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Transparency in Pregnancy Counselling

From the background section of the Senate Committee Minority Report:

The aim of Transparent Advertising and Notification of Pregnancy Counselling Services Bill 2005 (to be referred to as 'the bill' from here on after) is to regulate pregnancy counselling services to prevent misleading or deceptive advertising or notification of pregnancy counselling services.

On the recommendation of the Selection of Bills Committee, the bill was referred to the Community Affairs Legislation Committee for further examination into the adequacy of the legislation in improving the regulation of pregnancy counselling services. The Committee was also required to determine whether counselling provided by Government funded pregnancy counselling services is objective, non-directive and includes information on all three pregnancy counselling options.

This bill does not discriminate against any particular pregnancy counselling service, whether anti-choice or pro-choice.

It is designed to implement the necessary regulatory measures to prevent the misleading and deceptive advertising of pregnancy counselling services. It will not force services that have a philosophical opposition to abortion to refer women to termination clinics, but as the legislation clearly sets out, it requires these services to advertise if they do not provide that particular service, so women can be fully informed.

The Minority Report points out three major areas of misinterpretation of the Bill, each of which is detailed and refuted.

Misinterpretation 1: Bill forces pregnancy counselling services to refer for abortion
The legislation simply does not "force" pregnancy counselling services to refer for abortion. It does require services to be upfront about whether or not they offer or advise on all three options to women seeking advice.

Misinterpretation 2: Bill forces counsellors to participate in an "illegal act"
As this bill does not seek to change counselling behaviour, merely how they advertise that behaviour, if they are not acting illegally now it is impossible for them to act illegally by continuing their current behaviour.
If so - called "pro-life" pregnancy counselling services are proud of their stance, then advertising that they do not refer for terminations should not be an issue.

This bill is not a debate about the legality of abortion it is about providing women with upfront information about the services that they are contacting for pregnancy counselling.

Misinterpretation 3: Bill favours Pro-choice pregnancy counselling services
The minority reports take:

When questioned on how the bill would "favour" only pro-choice pregnancy counselling services, Festival of Light claimed:

Because it would provide penalties only for those pregnancy counselling organisations which do not directly refer for abortion and no penalties for agencies like the Pregnancy Advisory Centre in Woodville which does not provide ongoing support for women who want to continue their pregnancy.

In response to this accusation, Senator Stott Despoja stated:

If they advertised as a non-directive counselling service and they failed to provide those three options, you bet I'd be happy and they would be guilty under this legislation! It applies across the board
There's quite a bit more, and the so-called Majority Report (signed by 3 Senators) recommending against adoption of the Bill is fascinating reading of rhetoric informed by an anti-choice agenda, incorporating nearly all the misconceptions outlined in the Minority Report (signed by 6 Senators) above.

Full Senate Committe reports on this bill here


Don Quixote said...

With the exception of, perhaps, creationism and general anti-science sentiment, that there's still an anti-abortion movement is the thing that most despairs me about this world. The issue is just such an obvious grab at women's sexual freedom. Just look at the way the "conscience" votes split in parliament. And I still to this day can't figure out how women's sexual freedom could be anything other than a good thing for men as well as women.

Most days we act as if we'd but recently swung from the trees...

tigtog said...

I hate the way they assume all pro-choice women are anti-motherhood. Hello? Most abortions are performed on women who already have children and are concerned about the financial impact on their families of another child. It's a fantasy that there are oodles of single women happily traipsing off for yet another abortion because they don't want kids.

Thank Blob for vasectomies, say I.

TimT said...

VERY big difference between creationism and anti-abortionism. One is a flawed scientific theory, the other is a moral position. I'm pro-choice myself, but ignoring anti-abortion advocates and they will just strengthen their position.

I reckon the attitude taken by a lot of anti-abortion advocates is 'whatever it takes', even if it comes to hassling women outside of surgeries, bla bla bla. Which I suppose - given the importance they give to their moral position - is understandable, but still not right.
I'm not a big fan of the Democrats, but Despoja and the gang seem to be on the right track here.

Anonymous said...

I'm all in favour of the Bill, but I'd also like to see more flexibility in the availability of counselling services. At the moment pregnancy counselling services are offered to women, and blokes can come in for a quick chat at the end. Essentially, so that women can make their mind up with the counsellor and then announce their decision. Having raised a generation of feminist sons, I think Australia is ready to acknowledge that (while making a decision is still ultimately up to women because we bear the physical brunt of pregnancy, abortion, birth, and breastfeeding, and the attendant difficulties with work and education) blokes who are married to, or in committed relationships with pregnant women, need to talk through the issues too.

When we were looking for someone to talk to, and to help us talk to each other, we couldn't find them. We figured it out by ourselves. It wasn't that the counselling services didn't want to provide what I was asking for, just that they aren't funded to do so, and it doesn't fit in their guidelines.