Andrew Lansley is playing politics with abortion provision


by Sunny Hundal    
2:48 pm - March 23rd 2012

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On Monday this week, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) were ordered to drop everything and investigate care at a large sample of abortion providers. The order came directly from the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley and didn’t offer any reason why this was necessary now.

The CQC did their research. But before any of their findings were revealed, the Dept of Health informed the BBC and the Telegraph that the result of a major investigation into abortion was coming out.

Then Andrew Lansley simply emailed them a strongly worded statement, which both outlets led with today.

There are a few key points to remember from this investigation alone:

1) The full CQC report hasn’t even been published. The Telegraph and BBC Today Prgm reports are entirely based on Andrew Lansley’s statement. Apart from abortion providers themselves – no one else is asking what the report actually found or who it investigated.

2) The CQC did not find any fault with independent abortion providers from BPAS or Marie Stopes. Some were found to be breaking the law but they were either NHS clinics or private providers – not independent ones. And yet the Dept of Health press releases focuses on overhauling independent providers. Nadine Dorries MP this morning called for Ann Furedi of BPAS to go – despite no evidence any of their clinics broke the law.

3) “This is the worst onslaught I have ever seen, on abortion,” one health official told a source of mine.

Andrew Lansley and Nadine Dorries want to undermine the original Abortion Act itself, to drastically affect abortion provision for women. Drip feed of news like this is part of that agenda.

4) The discovery of pre-signed abortion forms was clearly a big lapse in standards – but it does not affect care for women.

5) The Department of Health has already pre-judged its upcoming consultation on independent abortion providers. Its statement to the press said (emphasis mine):

Department of Health officials will work with the CQC and other regulatory bodies to examine compliance with the Act and relevant statutory and professional requirements in order to inform the planned revision of the Procedures for the Approval of Independent Abortion Providers for consultation later this year.

Keep in mind that independent providers such as BPAS or Marie Stopes have not been shown to break the law. Yet the govt is using these investigations to undermine them. It is also saying they plan to revise the rules for independent abortion providers without explaining why that is necessary. The consultation planned for late April has been “stitched up”, as I revealed last month.

6) Attend the Pro-Choice Protest on 30th March: website / FB event page.

BPAS statement today:

BPAS does not presign forms and all abortion doctors must of course conform to the law. Abortion doctors provide an important service to women who are often in difficult circumstances. Their work is already intensely scrutinised, with clinics regularly inspected by the Care Quality Commission. Mr Lansley says he is shocked and appalled by the practices he has uncovered.

BPAS is shocked and appalled that Mr Lansley has found it necessary to inform journalists of alleged breaches of the abortion law before he has informed those responsible for providing the services that have been investigated, and before the investigation is concluded.

Says it all really.

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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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Reader comments


Even the “pre-signed” forms thing doesn’t bother me. The requirement for two doctors to sign off on an abortion is paternalistic nonsense. We should have abortion on demand, not after jumping through unnecessary hoops. And you’re right – it’s not like it affects standards of care, not at all.

Thanks for writing this, and for bringing the issues around the Tories’ very own anti-abortion crusade to a wider audience. Anything the US can do, we can do better, right?

2. Chaise Guevara

Hang on. RE Dorries’ statement, why do we need to redraft legislation to deal with something that is already illegal?

3. James Reade

Wow, I was waiting for something like this on here today after R4 this morning. You didn’t disappoint. I’m glad others (not the first two tho) will put you in your place, but seriously – why is it that a regulator doing their job is somehow now a terrible, terrible thing?

I am glad though that you do accept the substantive finding:
“The discovery of pre-signed abortion forms was clearly a big lapse in standards – but it does not affect care for women.”

But I love the bit that follows. How, exactly, do you know this? I’m a little unsure how one of the two doctors who is supposed to give a full appraisal not doing so cannot leave care for women unaffected. And I’m intrigued at just how confident you are about this.

Perhaps though most telling is that there’s no mention of the other life involved here. Rights of two human beings at stake, you care about one, not about the other.

4. Robin Levett

@James Reade #3:

why is it that a regulator doing their job is somehow now a terrible, terrible thing?

The fact that the regulator was being told not to do its job, but instead to concentrate on one small part of it, where there was no indication of any (new) problem, to the detriment of its other duties and in pursuit of political advantage for the minister?

Where I come from, using public resources for political gain is not usually acceptable conduct.

5. James Reade

Btw I almost missed this in point 2: “despite no evidence any of their clinics broke the law”

Er, pre-signing forms, which you admit to in point 4 isn’t just a “lapse in standards”, it is in clear violation of the law.

So there’s evidence they broke the law.

6. FintonStack

Dorries’ accusations against Ann Furedi and BPAS are incredible: she’s accusing her of deliberate criminality, and claims she has admitted so on BBC radio. Of the two links she provides, one, to a Daily Mail article, says nothing at all about Furedi or BPAS: the second, a link to the radio show, has Furedi stating *the precise opposite* of what Dorries claims she does.

If Furedi decides to sue, Dorries has absolutely had it.

7. James Reade

@Robin – when is focussing on one small part of your job not doing your job?

And why, more pertinently, is the fact that the law was clearly being broken (which Sunny admits to then denies, funnily enough), not the focus here? Trying to hide something?

@3

“Perhaps though most telling is that there’s no mention of the other life involved here. Rights of two human beings at stake, you care about one, not about the other.”

Perhaps this is the most telling that you’re fundamentally against abortion rights and therefore will clutch at straws to argue against it.

Just more evidence of the extreme nature of the tories and their links with the far right of the American Republicans. Their manifesto was lies and distortions. The so called new tories are just the same old tories.

They obviously feel that Clegg is dammed to political oblivion. He can’t bring the govt down without breaking the co alition agreement . So he is powerless to act as the govt moves full on right wing. He just stands there looking like the fool he is.

Clegg has managed in this week to vote to end the NHS, give the richest 1% a massive tax cut, and now declare war on womans bodies. His party better decide if they want Clegg or a political future. They can’t have both.

James Reade: Er, pre-signing forms, which you admit to in point 4 isn’t just a “lapse in standards”, it is in clear violation of the law.

