How MPs voted on abortion, and other points


4:41 pm - May 21st 2008

by Sunny Hundal    


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A few things to note
– Two of the Emily’s List MPs, Celia Barlow and Kitty Ussher voted to reduce the limit to 22 weeks.

– George Osborne, Conservative MP and shadow chancellor, voted to keep the 24 week limit. Well done to him.

– A special thanks should be written to the MPs Evan Harris, Chris McCafferty, John Bercow and Dawn Primarolo for their unwavering support for 24 weeks.

– I have an article today on CIF on Christian fundamentalists and abortion.

Tom Freeman reckons that a Tory majority of 38 week in the next election would make it possible for them to reduce the limit next time.

How the MPs voted
27 Conservative MPs support keeping the 24 week limit (listed below), compared to 237 Labour MPs. The Liberal Democrats are nearly split down the middle (a bit shameful for a liberal party isn’t it?) What were Simon Hughes and Sarah Teather playing at?

You can see all votes in this division, or every eligible MP who could have voted in this division

Tory rebel MPs. If one of these is your MP, email them to congratulate them

Name Constituency Party Vote
Tony Baldry Banbury Con no
John Baron Billericay Con (minister) no
John Bercow Buckingham Con no
Paul Beresford Mole Valley Con no
Crispin Blunt Reigate Con (minister) no
David Curry Skipton & Ripon Con no
Stephen Dorrell Charnwood Con no
James Duddridge Rochford & Southend East Con (minister) no
Philip Dunne Ludlow Con no
Edward Garnier Harborough Con (minister) no
Robert Key Salisbury Con no
Julie Kirkbride Bromsgrove Con no
Greg Knight East Yorkshire Con no
Jacqui Lait Beckenham Con (minister) no
Ian Liddell-Grainger Bridgwater Con no
Andrew MacKay Bracknell Con (minister) no
John Maples Stratford-on-Avon Con no
Anne McIntosh Vale of York Con (minister) no
Patrick Mercer Newark Con no
George Osborne Tatton Con (minister) no
John Penrose Weston-Super-Mare Con no
David Tredinnick Bosworth Con no
Andrew Tyrie Chichester Con no
Peter Viggers Gosport Con no
Theresa Villiers Chipping Barnet Con (minister) no
Bill Wiggin Leominster Con (minister) no
George Young North West Hampshire Con no
Tony Baldry Banbury Con no

Labour and Libdem MPs who voted to reduce the current abortion limit. Email them to express your disappointment

