What next for choice?

// 21 May 2008

Last night was a great victory for choice, but it was only one of many battles that need to be fought and won to ensure UK women have a genuine right to choose. Ready?

1) We need to continue to counteract the anti-abortionists’ lies and emotive rhetoric on late term abortion, turning the debate back onto women. For a start, we can scrap the anti-choice claim that “nearly two thirds of the public and almost three qurters of women support a reduction in the upper time limit”. This conclusion was drawn from a highly misleading survey which included the question:

At the moment abortion is legal in Britain up to the 24th week of pregnancy. However, doctors can now save the lives of premature babies born as early as 23 weeks. From what you know, what do you think the legal limit for abortion should be?

A new MORI poll, published yesterday, encourages respondents to think about the situation of the women concerned, and found that a majority of women of child bearing age do support the current time limit.

2) We must push back the tide of blue sweeping the country to ensure the Tories do not win the next election (I know, I’m rapidly losing the will to live on this one): according to an analysis of last night’s votes, the upper limit could be cut if Cameron gets in. And we know that won’t be the end of it.

3) Northern Ireland’s abortion law must be brought into line with the rest of the UK.

4) Women must be able to access abortion on demand, which means scrapping the necessity to gain the signatures of two doctors and, strictly speaking, having to prove to them that carrying on with the pregnancy poses more risk to the mother and/or to her existing children’s physical or mental wellbeing than having an abortion.

5) Support must be increased for single mums and the minimum wage raised to a real living wage in order that women are not forced to abort on purely economic grounds.

6) Abortion must be freely available on the NHS as soon as possible after the woman requests it: no more long waiting lists or being forced to go private.

7) Sex education and access to contraception must be improved so fewer women have to access abortion in the first place.

8) Nadine Dorries and friends must be exiled to a small island, far, far away from here where they can spend their days merrily changing the nappies of all the world’s unwanted babies born in countries where women cannot access abortion. Oh, that’s cruel, I know. Poor kids.

Feel free to add to the list in comments. And go join Abortion Rights if you’re not already a member.

Photo by internets_dairy, shared under a Creative Commons licence. (Caption reads: “It’s outrageous! My friends over there can’t hear my illiberal views!” Ace.)

Comments From You

rooroo // Posted 21 May 2008 at 12:54 pm

Does anyone recognise that MP? He was rather peeved!

“Hmm yes, you’re trying to silence all women’s voices on abortion, so let me just tell the hundreds of people protesting here today to quieten down, just for you…”

colette // Posted 21 May 2008 at 1:09 pm

on this morning today there was a ‘doctor’ taiking about this, damning the decision, the presenters looked shocked and asked how on earth this had happened, and then leant support to david cameron. hmmm.

Shea // Posted 21 May 2008 at 3:36 pm

Doctors can save the lives of babies born at 13 weeks?!? In what universe– there is no way. They don’t even have lungs at that stage. Such crap.

Its interesting that point 5) is never addressed by prolifers, especially Conservatives. Could it be that they have no interest in increasing dependencies on the state and would just really like to take more women out of the workforce. Don’t forget that this is the same “Call me Dave” Cameron who voted against increasing paternity leave, but nonetheless took the maximum amount himself.

Nice suggestion re: 8) although I agree it would be far too cruel on the kids…….

Anne Onne // Posted 21 May 2008 at 5:57 pm

Exactly, Shea, I was like ‘what species? ‘ I have never heard of a baby being born at 13 weeks and surviving, and you know, if that had happened, you’d think the pro-lifers would not keep quiet about it. They’d have a field day. So I think this must have happened in one of Ms. Dorries’ dreams (followed by the baby tap dancing whilst playing the flute, no doubt!) and somehow it got written in as ‘fact’. Funny how that happens a lot with conservatives.

Colette, it always does seem to be the crazy anti-choice doctors who get attention, doesn’t it. It’s rare to see interviews with qualified doctors or foetal development specialists who are pro-choice, but anybody with an anti-abortion axe to grind gets free rein!

I loved item 8. If only. Seriously, the media here is only slightly less right-wing leaning than in the US. And I think they’re catching up. And the bad science, it buuurns!

Katherine Brierly // Posted 21 May 2008 at 7:13 pm

Ha! The earliets surviving baby was born at 22 weeks and 5 days. 13 weeks? In what universe? Even at 24 weeks there is a 1 in 5 survival rate and a 90 percent chance of significant disabilities if it does survive. This is lies and propaganda!!!

Emma Athawes // Posted 21 May 2008 at 7:21 pm

It makes me sick that these arguments are based on pseudo-science, questionable medical statistics and moral/religious rhetoric, I am worried we as feminists will have a long battle ahead of us especially with the probablity of a Tory government

constance // Posted 21 May 2008 at 8:51 pm

I watched BBC news last night and was horrified at the way they pass off computer-generated imagery as real – there was a quick flash of the words ‘computer-generated’ but the overwhelming sense was that this was ‘real’ footage from inside the womb. And why do they need to show emotive images anyway?

Emma Athawes // Posted 21 May 2008 at 10:12 pm

Emotive imagery of the foetus in utero whether it be an ultrasounds or computer generated is used to collaspe the distinction of the foetus/baby

Popular images of the foetus present it as seperate from its’ mother and engaging in concious, “baby-like” behaviour such as sucking its thumb. Thereby asserting the notion that the foetus is self-sustainable as a baby and thus, abortion is murder

BD // Posted 22 May 2008 at 3:44 pm

Apologies – there’s a typo in my post which has ended up here as well: the poll I quoted actually cited 23 weeks for premature survival, not 13. It was entirely my mistake, and I hadn’t noticed until someone pointed it today.

While there have been some pretty dishonest mirepresentations during this debate, this poll didn’t make that claim. My mistake and apologies for the confusion.

Laura // Posted 23 May 2008 at 2:24 pm

No probs, BD, I should’ve read the actual poll anyway. Thanks for al the work you’ve put in on this, it’s really valuable.

Jane Downey // Posted 26 May 2008 at 2:53 pm

Although it is relief that the 24 week limit has been retained, there is bound to be another attack on it and if the Conservatives win it might be successful.

When I was expecting a baby in 1988 the tests for some abnormalities could not be done until after 18 weeks. If a woman wanted to abort this left a very short time to organise.

I have not heard anything in this debate about whether this time for tests has been reduced.

Shea // Posted 26 May 2008 at 5:13 pm

Jane– I spoke recently to a friend who does genetics testing such as amniocentisis and CVS for the NHS and she said that they still take place at between 16-18 weeks. If the abortion limit was lowered to 20 weeks this would give some women 1 day in which to decide whether to abort or not (given the usual 14 days turn around on tests)! So there are some huge questions the prolifers have not addressed.

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