The rest of your idiotic fulminating aside, it looks like you can’t even read. There’s no evidence BPAS broke the law (which is what I was referring to). If you have any, then offer it, or else you’re libelling them and can be taken to court for it.

11. Robin Levett

@James Reade #7:

when is focussing on one small part of your job not doing your job?

When that means you haven’t got time or manpower to do the rest of it properly?

You feel it’s OK for the minister to use public resources for political gain?

12. Bob Arthur

@James Reade re post 5
While picking through the points to find contradictions, you seem to have skipped over the text immediately preceding that which you contend:

“The CQC did not find any fault with independent abortion providers from BPAS or Marie Stopes. Some were found to be breaking the law but they were either NHS clinics or private providers – not independent ones.”

“The regulator was being told not to do its job, but instead to concentrate on one small part of it, where there was no indication of any (new) problem”

And you see that as a problem? You could apply the same description to the police finally getting round to investigating phone-hacking.

Seriously, I really hope this doesn’t mean Lansley thinks importing abortion hysteria from the USA will win him any votes. I don’t think this is something many people except serious evangelicals like Stephen Green will care about anyway, even if laws have been broken.

14. Charlieman

@OP, Sunny: “The discovery of pre-signed abortion forms was clearly a big lapse in standards – but it does not affect care for women.”

Under the various mental health acts, two doctors are required to sign a Section 12 order to hospitalise a patient. Pre-signed Section 12 orders would clearly be a serious concern to liberals.

Similarly, the requirement for two doctors to conduct a genuine assessment of a patient seeking a termination must be respected. To disregard it sets a potentially horrific precedent. At the very least, in the case of terminations, disregarding the rules means disregarding the patient. At the worst, it makes coerced women more vulnerable and threatens the lives of women who seek a late termination.

Sticking by the rules is inconvenient, but inconvenience is the point of those rules: that bad things do not happen lightly.

15. Kevin Smith

Here is the iceberg:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soraya-chemaly/womens-reproductive-rights_b_1345214.html

of which Nadine Dorries is just the tip.

16. Charlieman

BPAS statement: “BPAS is shocked and appalled that Mr Lansley has found it necessary to inform journalists of alleged breaches of the abortion law before he has informed those responsible for providing the services that have been investigated, and before the investigation is concluded.”

I do not understand why BPAS is so shocked. BPAS has not been named as an offender and BPAS is not a spokesperson for abortion providers.

About informing people who are accused of dastardly deeds: journalists and newspapers traditionally phoned up the accused to warn them about a damaging story, unless it was a scoop that needed to be secret.

Abortion clinics visited by the CQC do not need warnings. Firstly, they co-operated with the CQC and know what information about their practices was obtained. Secondly, the CQC and its masters do not conduct themselves according to journalistic tradition; the masters consider themselves above all considerations of respect and decency, on which I share concern.

“…before the investigation is concluded.”

At this point, BPAS is correct. Ministers should shut up until they receive a final answer, not gab off when they hear results that they like.

17. Charlieman

@15. Kevin Smith: “Here is the iceberg:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soraya-chemaly/womens-reproductive-rights_b_1345214.html

Dorries is obnoxious, but a link to an article about American obnoxiousness does not prove that she represents underlying British obnoxiousness. Even Margaret Thatcher understood that laws against abortion and male homosexuality caused immense personal damage.

From the link above: “My family is curious and since you believe my uterus is your public property, I am, too.” I filed that under “non sequitur of the month”.

Apols for nitpicking, but can someone clarify some definitions in the original post. It says:

“they were either NHS clinics or private providers – not independent ones. ”

NHS Clinics – ok this is obvious, they’re NHS clinics. However, what the difference between a private clinic and an independent clinic? Surely a private clinic is an independent clinic no? Genuinely just asking.

19. the a&e charge nurse

[14] “Under the various mental health acts, two doctors are required to sign a Section 12 order to hospitalise a patient. Pre-signed Section 12 orders would clearly be a serious concern to liberals”.

PEDANT ALERT ……….
Section 12 (of the MHA) refers to a LIST of ‘approved practitioners’ – not all psychiatrists are on the list.

If a patient is being assessed for compulsory detention under Section 2 or 3 of the MHA (the two sections which account for the vast majority of compulsory admissions) then the opinion of two psychiatrists are required, one of whom must be ‘section 12 approved’.

The sectioning of mental health patients is not quite as perfunctory as doctors signing abortion forms but your main point holds that in either case it is entirely inappropriate, and indeed deeply unethical for doctors to complete medico-legal forms without adhering to those standards one normally associates with proper professional conduct.

Although there’s little doubt that a second signature is required by law, there’s also little doubt that anti-abortionists are using this as a way of drawing attention to their views.

Those views are worth a moment’s analysis.

Any anti-abortionist using the birth control pill needs to be sure in their mind when life begins.

If they believe life begins at conception, then the pill could be considered as acting as an abortifacient and they certainly shouldn’t risk using it.

If they believe life does not begin until nidation, that is, when the fertilised egg implants, then they can rely on the fact that the pill has prevented that.

The whole field is complex, but unrecognised abortion is infinitely more common that many, particularly pill-using anti-abortionists, perceive.

I couldn’t defend abortion in moral terms. But I support it intellectually and in practical terms. Rather like those unaware pill users, I suppose, if they continue with their chosen contraception method.

22. Just Visiting

Sunny

I didn’t see on the CQC site where they said this:

> The CQC did not find any fault with independent abortion providers from BPAS or Marie Stopes.

23. Christopher Heward

Whilst I’m sure there are some people out there who love to hate women, just like I’m sure that love to kill babies, in reality this is a disagreement about when human life starts.

Once human life starts then a person’s choice SHOULD be overridden if it harms another individual. Most of the legal system is about this (i.e. if you got arrested for punching, raping or murdering someone else you couldn’t turn around and say “you are violating my right to choose, fascist”).

The issue is when does the life in the womb become a human life, as when it is human then its right to life overrides a woman’s right to choose.

Yes it is frustrating when you get people making out women are evil when considering an abortion, but it is equally frustrating when people (including commenters here) make people out to be anti-women just because they’re sincerely standing up for what they see to be a human life.