Name Constituency Party Vote
Celia Barlow Hove Lab (PPS) aye
John Battle Leeds West Lab aye
Stuart Bell Middlesbrough Lab (minister) aye
Joe Benton Bootle Lab aye
David Borrow South Ribble Lab aye
Des Browne Kilmarnock & Loudoun Lab (minister) aye
Ronnie Campbell Blyth Valley Lab aye
Tom Clarke Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill Lab aye
David Crausby Bolton North East Lab aye
John Cummings Easington Lab aye
Tony Cunningham Workington Lab (minister) aye
Claire Curtis-Thomas Crosby Lab (PPS) aye
Parmjit Dhanda Gloucester Lab (minister) aye
David Drew Stroud Lab aye
Frank Field Birkenhead Lab aye
Jim Fitzpatrick Poplar & Canning Town Lab (minister) aye
Michael Jabez Foster Hastings & Rye Lab aye
Paul Goggins Wythenshawe & Sale East Lab (minister) aye
John Grogan Selby Lab aye
Andrew Gwynne Denton & Reddish Lab (PPS) aye
David Hamilton Midlothian Lab aye
Tom Harris Glasgow South Lab (minister) aye
Meg Hillier Hackney South & Shoreditch Lab (minister) aye
Lindsay Hoyle Chorley Lab aye
Huw Irranca-Davies Ogmore Lab (minister) aye
Helen Jones Warrington North Lab (PPS) aye
Ruth Kelly Bolton West Lab (minister) aye
Peter Kilfoyle Liverpool, Walton Lab aye
Ivan Lewis Bury South Lab (minister) aye
Martin Linton Battersea Lab aye
Andrew MacKinlay Thurrock Lab aye
Gordon Marsden Blackpool South Lab aye
Eric Martlew Carlisle Lab aye
Thomas McAvoy Rutherglen & Hamilton West Lab (minister) aye
John McFall West Dunbartonshire Lab aye
James McGovern Dundee West Lab (PPS) aye
Chris Mullin Sunderland South Lab aye
Paul Murphy Torfaen Lab (minister) aye
Mike O’Brien North Warwickshire Lab (minister) aye
Albert Owen Ynys Môn Lab aye
Nick Palmer Broxtowe Lab (PPS) aye
James Plaskitt Warwick & Leamington Lab (minister) aye
Greg Pope Hyndburn Lab aye
Stephen Pound Ealing North Lab (PPS) aye
Bridget Prentice Lewisham East Lab (minister) aye
Andy Reed Loughborough Lab aye
John Reid Airdrie & Shotts Lab aye
Terry Rooney Bradford North Lab aye
Frank Roy Motherwell & Wishaw Lab (minister) aye
Chris Ruane Vale of Clwyd Lab (PPS) aye
Geraldine Smith Morecambe & Lunesdale Lab aye
Gerry Sutcliffe Bradford South Lab (minister) aye
David Taylor North West Leicestershire Lab aye
Paddy Tipping Sherwood Lab aye
Don Touhig Islwyn Lab aye
Derek Twigg Halton Lab (minister) aye
Kitty Ussher Burnley Lab (minister) aye
Keith Vaz Leicester East Lab aye
Claire Ward Watford Lab (minister) aye
Iain Wright Hartlepool Lab (minister) aye
Norman Baker Lewes LDem (minister) aye
John Barrett Edinburgh West LDem (minister) aye
Colin Breed South East Cornwall LDem (minister) aye
Annette Brooke Mid Dorset & North Poole LDem (minister) aye
Lorely Burt Solihull LDem (minister) aye
Mike Hancock Portsmouth South LDem aye
Martin Horwood Cheltenham LDem (minister) aye
Simon Hughes North Southwark & Bermondsey LDem (minister) aye
Mark Hunter Cheadle LDem (minister) aye
David Laws Yeovil LDem (minister) aye
Greg Mulholland Leeds North West LDem (minister) aye
John Pugh Southport LDem (minister) aye
Alan Reid Argyll & Bute LDem (minister) aye
Daniel Rogerson North Cornwall LDem (minister) aye
Paul Rowen Rochdale LDem (minister) aye
Bob Russell Colchester LDem (minister) aye
Andrew Stunell Hazel Grove LDem aye
Sarah Teather Brent East LDem (minister) aye
Steve Webb Northavon LDem (minister) aye
Mark Williams Ceredigion LDem (minister) aye
Roger Williams Brecon & Radnorshire LDem (minister) aye
Phil Willis Harrogate & Knaresborough LDem aye
Richard Younger-Ross Teignbridge LDem (minister) aye

List from the Public Whip website

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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


Three quick points:

1. A decent parliamentarian (i.e. emphatically not Dorries) might have been able to get it much closer, even nail 22 perhaps. They’ll try again, for sure, with someone better out front.

2. Lib Dems: WTF? Shame on them.

3. There was no one I heard in that debate to match Bercow. Thank Christ he was on our side – this time, anyway.

Re your article on CiF, how on earth can you call it “fundamentalism” to support a reduction in the time-limit for abortion from 24 to 22 weeks? Fundamentalists do not believe in abortion at all. Those who voted for Richard Ottaway’s amendment were merely seeking to strike a slightly different balance between the rights of women and the rights of unborn children. You may not agree with them but flinging terms like “fundamentalism” at them is absurd and inflammatory.

How can anyone rebel on a ‘free’ vote?

Re your article on CiF, how on earth can you call it “fundamentalism” to support a reduction in the time-limit for abortion from 24 to 22 weeks? Fundamentalists do not believe in abortion at all.

Hi Paul, the article refers to Christian Concern for our Nation as fundamentalists, not all Christians. The other point is that while they (CCFON) want to reduce the limit to 20 weeks for now, their longer term aims will be to ban abortion entirely by keep shifting the terms of the debate.

If this was entirely about the medical science, then they’ve lost their case entirely. If this was about public opinion, again they’re on very shaky grounds.

Hi Evan – a ‘rebel’ to the majority view of their party, is what is being referred to here.

