Crunch time for women’s rights today


8:24 am - May 20th 2008

by Sunny Hundal    


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Yesterday in Parliament, MPs voted for allowing scientists to create human-animal hybrid embryos to find cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Today there will be two free votes today:

1. Allowing lesbian couples to conceive children by IVF.
Update: The bigots lost!
Iain Duncan Smith amendment (IVF clinics to consider the need for a father AND a mother): Ayes 217, Nos 292.
Lansley/Simmonds amendment (clinics to consider the need for supportive parenting and a father or male role model) – Ayes 228, Nos 290.

The majorities of 75 and 68 against the amendments means that the era of statutory protection for discrimination in access to IVF treatment is officially OVER. Sweet.
[thanks to Unity for the update]

2. Whether the upper time-limit of 24 weeks on abortions should be cut. It is my view, obviously, that the limit should remain. Laurie Penny has already offered 24 reasons for 24 weeks. Anyone who thinks the limit should be reduced because science has moved on should be shot-on-sight for pretending to understand the science and polluting our brains with their garbage.

Vote will come in around 10-11pm.
Full list of amendments at the end.

– During the debate Edward Leigh (Cons) said: “One of the most dangerous places in Britain is in a woman’s womb.” Tool.- Dorries says people who support 22 weeks are stupid. David Cameron backs 22 weeks!

LIVE COVERAGE

22:15pm Vote under way on 12 weeks (Edward Leigh)… Ayes – 71, Nos – 393, majority against 12 weeks of 322!

– 14 weeks dropped without a vote

22:26pm Vote on 16 weeks (Mark Pritchard)… Ayes – 84, Nos – 387, majority against 16 weeks of 303

Skipped 18 weeks…

22:40pm 20 weeks is up! (Nadine Dorries)… Ayes – 190, Nos – 332, majority 142 against 20 weeks

Quote of night – Dawn Primarolo on Nadine Dorries, “She has asserted many things as fact which are not this evening.”

22:55pm Moved straight on to vote on amendment 6 (see below, disability provisions only)… Ayes – 173, Nos – 309

23:04pm Cameron’s 22 week clause – if we hold here then 24 weeks is safe!

Ayes – 233, Nos – 304

If you’ve ever been to one of my liveblogs – this is Unity, BTW – then you’ll know I have bit of a tradition of throwing in the odd music video to liven things up. If all goes well then expect a bit of classic Lou Reed very shortly…

One more big vote to go – Evan Harris’s amendment to shift the two signature roadblock…

No vote on Evan’s amendment – checking whether this means the clause was dropped or allowed through without a vote!

The Post Game Show…

Can’t tell whether the amendment to remove the two signature rule was dropped or added to the schedule to the Bill – sorry, Act (as soon as I know, you’ll know), but otherwise we got everything else we were hoping for, so all that remains is for the fat lady former member of the Velvet Underground (and Dr John) to sing…

—————————
Other things to note
– An amendment is being proposed to drop the requirement for women to obtain the signatures of two doctors if they want to terminate their pregancy. Hopefully it will be passed. Women should be allowed access to abortion as safely and quickly as possible.

– From the Public Whip website, you can see how the ministers voted on the hybrid-embryos section of the bill. Well done to John Bercow and even Cameron for voting against the majority of their party. However, I don’t understand why Sarah Teather is among the six Libdems who opposed her party. The debate is on TheyWorkForYou

– After this, the Bill will go to the usual committee for amendments on finer details before returning to the floor of the House of Commons for a final vote.

– Who watched the documentary last night on Christian fundamentalism in the UK? As Unity pointed out, one of the main opponents of the HFE Bill, and featured in the programme was Andrea Williams of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship (LCF). LCF is the parent organisation of Christian Concern For Our Nation, which is funding Nadine Dorries’s campaign!

[Here’s the sections featuring Andrea Williams and Nadine Dorries – Unity]

Note: The whole doc is now on YouTube: Part 1, pt 2, pt 3, pt 4 and pt 5
[hat-tip Mediawatchwatch. A review by Bartholomew.When will the bloody MSM make the connection between Christian fundamentalists and Nadine Dorries?—————————
Commentary
– In The Times yesterday, David Aaronovitch rubbished Nadine Dorries and her reasons for reducing the 24-week limit.- Simon Hoggart in the Guardian had this amusing sketch:

“The hon gentleman is trying to blind us with science!” said Edward Leigh, the Tory MP who tabled a motion to ban the creation of so-called “hybrid embryos”. His complaint, directed at the Labour MP Ian Gibson, was met by loud guffaws from other MPs, who had been listening to Mr Leigh for 10 minutes trying to blind everyone with his complete lack of science.

Mr Leigh was unabashed. A scientist had told him that he (Mr Leigh; we cannot speak for the scientist) “was 30% a daffodil and 80% a mouse. I do not believe in my soul that I am 30% mouse and 80% daffodil. I believe that we are special.”