Why can’t we have a sensible and caring debate about this issue rather than endless vitriolic rhetoric?

24. Christopher Heward

Whilst I’m sure there are some people out there who love to hate women, just like I’m sure that love to kill babies, in reality this is a disagreement about when human life starts.

Once human life starts then a person’s choice SHOULD be overridden if it harms another individual. Most of the legal system is about this (i.e. if you got arrested for punching, raping or murdering someone else you couldn’t turn around and say “you are violating my right to choose, fascist”).

The issue is when does the life in the womb become a human life, as when it is human then it’s right to life overrides a woman’s right to choose.

Yes it is frustrating when you get people making out women are evil when considering an abortion, but it is equally frustrating when people (including commenters here) make people out to be anti-women just because they’re sincerely standing up for what they see to be a human life.

Why can’t we have a sensible and caring debate about this issue rather than endless vitriolic rhetoric?

25. the a&e charge nurse

[23 +24] probably because an absolute right to choose and an absolute right to life are irreconcilable positions?

26. Christopher Heward

[25] (apologies for double posting!)

True. However, like I say no one truely believes in an absolute right to choose, unless, like I say, they agree with murder, assult, etc. Presumably anyone who thinks that a woman should be able to choose to abort believes that what they are aborting isn’t yet a human? Therefore the debate is about when the life becomes a human life and therefore has a right to life that overrides a woman’s right to choose.

“Presumably anyone who thinks that a woman should be able to choose to abort believes that what they are aborting isn’t yet a human? Therefore the debate is about when the life becomes a human life and therefore has a right to life that overrides a woman’s right to choose.”

Presumably, anyone who thinks women should be forced through pregnancy against their will, believes women aren’t human. Therefore the debate is about whether women are full human beings, or whether women are property who can be bred against their will: and if women are to be treated as property, who owns them?

Certainly to anyone who believes women are human and human rights may not be abrogated, a woman’s right to choose trumps anyone else’s right to decide to “breed” her: so every pregnant woman has the right to decide whether or not she will have an abortion. It’s no one else’s business but her own and her medical advisors’.

28. Christopher Heward

[27] If you’ve read my post and you’re saying that whether the life is human or not is irrelevant, then presumably you’re saying that in this instance the woman’s choice to abort trumps the human’s right to life? But if you say that, then why doesn’t the woman have the right to kill a newborn baby if she wants to? By the same logic can’t you say that it’s her child so it’s up to her what she does; why should she be forced to go through with parenthood?

If you’re saying that life only becomes human at birth and therefore it is fine to kill the foetus before this then, whilst I’d disagree with you view on when human life starts for quite a few reasons, I could at least see that your approach is logical. If you’re saying the life of the baby is irrelevant then you’re basically justifying murder on the basis that the woman has a right to choose, which is very dangerous ground.

@28

But if you say that, then why doesn’t the woman have the right to kill a newborn baby if she wants to?

Please supply your hypothesis as to why this would ever occur as opposed to giving the baby up for adoption. Questions you should be able to address include ‘why would a woman have gone though the full pregnancy only to change her mind afterwards and kill the child?’ and ‘If she had murder in mind all along for the gestating child, (assuming abortion is unavailable) why didn’t she just throw herself down some stairs, get a coat hanger, punch herself repeatedly in the stomach etc, prior to the end of the pregnancy?’.

Why. are fetuses more important than people who have been born?

I only ask because many of the anti abortion movement don’t support public health care. The infant mortality rate in many southern states in the US are some of the worst in the Western world.

Why does the Catholic church oppose contraception which would stop many unwanted pregnancies?

There is no logic to the anti abortion movement except for punishing woman who have sex for pleasure. They must be punished for their slutty behavior.

31. the a&e charge nurse

[29] “Please supply your hypothesis as to why this would ever occur” – there is a controversial paper here.
http://jme.bmj.com/content/early/2012/03/01/medethics-2011-100411.abstract

The authors contend “By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled”.

We know that a foetus is ‘viable’ at 24 weeks (and possibly earlier) but a woman’s rights trump those of the foetus – so what principle governs when it would be unacceptable abort – I mean why does everything change once the baby is outside the mother, since a foetus has exactly the same potentiality in utero?

Nowadays women abort because they are dissatisfied with gender, why not because they decide to do so after delivery.

27 (and 29) “But if you say that, then why doesn’t the woman have the right to kill a newborn baby if she wants to?”

Oh, come off it.

A woman has a basic human right to terminate her pregnancy as she chooses, and as her medical advisor recommends.

That so many prolifers leap directly from this to the idea that it’s okay to kill babies, suggests they think about killing babies a lot. I wonder why that is?

Now, Christopher, why are you arguing that women aren’t human and therefore can be bred as you choose? Do you know any women? Do you like any women? What’s wrong with you that you want to believe women are objects for you to use, rather than human beings with the right to make their own decisions about their own bodies?

33. the a&e charge nurse

[32] “That so many pro-lifers leap directly from this to the idea that it’s okay to kill babies, suggests they think about killing babies a lot. I wonder why that is?” – what a strange comment.

I will cite one response on the thread that ensues from the paper cited @31 “Thank you, thank you, thank you, Drs. Giubilini and Minerva! Your paper illustrates what I have been saying for a long time: if you accept the idea that fetuses are not persons, then you have to accept that neither are babies, and you must admit the ethical (in this system) permissiveness of baby killing. I applaud the authors’ honesty in also admitting that there can be no bright line defining a point in time, of the life of a baby, when killing would be prohibited”.

Surely that is the question we must account for, where do we draw the line, and why?

34. Christopher Heward

[32]

I don’t understand your logic, both in your own argument, and also in saying I don’t like women. What in my argument or anything I’ve said implies that?

“A woman has a basic human right to terminate her pregnancy as she chooses, and as her medical advisor recommends.”

By what logic have you deduced she has this absolute right?

I know it is frustrating when people suggest that those who are pro-choice want to kill babies, in fact I explicitly stated this frustrated me in my first comment. All I’ve done is said that LOGICALLY, if you say that there is no difference between a new-born baby and one that is still in the womb then there is no difference between that abortion and killing the new-born. I have stated that if you say the the foetus is not a human life then saying abortion is permissible would be, logically speaking, an allowable position (although I’d question at what point is DOES become human).

