Trust women: our Charter for Choice
Ann Furedi on why we should trust women to make reproductive choices.
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) has launched a Charter for Choice, because we believe that people can, and should, make reproductive choices for themselves without interference from politicians and policymakers.
No decisions are more personal and private than those about whether or when to have a child and how our children should be born and raised.
Decisions about reproduction are decisions that affect our bodies, our lives, our families and our future. Yet, increasingly, the women at the heart of these decisions are treated like children: incapable, untrustworthy, and in need of supervision.
Access to birth control is regulated, not according to what the authorities know is safe, but what they think is ‘right’. To get the ‘morning-after pill’, which is less risky than even the regular pill (certainly safer than aspirin) and sold alongside tampons and condoms in the US, a woman in Britain must have a special ‘consultation’ with a doctor or pharmacist.
UK abortion law criminalises women and medical staff who end pregnancies, unless their reason meets legal approval. Safe abortion pills used by women at home the world over are legal only in clinics in the UK.
Women who want to be mothers are preached at and issued with dumbed-down health advice rather than facts to inform their own judgements. Those in need of assisted conception, if they can afford treatment, have their lives scrutinised to make sure they are socially fit for motherhood.
Our Charter for Choice is informed by different principles:
- Reproductive decisions are a part of adult life;
- People can, as a rule, be trusted, and do not need supervision to make choices about parenthood that people have been making privately for generations;
- The future of a pregnancy should be a matter for the pregnant woman, and her behaviour is a matter for her, no less than before she was pregnant.
When a woman becomes pregnant, she does not become less capable of rational thought than before. She is not less capable of reasoning. She is just as able to consider what is right for her and those around her. And, crucially, her body is still her own — and so is her life and all that humanity accords her.
And so, at bpas, we respect pregnant women as the capable, competent individuals that we are. This charter applies these principles of respect and trust. We ask you to stand alongside us and those we represent and care for. We ask you to work with us to bring about the policies and services that will serve them best.
Our charitable status charges us to provide legal services for women’s benefit and to provide education about their circumstances. It has been three years since bpas was proud to be a founder signatory to the London Declaration of Pro-Choice Principles. This charter is our contribution to that international effort to advocate women’s moral autonomy and bodily integrity.
Ann Furedi is the CEO of bpas, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.
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