Sunny, you were attempting to draw a clear link between the time-limit reduction campaign and Christian fundamentalists, implying that the MPs who voted for 22 and 20 weeks were effectively tools of the fundamentalist movement.

I did support a reduction, and as everyone round here knows by now I am a Christian, but it is certainly not my aim to outlaw abortion. I don”t think that would be desriable even if it were possible. I merely want to shift the balance between womens’ rights and the rights of unborn children to a slightly different place. All politics, in essence, is about resolving the conflicts between such competing rights. In the case of abortion, a fundamentalist would not even recognise that such a conflict existed.

Sunny is of course correct – the aim of groups such as Christian Concern for our Nation is to ban abortion completely in this country. Of course, these radical groups know full well that this isn’t going to happen, so obviously the way to go is to support someone like Nadine Dorries.

If they had succeeded in reducing the time limit to twenty weeks, then you could be sure that this would have been the start of an ongoing process. Nadine makes it quite clear that she would like to see the limit reduced even further, (despite what she might say in the press).

CCFON are fundamentalists – there can be no doubt about that. Anyone who watched Dispatches earlier this week will have heard Andrea Williams admit as much…..Their views are abhorrent; as such, surely groups such as this should not have such close access to members of parliament, or the House of Lords. If you recall, at one stage, Williams even had her amendments drafted and ready for Tebbit to use!

@6 Tim

> Nadine makes it quite clear that she would like to see the limit reduced even further

Indeed. She voted for all the amendments last night, I believe.

Paul, my implication wasn’t that everyone who voted to reduce the 24 week limit was a Christian fundamentalist, though it was pointed out clearly on here many times that Nadine Dorries’ campaign and many of the biggest proponents to this campaign were Christian fundamentalists. the C4 documentary only cemented that visually.

There may be some moderate Christians and even atheists who want to reduce the 24 week limit. I accept that. But I haven’t yet seen any convincing reasons why that limit should be reduced…. is it the science or the desire to reduce abortions or the fact that Europe has lower limits that convinces you?

Secondly, if more moderates were leading this debate we probably wouldn’t have been as aggressive on it. But Donald’s point above is spot on – many of us were frustrated that the science was being mangled, that some really bizarre and disingenuous points were being made by Nadine Dorries MP and that only hardened the opposition.

What were Simon Hughes and Sarah Teather playing at?

Hughes is Christian, has Teather ever been known to support the pro choice lobby?

Paul @ 5, What does this mean?

“I merely want to shift the balance between womens’ rights and the rights of unborn children to a slightly different place.”

Where is it you think the balance is now, and where do you want it to go?

I always get very irritated by people implying that you have to be a right wing christian to support more controls on abortion. Speaking as a VERY left wing atheist, who just happens to be a biologist who has studied embryology, and a medical doctor, I find the current time limit unacceptable, and do not see why the ability to sustain life outside the womb should decide the limit (rather than the degree of formation of the nervous system, say). I would NEVER seek to ban abortion but we should be ashamed as a society that a quarter of pregnancies end this way. There should be a much bigger focus on preventing unwanted pregnancy in the first place.

“The Liberal Democrats are nearly split down the middle (a bit shameful for a liberal party isn’t it?)”

That’s because your definition of ‘liberal’ is definitely biased towards the left, Sunny. Any true liberal party ought properly to have split exactly down the middle on this vote, but I suppose they are as good as it gets in this country and I think the divisions in the LibDems more accurately reflect and represent the divisions across the HoC and country than anyone cares to admit.

I find myself suddenly more sympathetic towards the LibDems!

Rachel:
I find the current time limit unacceptable, and do not see why the ability to sustain life outside the womb should decide the limit

what else would you like to see as the main marker?

but we should be ashamed as a society that a quarter of pregnancies end this way.

Why should we be ‘ashamed’, exactly? Even if you restricted abortion limits to 12 weeks, it would still allow over 50% of abortions because the over-whelming majority happen before that period. You’re either for allowing pople the choice, or you’re not. If on the other hand….

There should be a much bigger focus on preventing unwanted pregnancy in the first place.

Completely agreed! But there’s very little emphasis by the anti-choice lobby on sex education and other such programmes. How exactly would you propose to prevent more unwanted pregnancies? What are you proposing here?