I clearly haven’t ‘lept directly’ to the conclusion that you want to kill babies – I’m just trying to make a logical argument out of it. Otherwise we just end up with an argument that consists of “I know a woman who really wanted to abort their child, are you saying she’s wrong, do you hate her?” versus “I know some one who was born and then adopted, rather than aborted, are you saying he should have been killed, he should have been murdered?”. Personally I want to rise above that and try to use logic and reasoning to have a discussion about what is best and proper.

33: “what a strange comment.”

Not at all. Look at Christopher’s comments. He keeps claiming that if a woman has a right to terminate her pregnancy, that means KILL BABIES. I’ve seen other prolifers make the same argument – they seem to LOVE to think about killing babies!

But I’ve never seen a pro-choicer make the argument that if a woman can decide to terminate her pregnancy that MUST mean…

It’s only prolifers who like to think about killing babies. That’s strange, it’s true, but you seem to think that commenting on it is strange.

34: “t, and also in saying I don’t like women. What in my argument or anything I’ve said implies that?”

Obviously you don’t like women, since your argument is that you should get to force women through pregnancy against their will. No one who liked women would want to do that!

“By what logic have you deduced she has this absolute right?”

Because women are human, Christopher. Pay attention!

“Personally I want to rise above that and try to use logic and reasoning to have a discussion about what is best and proper.”

There is no “best and proper” way to treat half the human race as unhuman. You can’t “rise above” your own immoral and bigoted attitudes towards women. Or at least, perhaps you can, but you’re showing no indication that you want to.

35: “What in my argument or anything I’ve said implies that?”

You’re arguing that women should be forced through pregnancy against their will. No one who liked women would argue for that.

“All I’ve done is said that LOGICALLY, if you say that there is no difference between a new-born baby and one that is still in the womb then there is no difference between that abortion and killing the new-born.”

You may like to think about killing babies, Christopher, but I find the suggestion fairly obscene. Please, take your baby-killing fantasies somewhere else.

34: if you say that there is no difference between a new-born baby and one that is still in the womb then there is no difference between that abortion and killing the new-born

Even if you do say that there’s no difference between the two – and the law in most other areas of human rights does draw a distinct line at birth, so that’s dubious – there is a big obvious difference between those cases:

Removal of a baby from its mother can (safely!) be done without killing it.

Removal of a fetus pre-viability [1] inevitably does involve killing it, and removal at the lowest risk of a post-viability fetus from a pregnant person does in general also involve killing it. (Under current law the latter case can generally only occur to prevent death or serious injury to the pregnant person, or in the event of the discovery of a severe or fatal birth defect, so the context is even more different)

So that’s a big important difference in context. Now, you could argue, as in the anti-choice stance, that therefore a fetus should not be removed if both it and the pregnant person would otherwise survive. The same logical approach would, however, also require compulsory blood and organ donation (all organs if dead, all spare organs while alive), which is almost universally considered unacceptable.

[1] In practice, it’s very rare for abortions of unwanted fetuses to occur after or even near this point, of course. Late-term abortions tend to be of wanted fetuses when there is no alternative. (As Cylux asks at 29, under what plausible circumstances would infanticide even come up as an option, anyway?)

37: Cim, why bother arguing with someone who has babykilling fantasies?

The point at issue between ourselves and the prolifers is the same-old same-old with the Christian Right: Are women human?

Christopher and his ilk take for granted that women are not human, that women’s bodies exist to be used. They don’t see the living pregnant human being who is making the decision, to abort or not. Their babykilling fantasies are not something to encourage. All we should do is keep reminding them that women are human, and their ideas that take for granted that women can be used against their will, are deeply, profoundly immoral.

39. So Much For Subtlety

29. Cylux

Please supply your hypothesis as to why this would ever occur as opposed to giving the baby up for adoption. Questions you should be able to address include ‘why would a woman have gone though the full pregnancy only to change her mind afterwards and kill the child?’ and ‘If she had murder in mind all along for the gestating child, (assuming abortion is unavailable) why didn’t she just throw herself down some stairs, get a coat hanger, punch herself repeatedly in the stomach etc, prior to the end of the pregnancy?’.

Who knows? The ways of women are many and complicated. Perhaps she thought she had a healthy baby but it turned out to have a defect she could not stand.

However this has happened. Remember Jessica Jane – the doctor claimed she was at 19 weeks, although the coroner disagreed. Her mother was given an abortion but Jessica Jane was born alive. And remained on a stainless steel dish in the OR for 80 minutes, crying, until she died.

Now I don’t know why the mother, the doctor and a room full of nurses let that happen, but they did.

40. So Much For Subtlety

32. EdinburghEye

A woman has a basic human right to terminate her pregnancy as she chooses, and as her medical advisor recommends.

Not in Britain she doesn’t. You may wish this was the case but it is not. If you don’t like it, lobby to change the law.

That so many prolifers leap directly from this to the idea that it’s okay to kill babies, suggests they think about killing babies a lot. I wonder why that is?

Perhaps because according to their definition of human, a lot of babies are being killed? What do you think?

Do you like any women?

And the standard dishonest shaming tactics begin.

What’s wrong with you that you want to believe women are objects for you to use, rather than human beings with the right to make their own decisions about their own bodies?

How is upholding the law as it stands making women objects to be used? How is that even remotely applicable to this conversation? Again, when you reach for such dishonest tactics, it looks a hell of a lot like you have lost the argument. No one denying women the right to make their own decisions about their own bodies. Just that some people think that women should not be allowed to escape the consequences of their decisions about their own bodies when some other individual’s life is at stake.

@31

there is a controversial paper here

And while it is a fantastically well written piece of windy bollocks, it omits the bleedingly obvious point that once the child is outside of the mother, it’s no longer inside her, and thus her right to choose to abort the pregnancy is rescinded, due to no longer being pregnant. Ya know, the whole bloody conflict of human rights thing.