Mr Leigh is a tool.

– The Daily Mail is “outraged“. Good.

Sadie Smith takes apart attempts by Iain Dale and Nadine Dorries to turn yesterday’s loss into a conspiracy theory. Again.

—————————
Amendments

Amendments 1-4 on abortion deal with reductions in the upper limit to 12,14,16,18 weeks and we’re hoping for a no vote on all of these…

Amendment 5 is Dorries’ 20 week amendment and has a clause which tries to prevent abortions on grounds of disability by trying to sneak it an an equality provision tacked on to it- we want another no vote.

Amendment 6 is the abomination of an enforced cooling-off period with anti-abortion counselling clause plus a similar clause on disability and, again, a majority no vote is required.

Amendment 7 is Cameron’s cop out – I will explain later – a reduction in the upper limit to 22 weeks, and that’s another no vote if things go well.

Amendment 8 removes the two signature requirement – we’d like an aye vote on this one.

Amendment 9 is a pisstake/backup clause by Evan Harris, John Bercow and Chris McCafferty for a limit of 23 weeks and 6 days. If the line holds on 1-7 then expect this to be dropped without a vote.

Amendments 10 and 11 are clauses from our side which clean up the legal definition of 24 weeks, which should go through if we carry everything else.

Amendments can also be ‘negatived’ without a vote if the House agrees that its not worth taking them because they have no chance of success.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Campaigns ,Coalition For Choice ,Feminism ,Westminster

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Reader comments


I share your gladness about the Mail outrage.

Does anyone know if (obviously) “pro-choice” MPs like Nadine Dorries will be supporting a woman’s right to choose without getting 2 docs to sign off on her, er, “right” to choose?

3. Matt Munro

Could someone explain exactly what these much touted “womens rights” are – as in what rights do females have that are denied the rest of the population, and what is their legal source ?

“at this point… Andrea decides to turn her microphone off…”

says it all really.

Matt Munro – women’s rights to choose what happens with their bodies.

Matt

Women need access to specific healthcare that men do not. That access has a significant bearing on their lives in the same way biology does. It is not so much a legal source as a biological one.

The fact that over time various people not connected with a pregnancy somewhere have decided that they have a say in what that random unrelated pregnant woman can or cannot do with her own body and her own life means that we wind up with a fight for so called rights.

Rights that in a sane world would not need to become so political were it not for small minded meddling often religious usually obsessive control freaks and curtain twitchers.

I would not dispute that in polarising the issue in other areas eg glass ceilings, salaries, political correctness and all that ridiculous nonsense the very issue of rights has become something of a giant joke. To the extent that the most prescient and essential such as here with vital healthcare access is lost on people and you need to ask that question.

…women’s rights to choose what happens with their bodies. ~ Sunny

What, one that ends a week later? Surely this is not a debate based on rights?

The argument, in this instance, must be made on medical grounds. The opposition, such that it is, is based on interpretation, not one of fundamental rights.

Women’s rights = human rights pertaining to specifically female matters ie in areas of personal sovereignty and differentiated health requirements.

I agree that no right is fundamental (that’s what Ms Dorries suggests), rather that rights are the prize, product and measure of a civilisation.

On the amendment to remove the requirement for signatures from two doctors agreeing to the termination of a pregnancy, I’m not fully convinced that this serves to aid the safety of any procedure, though clearly it speeds up the process. After all backstreet abortions were dangerously unreliable because there weren’t the checks to ensure and enforce standardised procedures were followed and it therefore became an area where profiteers and quacks could operate outside of any control – what checks would act as a replacement?

Women would still be examined to check that the procedure would be medically safe, they just wouldn’t need PERMISSION to seek an abortion is the difference.

Aaron

It’s a debate balancing the rights of the unborn baby with the rights of the woman.

The argument that will strike that balance is based on viability and correctly uses science to determine it.

So no women do not have complete control of their rights in the way Sunny laid out true enough. All the more reason to take the important elements of women’s rights very very seriously and ensure what exist in this respect are properly and fairly debated and never squandered.

alison

I thought it was a debate balancing 20-weeks against 24?

Surely this is a medical one?

Seriously, I’m not a player in this debate, either way. However, Dorries et al have based their argument on – admittedly anecdotal – medical grounds (ignoring their more covert agenda), so to make this about a “right to choice” is setting yourself up for a fall.

There is a limit at 24 weeks. So changing that limit, based on *new* evidence is surely consistent?

If you don’t meet them with medical-based rebuttals, you will look like the fundamentalist, and they the reasoned moderates.

Just my thoughts…

Not quite Alison…

Viability is one way trying to strike a balance and not without its ethical difficulties – ground we covered here a couple of months back.

One can also strike a balance using the least harm principle – if one is to terminate a foetus then one causes the least harm be carrying out the termination before the foetus begins to develop the capacity for conscious awareness, which neurological studies consistently demonstrate is not until it develops mature thalamocortical connections to the subplate at around 26-29 weeks gestation.