Any true liberal party ought properly to have split exactly down the middle on this vote

Surely a liberal party would want the state to interefere less in the private lives of women?

No Sunny, you’re straying into dogma again.

A true liberal party would make it’s mind up on the evidence and it is clear that there are different conclusions which can be drawn – which is precisely why it is controversial.

On this as all subjects it is proved yet again that politics directs and leads intelligence: non-liberal opinion is formed by ideology, while liberal opinion is formed by the interpretation of evidence.

As much as someone like you has invested in trying to turn it into a question of ideology, this remains a question of doctoring, not doctrine.

Maybe you’re confusing the negative liberty style libertarianism with the balanced positive and negative liberties of liberalism and which encompasses the help/harm dilemma…

I want to support zohra’s question, Paul why do you “merely want to shift the balance between womens’ rights and the rights of unborn children to a slightly different place”. Which place and why?

And as to this “On this as all subjects it is proved yet again that politics directs and leads intelligence” none of the medical institution’s supported a reduction in the time limit, it would have absurd for parliament to whimsically change the limit without medical advice and consensus. Rachel’s view isn’t wrong but we can’t take her as representative of the profession.

“I find the current time limit unacceptable”

What should the time limit be then?

In response to the questions above, my personal view is that a common time-limit should be enforced across the EU. As I have made clear, I do not seek to outlaw abortion and I concede there will always be the need to strike a balance between the rights of women and the rights of unborn children. But I do not see why that balance should be in a different place depending on which part of the EU you are in.

This would in all likelihood entail our own limit coming down, and maybe those of some EU countries increasing slightly.

Hi Paul

I think that’s a fair point that EU abortion legislation should be rationalized. Therefore, the rest of Europe really should be upping their limits if they want to maintain some semblance towards respecting women’s rights. Shall we go to the Commission and start the challenge? Anyone?

Please could you answer my question though? Where is it you think the balance (between women’s rights and ‘the rights of unborn children’) is now in the UK, and where do you want it to go? Because your suggestion seems to be that the balance is, wrongly, in favour of women’s rights, and that you would like it to tip the other way, so that we match other parts of Europe – but not because of any particular evidence that you’ve offered on abortions themselves. You say you don’t want to outlaw abortions; this would mean that you understand there is a need for them. In your view, why is this need different at 12 weeks, say, vs 24 weeks?

If the only reason to change the limit is to match Europe, then it would be entirely reasonable to ask Europe to step up to their obligations to protext women’s rights and shift their limits in line with ours. It’s what we did on race equality (and how we got the race equality directive), and it’s what we’re doing now on other equalities issues.

Paul:

But I do not see why that balance should be in a different place depending on which part of the EU you are in.

So, membership of the European Union necessitates a single homogeneous pan-European culture?

Let’s put that another way – why should we equalise abortion laws across the whole of Europe.

What benefits would there be? What advantages and disadvantages?

The one European innovation that is worth bringing into UK law is the introduction of abortion on request during the first trimester, which many European countries have and which has been widely misrepresented during this debate as being an ‘upper limit’ when in most countries its no such thing, merely a point beyond which women have to show grounds for seeking an abortion rather being able to obtain one by right.

Now that’s well worth pursuing to at least the same ‘level’ as other Northern European states – 12-13 weeks – although for preference I’d take Sweden’s 16 week on request limit as the ideal scenario.

After that, then we get down to discussing where any secondary upper ‘limit’ might apply and the grounds on which that limit would or would not function and even whether there needs to be a fixed upper limit as opposed to a system which considers late term requests for abortions on a needs-driven case by case basis…

Nina@16 – so all the medical institutions chose to evaluate their advice on the basis of the evidence in front of them.

That is entirely consistent with their liberally constituted basis, rather than being politically constituted as the ideologues would have them be. It also indicates the liberal basis of our constitution that they are in existence to investigate freely to enable them to make the best possible evaluuation according to the definition of viability put to them by the legislature.

All of which should provide evidence against ideology being a basis for good politics, as well as against the need for ideology in drawing conclusions, rather than guiding good practise.

That liberalism is at odds with the conception of it which many of those who agree with its conclusions would have it shouldn’t be a surprise, and it should go to explain how political discussion so often gets so easily messed up.

