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Archive for the ‘Abortion’ Category

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It’s that time of year again  – the UK abortion stats have been released for 2013, which will be carefully crafted into a positive press release by agencies with a commercial interest and so we can expect to see cheerful headlines about the increase in early abortion and the declining abortion rate in women aged 15-44.

The real story is rather more complicated. The rate of women aged 15-44 having an abortion has declined to 15.9 per 1,000 and is indeed at its lowest for 16 years. But the overall total of abortions performed in the UK in 2013 has slightly increased from last years figure and is 2.3% higher than 10 years ago. The amount of women choosing to have an abortion might be in decline, but all is not lost for the private clinics – those who do have an abortion are likely to be repeat customers. In any event we shouldn’t forget that despite being at its lowest level for some time, in 2013 the rate of women having an abortion was double that of 1970.

The pro-choice, pro lots of lovely sex ed and contraception lobby find themselves in something of a bind. There is the very welcome news that abortion rate for the under-16s and the under 18s shows a steady decline, in common with teen pregnancies. “See, hooray look, lots of education and access to contraception in schools is the answer” they will cry, with collective pats on the back, affirming blogposts and accompanying PR about ‘evidence-based’ choice. Indeed the rate of abortions performed on those under the age of 22 is declining. Fewer young people going through the agony of abortion is something that folk on all sides of the debate will applaud.

But here’s the rub: the numbers of those aged 22 and above having an abortion remains static from 2012. Which means that either people are suddenly forgetting what teacher told them about the banana and the condom and the handy over-the-counter pill back in 4B, or that they are taking more risks, or as is most likely to be the case, that this is the age where regular sexual activity is the norm. A 22 year old is far more likely to be cohabiting or having sex on a more frequent basis than a 16 year old whose sex life will probably consist of sporadic chaotic fumbles. By the time you’ve got to 22, most young women will have imbibed the mantras of Cosmpolitan and the like and be aiming for some sort of quality and consistency in their intimate life.

And why shouldn’t they, will be the riposte of the feminists. What’s the point of equality if you can’t have multiple orgasms and demand that a partner gives you 100% satisfaction, and obey your whims 100% of the time, just for the privilege of being with you?!

I digress, but what this cultural demand and expectation that women really ought to be demanding marvellous sex lives means (and I’m all for the latter, trust me, I just don’t believe that the vision women are being sold leads to anything other than narcissist, paranoid and ultimately frustrating intimate encounters) is that it makes women entirely reliant on contraception. If you know that pregnancy would spell a disaster then it’s the ‘responsible’ thing to use contraception because you know, swinging from the chandeliers and achieving orgasms in double figures is your birthright as a woman. If you’re not having lots of juicy sex ,then let’s face it you’re probably a freak, there’s something wrong with you and nobody would want to be with you anyway!

So all these emancipated young women are totally dependent on their contraception, which is a bit of a problem considering that no method is 100% effective! Which is where the kindly ‘abortions for only £700 a time charged directly to your local NHS trust’, BPAS come in, with their reassuring campaigns that you are not alone, 1 in 3 women will need an abortion in their lifetime and that around 66% of their clients have managed to conceive while using contraception. Still, once you’ve had an abortion the clinics will kindly advise you on future contraception to guarantee repeat custom, under the guise of altruism, selling the expectation that you won’t once again end up in that 66% bracket.

If you think I’m being just an itsy bitsy bit cynical, then it’s worth remembering that the 2013 abortion figures demonstrate that the number of abortions performed in private clinics which are paid for by the NHS are at an all-time high of 64%, up on 62% of the previous year.

The repeat abortion figures are in fact, astonishingly high, 44% of all women aged 25-29  ending their pregnancies in 2013 underwent a repeat abortion, a figure which rose to 47% in the 30-34 age bracket and then dipped to 45% in the over 35’s. It seems that once you have had one abortion, you are more than likely to have another.

With repeat abortions at 37% amongst all women in 2013, compared to 32% in 2012, it’s no wonder that the clinics describe it as a ‘need’. Almost 50,000 women who had an abortion last year, had already had one. Black or Black British women and those of mixed race were more likely to have had an abortion than white women and other groups. Interestingly Asian and Chinese women have the lowest preponderance of repeat abortions, despite the fact that Asian women are likely to be more affected by the issue of gendercide – perhaps this is indicative the rise of the professional Asian class in the UK.

At a time Catholics are being blamed for their attitudes towards sex and stigmatising of single mothers in twentieth century Ireland, not much has changed. Around 81% of abortions were performed in 2013 upon single women, a number which has risen slowly from 76%, ten years ago in 2003.

Another statistic to be vaunted will be the number of abortions carried out under 13 weeks,  comprising 91% of the total, same as last year, but that abortions under 10 weeks had risen to 79% compared with 77% in 2012 and 59% in 2003.

The subtext here is that the earlier an abortion the better, both for mother and child alike (although a dead baby is a dead baby at whatever stage it’s at) but the complication rates seem to have risen in that 11% of women having an abortion under 10 weeks needed a stay of at least 1 night in hospital. The rate of complications obviously rises the further progressed you are in pregnancy, 25% of abortions of 13-19 weeks required a hospital stay, rising to 57% of those more than 20 weeks or more. We shouldn’t forget that complications experienced once you have left the clinic premises are not recorded.

The rise in early abortions, and medical abortions indicate that women are making their decision earlier than ever before. This once again raises the contentious issue of counselling – if 64% of all abortions are being carried out in private clinics on behalf of the NHS, then it’s imperative that women are not rushed into making a decision due to the time limits of one particular method.

The high number of abortions being carried out by private providers using NHS funds highlights the need for accountability to the public by abortion clinics along with the organisations which they fund to go into schools. This week we’ve seen that well over half of the abortions carried out on the grounds that the baby had Downs Syndrome were not properly recorded, with most information being lost. Add in the fact that doctors caught pre-signing abortion forms without seeing a patient were neither prosecuted nor did they have to face a fitness to practice hearing, despite being in breach of the law, then one has to wonder at the wisdom of yet further liberalising the practice of abortion law.