The ‘advantage’ to that perspective is that its not susceptible to salami slicing arguments based on claimed enhancements in neonatal survival rate, which rely entirely on developments in clinical practice and medical technology – it gives a stable upper boundary of 24-26 weeks, which the current limit is within and a clear definition of what is required to falsify that position. Provide the evidence to show the capacity for conscious awareness develops earlier than 26-29 weeks and you have ground to revise the upper limit downwards, but not otherwise.

It ultimately a judgement call as to which method you consider the most satisfactory and/or persuasive approach, but viability is not the only approach one can take, merely the one on which legislators and jurists have relied upon in the past in the absence of a detailed understanding of foetal neurobiology, which has only become available relatively recently.

I thought it was a debate balancing 20-weeks against 24?

Surely this is a medical one?

The medical arguments have been debunked already on here. It is being made into a medical debate and then people are being confused by very dishonest arguments. Their true agenda is to ban abortion entirely.

This is why its entirely a debate about principle.

Let’s not argue over the difference between agreement and permission, Jennie – I think two opinions form a good safeguard over the possibility of false interpretation of information (skewed, biased, corrupted or otherwise).

In fact, as a consequence of arguing for the exceptionalism of abortion and wanting to take all instances on a case-by-case basis, I think using medical signatories provides a successful counterweight to balance and offset the intrusion of doctrinal law.

In effect this means that with adequate levels of professional oversight it would be feasible and justifiable to raise the 24 week limit.

Advice and consent?

If you had to have two doctor’s permission for any other medical procedure, I would agree with you, thomas. As it is, this is just one more assertion of state control over a woman’s womb and the contents thereof.

Got to agree with Sunny. On the face of it this would appear to be a medical issue, but ultimately what does the utcome of a 20week victory bring? it’s not a victory for medical intervention given the slight figures of those using the procedure after 20 weeks. All you’ll hear is about how children are being saved that were previously murdered, and it’ll be a big anti-abortion thumb in the eye for those that believe in a womans right to choose.

Status quo now is the only place things can reside without the law being changed ultimately to abortions no matter what or no abortions ever, changes in the middle ground without *serious* changes in medical knowledge won’t serve any good.

Jennie, doesn’t the term ‘second opinion’ cross all areas of medicine?

The whole consideration of the point about pro-abortionists being pro-choice is that it isn’t simply a medical procedure but a question of how it links to social circumstances of the woman involved.

There is a problem in arguing either simple social or scientific/moral points from either side of the divide in that neither is exclusive of the other and that neither the pro-life or pro-quality-of-life camps can avoid confusion over.

Frankly, I feel all legislation is inadequate in dealing with this conflict and therefore the controversy is an inevitable result of popular understanding of law as definitive rather than as an adivisory guideline.

If legislation remains a strict and unbending definition to be enforced then we will remain at the mercy of the predelictions of our political representatives to socially engineer and interfere with our private lives. In my view such attempts at centralised control will always remain a futile and unenforcable invasion that is at odds with our individual and general good.

Personally, I feel this saga provides a specific example of how the biased opinions of partisan interests by politicians demean debate, explaining why frustration, disillusion and apathy remain a constant concern in all areas of policy and why public disregard and contempt for our laws and institutions remains so high.

Oh, and is it reasonable for doctor’s hypocratic oath (the primacy of the patients interests) to be considered subsidiary to the interests of the state?

Doctors are not agents of government, nor should they be.

Aaron/ Unity – I was answering the rights question. If you pitch one set against another which is how its being pitched in this debate, I would have thought viability is the only way to realistically argue that hence the 20 versus 24 weeks. You only have rights if you can exist as a seperate being. That is essentially how it is being argued tonight.

Unity, I don’t disagree with your points about other ways to realign the debate. Of course if the baby is endangering the life of the mother at any point in the pregnancy, the viability and rights argument is already defunct. Something we rarely challenge religious moralists to come down on either side of.

I share your gladness about the Mail outrage.

Yep, me too. It is a good thing.

That Leigh quote possibly wasn’t the most stupid thing he said all night. This was probably the most pathetic, anyway:

‘A lot of attacks have been made on Cardinal O’Brien—“How can this man talk about Frankensteins? We are not talking about monsters.” However, a monster does not have to be big and ugly; it could be a monstrous creation. If an embryo could talk, perhaps they would echo what Mary Shelley wrote in “Frankenstein”:

“I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on.”’

Bill Cash also managed to quote from the Nuremberg Code and claimed it was all a eugenicists’ conspiracy.

Yes! No change to 24 weeks!!!!!!!!

22. Chris Wyremski

Since when was it ‘bigoted’ to propose “the need for supportive parenting and a father or male role model”? Funny that, because that’s a pretty mainstream view, not least among Labour voters.

