We have reached a crucial moment in the history of abortion in our country

Baby ScanEvery now and then I’m keen to offer the opportunity to younger writers to voice their opinion on a current issue that has been making the headlines. Today’s post has been written by Edward K. He is fresh out of school and will be starting a degree course in history at university next year. Edward has an interest in the relationship between Christianity, history and politics.

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Abortion was legalised in England, Wales and Scotland in 1967 with the intention of reducing the amount of disease and death associated with illegal abortion.  The Act provided a defence for Doctors performing an abortion when there was a risk to the physical or mental health of the woman. But could any of those who voted for the act have had any idea of the actions of doctors we now find our legal system condoning?

When The Daily Telegraph released video footage of two doctors approving abortions on the grounds of gender, much of the nation reeled in shock.  But what was perhaps even more shocking was the decision made by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) not to prosecute.

Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC said: “This was a very difficult and finely balanced decision.  It was based on the individual facts of the case; it is not a policy decision.”

That may well be true, but such a verdict has the potential to lead to very damaging political consequences.  David Burrowes, a pro-life Conservative MP, made the observation that the CPS’ decision is a failure for British foreign policy.  He pointed out how hypocritical it is that we “tell China and India that it is wrong to abort baby girls, but the CPS has concluded that it is legal to do it here.”  Talk about pointing out the speck in another’s eye, whilst not noticing the log that is in one’s own eye.

In response to the CPS’ decision, an editorial in The Daily Telegraph said: “We are seeing the meaning of the law being stretched to the point where it bears little resemblance to what is written in the Act.”  In other words, it has been stretched to the point where we no longer just have abortion on demand, but selective abortion too where a doctor can agree to terminate an unborn baby’s life purely because of its gender. In the law’s eyes if a mother considers that their unborn child will be a hinderance that is sufficient reason to have it terminated. We already know that 92 per cent of women who are told their child may have downs syndrome opt for a termination.

The Act has lost so much value as to have become virtually meaningless and instead has become an excuse to execute a modern form of eugenics.

Dr Peter Saunders, head of the Christian Medical Fellowship, said: “Doctors have now become abortion’s chief perpetrators and are being given a free hand to carry it out in Britain on an industrial scale”, “without proper regulation and without fear of prosecution”.

The recent scandal is merely a climax of a trend that can be traced all the way back to the legalisation of abortion in 1967.  Prior to 1967 the Courts permitted abortion only when the mother’s life was considered to be endangered.  Since the passage of the Abortion Act 1967 the number of abortions has continued to rise to unacceptably high levels and have more often than not been procured for trivial reasons.  In 2011 there were 723,913 births and 189,931. That means that for every four births, there was one abortion. It has reached the point where some pro-choice campaigners such as Ann Furedi, Chief Executive of British Pregnancy Advisory Service, openly advocate abortion on the grounds of sex selection.

Coming back to the CPS judgement, the Attorney General Dominic Grieve said he was satisfied that the CPS’ decision had been made “properly and conscientiously”. I accept that it was made independently and in light of the evidence at hand.  All the ruling has really done though, is shed light on the loopholes and weaknesses that have been in our legislation for years.  We have reached a crucial moment in the history of legalised abortion in our country.  Now that we have the undeniable proof that our current legislation is inadequate, do we acknowledge it, or do we stick our heads in the sand having swept the ethical issues under the carpet? A proper public debate on the lines that should be drawn regarding abortion has been long overdue.

If one was to repeal the 1967 legislation this would ensure that the life of the unborn child receives legal protection, whilst recognising that there are strictly limited conditions in which abortion may be preferable. Even for those who disagree with this opinion only the ignorant or callous can surely believe that our current abortion laws are fit for purpose.

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Categories: Abortion, Morals & ethics, The law & legal issues

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16 replies

  1. Excellent article Edward – really like the link you made to foreign policy. Both China and India have created major demographic and social problems for themselves through selective abortion, inter alia this will exacerbate human trafficking. I agree that abortion should be restricted to only the most extreme circumstances. As a member of a political party, a party which prides itself in protecting the vulnerable, it is really difficult to get traction on this and to speak up for the most vulnerable of all, the unborn child.

  2. I am glad that this subject is getting aired more and more. Cranmer’s blog has been speaking about the insanity of our abortion law for over 5 years, as has Peter Ould, but the government, both then and now, seem happy to let things slide as they might actually have to come down off the fence and make a decision that will anger a sizable number of people, whichever way it went.

    The really sad thing, as echoed in this article, is regarding our foreign policy. But it’s not just China, but in Europe as well. People speak about the liberality of drugs in Holland, or the euthanasia clinics in Switzerland, but when you look at the limits we set on when a child can be aborted around the continent we see the following:
    France 12, Germany 12, Italy 12, Belgium 12, Bulgaria 12, Denmark 12, Czech Republic 12, Greece 12, Hungary 12, Luxembourg 12, the Netherlands 13, Poland 12, Slovakia 12 and Sweden 18 (taken from Cranmer’s blog http://archbishop-cranmer.blogspot.co.uk/2008/05/abortion-do-we-need-24-weeks-22-weeks.html)
    We do abortions all the way up to 24 weeks!