The clinics have not yet shown that they can be trusted. It will be interesting to see if there is any variation in these figures now the government have clarified that the practice of gender selective abortion is illegal.

One final stat here. So often we hear that late stage abortions are a necessary option for those who discover that their baby has a terrible anomaly.

Leaving aside the arguments about whether or not we ought to impose our vision of what constitutes quality of life to justify depriving another of life, ‘feticide’ was the word which jumped out at me while looking at the table which outlined the methods used to abort the baby, admitting that direct action to end the life of the baby was performed prior to their forced evacuation from the womb.

Of those who aborted their babies between the ages of 20-24 weeks, 904 were on the grounds of fetal anomaly, which means 1,659 babies were aborted at a time when the mother was over-half way through her pregnancy, the baby was fully formed, waving, kicking, smiling and the mother would have felt the movements, simply because they were no longer wanted.

To put that figure in some kind of context, that’s more than the 1,491 live births to women aged 38-39 from 7,500 cycles of IVF. Or how about comparing the 8,500 abortions performed in 2013 on women in the over-40 age bracket with the 6,355 cycles of IVF resulting in 822 births in women in the age 40-42 cohort. What kind of a pickle have we got ourselves into?

When is society going to wake up to the screwy schizophrenia surrounding female fertility instead of patting ourselves on how well we are doing at educating people into a pattern of repeat abortions.

It’s not about regulating others’ sex lives or controlling their bodies but recognising that not only does this take the life of an unborn child but it also causes irreparable pain and suffering to so many women. I don’t which is more depressing. That nothing has changed, the lives lost to abortion in 2013 or that this time next year I’ll be saying exactly the same thing.

 

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A few years ago I was riled into writing about SPUC in less than complimentary terms following some less than charitable remarks about Catholic Voices, the organisation of which I am proud to be a part, not being orthodox enough. Writing on his blog back in 2011, John Smeaton, Director of SPUC called for the voices of ‘real Catholics’ instead of our appeasing liberal heterodox ones.

Admittedly I was less than charitable in my reply, my irritation and indignation fuelled in part by pregnancy hormones. The accusations of heterodoxy and attacks upon Catholic Voices coming from John Smeaton, did cease, for which I think we are all grateful – after all when it came to the thorny topic of the redefinition of marriage, it was clear that we were all on the same side.

And when it comes to the aims of SPUC, I think we’re all on their side, we all wish for a successful pro-life lobby group in this country. It is very disappointing for ordinary Catholics in the pews that by and large our leadership seems to be quiet on the subject of abortion, with a few notable exceptions and that there seems to be no specifically Catholic pro-life organisation, which is why SPUC occupy a weird hybrid position, ostensibly being a secular lobby group and not a registered charity, with no official Catholic endorsement. To be fair to SPUC they are simply filling a gap.

SPUC has two problems, the first one being that in order to gain any serious political traction, any pro-life movement, be that in the realms of abortion or euthanasia should not be perceived as a purely religious movement. To use the cliche, if I had a penny for every time I’ve trotted out the phrase that life issues, including contraception and IVF for that matter, don’t actually require any sort of religious belief or recourse to theism to be valid ethical positions, neither do they fit into any sort of left/right-wing praxis, then I’d be a seriously rich woman by now.

One of the accusations trotted out by those angered by my original post was that my criticism came from self-interest, I had my eye on staging some sort of coup and emerging as a female pro-life leader. One of the reasons that I have absolutely no intention or desire to lead any sort of movement (aside from the fact I am not a natural leader and have never been comfortable in these sorts of positions and have more than enough on my plate at present) is because as a lesser-known Catholic, I’d never be able to move beyond the ‘religious agenda’ template. The future of pro-life in the political sphere in any event, needs to be able to bust the religious zealot/wingnut frame and led by someone who has kept below the radar.

LifeCharity has a Catholic founder and chairman in Jack Scarisbrick and admittedly employs practicing Christians of all denominations, but it also employs those of other faiths and none. It is this wholly secular, non-religious flavour of the organisation which has enabled it to make some inroads in terms of being invited to participate in policy forums. It is precisely Life’s lack of overt religiosity, it refuses to endorse or alternatively condemn 40 Days for Life for example which makes the pro-choice lobby spit with fury as the tired accusations and tropes simply don’t work. This is why organisations such as Education for Choice, do their damnest to undermine them in other fields, such as pregnancy counselling and education. It isn’t LIFE’s secular nature that protects them from such attacks, let’s face it, there’s a whole plethora of people whom it would suit, from professional lobby groups to big Pharma groups or anyone with any sort of financial interests in contraception and abortion, who want pro-lifers kicked out of schools and not being allowed anywhere near a woman with an unplanned pregnancy. The lack of religiosity makes the smear merchants’ job much harder as well as enabling LIFE to reach a wider audience who would perhaps be more willing to lay their prejudices about religious organisations aside and listen.

The second problem is that the UK Catholic church should have a dedicated pro-life movement throughout the country. It’s very hard for Catholics to donate to secular pro-life charities who make appeals in church, when they emphasize the non-religious nature of their work. Now there’s no reason why religion should come into fields such as crisis pregnancy counselling or sex education especially for the wider world, but neither should Catholicism be excluded, particularly when we are talking about Catholic schools or parishioners.

I’m proud to publicly state my support for 40 days for life (as has Pope Francis), I believe that respectful, dignified silent prayer vigils with specialist trained and experienced crisis pregnancy outreach workers are an excellent witness to the faith. But it’s very hard to support an organisation who comes into my church and says ‘we don’t stand outside the abortion clinics’ in lofty tones signifying disproval.