42. Christopher Heward

EdinburghEye you appear to not want to engage with the discussion about the logic behind these things, and you appear to not even entertain any thoughts that differ from your point of view, without accusing the other person of many things. Whilst I could be wrong as I don’t know you personally, there still seems little point in me continuing to discuss with you given how you’ve come across in what you say. If you want to discuss any of the points I’ve raised please do respond later.

cim, just to be clear I’m not saying anybody wanting to abort WANTS to kill a child, I’m more trying to look at the ethical/logical equivalents. If anything it makes it interesting to think how we draw distinctions between those born and unborn. Is it because we can’t see the being (which could easily be discredited as an argument), is it because they are attached to the woman (easier to understand, but still has comparisons with, say, co-joined twins, and also raises the point that the woman is attached to the child/foetus (vice versa), so maybe the foetus should have the same rights as the woman) or is it the viability argument (which also has merits and is perhaps the clearest reasoning).

Even the viability argument has two routes. First one is that it isn’t viable so it isn’t actually a human. Second is that the baby is only alive because the woman allows it to be, so if the woman chooses to stop she has no guilt (a bit like how if you helped your friend who was an alcoholic and then chose to withdraw your help it wouldn’t be your fault if they drank themselves to death). So in the first the baby isn’t a human so it isn’t murder. In the second the baby is a human but it isn’t murder because the woman is just withdrawing her support. However, with the last example, if the mother left a new-born on the doorstep then although it wasn’t directly murder it would still lead to prosecution on the basis of neglect I presume?

With your thing about organ donation are you saying that if I could save another person’s life I should donate a kidney, for example? (Just trying to grasp what you were referring to.) If that is what you’re saying then I suppose the difference is that the baby/foetus is already dependent upon you, a bit like with leaving a baby on a door step. There’s a difference between a mother leaving a baby on a door step and a passer-by ignoring a baby on a door step, although both are wrong to varying degrees.

I also wondered when you said “the law in most other areas of human rights does draw a distinct line at birth”, what things in particular you were referring to. For example, ‘child destruction’ leads to prosecution for any child killed after 24 weeks of pregnancy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_destruction. Indeed, this lady is calling for that to be reduced to 12 weeks: http://www.itv.com/news/wales/update/2012-03-22/call-for-change-to-time-limit-for-destruction-of-an-unborn-child-charge/. Raises more interesting questions to consider.

Thanks cim

39: Thank you – I guess – for giving us a current example of prolife fantasies about babykilling. (“Now I don’t know why the mother, the doctor and a room full of nurses let that happen, but they did.”)

Important to note that these fantasies are not reality: they are stories that prolifers make up and tell each other that they’re true. No one who repeats these fantasies as if they were real events which really ought to influence political policy can be treated as an adult participant in discussion.

44. the a&e charge nurse

[41] the authors do not set out to describe the law on abortion, but rather the moral principles that dinstinguish when it is and isn’t OK to take a life – without moral distinctions the law really doesn’t make sense, does it?

Put simply what is the moral difference between terminating at 39 weeks, 42 weeks or 46 weeks?

@39

And remained on a stainless steel dish in the OR for 80 minutes, crying, until she died.

That is a lie.

THE CORONER: Where was the baby during this? —
The baby I had taken into delivery suite, into what we call a clean up area and because the baby was making noises I could not just leave it like we do with some, in a kidney dish, and I put it into a warm rug and put a drape over the top of it so at least it was warm. During all this time I’d been back and checked it
about every 10, 15 minutes.

without moral distinctions the law really doesn’t make sense, does it?

The law is congealed violence, it only contains anti-social action in as much as the state defines, through the law, what is anti-social, so arguing that laws don’t make sense without morals is a fallacy I’m afraid.

47. Christopher Heward

Just looked up the case having never heard of it before, and the quote from Cylux is correct but there is a headline figure of 80 minutes at the top of the paper: http://www.nt.gov.au/justice/courtsupp/coroner/findings/other/babyj.pdf. EdinburghEye of course people probably do make up stories, but it would appear this one is correct in this instance. It would be helpful if you could verify things before accusing people of being liars (or baby-killers, or woman haters, etc.)!

48. the a&e charge nurse

[45] “so arguing that laws don’t make sense without morals is a fallacy I’m afraid” – are you saying that the very basis of the law is not about right and wrong, and that right and wrong are not moral constructs?

49. Robin Levett

@SMFS #39:

However this has happened. Remember Jessica Jane – the doctor claimed she was at 19 weeks, although the coroner disagreed. Her mother was given an abortion but Jessica Jane was born alive. And remained on a stainless steel dish in the OR for 80 minutes, crying, until she died.

Did you miss the fact that in the opinion of all concerned, Jessica Jane was unviable; she would not live; that “resuscitation” would “be futile”. Did you also miss the comments from the Coroner that:

Evidence was tendered during the Inquest of the opinion of Professor Ian Jones, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Queensland that the deceased’s gestation was 21 to 22 weeks. His opinion was based on measurements of the infant’s body made at the post-mortem examination. His evidence was to the effect that the deceased was not going to survive due to her prematurity. I accept this.

and:

I agree with Mr Peter Barr’s written submission that despite the apparent “responsibility vacuum”, Nurse Williams did what she could to care
humanely for the deceased. She gave the deceased basic nursing care by covering, keeping warm and checking the infant. I commend her efforts.

So no, “this” (killing the newborn) did not happen in this case. Jessica Jane was born alive – but she (inevitably) died having received the appropriate nursing care throughout her short life. She was not born and then killed – she was born, and then died because she could not survive delivery at that early stage of the pregnancy.

50. So Much For Subtlety

44. Cylux

That is a lie.

THE CORONER: Where was the baby during this? —
The baby I had taken into delivery suite, into what we call a clean up area and because the baby was making noises I could not just leave it like we do with some, in a kidney dish, and I put it into a warm rug and put a drape over the top of it so at least it was warm. During all this time I’d been back and checked it
about every 10, 15 minutes.

Yeah, like that makes it any better. The fact you think this is mitigation says a lot about you. Nothing about the relevance to the story.

So this baby was cared for and left to die. Worse in every way.

@48 I am arguing that the very basis of law is not about right and wrong, yes. It’s about maintaining various values of social order. Otherwise there would be no unjust laws, which clearly isn’t true.

52. Robin Levett

@SMFS #50:

So this baby was cared for and left to die. Worse in every way.