Why don’t some of you take a short walk around some nearby council estates. Just have a look at the wretched, miserable fatherless swamps that they’ve become in the past 20 years; millions of children, robbed of security and good example, confused (and quite often abused) by the presence of serial boyfriends. Try and imagine what a fatherless civilization might look like on a larger scale. The neglected poor in this country once brought up their children in stable homes but now most of it’s kids are dragged up in non-families frighteningly similar to primitive tribes.

YOU ALL KNOW FULL WELL that all this is one of the main reasons for our massive tax burden. You all know that it is the main cause of the bad behavior that is ruining the schools, You all similarly know that it is a major reason for the upward trend in crime, disorder and public drunkenness that is blighting so much of our country. Mountains of research support all of this and yet it still doesn’t seem to have sunk it to a lot of you people.

And don’t any of you do a Pollyanna Toynbee and try to shift the blame onto material poverty. The same process is underway throughout the social scale. The upper and middle classes can afford to shelter their children from the its worst effect but anyone can see that even they become noticeably loutish and vulgar as well.

Its just astonishing that so many on the left who complained (often rightfully) about Thatcherite callousness, themselves no longer believe that there is such a thing as society. The is NO FUTURE for a country in which fatherhood is no longer considered as being of fundamental importance. Why are so many you incapable of grasping this? Don’t give me any bulls** about ‘moral panic’, we really are falling into an abyss, the poor first and the rest afterwards.

This is sadistic indifference disguised as tolerance. You’re supposed to be socialists! What has happened to the Left? WAKE UP ALL OF YOU, Face these brutal truths!

So banning Lesbians from IVF will reverse all this….

thomas: Jennie, doesn’t the term ’second opinion’ cross all areas of medicine?

1) That generally applies to diagnosis, rather than whether or not to sanction treatment.
2) It is not compulsory to get a second opinion if you (the patient) don’t want one, except it seems, for abortion

By the way, doctors in the UK do not take the Hippocratic Oath. So that line of argument is bunk.

As employees of the NHS, most doctors are the agents of government, and all doctors here just like anyone else are subject to UK law.

Or are you arguing that if the law reduces the limit or outlaws abortion that doctors are totally within their rights to carry them out if they see fit?

“The neglected poor in this country once brought up their children in stable homes”

It was very common among the generations raised during and before the war to find homes with single parents. And yet, the generation sustained itself.

“but now most of it’s kids are dragged up in non-families frighteningly similar to primitive tribes.”

You don’t know any single-parent or same-sex parent families, do you?

“What has happened to the Left?”

It’s supporting equality and civil liberties.

“The upper and middle classes can afford to shelter their children from the its worst effect but anyone can see that even they become noticeably loutish and vulgar as well.”

You can learn about sociology here: http://www3.open.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/social-sciences/sociology/index.htm

“Mountains of research support all of this and yet it still doesn’t seem to have sunk it to a lot of you people.”

And yet you fail to present us with a little hillock of it.

#23 – Planeshift.
“So banning Lesbians from IVF will reverse all this….”

Actually, it’ll reverse all that and more. For one, climate change will be eradicated. What do you care about more, the lesbians or the planet?

It’s funny, I was walking around my (pretty damn working class) home town last week and thought to myself ‘y’know, in spite of the many, many problems, this is still a lot better than it was 10 years ago.’

It’s not that my observation was necessarily wrong, just that I suffer from ‘sadistic indifference disguised as tolerance’…

“What do you care about more, the lesbians or the planet?”

It depends. I’d have to do a cost benefit analysis where I put a value on the millions of lives lost due to climate change, then put a value on the cost of preventing lesbians, before concluding that it is cheaper to let millions die than prevent lesbians. Then when challenged on my calculations retreat to merely arguing for a pigou tax on lesbians.

Just checked the order papers and, unfortunately, the one liberalising measure on abortion – the amendment removing the need for two signatures – seems to have been withdrawn.

I’m guessing that it was felt that had that been up for a vote, there might have been a risk of losing on 24 weeks…

29. Chris Wyremski

Ben Six,

“It was very common among the generations raised during and before the war to find homes with single parents. And yet, the generation sustained itself.”

Yes the war did separate families and undoubtedly weakened family bonds and that’s why the end of the war came as a great relief to everyone. What a rubbish comparison! But no doubt, it will the best you can ever make, because the state of affairs that exists today simply has no precedent. It is only in very recent years that fathers and husbands have come to be seen as unnecessary and men as merely sperm-banks. It is only in the past few decades that British governments have tried to replace the family with the state (and failed at every attempt.)

“You don’t know any single-parent or same-sex parent families, do you?”

Yes I of course I know very many single-parent families, Is there anybody who doesn’t know several? I don’t personally know any single-sex families, but unless you’re either dishonest or bottomlessly ignorant, you’ll recognize that despite the best efforts of the mothers concerned, the life-chances of children in fatherless homes is far worse than those (particularly boys) raised by two married parents. There is so much evidence to support this (Just go to the CIVITAS website) that it takes considerable effort to ignore it. I can understand why you might prefer to ignore it because it might seriously challenge many of your pre-held beliefs. But let millions suffer, so long as you and those with your word-view can retain the sense of your own righteousness and moral superiority. Indeed, if millions suffer, all the better, for they are additional sympathy fodder – the more of their pain you will so compassionately feel!