There is a need for a Catholic organisation not only to support prayer vigils, but to do all of the grass-roots and outreach work to change hearts and minds which is every bit as vital as the politics. SPUC are quite good at some of this. My father-in-law is a member and is always exercised into action by the literature that comes dropping through his letterbox at regular intervasl from SPUC. He made an appointment to see his MP about same-sex marriage on their advice, rang them up and had a ‘very long helpful conversation for at least half an hour with a girl from there’ which briefed him in terms of what to say and what to expect.

Thing is though, as I said before, I’m still not convinced that this was the best use of their time and resources, it’s fighting a battle on too many fronts. Too many members of the general public were baffled by SPUC’s response to same-sex marriage whose point was that anything that undermines marriage therefore leads to the collapse of family life which then results in social consequences such as abortion, was too sophisticated and nuanced to work effectively. Marriage had already been weakened over the past few decades, notably with the introduction of no-fault divorce – an adulterer’s charter, there are consequences for the unborn child in terms of trying to state that every couple has the right to marriage and children, but most people could not see beyond the straw-man argument of causation and asked how two men or women getting married would then cause a third party to have an abortion.

The work that SPUC did in terms of briefing my father-in-law, could and should have been done by a different agency. If we’d had a cohesive official Catholic life movement, then they would have been able to pick up the slack.

The trouble is that because John Smeaton seems to spend a disproportionate amount of time attacking the Catholic bishops and hierarchy on his blog along with LGBT issues, it doesn’t make the Catholic church inclined to work with him, further fuelling his annoyance and thus the cycle of recrimination continues and nothing gets done.

No doubt lots of people will say to me in the coms box, yeah Caroline, but John Smeaton was right to criticise the bishops because of xyz. Specifically on this issue of Archbishop Peter Smith’s statement asking the government not to automatically convert civil partnerships into marriage and abolish them, which John Smeaton has blogged about, I would have a slightly different take. Yes, the CDF did issue guidelines against civil partnerships back in 2003, identifying correctly that they would lead to the introduction of marriage. The Archbishop was however speaking in the context of 2014, when civil partnerships are a reality. His point was the same as it was back in their introduction in 2003, being that civil partnerships do afford some important legal protections for same-sex couples. You really would need to be an unreasonable bigot to deny people the right to live with whom they choose and to be able to have that person given a special legal status as a significant companion, regardless of whether or not they are having an intimate sexual relationship. It isn’t beyond the bounds of imagination to suggest that there could be some Catholics living a chaste life within a civil partnership who do not wish to see them become marriages.

After attacking the Archbishop for his perceived deviation from Catholic teaching about civil partnerships, John then goes into a long diatribe about the lack of condemnation for homosexuality or homosexual acts from Peter Smith and whether or not civil partnerships or gay marriages are deemed to be sexual in nature, quoting an Anglican barrister for support!

It frankly appears prurient and petty minded. We know that there are problems with the legal definition of gay marriage, sexual consummation is necessarily missing, but the Archbishop was neither promoting gay marriage nor encouraging people to have extra marital sex. Stating the legal protections of civil partnerships is not the same as encouraging people to enter them. Does an Archbishop really need to take every opportunity to specifically denounce and reiterate Catholic teaching on homosexual acts? Aren’t we all already more than aware of what the Church says about sex outside of marriage? Besides which the Catholic church welcomed the Wolfenden Report which led to the de-criminalisation of homosexuality in the UK and have also called for homosexuality to be de-criminalised throughout the world, as acts of private morality should not be subject to criminal sanctions.

People are rarely converted to Christianity simply by preaching; clever reasoned, compelling and logical arguments are all very well, but there also needs to be some element of personal encounter as St Paul demonstrates. I recently attended a session with the Catholic Labour MP Rob Flello, who entered the Commons as an atheist, where he talked movingly about a very personal encounter with Christ which led to his conversion.

Continually preaching about homosexuality or reiterating Catholic teaching on it does nothing to bring about the joy of Christ. Surely these discussions are best held on a one-to-one personal basis? In any event context is everything, at a time when Catholics are fighting to have our voices heard in the public square, denouncements of homosexual acts as immoral and disordered in a document concerned with protecting the legal rights of those in civil partnerships is not only irrelevant, but risks any remaining credibility or opportunity to be heard.

But to get back to the point, SPUC have done some good work and do number some good people in their organisation. It’s just a tragedy to see them continually arguing themselves into irrelevance and alienating themselves from official Catholic endorsement and support with their leader’s relentless focus upon homosexuality which is often picked up on by mainstream media, along with criticism of the Catholic bishops. I’m not saying that the bishops should be exempt from criticism where it is merited, but as ever it really isn’t the remit of a secular lobby group.

Catholics cannot deny the link between abortion and the deviation from God’s plan for human flourishing. Perhaps it’s time for the UK church to propose that case a lot better than in the past and then maybe SPUC can concentrate solely on how best they can fulfil their remit of specifically protecting the life of the unborn child, for which purpose they solicit donations and support.

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One example of female decision making in pregnancy

One example of female decision-making in pregnancy

Imagine if I rocked up to the doctor and said look “I’m really unhappy with the fact that after having four babies, I’ve got a few flabby bits, my breasts have lost some of their youthful perkiness and so I need you to refer me to a cosmetic surgeon as soon as possible as I just can’t cope with the body that I’ve got”.

Their response would register somewhere on the scale between amusement and exasperation, and even if I professed a suicidal intent or poor quality of life due to dissatisfaction with my post-childbirth figure, most likely they would advise other measures such as diet and exercise alongside psychological counselling to get to the root of the problem. The same would apply in the case of serious body or gender dysmorphia; no doctor would refer a patient for an amputation as an instant salve for a distorted body image or would straightaway prescribe hormonal treatment for a woman who believed she should have been born a male.

But what if in any of these cases the woman wailed “but I’m a woman, it’s my body and I know my body and healthcare needs better than you and your years of medical training. I know that I need this procedure now and the NHS needs to provide me with it”? The answer would still be a resounding no, although patient intuition, rationale and desires should never be excluded when forming a clinical judgement, the role of the doctor or medic should be to objectively examine the facts of the case and use their medical expertise and experience to determine the appropriate outcome, which will at times be at odds with what the patient was hoping for.