Your choice would have been to kill her outright rather than leave her to die? Because that was the choice – leave her to die or kill her. She didn’t have another medical alternative – she wasn’t viable.

53. the a&e charge nurse

[51] ‘values of social order’, rather like the law itself are nonsensical without moral underpinning.
All the elements we expect when legal decisions are made, like fairness, proportionality, punishment, etc arise from moral considerations and given some of the recent threads on LC on the human rights act, gay marriages, religious matters, etc I would have thought such a position was self evident?

It was asked upthread why a woman might wish to kill her baby – I can think of one or two reasons, although the reasons might be not be very commonplace – anyway, let’s try these two scenarios.

[1] a mother does not engage with antenatal services eventually giving birth to a baby with significant abnormalities, or;
[2] a mother is aware of significant abnormalities and gives birth but then has a change of heart.

Remember, although the exception rather than the rule, late stage abortions are permitted under current law (in some circumstances) and the likes of Sunny have argued here that termination is still acceptable at 39 weeks.

So, what difference IN PRINCIPLE does a few weeks more make?
I mean is it just a matter of geography – one side of the vaginal canal means the baby can be killed the other, a sort of finishing line if you like, means the baby is safe (from a legal perspective) – other than a change of location what is different about the baby?

42: Christopher, I’ve encountered before the prolife idea that you can just “logically” dismiss women as human. But you can’t, and I’m certainly not surprised that you refuse to discuss women’s human rights: prolifers never do.

‘values of social order’, rather like the law itself are nonsensical without moral underpinning.

To go for a twofer and use both a cliche and invoke Godwin’s law, that’ll be why everything Hitler did was legal, and everything Hungarian freedom fighters did was illegal then.

So, what difference IN PRINCIPLE does a few weeks more make?
I mean is it just a matter of geography – one side of the vaginal canal means the baby can be killed the other, a sort of finishing line if you like, means the baby is safe (from a legal perspective) – other than a change of location what is different about the baby?

Because once the baby is outside there is no longer a conflict of human rights, there’s no particular reason why an ‘abortion’ at 8 months couldn’t take the form of a caesarian and the child passed onto adoption agencies. Abortion is essentially an eviction, albeit a complicated one due to issues of viability outside of the womb at different periods.

56. the a&e charge nurse

[55] “there’s no particular reason why an ‘abortion’ at 8 months couldn’t take the form of a caesarian and the child passed onto adoption agencies” – true, but this still doesn’t escape the fact termination is still permissible well beyond viability.

You say “once the baby is outside there is no longer a conflict of human rights” – not everybody would agree with this, for example some argue a baby SHOULD have human rights once it reaches the stage of viability (lets say 24 weeks for the sake of argument).

This is the nub of it for many who feel uncomfortable about termination beyond a certain point (because the rights of a viable human being is disregarded).
The paper linked to @31 raises this very question – if we believe that a baby has no legal rights at 39 weeks, it makes little sense to argue from a moral perspective that it has any at 42, or 44 weeks – crossing the birth canal does not alter the baby’s potential to be a person.

Describing abortion as an ‘eviction’ is an interesting euphemism but lets be honest removal from property does not usually produce quite the same results as the sort of removal abortion entails?

If you are trying to argue that morality does not have a profound effect on the way law is conceived, even if this process is open to abuse from time to time, then I fear you do not know what you are talking about.

@56

If you are trying to argue that morality does not have a profound effect on the way law is conceived, even if this process is open to abuse from time to time

Open to abuse? No, it often is the abuse. Do you think prior laws against gay people were driven by anything other than conceived notions of morality? Was the decriminalisation of gay people considered at it’s time to be a ‘moral’ move? I’d suggest no, it had more to do with legal principles regarding the universality of human rights. What about drug prohibition? Where do morals come into that? Is it a moral or immoral law, or is it relatively neutral?
The law can function perfectly well just referencing itself without paying much attention to ever-shifting ideas of morals. After all, abortion is legal at all time in the USA not due to any moral considerations but due to a supreme court ruling by reference of the constitution.

58. the a&e charge nurse

[57] “Do you think prior laws against gay people were driven by anything other than conceived notions of morality” – your undermine your own objections.

Wrong headed laws against gays were an outgrowth of religious orthodoxies – wrong, but based on moral convictions.

If your point is that morals of the day can be wrong, then I agree with you entirely, indeed some might take this very stance about late stage abortions?

Laws cannot be made with trying to encompass the mores of the day – otherwise nobody would have any confidence in them?

47: Christopher, are you still trying to divert attention away from your loathing of women and misogynistic reluctance to allow women human rights?

Tut tut.

I read the coroners’ report: If we are to assume “So Much For Subtlety” also read it, then SMFS is lying about what’s in it and what – according to the Coroners report – occured at the hospital.

The goal of prolifers is to attack human rights for women. They are supported in doing this by cheap-work conservatives because women who don’t have the basic human rights of reproductive freedom are easier to exploit. The prolife public justification for attacking human rights is to claim that they care about fetuses. Self-evidently they don’t, since the prolife movement is not one concerned with free access to contraception, healthcare for pregnant women, or provision for babies once born.

Christopher’s and Charge Nurse’s tactics of running away from the topic of human rights for women, which is the key topic, and fantasising about babykilling instead, is absolutely standard prolife strategy.

@58

Laws cannot be made with trying to encompass the mores of the day – otherwise nobody would have any confidence in them?

‘More’s of the day’ are very different from ‘morality having a profound effect on the way the law is conceived’, it’s very easy to come up with proscriptions against murder, theft and assault based only on ideas of maintaining the integrity of financial transactions, or ‘property rights’ if you will. Furthermore

for example some argue a baby SHOULD have human rights once it reaches the stage of viability

I have actually been taking this into account, hence why I said that there is a conflict of human rights, if there was no conflict, there would be no possible legal objection to abortion now would there? You also cannot put the law to one side and pretend it isn’t important because you are then trying to avoid the next logical question of ‘Once abortion is illegal, what sanctions should women who obtain illegal abortions face?’ 25 to life perhaps?