I daresay that in centuries to come, people will view our age in much the same way that we would view the Dickensian era: a time of mass-neglect and abuse of children. It is because it is happening now, all around us rather than in the past that so many of you cannot see the sheer wickedness of it.

And Neil, so we are materially better off than 10 years ago, what of it? The lives of the poorest are still just as wretched and miserable, social mobility has halted and family breakdown has bred more family breakdown. The brilliant Frank Field MP is one left-winger that clearly understands this, why can’t you?

How much better things might have been if we had not decided to abolish husbands and fathers? It’s almost too painful to think!

It is only in very recent years that fathers and husbands have come to be seen as unnecessary and men as merely sperm-banks. It is only in the past few decades that British governments have tried to replace the family with the state (and failed at every attempt.)

And which government do you suppose did that?

I ask because, if you check the birth statistics for the last 40 years, you’ll find that annual number of children born outside marriage was pretty much static from the mid 1960’s to1979/80 at 20-23,000 a year and its been static since 1987/8 at around 40-44,000 a year.

Guess which government presided over the big increase in the trend for children to be born outside of marriage…

“The brilliant Frank Field MP is one left-winger that clearly understands this, why can’t you?”

Because we’re not idiots like Frank ‘you were supposed to think the unthinkable in the sense of coming up with new ideas, not the unthinkable in the sense of things which nobody could possibly think’ Field. Here is an example of why mentioning him round here might not win you the argument…

“How much better things might have been if we had not decided to abolish husbands and fathers? ”

Bugger. I was hoping at some point in my life to be both a husband and a father. But now parliament has abolished both of them I’ll have to find another life goal.

33. Chris Wyremski

Oh dear Unity – the usual tribal politics again. If you don’t like Labour, you must be Tory (or a ‘Lib Dem’). Why are people incapable of computing that you can dislike both or all three of them? (by the way, I’m not UKIP or Green or BNP or anything else) I have no difficulty in admitting that the Tories are greatly to blame for all this. In their silly obsession with free market economics they failed to grasp that the real war on conservative Britain was over culture, morality, traditional education and the married family.

Now that the ’68 mob have won this war, our society is suffering from many of the nasty outcomes of what were once nice sounding ideas. I wonder how many of those who railed against the ‘patriarchal’ ‘bourgeois’ family really envisaged that it would break down so completely and cause so much sick chaos for those at the bottom of the social scale. I don’t just blame politicians though, I also blame global big business who ignore our private needs and who want mothers out at work within weeks of giving birth, if they can’t be urged to have abortions in the first place.

The people I don’t blame however are the single mothers themselves. Few of them have actively chosen to bring up their children without a father. It’s not their fault that the tax and benefit system, the divorce laws and our barbarous culture destroy so many marriages or discourage so many of them off from wedding at all. They are just as much the victims of this absurd social experiment as anyone else.

But if we really want to do do something serious to reduce poverty, child abuse, criminality and educational failure, we would recognize that marriage needs to be promoted and strengthened. Without married families our country is lost, private life will come to an end and a nation that once governed itself through conscientiousness will have to be run as a squalid police state, ID cards, CCTV etc.. you know what I mean.

Britain can be a much happier place. Don’t we all want to increase the sum of human happiness?

“and that’s why the end of the war came as a great relief to everyone. What a rubbish comparison!”

Appeal to ridicule.

Many homes, after the war, remained – tragically – fatherless. And yet, the nation governed itself well, through conscientiousness indeed.

“But no doubt, it will the best you can ever make”

Bare assertion fallacy

“I don’t personally know any single-sex families, but unless you’re either dishonest or bottomlessly ignorant, you’ll recognize that despite the best efforts of the mothers concerned, the life-chances of children in fatherless homes is far worse than those (particularly boys) raised by two married parents.”

Appeal to ridicule, and base rate fallacy.

You’ve provided no evidence, and I can provide a study from the Canadian Department of Justice, which concluded that “The strongest conclusion that can be drawn from the empirical literature is that the vast majority of studies show that children living with two mothers and children living with a mother and father have the same levels of social competence.”

“nation that once governed itself through conscientiousness will have to be run as a squalid police state, ID cards, CCTV etc.. you know what I mean.”

I think most of us feel that we can govern ourselves without ID Cards, CCTV etc. That’s governmental intrustion, not a kindly leg-up from the state.

“But if we really want to do do something serious to reduce poverty, child abuse, criminality and educational failure, we would recognize that marriage needs to be promoted and strengthened.”

Moving the goalpost.