Its why parties of the ‘left’ and ‘right’ perpetually and inevitably get things wrong and why I am hopeful for the LibDems as they gradually find themselves growing concordant with liberalism. It’s also a sign of optimism for the country as the basis of accord increasingly wins out.

Unity – that’s Paul Linford’s ideological rigour kicking in – he clearly can’t handly diversity! From my point of view the EU will eventually harmonise, but there’s no point in creating additional dissonance by forcing the issue.

The harmony will come over time at the level at which the people feel it is appropriate – so if that means on abortion according to Spanish law, or on taxation according to Maltese law, then so be it.

Who am I to prejudice future decisions in the best interests of common good? Paul on the other hand certainly has his own prejudices.

Thomas seems determined to antagonise both sides in this debate….

Thomas, I’m not surte what you’re trying to say my friend… you seem to be trying to talk philosophy here than actually tell us a position and why you take it.

Paul, as Unity has pointed out, the European “average” has been misconstrued as something else which its not second. And even then, I find it bizarre that a tory party that is essentially Eurosceptic is going around telling us it should be harmonising policies with Europe.

Isn’t it worth celebrating that this country treats asylum seekers and immigrants (marginally) better thain mainland Europe. Isn’t it worth celebrating that we don’t demonise gays?
If the Tories want to harmonise with Europe, what next? Will that start harmonising tax policies with Europe? Will they start extending the social services like Scandinavia? Its a rubbish argument in itself because they’re no basis to it other than say they feel uncomfortable.

On the other hand, why should Britain be a beacon for progress for the rest of Europe?

I’m not yet hearing any arguments why abortion should be criminalised… why lesbian couples should be denied the opportunity to have kids, other than this belief that the state should regulate people’s lives because other people feel uncomfortable. But its not their lives!

We want stable and loving families… but can those familes only be of a man and a woman? What happened to the leftist principles of equality for women and sexual minorities?

Well Sunny, I’ve previously stated that I don’t think the debate on abortion was contextualised properly.

As Francis Maude pointed out on QT, the law already allows for exceptions above the legal limit and will continue to do so, while the non-surgical procedure accounts for by far the largest proportion of current abortions – so essentially squabbling over whether we should allow for terminations up to 24, 22 or 20 weeks on the basis of viability represents a false question.

Having a law which creates a strict definition fails to take into account the particular circumstances of any individual case, and the requirement for two doctors’ signatures to provide prior agreement therefore seems to me like an emminently sensible arrangement which should be extended as the most relevant, legitimate and valid basis for medical decisions – don’t doctors know more about medical issues than anything any book on political philosophy has to say?

Paul Linford, of course I’m trying to provoke (not antagonise) both opposing sides of this false debate (and others) into exposing their inappropriateness and inconsistencies, partly because I think there is a more correct path to take which reconciles the existing divisions and creates an understanding to satisfy all.

Wouldn’t we all much prefer to have our individual needs met rather than assuage our guilty emotions by imposing our prejudices on others? If I had to make a choice between those two options I know which would actually make people happier rather than what they say would.

Politics is about the real world, not some infuriating polemic printed in an academic policy paper to gather dust and the approbrium of the public who ultimately pay for it all.

25. douglas clark

thomas,

Well, what are you suggesting? You are long on polemic, I think, and short on detailing your practical solution. Try advocating something, rather than nothing.

What, exactly, is your viewpoint?

I thought I had!

In general context:
Everything, better, all of the time; to fully professionalise the areas implicated in the policy creating statutory requirements obliging full funding and competency on the relevant authoritues.

In detailled context:
No limit; stricter consultation and advisory requirements (including psychological, social, health and medical prefessionals to provide agreement and potentially prescriptive action or other intervention, such as diet or exercise, relationship counselling…) in a speeded-up process (ie to try to ensure non-surgical procedures where possible); more emphasis on sex eduxation as a preventative together with adoption as an alternative.

