Irish doctor with too many thoughts, too little time and a blog that's supposed to check in on reality.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Next Big Thing – Abortion Debate

Forget months, the Irish blog world year is now being measured in terms of “big debates” – we’ve had feminism and gay marriage – now we’re moving onto abortion (the really “divisive” one).
Fiona at Mental Meanderings has started off with a post on why she believes abortion should be legal. Richard at Sicilian Notes doesn’t think this issue should be discussed on blogs – I think blogs are as good a place as any to discuss abortion.
Well, I have already discussed abortion loads on this blog – and did so in a , rational, non-emotional, non-theological manner (Well at least I think I did!)
I’ve posted on most aspects of abortion at some stage or another.

In the last 2 weeks, I’ve posted 4 times about different aspects of abortion – Blogs4Life, a pro-life bloggers conference I called into last week in Washington ; Silent No More, a group of post-abortive women who I listened to outside the Supreme Court; Rethinking Abortion on the international experience of abortion; and the debate on Slate at the moment about abortion between Katha Pollitt and William Saletan.

In the last 2 months, I’ve posted on 2 new pieces of research linking abortion with negative mental health outcomes for women – here and here.

Before I start into the “abortion debate” proper – I want to discuss what Damien Mulley said on his blog
Forgot to mention that from my blinkered view of this I have never seen any debate about how to prevent unwanted pregnancies and how to create a society where unwanted pregnancies is a rare thing. There’s the Crisis Pregnancy Agency but they seem to also try and “help” women to change their mind about having an abortion. What do pro-choice people say about a group like this? Is it a front or a genuine organisation?
This blog has discussed exactly this point a few times – here and here – pro-life groups have been the very ones on both the national and international scene that have been agitating for creating a society where the need for abortion is reduced and women have better choices than abortion.

The Crisis Pregnancy was set up under the Health (Corporate Bodies) Act. 1961, and governed by the Statutory Instrument No. 446 of 2001, Crisis Pregnancy Agency, Establishment Order, 2001.  The primary function of the Agency is to prepare a strategy to address the issue of crisis pregnancy, providing for:
  • a reduction in the number of crisis pregnancies by the provision of education, advice and contraceptive services

  • a reduction in the number of women with crisis pregnancies who opt for abortion by offering services and supports which make other options more attractive

  • the provision of counselling and medical services after crisis pregnancy.
It was set up after the Pro Life Campaign in particular, made it a central part of their lobbying for a referendum to clear up the medico-legal limbo resulting from the X Case. This however does not make it a pro-life or a pro-choice group, but a governmental body charged with the very important responsibility to reduce the number of women who feel they need abortions.

Okay, the great abortion question.
I don’t think abortion should be legalised. I believe this for loads of reasons, none of which are irrational, religious or emotive. I don’t address Fiona’s point of legalising vs condoning, because, frankly, I believe that the embryo/fetus/unborn child is a member of the human family, and is deserving of the State’s protection at the very least. Legislation and condoning quickly becomes the same thing, in my opinion anyway.

Abortion ends the life of one human being – a human being that responds to painful stimuli at 16 weeks. That’s 8 whole weeks before the legal limit in the UK.

Abortion does not bring about greater equality for women. Abortion does not improve the aspects of society that force many women into abortion, like career or educational opportunities, or the difficulties of single motherhood or “feckless fathers”. (I just like the alliteration!)

Abortion does not come without a cost to women – a cost that is physical, mental and emotional.

Abortion does not advance the cause of human rights. It creates an arbitrary line (birth) after which human dignity and equality comes into force. Before that, a fully genetically complete, growing small human being is somehow less than the rest of us. Refusal to extend the most basic of all human rights, the right to life, to unborn human beings, makes the ubiquitous human rights language that we reference so many of our dilemmas to, negotiable and wholly dependent on social/cultural mores.

Abortion is never necessary to save a woman’s life. Ireland has no abortion as part of standard medical care – we have an exemplary record in maternal health care. There is no treatment that a pregnant woman may need that is currently denied to her.

Abortion is not a treatment for suicide. Women who are suicidal as result of pregnancy, wanted or unwanted, need full psychiatric treatment – the same given to any suicidal individual. In fact, one study showed a link between abortion and greater risk of suicide (a 6 times greater risk).

Abortion does not need to legalised to create a world safe from the dangers of illegal and unsafe abortion. While we have no information on the rates of illegal abortion in Ireland, it is generally assumed to be very very rare. Safe abortion is in many ways a little oxymoronic. Not only is it not without the standard medical risks and side effects of any procedure, it carries significant psychological morbidity. Safe abortion is not guaranteed – maternal deaths from legal abortion in the UK (page 28 of pdf doc) were 12 in the 14 year period from 1985-99, peaking with 5 deaths from 1991-93. My post about blogs4life carries the tragic story of a woman who died from an abortion (apologies – that story is emotional. I find I get emotional when I think about a young woman who died unnecessarily as a result of abortion complications. Check out the mp3 of 911 call made from the abortion clinic. A health care worker is more worried about the reputation of her clinic “no lights, no sirens” than her bleeding and unconscious patient – I get angry and disgusted.)

Abortion does not need to be legalised to be made rare. We need to do these things.

An interesting journal for all you feminists out there (now I sound like a late night radio host – “and this one goes out to”) is the Feminism and Nonviolence Studies Journal.
Unfortunately they’ve stopped posting their articles online but I find the Spring 1995 edition fascinating. Doris Gordon, founder of Libertarians for Life has an article in it.

I’ll end with a quote from an article entitled Compassion and Concentric Circles of Support.
Calling the fetus "unwanted" reminds them that history is littered with the corpses of people deemed "unwanted." Women's worth does not depend on men wanting them; we cannot have a double standard for our own children. Likewise, with the idea that "the child might be abused", the pro-life women imagine their friends who have overcome rape, battering, childhood molestation. They imagine someone telling them "Your life is not worth living; you should never have been born." Assertions that the child may be disabled make even less sense; surely we don't kill sick children, they think, we love them and care for them! Scoffing at the fetus's tiny size reminds the pro-life woman of her own small stature compared to most men; many a woman knows in her own body what violence at stronger hands is like. Because the fetus is small, weak, still growing, she is even more deserving of protection; she is the smallest fragile bud on our human family tree.
As with pro-choice women, masculine-style arguments based on principle seem irrelevant. Is this a woman's choice? What a horrible, bloody, humiliating choice! A woman who wants an abortion seems like an animal caught in a trap, trying to gnaw off its own leg--a terrible bid to escape a desperate situation by an act of violence and self-loss. The pro-life woman thinks, "Surely there's a better way to help her.”    



Blogger Simon said...

i have set up a poll on my blog. on the issue.

February 07, 2006 12:10 a.m.  
Blogger Simon said...

Abortion does not need to legalised to create a world safe from the dangers of illegal and unsafe abortion

From the physcological point of view would i not be easier to deal with it if it was done in Ireland. rather then kind of secerative trips to england.

February 07, 2006 3:40 p.m.  
Blogger Fence said...

I've had to tag Irish bloggers, and you're up: Some details on the Quasi-Meme for Irish Bloggers:

February 07, 2006 3:45 p.m.  

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