By giving benefits to married couples, which would promote the values of maintaining a relationship, whatever discord remained in it. Don’t you think that being raised in a sustained but unstable home would be just as traumatic for a child?

“The brilliant Frank Field MP is one left-winger that clearly understands this, why can’t you?”

His belief that Margaret Thatcher “is certainly a hero” was never going to endear him to me.

“But let millions suffer, so long as you and those with your word-view can retain the sense of your own righteousness and moral superiority.”

Ignoratio elenchi

The issue at hand is lesbian couples being able to conceive children by IVF treatment. Denying them this would be to bring inequality and discrimination firmly back into the mainstream. Do you, perchance, remember section 28?

Chris, opinion is split more evenly than you might think, even among Daily Mail readers.

In March this year the Mail ran a story which echoed the Diane Blood IVF story. Blood reitterated the 1990 Act, that what mattered for the purposes of IVF was explicit informed consent to the use of sperm, rather than the continued existence or presence of the father. Mrs Blood subsequently obtained a small Act which allowed her to name the late Mr Blood on the birth certificates, which was previously impossible. The BBC guestimates that about a dozen people a year use that Act. Presumably most cases will be similar to Mrs Blood’s, where the father does not survive medical treatment but has had sperm put aside. The Lisa Roberts story in the Mail is one such, but she has gone public with the story of the child born four years after her husband’s death.
http://tinyurl.com/3eeyox

Of the 19 responses to the story, 12 are unreservedly in favour of Mrs Roberts having IVF regardless of the fact that there is no Mr Roberts. Seven dissent in various measures, asking that one is so against creating single parents, how come she is allowed to do it? The paper itself seems to hold the view that babies are a good thing regardless of the origin or precise family arrangement, which is at least consistent with its anti-abortion stance.

However, when Ms Evans went to the ECHR to try to get permission to use her frozen embryos despite the withdrawal of informed consent of her ex-partner, the Mail was more cautious in its coverage. It responded to the argument that an embryo was a potential person, but it also said that opinion was split as to whether Ms Evans should be allowed to create another single parent family. (Had Ms Evans had some embryos made with anonymous donor sperm as she was advised at the time, she would not have been in this position . Anonymous donor sperm carries on-going consent .) Amanda Platell for the Mail, came out against Ms Evans and in favour of the ECHR.

When the Mail ran a story of a complete dingbat who slept with her ‘sperm donor’ and seemed to think this wasn’t the same as er, having sex with someone you didn’t know very well, the reader response was not what would be expected. About a third spotted the obvious logical problems and health risks, but a surprising number enthusiastically said that the lack of a present and involved father didn’t bother them.
http://tinyurl.com/637yqd

The fault-line which the Mail tries to straddle is that if it either tolerates single parents or it tolerates abortion. It either accepts that some women it doesn’t approve of will be single mothers, or it tells grieving widows that they can’t have IVF. If it wants to make fathers obligatory, it is going to have to refuse hope to some men who are dying and will have to tell them their sperm dies with them. As the readers don’t seem particularly agreed on these positions, the paper will have to keep trying to occupy both ends of the spectrum.

The problem for the Tory party, judging by the well-intended IDS who is on telly at the moment, is that he’s going to have to stop relying on Nadine’s fairy-tale data, get in touch with the real world, think about whether they want to be a state-trumps-individual party, and read the properly researched material which Unity has kindly provided for free. It is unrealistic to expect much of Nadine in the way of serious considered response but the likes of IDS, Eric Pickles* and James Paice are sensible and experienced politicians who seem to have allowed themselves – uncharacteristically – to surf a wave of Mail-type emotion.

*OK, Pickles sometimes goes off on one, but I will show you impeccable Labour voters who backed him years ago at Bradford when he refused to let separatist teaching develop in the city’s schools.

36. Woobegone

“Marriage needs to be promoted and strengthened”

Great! How exactly? How do you plan on reversing the effects of decades of social and cultural change (note – most of it nothing to do with government policy)?

Danivon –

ignoring the generalities, by implication do you mean to say the patient isn’t the prime concern, but that doctors first priority is to promote the interests of their corporate employer?

Being subject to law does not imply that you are an agent of either the state or the government of the day, whereas I daresay Labour may have secreted a new law to that effect onto the stature book in the area of state employees, but if true that would be an embodiment of incoherence, an example of how Labour has failed by creating unstable relationships and would make the NHS a hostage to the fortune of proponents for it’s privatisation.

It is in this I’m trying to point out how our politicians have changed the structure of our politics to the extent that it is no longer to the benefit of people and no longer attempts to accurately reflect reality – whether or not the law fits the perceived views of the majority there will continue to be exceptions to it and even in the extreme case that a prohibition becomes instituted in the future it will not eradicate it, nor will any enforcable sanction aid the safety and security of those involved in the particular instance – whatever it does to mitigate any feelings in participants or bystanders.

38. Rob Knight

Thank god this is all over. If I have to read one more abortion story I’ll, um, be very annoyed.