    Add in the recent case of Kermit Gosnell and we see that the US is also highly culpable, because neither their government nor ours are willing to speak seriously about the travesties being carried out on those who are weakest in society, who do not have a voice on what fate may be brought upon them.

    I should say that I am not completely against abortion, the health of the mother as a result of the physical stress from giving birth being the main issue for me, but the West (or at least their governments) seem to value life about as much as a WW1 general!

    • Agree with all your points. We are clearly insane in allowing abortion up to 24 weeks (this is clearly infanticide!). At least as a first step limit it to 12 weeks (although Liz lists all sorts of reasons for permitting abortion, I believe that what we should do is address the underlying issue, thereby obviating any “need” to abort). Hey, I am not some right-wing fundamentalist Christian – I am a Christian who loves life, respects women and rejoices despite all the pain and suffering in this (wonderful) world.

  3. “I should say that I am not completely against abortion, the health of the mother as a result of the physical stress from giving birth being the main issue for me, but the West (or at least their governments) seem to value life about as much as a WW1 general!”

    If that is your position, then there are no grounds on which you can oppose abortion. This is what people haven’t grasped. There are many reasons why a woman might not want to go through childbirth – her partner might be abusive, unsupportive or absent. She and her husband might be in debt. She might be single and broke. Her parents might be threatening to throw her out. Her family might be angry that it’s a girl when they already have three girls and they wanted a boy. The baby might be disabled and is going to require a lot of sacrifice to take care of. Perhaps the pregnancy was unplanned and doesn’t fit into the woman’s career. Perhaps she was raped (although it’s a bit of a myth that all women who are raped want to have an abortion). Perhaps she’s been forced into prostitution. Perhaps she was one of the small percentage of women who has a failed sterilisation.

    How can you say to one of these women ‘you have to go through all the stresses and physical changes of childbirth against your will’, but to another that she does not? How can you say to one woman ‘your clump of cells is more important than your feelings’ and to another ‘this is just a clump of cells’?

    The fact is, you can’t.

    • This post gives an interesting perspective on some of those circumstances you have mentioned above:

      http://the-body-politic.org/2013/02/17/does-the-right-to-choose-automatically-empower-women-by-alison-davis/

    • – her partner might be abusive, unsupportive or absent.
      There are organisations set up for dealing with this. Police perhaps?

      – She and her husband might be in debt.
      There are things called condoms, the pill, the coil and various other methods of contraception if they can’t afford to have a child.

      – She might be single and broke.
      Either her fault for having unprotected sex without a committed partner or unfortunate that her relationship broke apart after she got pregnant (though you’d think that you’d know if a relationship wasn’t working before having unprotected sex), but don’t see this as a good reason (it’s not even a good bad reason!) for abortion.

      – Her parents might be threatening to throw her out.
      Shame on them, but that’s no reason to kill a child!

      – Her family might be angry that it’s a girl when they already have three girls and they wanted a boy.
      Double shame on her parents! Still no reason though.

      – The baby might be disabled and is going to require a lot of sacrifice to take care of.
      What child doesn’t?!

      – Perhaps the pregnancy was unplanned and doesn’t fit into the woman’s career.
      Oh, I forgot about this one! Clearly a career comes before caring for a child, how silly of me! I refer you to my second response.

      – Perhaps she was raped (although it’s a bit of a myth that all women who are raped want to have an abortion).
      So far this is the only potentially acceptable reason, from the mother’s perspective. Hard to argue against when looking at it from her perspective.

      – Perhaps she’s been forced into prostitution.
      Answer 2 potentially fits, but again you are talking about it in emotive terms that a simple yes/no answer can’t do justice to.

      – Perhaps she was one of the small percentage of women who has a failed sterilisation.
      How small is the percentage? Are women told about the possibility of sterilisation failing?

      Above all with these “reasons” you have neglected to deal with the BIGGEST issue:
      How is this any fault of the child?
      Did the child rape the mother? Did the child suggest unprotected sex in an unstable relationship situation? Did the child tell the mother that sterilisation would be 100% guaranteed?
      Every child, created at the point of conception, deserves to be given the chance at life, whether that is to be with the mother and father or given up for adoption if the mother/parents can’t cope. And if people are too careless with their contraception then maybe this will teach them a lesson in taking precautions.
      Then again, given how so many people seem to treat sex nowadays it is entirely possible that they will forget and carry on as normal!

