Feminist Leslie Cannold doesn’t like this policy. In an Age article, she argued that counselling should not be aimed at supporting women to continue their pregnancies, but should simply foster the goal of female autonomy. She wrote:
There is one key feature that attaches to all legitimate counselling: the commitment to fostering a woman's autonomy. At the heart of all ethical medical practice, you will find the key value of autonomy, the Greek root of which means "self-rule". Why? Because only people free to direct and govern their lives according to their own values are recognised by others as having what Australian philosopher Robert Young describes as "the dignity that moral agency bestows".
This view is, of course, the standard liberal one. It is the idea that we have dignity as humans because of a freedom to choose our actions according to our own individual will and reason. In other words, what really matters in terms of moral choices is self-rule or autonomy.
Note that all that liberals care about is that we are self-directed according to our own values. This, in their opinion, is sufficient to create a human dignity. My values could be anything at all, but as long as they are mine and I am free to enact them, I am fulfilling my moral status as a human.
This is not the traditional view. Traditionally, it was thought that humans had been granted a free will. This free will was an aspect of human distinctiveness, and even of human dignity. It was not, though, something which needed to be asserted as a moral aim in itself, as it was a fixed possession – something given to us which could not be rescinded.
The fulfilment of our moral nature as humans was not, therefore, simply the existence of free will. It was the use of this will to choose what was morally right and to do so even when our own worldly interests suffered as a consequence.
There is an interesting article in City Journal by Theordore Dalrymple on this very theme. The article is about the novel A Clockwork Orange, written by Anthony Burgess.
Burgess imagines in this novel a scenario in which humans actually lost free will – in which they could be conditioned by the state to act as the state desired. For Burgess, such a scenario would undermine the possibility of genuine virtue because,
A good man, in Burgess’s view, had to have the ability to do evil as well as good, an ability that he would voluntarily restrain, at whatever disadvantage to himself.
This view of morality is much closer to the traditional one than to the modern liberal version outlined by Leslie Cannold. It does not make self-rule the object of morality, but instead understands morality in terms of a capacity to choose rightly or wrongly (free will) but in which the moral aim is to discipline the self to act according to an objective good.