Daily Echo abortion article

// 2 February 2008

I have wrongly been quoted as a ‘spokesman’ (no, I hadn’t realised I was a man either) for Abortion Rights in this article. I’d like to make it clear that I am a member of Abortion Rights, but not an official spokesperson.

In the article, which focuses on Ann Widdecombe’s gag-inducingly titled ‘Passion for Life’ tour, the journalist displays a bias towards the anti-choice position, ignoring the information I gave her on the lack of scientific developments in foetal viability since the 1967 Abortion Act and choosing instead to allow Ann Widdecombe to air her distorted views:

Babies are born prematurely and survive at 21 weeks. If you are born you have full civil rights, full equality before the law. You will have all the resources of medical science to keep you alive. It would be a criminal offence to kill you. But just before birth when you are the same person you have no civil rights at all and you can be taken from the womb and destroyed. There’s only one difference. You can see one and you can’t see the other. You can do to the other what would be unspeakable to a child already born.

The Commons Science and Technology Committee, convened to examine scientific advances related to the Abortion Act, found that less than 1% of babies born at 22 weeks (let alone 21 weeks) survive. Couple this with the fact that only 2% of abortions are carried out after 20 weeks, and that these 2% represent women in very vulnerable situations, and it becomes clear that Widdecombe’s argument is nothing more than emotive rhetoric founded on incredibly callous attitude towards women.

Widdecombe is in the minority: 83% of the UK population are pro-choice, and the conclusions of the Commons Committee’s study strongly support the pro-choice position. Yet journalists are often much more keen to base stories on the emotional rhetoric of anti-women “pro-lifers” like her than on the facts and on women’s right to bodily autonomy. The anti-choicers aren’t simply out to reduce the abortion time limit; they want an end to abortion in the UK altogether.

This is a chilling prospect, considering that tens of thousands of women die globally every year as a result of illegal abortion.

As long as sex education is as dire as it currently is, as long as condoms break, pills fail and men rape, as long as pregnant women and mothers are discriminated against in the workplace and free childcare is not available to all, women cannot be truly free without the option of having an abortion, and some of us would undoubtably access one illegally or be forced to pay huge sums to get one abroad if it was outlawed in this country.

Yet despite all their ‘women deserve better’ rhetoric, the often Catholic and hardline Christian anti-choicers are the very same people who oppose sex education and contraception, while right-wingers like Widdeombe would have us believe that single mothers are the route of all evil.

They couldn’t care less about women’s rights. So let’s fight them every step of the way.

6th February London

Assemble 6.30pm opposite Central Hall Westminster

12th February Liverpool

Assemble 6.15 outside the Liner Hotel, Lord Nelson Street (next to Lime Street Station). Subject to confirmation of police permission.

13th February Coventry

Assemble 7pm outside Coventry Cathedral. Subject to confirmation of police permission.

4th March Cardiff

Assemble 6.30pm outside the City Temple, Cowbridge Road East. Subject to confirmation of police permission.

For more information:

Lynne’s summary of the Commons Committee’s conclusions.

Abortion Rights UK website.

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