39. Chris Wyremski

Ben Six, Sunny, V Samuel and Woobegone,
.
Please forgive me for slightly straying from the topic in question. The reason this article caught my attention was its rather intolerant tone. I know that this website belongs to Sunny Hundal and he can therefore write whatever he likes but I should be grateful if he would retract his rather imprudent allegation; that those who supported the Duncan-Smith and Lansley amendments were ‘bigots’.

Bigots are people who despise lesbians and gays for being homosexuals, or who despise black people because of their skin colour. The best thing about the Left is that unlike a lot of conservatives it has always come down extremely hard on such poisonous people.

Now no civilized person would hold that private homosexual acts between consenting adults ought to be an offence. But I’m afraid that beyond this, there can be many areas of disagreement amongst reasonable citizens. For instance, there are many tolerant people who find exhibitionist public displays of homosexuality – or heterosexuality – quite distressing and hurtful, and yet outrageously in 2006, a group of firemen were demoted and disciplined for refusing to witness a “Pride Scotia” carnival – an explicitly partisan demonstration.

Similarly, good people can disagree over the effects of a child being brought up by a same-sex couple. Ben Six, thank you for drawing my attention to the Canadian study, I read the report and its conclusion is unambiguous, though here is one dissenting article on the study which may interest you. Make of it what you will:

http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2004/apr/040428c.html

Now (and I am specifically addressing Sunny here), the most important point is that same-sex adoption is a “new phenomenon which entails great uncertainty” and therefore one ought not to accuse those with a differing opinion of being bigoted.

I don’t want Sunny to remove me for ‘trolling’ so I won’t go further into the separate issue of single mothers. Ben Six and Woobegone, I hope you will patiently read over some of the CIVITAS studies on this subject. Here are the links if you haven’t done so already:

http://www.civitas.org.uk/pubs/experiments.php

http://www.civitas.org.uk/pdf/taxCredits.pdf

http://www.civitas.org.uk/blog/2008/05/marriage_in_modern_britain_out.html

(And Woobegone), Interestingly the last article disagrees with the Tories’ (and my) assertion that marriage needs incentives but it is critical of Labour’s neutrality on the issue. Hardly a partisan report. We can discuss the issue further when the topic arises at a later date.

Chris

Thanks for the links, Chris. The initial site is clearly a tad partisan – “emphasizes the social worth of traditional Judeo-Christian principles” – but I’ll endeavor to study it nonetheless. There are other studies here* and here** should you wish to challenge your beliefs.

Nice talking to you.

* http://www.apa.org/pi/parent.html
** http://www.aclu.org/images/asset_upload_file130_27496.pdf

Chris, continually quoting the extremely socially conservative think tank Civitas is not going to impress anyone on this site. Before stating that a study is authoritative, it’s prudent to know the biases of those conducting it. Civitas is guilty of continually conflating correlation with causation in order to further its’ conservative agenda.

Don’t take ANY study at face value. Question. Always wonder if they started with a conclusion and looked for the evidence to support it, ignoring the evidence against (as Civiitas, and for that matter IPPR on voting systems, quite regularly do) or if they started with a question and looked for an answer, as one should do with proper research. Then you might find your mind opening a little bit.

42. Chris Wyremski

Jennie,

Why is CIVITAS “extremely socially conservative”? Because it dissents from the PC orthodoxy that marriage is unnecessary? How reactionary! And how is one to know decidedly whether any study ‘started with a conclusion and looked for the evidence to support it’ Why don’t you post a link so that I might read a detailed rebuttal of the report?

I never take anything at face-value and I have just been considering a 74-page document which took the liberal position on homosexual adoption. Don’t accuse me of having a programmed mind because I happen to disagree with you.

Chris Wyremski @29 That the war was over in itself was a relief, the consequences of the war (such as family breakdown) are entirely secondary to that, and it ludicrous for you to suggest that we would be happy for any war to be continuing were that to result in fewer family breakdowns.

I think you need to get your priorities straightened out.

“Why is CIVITAS “extremely socially conservative”?”

I don’t know, why don’t you ask them?

However, having googled YOUR name and discovered a little bit more about you, I find that you are the kind of socially conservative wanker who finds Civitas a little bit too liberal for your tastes, and I do not have time to bash my head against the brick wall of your prejudices.

Have fun.

45. Woobegone

Chris,

You are still far from convincing me that marriage either can be or should be a political issue. Do you really want a society in which the government (in effect) pays people to get married? And more importantly, do you think that would actually work? There is much more to society than government, and just because you think people ought to be getting married doesn’t mean that there is anything you, or anyone, can do to make them do that.

Jennie,

Goodness I’m on Google so I’m famous – I’d better watch what I say. Shame you don’t have time for my brick wall, you could have bashed some sense into yourself. As for my being a wanker, well yes even social conservatives beat-off sometimes. I like to use a good photo of Phyllis Schlafy in her anti-ERA days.