[yawns, all the old, boring stuff]

I accept it costs more and will take time to implement at full specification, which will be an area of contention, but only and precisely because that places a depoliticised level of duty on government, as well as participatory requirement on the individual members of the public, will the need be filled and the controversy abolished.
Additionally, by the admission and acceptance that mistakes did occur to reach the position, it creates the requirement and opportunity for positive proactive government intervention which can and should be used to identify and actively address the root causes either on the individual side (ie a whole range of interlinked problems from sexual crime to lack of access to services, educational deficiencies and various inequality issues) or on the corporate side (be it misdiagnosis, false prescription, incompetence, malicious intent – there are always occasional and various scare stories).
Furthermore by rebuilding the trust between government and individuals in meeting our need we can set a precedent for attacking other areas of concern, such as falling turnout at elections…

=

I am particularly disgusted with my two most local MP’s (I won’t shame them by name), one who voted form the minimum reduction to 22 or 20 weeks as the best method of compromise between the two camps acting on conflicting representations (in a clearly political ploy for electoral advantage), the other who voted for the status quo on the fraudulent basis that a change would impinge on exempted circumstances (actually, not by leading to future changes): a tory cynic and a Labour liar. Says it all.

=

More widely in general:
We have a choice at all stages between effecting a spiral towards virtuousness or viciousness.

More widely in detail:
Policies must be formed within a general framework to create the coherence which underpins social cohesion and the common good because society is interlinked at all levels. Tackling one policy alone might prove popular, but it creates the conditions where failure is inevitable over the longer term.
We must understand that if our political system is incapable of fully meeting our needs then it will be adapted, even against our wills, and this places a grave threat on our whole democracy and every institution we treasure – it is the base cause of both internal and external conflict: the principles of a confused debate over abortion feed directly into the information which influences misplaced decisions and conduct in other areas, such as can be more vividly seen pre- and post-invasion of Iraq.

Good intentions are not enough.

Am I consistent on my themes?

[stops]

@26 Douglas, rhetoric, maybe, not polemic

Sunny
“what else would you like to see as the main marker?”

I think i did say, something along the line of neurological development, although I’m not really sure what landmark I would pick. I’d be a lot happier to see abortion freely on demand to about 12 weeks (by which time allk the organs are formed), then it still being available later but with people having to show there is real likelihood of mental or physical hardship (as the law was originally intended) rather than inconvenience. But I’m willing to let all of this go and leave it at 24 weeks if we really DO put an emphasis on preventing unwanted pregnancies instead.

“Completely agreed! But there’s very little emphasis by the anti-choice lobby on sex education and other such programmes. How exactly would you propose to prevent more unwanted pregnancies? What are you proposing here?”

I’m proposing proper sex education in schools. With parents not being allowed to take their children out of classes as they currently are (are the kind of parents who take their children out of sex education really going to instill all the facts and sensible opinions in them? I think not!). In this I’d like to include, in passing, some information about fetal development. A surprising number of sensible people still seem to think that a fetus is a formless ball of smush until it’s squeezed out of a woman, and I think it would affect people’s attitude to casual unprotected sex and abortion if they actually understood what they were risking aborting. But then I’m a lefty vegetarian so I don’t like the idea of killing stuff, and maybe that’s just me…

I want to see a lot more information about contraceptive choices – including long term methods like injections (last 3 months), implants (last 2 years) and the Mirena coil (it’s the size of 2 matchsticks joined in a T shape, sits right in the uterus, and is the single most effective form of contraception we have – more effective than a sterilisation op! – lasts in excess of 5 years, can be taken out in minutes, makes periods a lot lighter, and has no lasting effect on fertility, which comes back as soon as it’s removed), because the mainstream opinion is still you can choose pill or condom and nobody seems to know about the easy options for those of us with bad memories. I’d also want to include more about STDs so we don’t end up with a whole raft of women who are unfortunately unable to conceive in the future because chlamydia has scarred their tubes beyond repair. And definitely more about “non-conventional” relationships because casual homophobia is still rife in schools, which is a direct throwback to the Thatcher administration’s ban on “promoting” homosexuality in schools, inexplicably perseveres now this has been repealed, and has no place whatsoever in modern society.

To go with this we should get women’s and teenage magazines to include articles on long-term contraceptive options. I can’t believe how few people know about these! We should also train GP surgeries to go through the options with women seeking contraception instead of just offering her the pill. Too few GP surgeries do this, and I fear it is because they get paid for prescribing the pill, and therefore to refer someone for a coil/implant will cost them money. The mirena costs £120, so the NHS is avoiding pushing it. This is entirely wrong.

