The Life organisation was appointed this month to the new panel, which replaces the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV. In contrast, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) has been omitted from the forum despite its position on the previous group.
Ann Furedi, chief executive of BPAS, said: ‘We are disappointed and troubled to learn that having initially been invited to the sexual health forum we have been disinvited, particularly now we understand that Life have been offered a seat at the table. ’We find it puzzling that the Department of Health would want a group that is opposed to abortion and provides no sexual health services on its sexual health forum.’
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘To provide balance, it is important that a wide range of interests and views are represented on the Sexual Health Forum. Marie Stopes International and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service have similar interests. We offered them shared membership but they declined, and after careful consideration we concluded that it was not feasible to invite both organisations.’
Stuart Cowie, Life’s head of education, said: ‘We are delighted to be invited into the group, representing views that have not always been around on similar tables in the past.’
This news has had some pro-abortion liberals up in arms.
So why did invited Anne Milton, the Public Health Minister, invite a group which opposes the very existence of an abortion law to sit on this panel?
It is difficult not to see this latest move as part of a mission creep of government being opened up to faith-based or pro-life groups.
This is a very serious cause for concern. It is crucial that women considering abortion receive objective advice. The state should facilitate that — not thrust them intot he hands of interest groups. Around 20 per cent of women seeking abortions at BPAS clinics decide not to proceed with a termination following the counselling they receive, indicating that they are by no means pushing abortions to their clients.
It is vital that pro-choice and sexual health campaigners stay alert to this thread in government: both legislative changes pushed by Tory MPs such as Dorries and Field, and the increasing influence of faith-based groups. Otherwise there is a very real risk of serious retrograde steps being taken on the crucial issue of sexual health.
I find this line of argument rather disturbing. Is the New Statesman suggesting that no-one who opposes the current law of the land should be invited onto a Government panel exploring an issue? That’s like suggesting that those who want the law changed as regards conducting Civil Partnerships in religious premises should be barred from any government policy group discussing that issue. What a ridiculous assertion.
Methinks Samira Shackle, Jane Martinson et al should accept the fact that their pro child murder viewpoint is not the only one viewed as acceptable by this government and this society.
Update : The Christian Medical Fellowship says pretty much the same thing as me. Now all we need to wait for is Ekklesia to come out opposed to the appointment of LIFE and we’ll all be pretty clear that having LIFE on the Government’s panel on these matters is a good thing.