      • I wasn’t necessarily saying I agreed with these reasons, but these are the reasons that women tend to have abortions and I don’t see why sex selection is any greater an evil than many of the other things on this depressing list of abuse, betrayal and technological failure. What I’m a bit confused about is what you mean by “the health of the mother as a result of the physical stress from giving birth being the main issue for me”. Going through nine months of pregnancy and then childbirth followed by sudden loss of hormones and possibly postnatal depression is always going to take it’s tole, even when the pregnancy is planned. Either you think this is a good enough reason to abort or you don’t.

        “- Perhaps she was one of the small percentage of women who has a failed sterilisation.
        How small is the percentage? Are women told about the possibility of sterilisation failing?”

        Last I heard it’s 0.01% failure rate, and, yes, as in any operation, the patient signs a form saying that she understands that there’s a small chance the operation might go wrong and she won’t hold the hospital liable. I personally know a woman this happened to. It was very stressful on many levels – not least because for the first few weeks she thought she might have some terminal illness because she couldn’t understand where the symptoms were coming from. She didn’t have an abortion, but she had to give up work. Her friends weren’t very supportive. They were not interested in babies anymore and were getting on with their careers. Everyone was just shocked that she could be pregnant when it wasn’t part of the family plan at all.

      • “- her partner might be abusive, unsupportive or absent.
        There are organisations set up for dealing with this. Police perhaps?”

        Yes, there are shelters etc. where abused women can get help, but sadly many women in these violent situations end up being murdered by their partners. Often the woman is having the abortion because she doesn’t want to bring another child into this awful situation where the partner is also abusing the children.

        “- She and her husband might be in debt.
        There are things called condoms, the pill, the coil and various other methods of contraception if they can’t afford to have a child.

        – She might be single and broke.
        Either her fault for having unprotected sex without a committed partner or unfortunate that her relationship broke apart after she got pregnant (though you’d think that you’d know if a relationship wasn’t working before having unprotected sex), but don’t see this as a good reason (it’s not even a good bad reason!) for abortion.”

        According to crisis pregnancy centres most women who have abortions have tried to the best of their ability to use contraception. Either something’s broken or they’ve made a slip-up – like not taking the pill at the right time of day or forgetting one day. Very easily done if you’re having sex regularly.

      • Sorry, misremembered my statistics. I think the number of failed sterilisations is something like 1 in 300. 1 in 200 according to this NHS leaflet http://www.wwl.nhs.uk/Library/All_New_PI_Docs/Audio_Leaflets/Gynaecology/Female_Sterilisation/FT2_female_sterilisation.html

        Perhaps the moral of the story is that, if you really don’t want to have children, you should get your husband to go and get snipped!

  4. Actually, I left one off the horrendous list. Incest. What about incest?

    • The response “How is this the child’s fault” still applies.

      Also, regarding your comment about forgetting, surely the fact that unprotected sex can lead to pregnancy is the consequence that you have to deal with properly, kinda like you have to deal with the consequences to driving under the influence or many other things that you can’t just go in and have an abortion-equivalent to fix it

      • Then I have to ask again, what do you mean when you say: “I should say that I am not completely against abortion, the health of the mother as a result of the physical stress from giving birth being the main issue for me.”?

        • Simply if the mother is at risk of dying due to the actual process of giving birth.
          All other “reasons” have other potential solutions that don’t involve killing an innocent baby when not having sex or proper protection were perfectly possible.
          And those that don’t fall into this description (rape, incest etc) should always remember that the decision is not just that of 1 person, but 2.
          I wonder whether we should look to have all abortion clinics providing legal counsel to speak on behalf of the unborn child, given that it can’t speak for itself and the mother has a conflict of interests?

      • OK, but these cases are very rare and I don’t know of any country where a doctor would be prosecuted for saving the mother’s life, even if the baby dies in the process. If the mother’s body can no longer carry the baby, the doctor will do everything possible to save both, so I don’t think I’m being technical here when I say that this isn’t actually an abortion – especially in the later stages when there might be a real possibility of saving both.

        The purpose of an abortion in the proper sense of the word is to kill an unwanted child. These life-threatening cases are brought up by pro-choice organisations to confuse and distract people and to scare women into thinking that their health is at risk. In reality, Ireland and some of the other countries with very strict anti-abortion laws have some of the very best women’s health care and the lowest maternal death rates in the world. So there is no correlation between liberal abortion laws and maternal health.

  5. Sighhh… Another male pontificating on what women should and shouldn’t do with their own bodies.

    ‘… only the ignorant or callous can surely believe that our current abortion laws are fit for purpose.’

    That’s your entire position right there, isn’t it? You just want to see the Act repealed (correct me if I’m wrong). Why didn’t you just write that and save yourself the time? The rest is just casuistry.

  6. Abortion is murder; there is no other way to look at it. It would be murder to kill a live child already born, so why is an unborn child different. People who don’t want their children can give them up for adoption.

    Most abortions are illegal, even under current law and rely on doctors lying that a woman’s mental health would be affected. Distress at an unwanted baby, for whatever reason should not be lying labelled a mental health issue. Worse things happen!

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