61. the a&e charge nurse

[60] “what sanctions should women who obtain illegal abortions face?’ 25 to life perhaps” – no, I would be dead against criminalsing abortion – maybe, more could be done to encourage adoption if women felt able to do this.

My real point is that the moral principles governing abortion run into problems especially after viability – at the same time once we accept that life is contingent on the strength of argument (outside of armed conflict) then the safety margin around other vulnerable groups might become less secure as well?

Personally I believe that our culture cannot remain unaffected by the number of abortions being carried out, the various factions at loggerheads with each other tends to prove this point?
Of course, for the individual abortion is the lesser of the two evils, although the cost we have to pay (in my opinion) is a willingness to disregard the rights of another person.

@42/CH: I actually think the viability argument is pretty much rubbish. It works in practice because abortions carried out after that point are pretty much exclusively due to severe health concerns (and generally of fetuses that without those health concerns would have been wanted) – but the theory is silly because there is no such thing as “viability” – it all depends on the current level of medical technology.

So, if the country gets into a serious war, and medical supplies run low, should the Act be amended back up to 28 weeks because we’re no longer able to offer the necessary medical care for very early premature births? You just get all sorts of problems which we haven’t had to actually deal with here because both the country and medical advances are relatively stable.

so maybe the foetus should have the same rights as the woman

It does. The fetus has every right, at any time of its choosing, to unilaterally stop co-existing with the person carrying it. Most of them, in the absence of external factors, choose to exercise this right after about nine months, though a substantial minority do so sooner.

I suppose the difference is that the baby/foetus is already dependent upon you, a bit like with leaving a baby on a door step.

But there’s no requirement to maintain that dependency. After birth, the dependency can be removed safely for both parties (which is why abandonment is generally wrong).

So you’re arguing that by virtue of the pre-existing dependency, the person must be required to keep the fetus alive even at significant cost to themselves. By the same logic, at the very least parents should be required to donate marrow, blood, a kidney etc. if needed for their children – and most would, of course, because that’s the lengths people often go to for wanted children – but the idea that it should be made compulsory would I think face massive opposition, and that’s with a donation procedure that (even with a kidney donation) is generally considerably quicker and less health-affecting in the long-term than a pregnancy.

Incidentally, you could also argue by analogy, since you seem to like argument by analogy, that the fetus is like someone who breaks into your house, causes you pain and injury, drains your energy, and refuses to leave. Self-defence laws would allow considerable force to be used against the aggressor in that scenario; indeed the current government is talking about expanding the definition of reasonable force.

[Legal reference]

No, not that law – which as the article states is incredibly rarely applied, and most of the circumstances in which it has been applied have also involved other serious offences. I’m thinking of things like “right to own property”, “right to freely associate”, “right to a fair trial”, etc. for which I can’t imagine any court ruling applied – or were even meaningfully applicable – to people who had not yet been born.

Switching to a different area of logic with different starting premises, even if you accept that people who are pregnant should be forced to continue the pregnancy and give birth (which implies some sort of penalty for those who don’t, of course [1]), there are currently 65,000 children in foster care, of whom around 3,000 are adopted each year. Even at those numbers the system continually struggles to adequately care for those children. The system could not cope with an additional 190,000 unwanted children being added to it each year. I suppose, having forced one person to give birth, in the interests of equality we should equally legally require the person who provided the sperm to look after the child for the next 18 years.

[1] Or the Ireland/Northern Ireland solution: you can only have an abortion if you’re rich enough to afford an emergency trip to a country where abortion is legal, and pay the medical bills once you’re there. “Only banned for poor people” is the usual practical result of such legislation.

61/a&e: I would view abortion as a symptom of the fact that we do not have:
1 – complete prevention of rape and domestic violence/abuse
2 – a social support and benefits system to ensure that financial and social considerations do not make raising a child an unpleasant prospect.
3 – comprehensive, effective and high quality universal SRE
4 – contraception which is cheap, free from side-effects, 100% reliable even in adverse circumstances, and (until point 1 is complete) impossible to sabotage, for all sexual anatomies
5 – a medical system capable of otherwise dealing with all pregnancy-related health conditions and with fatal genetic variance.

Get all five of those right and the abortion rate will be negligible. The first three can be done with what we have (though not easily), and the fourth could probably be achieved within a few decades with focused research funding. The fifth is theoretical and may be impossible, but probably has the least effect on the number of abortions needed anyway.

For me the number of abortions isn’t a problem in itself (and the number is not “high” by historical standards; the ratio to live births is pretty much the same as it has been for a while) – but it does expose numerous problems elsewhere that we should be dealing with.

63. the a&e charge nurse

[62] very good post – strongly agree that exploring ways of reducing unwanted pregnancy has not been fully utilised.

64. Christopher Heward

EdinburghEye

To clear and as basic as possible, I believe that women, and men, have the right to freedom to choose what to do. I also believe that the unborn baby has a right to life. In most civilised societies the legal system is essentially ‘do what you want as long as you don’t hurt others’. Surprisingly, abortion hurts another. Therefore, whilst a woman has the right to abstain (i.e. not to be raped), to use contraception, to put her child up for adoption (by whatever parents SHE chooses I’d argue), and various other things, she doesn’t have the right to kill another human life. I hope this is not clear as I’m trying to be as blunt as possible.

The question is therefore, what about the above do you disagree with? I have made it VERY clear that women should have the freedom to do whatever they want as long as they don’t harm others. Do you think this isn’t the case.

Please can you answer a fairly straightforward question, and do so without hurling unfounded allegations?

65. Christopher Heward

Hmph, my comment should have read: ‘To be clear…’ and at the end of the paragraph: ‘I hope this IS clear ‘

Ironically, it wasn’t very clear at all in the end!

Christopher “The question is therefore, what about the above do you disagree with? ”

The prolife idea that once a woman is pregnant, she loses basic human rights.

I’ve said this repeatedly. Why do you find it difficult to understand? Why are you claiming I haven’t answered it?

A woman has a right not to be enslaved. Your argument that you have the right to force the use of a woman’s body against her will is obscene – it does not make it less obscene that you claim to want the right to force women in order to make women go through pregnancy and give birth against their will: you are merely arguing by that that you have not only the right to force women, you have the right to harm and kill women.

