Big Debate: Is a local abortion clinic a vital service for women?

Around a year ago, a British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) centre opened in Stratford offering emergency contraception and abortion services to women in the local area.

Ever since it opened, the clinic on Romford Road has seen regular protests from churches, faith groups, and pro-lifers in front of its doors.

A couple of weeks ago, a second group of medical students, doctors, members of the British Medical Association and pro-choice campaigners opposed them for the first time.

This week’s Big Debate takes those protests off of the streets and on to our pages with leaders from both sides defending their demonstrations and discussing whether having a local BPAS clinic is beneficial to women in east London.

After you’ve read the Big Debate, have your say in our online poll.

In last week’s online poll - ‘Some Tube and bus fares are to increase in the New Year to pay for further investment in the services. Is this the way to pay for improvements?’ - 67 per cent of readers voted no and 33 per cent voted yes.

Dr Anna Livingstone, Tower Hamlets GP and member of the British Medical Association

Most Read

Sadly, in 2012 we still need to fight for women’s rights to healthy lives.

I’m just back from an inspiring march of the people of Lewisham – multi-ethnic, women, men, children, pensioners, hospital workers, thousands braving rain, saying no to closure of maternity wards and A&E.

As a doctor, and a woman, I felt humbled by marchers’ accounts of births and lives saved by their hospital. Pregnancy, childcare and contraceptive rights are core to the human fulfilment.

One such right is choice of safe abortion. Recently we heard the shocking news of the death in Ireland, of Savita Praveen Halappanavar, whose wanted pregnancy started miscarrying.

In distress, she asked repeatedly for an abortion. The doctor told her it was illegal in Catholic Ireland. The baby’s heart stopped and her womb was surgically emptied, but she died of infection.

Worldwide, five million women are hospitalised and more than 200,000 children orphaned following unsafe abortion, mostly in poor countries.

Women’s rights are under attack here in Newham, through regular pickets of Stratford’s BPAS clinic by the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child.

I was at school when abortion on health grounds was legalised. Women and gynaecologists told of horror before that. Desperate, young, old, single, married, impoverished, abused or raped, women often did not dare admit to illegal backstreet abortions or using knitting needles and poisons. Some died. Many bore scars, including infertility.

Nearly 200,000 women a year in England and Wales now have safe legal abortions, mostly before 10 weeks. The 1967 Abortion Act was a great advance in our rights to control our bodies, protecting lives, health and wellbeing of women and families. We mustn’t turn the clock back.

Alan Craig, former leader of the Christian People’s Alliance and east London pro-life campaigner

Afriend called one of the big two private abortion providers to ask about a termination.

The first question they asked was for her postcode. The second was for her credit card details.

The abortion companies weep crocodile tears of sympathy for women in a pregnancy crisis but, like tobacco companies, their real interest is in increasing their cash flow and market share.

So they offer no proper pre-abortion counselling to their vulnerable but valuable clients as this would take time, cost money, and lose them business.

And they protest loudly against those who insist that women in crisis should be given the space and support required to make a properly informed choice between the different alternatives available – for her unborn baby, for her family, for herself and for their future together.

Nationally, London has become the abortion capital of Europe and Britain terminates the equivalent of a full primary school of unborn children every single day. It is far worse than a cull; it is a holocaust.

We have wiped out almost the population of greater London – over seven million abortions – in less than 50 years.

We worry about our ageing population yet we kill off our kids. Where is the logic, let alone the compassion?

So I welcome the rise in peaceful vigils – and only peaceful vigils – outside abortion centres like BPAS in Stratford. I have taken part in them there myself.

Some, like Abort67, silently display pictures of aborted babies’ bloodied body-parts which are intended to show clients and passers-by the shocking human cost of abortion.

Others like Helpers of God’s Precious Infants and 40 Days For Life simply pray against the tragedy of abortion. May God answer their prayers soon.