And, possibly most controversially, if a woman is having a surgical termination, because of contraceptive failure or chaotic lifestyle we should be offering her (note: NOT imposing) the Mirena coil insertion at the same time, it would be very quick and easy to put it in during the op. We should certainly be providing better contraceptive information to any woman coming for any termination, and, if she’s too upset to take it in (I don’t want to kick someone while they’re down), offer follow up appointments with a family planning clinic.

We should also have a better NHS led publicity campaign on emergency contraception. Adverts don’t tell you enough. People still, mistakenly, think the “morning after pill” has terrible side effects, so avoid taking it. but since they changed the formulation a few years ago there are virtually no ill effects to be had from taking it, even repeatedly (although obviously if someone is taking it all the time you’d like to encourage them to take up some sort of sensible contraceptive regime instead). Although people can get it free from their GP or a family planning clinic not everyone can get to these, and although you can get it from chemists it isn’t free, limiting the number of people who can afford it, so it should be able to be prescribed by every pharmacist, preferably free but at least for the normal prescription price. And it works for 72 hours after sex (although the earlier the better). Also, you can have a coil inserted for up to 5 days after sex and this is almost completely effective.

“Why should we be ‘ashamed’, exactly? ”
Because, ignoring the fetus, abortion is traumatic for women and virtually all abortions are preventable with a bit of forward planning. Why are we putting women so many women through this for no reason?

Sorry for the length of this, but you did ask!

Obviously we’d differ in opinions here Rachel, so I’m not interested in trying to convert you or anything, but I don’t feel you’re placing the correct focus on this discussion.

“Because, ignoring the fetus, abortion is traumatic for women and virtually all abortions are preventable with a bit of forward planning. Why are we putting women so many women through this for no reason?”

I completely agree, as I think most will, that preventing unwanted pregnancies is the real key to stopping abortions which, again I think most will agree, no-one really would prefer happens. However that’s not really where the debate is. The discussion about sexual education and health policy is one that those who are clearly sensible and articulate on the anti-abortion side of the camp can engage fully with those that are not anti-abortion.

Where this whole debate is at, though, and where it is most crucial is the instances where no matter what we do if someone gets pregnant and doesn’t want the child that they should have the freedom to abort. I would absolutely detest to get in to a situation of agreeing with someone who is anti-aborition and working with them to do really good work to cut unwanted pregnancies only for that to then be turned around as an argument, ala “Well we’ve worked together to cut this out from happening, so now those that do get pregnant have no choice but to live with it”. I respect that you’ve made clear your stance on abortion, but there are those out there that don’t see the issue as reasonably as you, and that is where we as people concerned with choice for the pregnant woman need to stay vigilant.

Lee
‘I would absolutely detest to get in to a situation of agreeing with someone who is anti-aborition and working with them to do really good work to cut unwanted pregnancies only for that to then be turned around as an argument, ala “Well we’ve worked together to cut this out from happening, so now those that do get pregnant have no choice but to live with it”.’

My goodness, and I thought it was pro-lifers who were supposed to be closed minded! The idea that you would avoid trying to cut unwanted pregnancies on the basis that success might be used in that entirely ridiculous fashion smacks of the highest form of paranoia. I can only hope that your view is not shared by the majority.

I appreciate there are a lot of rabid anti-abortionists out there – and bear in mind most of them are religious and don’t strictly approve of either contraception or sex education – but there are also a lot of very reasonable people who find abortion, for want of a better word, distasteful, but are not out to take away anybody’s rights to have an abortion as a last resort. That said, speaking as someone who went into medicine to save lives, I would like it to be more of a largely unnecessary last resort rather than a form of extreme contraception (or routine contraception in some cases, having met several serial abortionists who don’t bother with fiddly contraception on the principle they can just get an abortion any time, and while I think these people are wrong I will still defend their right to do that, although I might gently suggest a more sensible alternative to them given a chance). I suppose that makes me a pro-choice pro-lifer – using the dictionary definition of both words rather than belonging to either entrenched camp – and I can’t believe I am the only person who would like to reduce the need for abortions without wanting to persecute people who have to have them.