Factors such as gender, sexuality or race are only ever considerations, never the determining factor. You can’t just go to the doctor with a set of expectations which you believe should be met on the basis of your sex.

Yet this is precisely what BPAS, one of the UK’s largest abortion providers are aiming for with their ‘trust women’ campaign, expounded here by Clare Murphy one of their directors, which has the express purpose of formally liberalising the abortion law. When a decision involves fertility and reproduction, then the woman’s gender should take precedence in the decision, regardless of whether or not she may be misinformed in some way, or whether or not her decision is a sensible or even moral one.

The argument is slickly framed in the usual compassionate terms about women getting the care that they need and deserve and is superficially reasonable and appealing – a woman should be able to decide the course of action that is right for her, but the massive elephant in the room, is the unborn baby who as ever, is conspicuous by their absence.

If the decisions about reproduction didn’t involve an unborn child, no reasonable person would attempt to dictate to a woman what she should do with her body (although they could make a reasonable case as to whether or not the NHS ought to fund such decisions), but there is not simply one body involved in the case of pregnancy.

The simple fact of the matter is that an unborn child is not a part of the woman’s body, it has an entirely separate genetic code, often a separate blood type or race and crucially it is possible for a foetus to die while a mother lives and vice versa. This would not be possible if the mother and baby were one and the same. Even the late atheist Christopher Hitchens who was himself an abortion advocate admitted that embryology conceded morality, stating that an ‘uborn child, even when used in a politicized manner, is a material reality’.

The existence of an unborn child undermines the entire crux of this argument which is wholly centred around a woman’s body. ‘Trust me to make the decision as to whether or not to kill my unborn baby, because I’m a woman.’

I’d love to see how a similar campaign waged by males would play out. “Trust me as to whether or not I want to pay child support, or form a relationship with my child, I’m a male and therefore best placed to know whether or not I want to be a father. Only men can determine the extent to which they should be involved in their children’s lives”.

Perhaps the most disingenuous and ironic aspect of the campaign is the attempt to conflate decisions about childbirth with abortion when the aims and outcomes of both procedures are in direct contravention of each other. Murphy convincingly argues that “women should have access to unbiased, evidenced-based information about all their options, delivered in a way that seeks to inform, but not persuade a woman with all modes of delivery on the table”.

It sounds all very wonderful and idealistic, but the reality is that childbirth is a messy, unpredictable business with the potential for things to go disastrously wrong and therefore while women should be informed of their options, there are instances where certain scenarios should be off the table, especially when we are talking about a taxpayer-funded health care system and taking into account that there are two lives at stake.

When it comes to giving birth, it is important that a woman is in as comfortable and stress-free environment as possible, but the choice of surroundings or pain relief should never endanger her safety or that of her unborn baby. Unusually perhaps for a woman who has never managed to give birth without direct medical intervention, I am a big advocate of home births and natural births where at all possible and wary of the over-medicalisation of childbirth, which in my case has led to a cascade of cesarean sections.

But when, as in my case, a midwifery supervisor tells you that if you were to give birth at home, it’s likely that you would bleed to death due to a previous history of hemorrhage, and that she cannot sanction it, is that unbiased and not persuasive? Does that really leave all options on the table? What about when an obstetrician informs you that your baby is presenting in a transverse or oblique position and cannot therefore be born naturally without killing you both?

As every mother knows, you can do all the reading you like, be as informed as possible, but when it comes to childbirth you need to be flexible enough to rip up that treasured dream of floating in a pool of candlelit water and do whatever is necessary to get the child out as safely as possible.

If abortion is to be compared with birth, then the doctor’s assessment of best interests is paramount. The idea that a woman’s gender makes her judgement and decisions unimpeachable is infantalising dangerous baloney, which does women no favours whatsoever. Since when did being a women render one’s medical and moral judgement infallible? Where is the evidence demonstrating that being in possession of specific set of reproductive organs improves one’s critical thinking or decision making skills?

If it’s true that we might not always like or approve of certain reproductive decisions, whether childbirth or abortion related, then it is certainly legitimate to question whether or not the NHS funded by the taxpayer, ought to encourage and endorse them. We know for example, that all other things being equal, that a cesarean section is a much riskier, more complicated and costlier method of delivery than normal childbirth. An elective c-section ought not to be offered as a standard choice for women, unless there are compelling medical reasons which would make a natural delivery unsafe. Equally it is not the general public who should challenge a woman’s decision to home-deliver a complicated pregnancy, as Clare Murphy suggests, but rather her medical team.

The same goes with abortions. In a staggering admission, this director of BPAS says that there are women who might have abortions for reasons which are not quite good enough, but those decisions must still be respected, because it is the woman who has to bear the consequences of those choices. So it’s alright to stand on the sidelines and watch a woman take a disastrous decision because any negative repercussions and resulting suffering is hers alone? She’ll have to cope with it if it all goes wrong and we should make no attempt to interfere, in the same way that presumably we should not attempt to dissuade people from setting off on other destructive courses of actions. All that matters in life is that people have come to their own decisions about their bodies, even if they are bad ones?

In short then, a woman can abort a perfectly healthy baby until 24 weeks on whatever grounds she likes. such as the gender of the baby, or that she’s had an unexpected holiday invite, she wants to appear on the television or even because to continue with the pregnancy puts her at fear of violence or reprisals from her partner or family. A woman’s decision must always be trusted, supported, encouraged and paid for, even if it is born of dubious motives or self-interest. A woman aborting her healthy twins at 23 weeks  whom she’d previously decided to keep, because of family pressures, is the price we have to pay?

Even if the decision is blatantly flawed, unjust and terminates the life of another for no good reason (not that there ever can be a good reason to kill), society must turn a blind eye for the greater good of the (female) cause. Now where else have we seen this logic employed? It all sounds eerily familiar.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPxL59537e4

This morning, I was invited back on to breakfast television to reprise the argument I made on the programme last year regarding the NICE guidelines which recommended that infertile couples should be given 3 cycles of IVF on the NHS.