Thomas, thank you for the correction.

Woobegone,

Youre quite right, there is only so much the government can do. Though you seem to think that our government is benevolently neutral. That simply isn’t the case, as this BBC article will show:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4192601.stm

And from the ‘Times’:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article620735.ece

So effectively the tax and benefit system actively encourages single parenthood. Obviously, if you heavily subsidise something, you are certain to get much more of it. Now if this thing is generally detrimental, you would of thought our government would have changed this policy. But it hasn’t. ((I always feel compelled at this point to mention that some, indeed many children from lone-parent families turn out just fine and that many such families do not choose that life-style))

Now, statistically, the more women adopt this way of life, the greater the disadvantages for children’s development in virtually every way. (you have yet to accept this premise though) As for the fathers, the state has absolved them of any duty towards their children. The state is now the breadwinner. The father is therefore free to use his wages like pocket money, for treats, booze and entertainment etc.. I personally know a pathetic, 36 year old adolescent who lives in this fashion. (not me by the way)

But back to your point about there being much more to society than government. People behave in this irresponsible way not only because they see it as economically practical but also because they believe that such behaviour is morally acceptable. And this, I believe, is an idea that for many decades has been peddled by the British intelligentsia and those in positions of political and cultural authority – much more rigorously here than anywhere else in Europe. I think that in our country at least, there has been a very fateful alliance between Right-wing libertarians who believed that consumer choice provided the solution to every social question and the libertine Left who believed that men have no duties but only rights. Thus, people have a right to spawn children in whichever way they please, How men and women associate and have children is just a matter of consumer choice, of no real moral significance.
So essentially I think it’s the libertine attitudes themselves more than any actual social policies that is the main reason for why our country has worse rates of social pathology than anywhere on the continent. We’re now world leaders in public drunkenness, hooliganism, criminality, VD, CCTV and countless other dreadful things. And I really think it’s heartbreaking for a country that was once admired for its civility. Left-wingers though, still think they can blame all this on ‘Thatcherism’. The truth is that Thatcherism only worsened matters, but it wasn’t the cause. The real problem is that a free people have to be a moral people based upon strong family and neighbourly bonds. These ties have been eroded for decades.

So in this regard, there is a limited amount that a government can hope to achieve and I don’t expect anything to change significantly for the better at any foreseeable time. I hope that the CIVITAS study is right in that marriage is merely beyond people’s reach. For now though the government could radically reduce its mad subsidies. I really do think this is one of the most important issues facing our country and I think is too much complacency over this. The costs in terms of crime, drug abuse, welfare dependency, educational failure and social disorder are calamitous and I am sure that within a few more generations it will end in total national failure and bankruptcy.

I badly want to continue this discussion but unfortunately I have several more exams to revise for. I hope we will talk again soon. Thank you for your time.

Hey Chris,

I think the real question here is why is it bad to be a single mother? You obviously have a clear prejudice against that particularly family unit that would seem to be rooted in good reason, and I don’t deny that figures would certainly suggest that greater benefit means making it easier for women to be single mothers. But as I asked before, why is this a bad thing?

I am not sure I agree with what I take to be your perspective, that of a family without a father (and I’m going to assume by that you mean a second parental figure?) being intrinsically wrong or bad…

“Now, statistically, the more women adopt this way of life, the greater the disadvantages for children’s development in virtually every way. (you have yet to accept this premise though) As for the fathers, the state has absolved them of any duty towards their children. The state is now the breadwinner. The father is therefore free to use his wages like pocket money, for treats, booze and entertainment etc.. I personally know a pathetic, 36 year old adolescent who lives in this fashion. (not me by the way)”

What I would question is how many of the single mothers we have in this country would actually prefer to be with the father of their child? Is it the just thing to do to tell a woman that if she wishes to raise a child on her own then she must either get with the father and stick with him or suffer greater hardship than a “traditional” family…something that surely cannot help what I believe we all accept is a situation where children of single parents have a tougher time reaching their potential? Conversely is it fair for the father to be tied to a woman in any other form than financial for a situation that could have been completely out of his control?

Obviously you’ll see I can’t quite see how good it is to tie individuals together “for the good of the child”, mainly because there is no study or evidence that I know of that shows properly that families that are together solely for their child is as good for the child as a harmonious family, or that it’s better than a single parental unit.

So I guess where that would leave me is in accepting that benefits are up, and not necessarily being too bothered about rising single parent figures (also because of two factors, the first being just how much of a “family” the single parent can provide while being “single”, and second just how much of the reformed child benefit system is included in figures which will, of course, include the payments of fathers to their offspring). So what I would ask is that seeming we’d both agree that single parenthood is on the rise because of it being “easier” to be one, shouldn’t we instead look at ensuring that the prospects for children of single parents are equal to that of a child from a “traditional” family unit, rather than expend energy trying to set women and men up together against their better judgement or wishes?


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