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ss triple helix - autumn 2000,  No Information is Unaffected by Bias

No Information is Unaffected by Bias

The Family Planning Association has issued a new six-page booklet, Abortion - just so you know, that aims to help readers understand more about abortion. But does it? The text is clear enough. It is sometimes entertaining, supported by semi-humorous sketches. It gives statistical information, like the number of terminations in the UK (180,000 pa). It tells how to diagnose and confirm a pregnancy, explains the options for contraception, and describes the various methods of termination. Feelings after abortion are discussed; it even says that the best way to avoid pregnancy is not to have sex.

It does many things well but there are limitations. First, readers might assume from this booklet that their GPs will not be helpful. How useful is that? Then, the cartoon presentations of people who disagree with abortion (pages 2 and 3) are unpleasant. Why was it necessary to lampoon those with whom the publishers disagree? Parents are presented being upset at the news and this is the normal teenager's expectation. In reality, however, they often respond more positively.

More seriously the booklet makes only passing mention of alternatives such as continuing with the pregnancy. Women's views on abortion can change when they become pregnant (page 6). It should also be pointed out that those who have strong views against abortion and then have one may well have difficulties coming to terms with it later on. The booklet is weak on the question of where to seek advice after abortion. Some sources of help are listed but these are heavily biased towards the provision of abortion.

The FPA wants doctors to declare their hand (p16) which is fair enough (and many practice brochures do) but it only implicitly states its own bias by its membership of 'Voice for Choice'. The FPA surely owes it to readers to explain this clearly. Better still would be an honest admission that no source of information is unaffected by bias. Both pro-choice and pro-life orientated sources of help should be listed with a clear indication of the camp in which they belong.

Everyone has a view to impose on the poor pregnant girl. Who's on her side?

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