One last thought – if abortion is about women’s rights then why are the majority of fetuses aborted around the world female? In India it is common practice (although not strictly legal) to have a sexing scan and abort female fetuses because girls are perceived as an expensive drain on families. This, and the treatment of women as second class citizens around large parts of the world, strikes me as a much more important thing for women (and men) who care about our freedom to be getting worked up about.

Rachel, talking about extreme cases, can you give any rough guidelines for the largest number of abortions by any single woman? Do you think this provides a case for some form of intervening limitations (Obviously not of the 3-strikes-and-you’re-out kind)?

Honestly, I have no idea on the ‘record’, and I don’t think it really matters. I don’t think whoever is in charge of healthcare of women who have many abortions is doing their job properly by not advising them on the availability of long term contraception that they can just have and forget about, instead of having repeated abortions (a lot more trouble for the woman concerned) but can see no rationale for limiting the number if abortions a woman could have.

Looking at the ONS stats, 54 abortions carried out in 2006 were on women who had had 7 or more previous abortions and 3,804 had had 3 or more (out of 193,737 abortions).

You’ve completely misrepresented me, something I find highly disrespectful. I made it *very* clear that most people, myself included, think that stopping unwanted pregnancies is a priority…however it is not the panacea to the abortion question, and doesn’t suddenly make abortion unacceptable. Nothing will make abortion unacceptable to those of us that believe in the choices of the woman.

“One last thought – if abortion is about women’s rights then why are the majority of fetuses aborted around the world female?”

What were you saying about closed minded? What a highly ridiculous argument.

So no return for chastity belts then, Rachel?

Lee, I think it is relevant to look at the picture from different perspectives and allow a tailored approach to emerge. Obviously the social practices in different countries vary so we must be wary of any dogmatic view.

The levels of abortion on gender grounds in economically underdeveloped society is reminiscent of infanticide during periods of our own history and IMO should be directly compared.

My question to that though, thomas, would be who’s right is it to say a child is wanted or not? If the culture says they don’t want female children, as abhorant as *we* may feel that is (and believe me I don’t understand why you would want to abort based on gender), then who are we to question that? Obviously if you’re anti-abortion anyway then you’re already staking a claim as to why we should question it but nothing there is new. I would much rather that a culture aborted a female foetus at the earliest stage than give birth to a girl and treat her as a second class citizen for the entirety of her life. To simply label issues on gender politics that are intrinsically more complex is incredibly closed minded.

Lee “I made it *very* clear that most people, myself included, think that stopping unwanted pregnancies is a priority…”

You *said* that, but then you went on to say something wildly paranoid about not wanting to work with people on preventing unwanted pregnancies in case they turned round and used it as a grounds against abortion. Which seemed excessively paranoid to me and quite contrary. And I never said ANYTHING about working to prevent people becoming pregnant through lack of awareness suddenly “making abortion unacceptable”, so I’d appreciate you not misquoting me.

‘“One last thought – if abortion is about women’s rights then why are the majority of fetuses aborted around the world female?” What were you saying about closed minded? What a highly ridiculous argument.’

Errrrrrrr, how us that closed minded? Rather than obsess about the rights of a couple of thousand women being able to get an abortion after 12 weeks, I care a lot more about the rights of a billion or more women who live in conditions of subjugation to men, who don’t have access to either education or contraception,and who exist hand to mouth never knowing when they can afford to eat again or who work producing our cheap clothes for slavery wages. If you don’t consider this more of a problem than access to mid-trimester abortion for rich Western women who can get contraception and emergency contraception whenever they want it (to a point, although as mentioned above, not as well as they should be), lets face it, even if they were forced to have the kids they don’t want at least would not be starving to death any time soon, and are allowed out of the house without a male relative present, there is something seriously wrong with you. How on earth is that ridiculous? It’s a fact of life that female children are less desirable than male children and are more likely to get aborted as a result. This isn’t idle speculation on my part, there is a documented lack of female children around the world as a direct result of either selective termination or infanticide. This makes me very angry – not because of the abortions, but because of the circumstances that make families think that this is necessary and because I do believe in women’s rights to live. And be educated, and to only have children when they choose to. That makes me a lot more of a believer in women’s rights than someone who gives lip service to abortion rights and thinks comparing this to the wider problems in the world for women is “ridiculous”. Good grief…


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