Perhaps you should ask yourself why you find it so difficult to accept that you do not own any woman, and have no right to force the use of any woman’s body against her will. What is so incomprehensible to you about the idea that women are not objects for your use?

Now that’s a straightforward answer to your question. How about answering mine (above) and without diverting into any fake claims about concern for fetuses? Pro-choice position is simple: each pregnant woman has the right to decide for herself what she’s going to do. Why do you find that so difficult to accept?

67. Christopher Heward

EdinburghEye, I shall restate my proposition as simply as I possibly can:
1) I generally believe a human being should have the freedom to do whatever they as long as it doesn’t harm another human being.
2) I believe that the foetus in the womb is a human being, at least for part of that period if not all.
3) Therefore if the woman chooses to have an abortion she chooses to harm another human being.
4) Therefore this choice shouldn’t be allowed, not because the woman is no longer human, nor because she has no freedoms, but because her freedom would harm the freedom to life of another (see point 1).

My question is therefore, as simply as I can put it:
Which part of that do you disagree with it?

I shall be gracious and answer your question even though you haven’t any of mine from what I can remember:
What is so incomprehensible to you about the idea that women are not objects for your use?
As I’ve previously stated I don’t think women are objects for use. I abhor rape. I think women should be allowed to choose to use contraception to prevent conception. I believe she can choose to do whatever she wants with her child as long as it doesn’t harm it. Most importantly, whilst some people might rape a woman, or force her to not use contraception, or take her child away from her, I wouldn’t do this. I wouldn’t use a woman. If I ever did, say emotionally, I would like to think if I became aware of this I would immediately give sincere apologies and make amends as much as possible for her benefit and ensure I didn’t do it again (often though we don’t hurt people physically we can damage people mentally or emotionally, and I would never want to do that to anyone, even if I deeply disagreed with them).

And on that last point, whilst I deeply disagree with you it seems, and I do have deep concerns about what appears to be a complete lack of interest in the foetus/child in this situation on your behalf, I still don’t wish you ill and wish you the best.

“1) I generally believe a human being should have the freedom to do whatever they as long as it doesn’t harm another human being.”

Denial of safe legal abortion harms women. Why do you feel you should have the freedom to deny safe legal abortion to women? About sixty thousand women a year die because people with views like yours have the power to enforce them. So why do you believe women aren’t human?

“2) I believe that the foetus in the womb is a human being, at least for part of that period if not all.”

So? The question is not what you believe about fetuses – as I’ve repeatedly said. The question is whether you believe *women* are human. And since you feel free to advocate harm to women, while claiming you don’t want to harm *humans*, apparently … you don’t.

“3) Therefore if the woman chooses to have an abortion she chooses to harm another human being.”
4) Therefore this choice shouldn’t be allowed,”

Again, you’re trying to make an argument based on the idea that women exist to be used, regardless of what harm this does to women. You’re justifying this on the grounds that it’s wrong to harm *humans*. Why do you think women aren’t human, and it’s okay to use and harm women?

Again: answer the question. Why do you believe you can use women’s bodies against their will?

“As I’ve previously stated I don’t think women are objects for use.”

Next question: Why are you lying about this? You explained (points 3+4) that you think women exist as objects to be used. Since you outright admitted above you think it’s right to use women’s bodies against their will, why lie about it?

“I wouldn’t use a woman. If I ever did, say emotionally, I would like to think if I became aware of this I would immediately give sincere apologies and make amends as much as possible for her benefit and ensure I didn’t do it again”

But you’ve been advocating, throughout this thread, that you *would* use women. You’ve been doing nothing else. So can we see a sincere apology from you, an acknowledgment you were wrong to argue that women exist to be used against their will, and ensure you never advocate against a woman’s right to choose again?

69. Christopher Heward

EdinburghEye
Why don’t you care about foetuses?

@69 Given your position I think you could do with coming up with an answer to my question at the end of my comment @60, because making abortion illegal, much like narcotics, is not going to make them go away. Well off women can go abroad to countries where abortion remains legal, for poorer women, the options are bleaker, either back alley surgeries of questionable repute or ill-advised ‘home remedies’ which can do lasting damage. But rest assured, abortions will still be taking place. What, would you do about that?

71. MarkAustin

@62. cim:

On the viability issue, yes, to a certain extent it does depend on medical technology. However, the survival rates for early premature births have barely changed for many years, and the general medical consens isb that, absent some major medical breakthrough, we’ve reached the practical survival rate for premature births.

69: Why don’t *you* care about fetuses? I do. That’s why I put pregnant women first, since the *only* way to protect the health and wellbeing of fetuses is to promote the health and wellbeing of pregnant women. That obviously means that women need full access to healthcare on demand – which includes abortion. There are people alive today who would have died in the uterus or never been conceived if prolifers had their destructive & abusive way with women.

70: Christopher wouldn’t mind that abortions were still taking place.

His goal is self-evidently not to protect fetuses but to attack women. Prolifers are never interested in abortion prevention: only in making abortion illegal, dangerous, expensive, and trying to shame women who have abortions.


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    [...] this investigation – instituted by the health secretary himself, rather than the CQC – is politically motivated. Ann Furedi, chief executive of BPAS, one of the charities whose clinics were visited, insisted [...]

  40. Abortion: the case for change | Editorial | Comment is free | The Guardian

    [...] this investigation – instituted by the health secretary himself, rather than the CQC – is politically motivated. Ann Furedi, chief executive of BPAS, one of the charities whose clinics were visited, insisted [...]

  41. Teach children lying liars lie | Edinburgh Eye

    [...] Andrew Lansley attacks clinics that provide abortions, and says it’s “appalling” that doctors might be allowing women the right to [...]

  42. Abortion: the case for change | Editorial - Property Cloud

    [...] this investigation – instituted by the health secretary himself, rather than the CQC – is politically motivated. Ann Furedi, chief executive of BPAS, one of the charities whose clinics were visited, insisted [...]

  43. Lansley wasted £1m smearing abortion providers | Liberal Conspiracy

    [...] Lansley wasted £1m smearing abortion providers by Sunny Hundal     I wrote a few weeks about how the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley was trying to play politics with abortion services. [...]





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