Since then it transpires that over three quarters of NHS trusts are disregarding the guidance, leading NICE to issue even stronger advice forcing Clinical Commissioning Groups to implement their IVF guidelines, to end the ‘postcode lottery’ system which produces massive inequality in terms of how qualifying couples are treated.

In this instance inequality is not an inappropriate description of the situation. The NHS should provide an equal standard of care across the country – if it has determined that infertile couples should be afforded 3 cycles of IVF treatment then that should apply to you regardless of whether you live within affluent city suburbs, in a remote part of the country or on a run-down council estate.

If IVF is an accepted medical treatment on a par with chemotherapy for example, then it should not be withheld from anyone because their local health trust has decided that they cannot afford it and their priorities lie elsewhere.

The trouble is, of course, that whilst IVF is a medical treatment, opinion is massively and legitimately divided as to whether or not this ought to be funded by the NHS, given that infertility in and of itself is not a fatal, life-threatening or even life-limiting condition, unless one extends the medical definition of life-limiting to encompass quality of life issues.

That’s not to downplay the devastating effects of infertility which can undoubtedly cause emotional ill-health, but simply to note that an inability to conceive won’t actually kill you neither is there any research to prove that it might shorten your lifespan.

This certainly seems to be the view that various CCGs have taken faced with increasing budget constraints and difficult decisions as to where to channel their funds, and its one with which many of us will have sympathy. If the choice is between paying for drugs to extend the lifespan of a cancer patient, a hip operation or heart bypass for an elderly patient and whether or not to fund a form of therapy which could lead to a couple having a much wanted child, then for most right-thinking people, the choice is clear. Our priority should be with assisting the already-living and vulnerable rather than ignoring them in favour of creating their replacements.

As I pointed out last year, NICE guidelines have a habit of becoming quasi-legislation and thus last week former health secretary Andrew Lansley (responsible for the stealthy and undemocratic liberalisation of abortion law) has said that CCGs have a responsibility to obey NICE rules despite the fact that they are not actual pieces of legislation. Spot the inconsistency. In the eyes of Mr Lansley, NICE comes before the letter and spirit of the law.

So slowly but surely, British law has introduced and supported the notion that a child is something that every single person or couple should have a right to and for which the state  should pay. Consider the language of Sarah Norcross, co-chairman of the National Infertility Awareness Campaign who says “it’s high time that patients were allowed to access the treatment that they were entitled to”.

The ethics of entitlement and so-called equality therefore override any other considerations. If you are entitled to medical treatment on the NHS, then you should be given it regardless of other factors. If not being able to have a child is automatically designated as being a medical issue, because it takes clinical measures to achieve one, then it’s some kind of ‘ist’ or phobic to deny the treatment to someone, taking into account their lifestyle or individual circumstances. The needs of the adult are paramount, the needs of the child secondary – all that’s needed is love and the desire to access costly and gruelling treatment is sufficient evidence of suitability and should overcome all other considerations.

Apologies for beating the same allegedly homphobic drum, but recent HFEA stats show that there was a 36% increase in lesbian couples using IVF between 2010 and 2012. No matter how much sympathy one may or may not have for two women deciding to disregard a child’s right to a father, it’s not bigoted to ask whether or not this is really the sort of thing Bevan had in mind when he put in place the founding principles of the NHS? Should a single man or woman have the same right to access this treatment as married opposite gender couple? If resources are scarce, and IVF is going to be an accepted treatment, is it really so heinous to prioritise the married couple in a stable relationship who have been trying to conceive over a number years and have suffered a number of miscarriages over other scenarios? Or does the defining zeitgeist of equality mean that all situations and circumstances have to be treated equally regardless of merit? To say that one person may be more deserving of another, whether that be in the field of IVF or the even more controversial field of welfare and benefits, is today’s unspeakable heresy. In our relativistic world no one set of circumstances must ever be judged as being better or worse than another.

Another unpalatable fact that no-one seems to want to discuss when discussing the ethics of IVF on the NHS is the ethics of IVF itself. So when I attempted to point out that for every live birth that comes about due to IVF, another 30 embryos are created and that of the 4 million embryos created since 1991, only a tiny proportion have made it through to birth – this point was brushed aside. The discussion has to centre around the ethics of the treatment being made available for free, regardless of whether the treatment is in itself ethical.

I don’t know what is more frustrating, the entitlement culture, the disregard for the welfare of children or the wilful short-sightedness. Any other expensive treatment costing around £3.5K to £5K a time which had a less than 25% chance of success would not see NICE attempting to impose it upon CCGs as a matter of routine, especially when the treatment itself is so physically and emotionally demanding. It would instead be allocated according to individual circumstances.

As I said on the programme, it seems that we’ve got ourselves in something of a pickle with regards to fertility. On the one hand there’s couples crying out for IVF and the opportunity for a biological child of their own, on the other almost 200,000 abortions take place in the UK every year. Added to which abortion rates amongst women in their ‘30s and ‘40s are rising as women believe that they are no longer fertile.

It’s time for some joined-up social policy thinking on this issue. We know that with a little bit of training women can be trained to monitor and track their monthly cycles and pinpoint with a high degree of accuracy the fertile periods every month.

Women are given so many mixed messages and conflicting signals about their own fertility it’s not surprising that so many of us fail to navigate successfully through the reproductive minefield. Instead of teaching young women how to avoid pregnancy and that sex can be devoid of consequences how about teaching girls (and boys for that matter) the specifics of how to track female fertility. Instead of teaching them that fertility is an obstacle which must be suppressed via chemical hormones and abortion a useful and necessary back-up, why not help them to empower themselves in terms of learning the ebbs and flows of their own unique monthly cycle.

Armed with that information, they can then make the decisions which they feel are most appropriate, especially during the window of peak fertility. Tracking monthly cycles has another advantage in that it enables abnormal cycles or potential issues and barriers to conception to be identified and treated.

