(Editor's note: Changes title from UK Service Helps Men Deal with Abortion)
London (CNSNews.com) - A British organization that performs 50,000 abortions a year has produced an information pamphlet aimed at men whose partners are ending a pregnancy.
Although men have no legal rights whatsoever when it comes to the life of the baby they helped conceive as long as it remains in the womb, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service has identified a need to help men handle abortions too.
But pro-lifers here called the initiative a "cynical ploy" that would ultimately encourage more men to pressure women into having abortions.
BPAS said it was "the first abortion service in Europe to produce a leaflet ... especially for the male partners of women having abortions."
The leaflet, "Men Too," was produced after a BPAS survey on men in London found that 63 percent thought there was insufficient information for men about abortion.
Its aim is to explain to men what happens at the abortion clinic, addressing some of the questions men have raised with BPAS staff. The organization said about two-thirds of women who visit its clinics are accompanied by a man, usually the partner or a male relative.
In the survey, 74 percent of respondents said they would support their partners' decision to have an abortion, 11 percent said they would not, and 13 percent were unsure.
"Men have no legal rights when it comes to abortion," said BPAS spokesperson Ann Furedi. "Legally an abortion is a matter between a woman and her doctor, and this is as it should be. Having said that, it makes sense to help men feel as comfortable as possible about the issue."
Furedi said men sometimes had questions they were too embarrassed to ask, and it was hoped the new leaflet would address them.
Nicky Davies, who manages a BPAS clinic in Richmond, west London, said that while staffers' first priority has to be the women clients' "safety and confidentiality," there were times when they made "every effort for their partners to be included - if this is what the woman wants."
The pro-abortion Family Planning Association said it welcomed "all initiatives to support communication between couples."
But Paul Tully of the pro-life Society for the Protection of Unborn Children saw the initiative in a very different light.
"The abortionists appear to be reacting to the growing public perception of abortion as an injustice to men," he said.
"Fathers are denied not only the chance to defend their unborn child, but even the right to know of the child's existence. The more tragic fact is that many men abdicate responsibility for their child or pressurize the mother to abort."
Another pro-life group called Life, which runs care centers across Britain, said it was not surprised most men in the BPAS survey said they supported their partners' decisions on abortions.
"This puts the responsibility firmly back on the woman, " said Life spokesperson Nuala Scarisbrick. "It is a cop out."
"Our experience at Life has taught us that many women long for their partners to say that, as a couple, they will cope with an unplanned child," she said. "But sensing their lack of commitment, they are left stranded and feel they have no other choice other than abortion."
Scarisbrick challenged the "cozy picture" it said BPAS painted of "couples in caring and supportive relationships" making abortion decisions together.
In Life's experience, she said, women often resented their partners after the abortion for not being stronger, with the likely outcome being the end of the relationship.
"This is a most cynical ploy by a well-known abortion provider to disguise the hurt and broken relationships that more often than not are the result of abortion."
Scarisbrick said men who were really interested in "choice" would take the time to ask their wives or girlfriends what they really wanted, "and have the courage to state their views too."
"A leaflet such as this amounts to nothing more than permission for men to cop out," she said. "It will result in more men putting more pressure on more women to have more abortions."
Abortion was legalized in Britain in the late 1960s. In the past 30 years, men have challenged in court their partners' decisions to have abortions on three occasions. All three cases failed.
In the most recent case, a 24-year-old salesman failed in an attempt to have a court prevent his former girlfriend from aborting their baby.
The law stipulates that an abortion is a matter purely for a woman and her doctor. Abortion clinics do not disclose any details about a consultation - or even the fact it took place - to a third party without the woman's decision.
Abortion is not a major issue in British electoral politics, and despite pro-life inclinations of some leading members of the opposition Conservative Party, the matter is considered a private one, with members given a free vote if the subject comes up in parliament.
Since the 1967 Abortion Act was passed, nearly five million babies have been aborted in the UK.