by forcing her to go to a separate counselling service before being able to seek an abortion will deter some from acting at all. At best, it lengthens the process, when all scientific evidence shows that the earlier a termination is done the safer it is.

I got pregnant at 36, having been careful all my life to use contraception. Sometimes it fails. I know that I never want to have children, and as an educated woman, was already fully aware of the options and knew that abortion was right for me. Even so, I was surprised at how vulnerable I felt, and the mixture of emotions running through me. Guilt, fear, anger, sadness. I was so relieved to receive non-judgemental care; it really made the experience much easier to bear. I have no regrets, and I am glad that I had the abortion. It was the right thing to do.

Abortion is not for everyone, but I worry that if this amendment is passed, vulnerable young girls will be given misleading advice, and emotive language will be used to steer them towards keeping a baby that they are (for whatever reason) unable to commit to caring for. This is an unacceptable burden for the woman, the child, and society. Particularly at a time when the current government is pursuing a brutal program of cuts that disproportionately affect women. This is pure hypocrisy.

I don’t know how I’d feel if I’d been cajoled into becoming a single mother, having to make use of the welfare state to supplement my income. I paid for my abortion privately, knowing that the money would be used to improve women’s access to sexual health advice and care around the world, which actually helped me to feel better.

I have looked into the information provided by Care Confidential and Life, and their stance is obviously (if subtly) biased towards keeping the baby. Even the news section on Life’s homepage is anti-abortion (http://bit.ly/pRPrnt) A recent report in the Guardian showed these organisations’ competence to be substandard, and the advice given misleading, often by unqualified counsellors. (http://bit.ly/q4Sq2E)

The current service works well. There have not been any significant complaints that I am aware of from women who actually use these services. But the government has already excluded BPAS from their newly-formed sexual health forum in favour of Life, a Christian pro-life charity.

The current government is slowly chipping away at our rights, without a shred of evidence to support their actions.

A better way to reduce the admittedly high abortion rate in this country is to educate more and make access to contraception as easy as possible. We know that abstinence education fails to prevent teen pregnancies, and 2 out of 3 pregnancies in the under 16s in the UK ends in a termination (http://bit.ly/r4Udnz) . Bush’s federal funding of abstinence education in the US was a disaster (http://bit.ly/quKyZh). Education given at school stays with you throughout life and so would bring down the abortion rate in all age groups. Prevention is better than cure. Let’s educate our young people properly so that abortion and counselling are not the main issue. Let’s invest in a TV campaign. The last one was very pretty, but not very effective. The scary AIDS adverts I saw as a young teen in the eighties certainly worked for my peer group.

Dorries and Field are lobbying very hard to undo all the good work that has been done for women over the last century. They are coming from an ideological rather than evidence-based standpoint. I hope other MPs lobby even harder to prevent them from eroding my rights and those of women who are younger and/or more vulnerable than me.’

(Sorry for crap linky badness. Am in Thailand on iPad. Not ideal.)

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Right to reply – Bluewashing

Just window dressing

I didn’t really want this to be my first post, but perhaps it is appropriate. On 4th December 2010 I went on my first UKuncut action in Brighton. I was kettled outside Topshop for nearly four hours and then threatened with arrest if I did not give my details. I complained that this was a breach of the Data Protection Act, and that the policing on the day was wholly disproportionate to events. Caroline Lucas MP was extremely supportive and instrumental in progressing this complaint on my behalf.

Here is the response I received from Sussex Police:

Dear XXXXX,

I am writing in reply to your email to Caroline Lucas MP regarding the policing of the “Top Shop” demonstration in Brighton  on Saturday 4th December. Your e-mail has been recorded as a complaint against police, direction and control matter; reference number BHD/323/10.

All parts of the policing operation have been considered and reviewed by Detective Chief Inspector Jason Taylor, of Brighton & Hove division.

The senior officer at the scene believed serious disruption to the community was taking place, and also suspected a further breach of the peace was imminent, and accordingly used powers under 14 of the Public Order Act 1996 and Common Law to move the protestors to designated point adjacent to Top Shop (Marlborough Street) in order to both facilitate  the protest and allow Top Shop to re-open for business.

Your e-mail refers to your details being taken under Section 50, and being filmed by the Police Evidence Gathering Team.  Deployment of the EGT had been authorised by the senior officer at the scene, and their use at this stage was to evidence police making the requirement to demonstrators to supply their details under section 50,  particularly as the behaviour of some was non – compliant at that point. There is no specific requirement for officers to issue any notice to persons who provide their details under section 50, however
notwithstanding this, the same details would have been recorded by other means such as
pocket note book. The information obtained under section 50 is subsequently recorded
electronically and weeded after seven years. The fact that your details have been recorded in such a way does not constitute any form of formal police record, and would not be disclosed externally.

This video footage and your personal details are not cross-referenced, and the database
which you allude to does not exist. Sussex Police currently store such video footage for a
period of seven years, however this process will be reviewed in light of recent judgements regarding retention of footage by the Metropolitan police service, and your complaint.

Having reviewed the notes of the senior officer at the scene and officers involved, we are satisfied that police actions were both lawful and proportionate.  Unfortunately, no protestors had  engaged police to discuss their plans, which required a more robust and cautious approach for the policing operation, which was unfortunate, but necessary. We do believe appropriate measures were put in place to facilitate peaceful, lawful protest, balancing that with the rights and freedoms of the wider community.

We value your feedback, and all correspondence we have received, positive and negative, is
noted and considered for the planning of such operations in the future; specifically in your
case regarding the retention of EGT footage, and the issuing of notices under section 50.

Yours Sincerely,
Inspector L. Essex,
Strategic Support Unit,
Police Station,
John St,
Brighton,
BN2 2LA.

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