If the NHS is serious about wanting to tackle infertility, then instead of chucking money at what is a not very effective sticking plaster, a more pragmatic and cost-effective solution is to enable both women and medical practitioners to become specialists in natural female fertility instead of attempting to artificially suppress it until such time as it might be needed and then attempting to employ a costly treatment with a 75% chance of failure.

Even more radical, instead of teaching young girls that pregnancy is to be avoided until an indeterminate date in the distant future, how about education that focuses their minds on real family planning and the pros and cons of early versus late motherhood? How about going a step further and implementing far better childcare and maternity solutions and options for university students. While we’re at it why not chuck in cheap starter homes for young couples and measures to make life more attractive and conducive for young families?

Unfortunately the genie is out of the bottle when it comes to IVF and it would take a heart of stone not to sympathise with women like Jessica Hepburn who was interviewed alongside me earlier. What I wouldn’t do to be able to wave a wand and give her a baby and find a method that was successful, devoid of harmful physical side-effects and didn’t involve the destruction of life. Disagreeing with the use of technology does not extend to blaming or shaming those who want to avail themselves of it.

Heartbreaking, unexplained and untreatable cases of infertility cannot be completely eliminated, but with a bit more joined up thinking, the need for both IVF and at the other end of the spectrum abortion, could be drastically reduced.

Catholics reading this might be aware that today marks the start of a novena to Mary, Undoer of Knots. Dedicating it to couples facing the pain of infertility seems a good place to start.

 

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Kudos to the BBC. Earlier on today I once again participated in BBC World Have Your Say, where the topic of Emily Letts, the woman who filmed her abortion was under discussion. The programme has to be one of the most pro-life broadcasts I’ve ever heard on mainstream media, which would not have been their intention.

In order to act as a counter-balance to Emily (who had the lion’s share of airtime and dominated proceedings at the beginning) they invited on 4 other post-abortive women, including Catherine Adair, a former Planned Parenthood clinic worker, who was able to tell listeners the parts of the abortion procedure that Emily Lett’s video left out such as counting up and bagging up the missing body parts and Nancy from Silent No More, who was able to tell of the effect that abortion had upon her life.

Listening to these women’s brave testimonies was incredibly powerful and moving. From a Catholic perspective it once again struck me how much potential the pro-life movement has in terms of drawing people back into the faith. Pro-choicers talk about judgemental religious bigots and yet there are so many men and women who open their hearts to grace and allow their tragedy to bring them closer to God. I’ve never experienced any shaming, judgement or snarky asides from orthodox Catholics and Christians about my abortion. Anyone whom I have discussed it with have let me know how sorry they are that this happened, and offered unconditional love and prayer. Of course the sacrament of confession by its very nature means that you will approach in a spirit of penitence, but the priest won’t bellow “you did what”, neither will he tell anyone and neither will he force you to make some kind of public reparation. Confession for us Catholics is about reconciling and forgiveness. When my kids look up at me, knowing they have been very naughty and say sorry, it isn’t my job to make them feel worse, even if they have done something they know they were expressly forbidden to do. God is pretty similar and so are the priests whom he uses. They are just happy that you’re there and want to help you. If confession involved shaming, you wouldn’t see the queue of young people waiting outside the confessional at Westminster Cathedral, giving up their lunch break for a good ear-bashing! Nor indeed would anyone go ever, if priests piled on the guilt.

When you listen to former clinic worker Abbey Johnson, she tells of how when she left her employment as an abortion clinic director, she said to 40 Days for Life founder Sean Carney, ‘look I might have left the industry, but sure as anything I’m not becoming a Catholic’. Two years later she was received into the Church. Catholic teaching in this area is what draws so many back to the church and who are then able to convince other hearts and minds. The vineyard is rich – which is why anyone who speaks up either on abortion or human sexuality will find themselves under a form of attack at some point. This is spiritual warfare where souls can so easily be led astray.

One of the many things that irked me about Emily’s testimony (once again I had no idea that she would be defending herself on the show, I was gobsmacked to discover she was a fellow guest 5 minutes before we went on air) was that when it came to the topic of post-abortive healing, she kept urging people to go to abortion-related and/or secular organisations where they wouldn’t be ‘shamed.’

Had the mic come back to me I would have picked her up on this. Pro-life counsellors NEVER shame post-abortive women and neither does the Catholic Church. The only shaming I can see going on, is the shaming of those who feel shame. Counselling should be an opportunity to explore and examine your feelings and how to harness negativity to a positive effect. A woman should be allowed to discuss, own and explore feelings of shame. While a counsellor should never seek to make a woman feel ashamed, they can help her to explore and discover for herself if her shame or guilt is justified. Ultimately no-one can or should tell another person what to ‘feel’.

It is not the role of any counsellor to remove a woman’s feelings of shame, but work out how she might best resolve those feelings. Furthermore shame is an emotionally loaded word, implying social stigma, whereas in many women the feeling is not shame, but regret. A counsellor can help a woman to realise that there may well have been mitigating circumstances surrounding her decision to abort, but it isn’t their job to suppress whatever a woman is feeling or to remove her instincts, rather to help them resolve them.

I’d be extremely concerned by a post-abortive counsellor trying to tell a woman that her feelings are wrong or misguided. We cannot help how we feel, while we cannot or should not dwell unhealthily upon negative feelings, we do at least need to acknowledge and resolve them.

While we’re on the subject of counselling, just as pro-choicers throw their hands up in horror at pro-lifers carrying out pre-abortion counselling, I’m equally concerned by a woman who thinks that abortion is a happy, awesome, dopamine fuelled experience telling women not to worry about it, it’s all fine. There may not be cutting involved in an early stage surgical abortion but it still entails intimate surgery which is the main source of anxiety for women, along with the risk of damage to the cervix and uterus. If a pro-life counsellor were to have been filmed telling a woman how physically harrowing many women find an abortion procedure, there would be uproar. Why then is someone employed by a clinic who stand to profit from a woman having an abortion, allowed to tell them it’s all a shiny happy thing of joy and love?

I’m with the Anchoress on this one. To my mind this was counter-productive. It wasn’t a happy video at all, Emily looked strained and displayed signs of self-deception, such as by repeating her words, she parroted glib catch-phrases and seemed lacking in conviction. When it came to the procedure itself, there was no disguising it was traumatic – note the lift muzak to disguise the noise of the suction machine and the clink of surgical instruments. Emily’s singing was forced – it reminded me of a recording I once heard of the Captain of doomed Saudi flight 163, who was heard on the flight recorders singing and humming to himself, instead of taking the decisive action needed which would have undoubtedly saved the lives of 301 souls on board who all perished unnecessarily. Emily’s singing and expressions of “I’m such a lucky girl” were coping strategies to distract herself from what was really going on down there.

Interestingly Emily’s catchphrases were about women who shouldn’t have to suffer in silence – suffering, pain, grieving and loss were her key themes. Having an allegedly vaguely bearable abortion procedure doesn’t somehow circumnavigate those issues that many women really do face. For those women who have faced heartbreak over a reluctant decision to abort, feeling that there really was no other option, this video is a slap in the face, making light of what is for many, a tragic and unwanted last resort.

There were plenty of ways of getting people talking about abortion, sacrificing her own baby’s life, without much thought and without consulting the father, doesn’t seem to be the most constructive way of doing so. Hey I’ve got you all talking she said, gushing over how beautiful and awesome we all were, in perhaps the way that only Americans can. Fact is Emily, I’d much rather have shut my mouth if it had meant that your baby lived. There are plenty of other stories out there which all need to be heard. If abortion is about suffering, then why aren’t we doing what we can to avoid it, rather than false attempts to sanitise and gloss over what is at the very least, an emotionally raw experience?

Emily said that she didn’t mean to get pregnant but also that she was not bothering to use birth control either, she was haphazardly monitoring her ovulation cycles. Were she to have been doing that, then she would have known fine well when she was fertile, so one has to wonder what this was all about. She had no long term partner, but ‘things happen’ and she wound up pregnant! And this was a sex educator?! She could have chosen to go down the same route that I did and use the pill, which is normally advised at her stage in pregnancy when someone is dead set, but after talking to a friend who had already videoed herself using this method, opted for surgery.

When Josie Cunningham used the prospect of abortion to gain fame, she was demonised around the world and yet by and large Emily is feted and admired for her ‘bravery’. What’s the difference between the two women who both used abortion as a form of self-publicity which makes one the target of admiration and the other the lowest of the low? Probably the time limit had something to do with this, but also class and that the middle-class college-girl liberal activist making a feminist political point is more pleasing on the eye. Josie Cunningham has spade loads more courage than Emily, nonetheless. It isn’t brave to film yourself doing something that you were planning to do anyway and edit out the nasty parts to mislead  your audience. Raising an unplanned baby alone – now there’s selfless courage!

Emily’s repeated on-air exclamations of how great, awesome and inspiring abortion is, deeply unsettled me, because they sounded so hollow and empty. “Hey, yeah wow, abortion, awesome, trust women”. Women make mistakes with their bodies just the same as men. Gender doesn’t sanctify or validate an unwise decision. Trust women, cos they like never ever get anything wrong about their reproductive decisions, like err unexpectedly getting themselves pregnant in the first place. (And no, that’s not shaming, it’s fact. There’s a reproductive decision, that Emily got wrong).

With that in mind, I do wish her all the best and hope this conflicted young lady  doesn’t have a rough ride in the future, either in terms of future fertility or suffering from an emotional fall-out. Today was only the second time I’ve discussed my abortion on air and the first time I did so in any great detail. Putting yourself out there like that is tough, I hope Emily finds the support that she needs, whatever the outcome.

When Emily said that were her apartment to catch fire, the scan photograph of her baby would be the first thing she would grab, it underlined her dissonance. That she is marvelling over her (God-given) ability to make life and that she likes to be reminded of the fact that she made a life either makes her a complete psychopath or a tragic victim of the deceptive and destructive sophistry that seeks to uphold abortion as a good.

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Back in January I asked,  ‘what has changed since the 1967 Abortion Act?’ What has so fundamentally changed about abortion which makes people believe that it is a woman’s human right as opposed to the spirit of the act which allowed for abortion in certain strictly proscribed circumstances to prevent a woman from having to suffer consequences from extreme social deprivation, to serious physical or mental injury and death.

In one sense, nothing has changed. An unborn child is still an unborn child, regardless of whether or not you refer to it as a foetus. The biology hasn’t changed, the consensus amongst embryologists is that human life begins at conception. When  sperm and ovum fuse a zygote is created which fulfils the four criteria needed to establish biological life:  metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction. The zygote is comprised of human DNA, it is unique from any other human being in creation and the DNA will not only guide early development but determine hereditary traits. Even at its earliest stage in development the zygote exhibits characteristics which categorise it as a human organism, not merely a cluster of cells. The debate around abortion is purely philosophical, it revolves around the value that should be placed upon human life in its earliest form. 

The change in thinking and the practice of abortion has come about purely as a result of scientific technologies which have helped to shaped attitudes. In many ways pro-lifers have benefited from this. The introduction of sophisticated sonography techniques makes it very difficult to dispute the humanity of the foetus; even at 12 weeks we see what is undeniably a baby in glorious 3D technicolor. A foetal heartbeat is able to be detected at around the 6 week mark, by the age of 42 days brain waves have been recorded and the baby even has taste and teeth buds.

Logically attitudes against abortion should have hardened, however the advances have also allowed for foetal disabilities to be accurately detected which means that parents are now faced with the daunting and terrifying prospect of a child who will have an uncertain future, one that is potentially filled with traumatic medical intervention, who may never be able to enjoy a degree of independent living and whose existence will place a lot of pressure on existing family circumstances. Abortion can seem the most ‘compassionate’ course of action in these situations, medics talk only in terms of pathology and potential scenarios and rarely in terms of the equal value of all life and how even a profoundly disabled child can lead a fulfilled life and be a source of great joy and happiness. Which is why we now allow for abortion right up until birth on the basis of disability with even minor conditions such as cleft palate and club foot, qualifying as legitimate reasons to terminate a fully-formed viable infant.

Advances in reproductive technology have also softened attitudes because people will overlook ethical dilemmas or seek to justify them with superficial reasoning in their understandable desperation for children. Life beginning at conception is uncomfortable prospect for those with an interest in the many hundreds of thousands of stored and destroyed embryos. No-one wants to admit to being complicit in the denial of human rights towards the most vulnerable which is the inevitable consequence of admitting the humanity of the embryo – the lack of discernible human form is soothing balm to a pricked conscience.

And it is this lack of human form, combined with the development of the pill to induce miscarriage which helps to fool people into believing that an abortion does not really constitute the taking of human life, at least at the early stages.

This is really the major change since the 1967 act which has been one of the contributing factors which led to the huge increase in abortions.  Back in 1967 a abortion could only be carried out through surgical intervention; a prospect which daunts most women. Early stage medical abortions now account for 42% of all abortions, compared to 14% back in 2002. More women are opting for a non-surgical abortion than ever before. The same is true of first trimester abortions – 91% of all abortions in 2012 were performed under 13 weeks, compared with 57% in 2002. Pregnancy tests are also more sensitive than ever before. Tests available on the high street allow a woman to discover that she is pregnant as early as six days before her period is due.

Combined with the development of the morning-after pill and the original contraceptive pill which can act as an abortifacient, and indeed the coil, women have been conditioned or duped into believing that abortion is little more than an exercise in pill-popping to rid themselves of the potential of a baby, as opposed to what it really is: the taking of a human life.

What the recent controversy surrounding the wannabe Big Brother contestant Josie Cunningham demonstrated is that the public is still largely in tune with the spirit of the 1967 Abortion Act, although attitudes have moved on. The expressions of revulsion and hatred were not from pro-lifers but from professing pro-choicers. The overwhelming sentiment was that while a woman should be able to access an abortion, she ought to have an extremely good or ‘worthy’ reason for so doing and it should be done as soon as possible. No-one was comfortable with the idea of an abortion for a fleeting and in all likelihood damaging, brush with fame, made all the worse at the late stage of 18 week. This interview with Josie, who fortunately changed her mind, highlights quite how advanced she was in her pregnancy, she was clearly visibly pregnant and had felt the baby’s violent movements. Yet under UK law she had another 5 or 6 weeks in which to end her baby’s life.

Having participated in the debate  numerous times online now, cutting my teeth on the baby forums of doom predominated by a disproportionate liberal mindset, the prevalent attitude even amongst liberal women is that abortion is a necessary social evil which shouldn’t really be available after the first trimester unless there are compelling reasons. Polling data demonstrates that woman are far more in favour of restrictions upon abortion than men. Guardian columnist Martin Robbins tries to rationalise the difference between male and female attitudes, searching for a sociological or cultural explanation rooted in patriarchy or oppression. The answer is far simpler – women intuitively and instinctively know that abortion constitutes the taking of a human life and is bad for mother and baby alike. Which is why the pro-choice crowd seek to shout so loud and define it as a fundamental human right.

A number of recent scandals, including that of Josie Cunningham have demonstrated quite what a mess the UK abortion law is in. This was brought to a head by the pre-signing of abortion forms uncovered by both a Daily Telegraph investigation which was followed up by the Care Quality Commission. The GMC have produced a welcome clarification and response as to why no professional charges were brought – they deemed this not to be in the public interest as there had been no prosecutions.

While we can fulminate over the sorry state of affairs and lack of consequences, actually what is important is that the GMC have now clarified that the practice of pre-signing of abortion forms is not only unlawful but unacceptable. They have demanded assurances that doctors will no longer be complicit in such a practice and have warned of severe consequences. If, as the GMC contends, this pre-signing was standard clinical practice, it shows how far medical practice had slipped from the spirit of the legislation. Those campaigning for legalisation of assisted suicide ought to look at how far the practice of abortion had deviated from the medical checks and balances. Sir David Steel said that it was always intended that two doctors would see the woman, yet now we have a situation in which the second signature is nothing more than a rubber-stamp and that a woman’s wish to terminate her pregnancy should override all other considerations, including that of the right to life of her unborn child.

The good news from the GMC is that the doctors complicit in gender-selective abortions now face serious sanctions. There is a world of difference between someone who believed that they were following generally accepted clinical practice who might face losing their career and someone who wilfully ignored the letter and spirit of the law.

The GMC note that much has changed in terms of abortion since 1967, which must be dealt with by Parliament and society. Writing in the Telegraph last week, pro-choice doctor Max Pemberton has said that the law surrounding abortion is vague, paternalistic and needs updating. Equally media feminists such as Laurie Penny have said to me that they believe that the abortion law needs to change. They may well have a point, a re-examination certainly seems prudent, even if it is the source of anxiety. But the point of any re-examination must not be simply to exonerate doctors in breach of the law. If the law is indeed an ass, why is this?

The pro-life movement experienced a stagnation in the past fifteen to twenty years, although it is now undergoing a renaissance which is causing the pro-choice/pro-abortion to reignite the cultural wars and cliches about violent, judgemental, women-hating, religiously deranged pro-lifers, led by men. Part of the reason for this stagnation was the succession of  unsuccessful Parliamentary debates which brought into being legislation which gave with the one hand, lowering the age of viability from 28 to 24 weeks which had the effect of lowering the age at which a social abortion under ground C could be performed, but on the other – allowed for abortion to take place up until birth. Combined with an unsuccessful challenge to changes in the HFEA Act in 2007 and Nadine Dorries’ failed proposals regarding abortion counselling in 2011, it has seemed like Parliamentary endeavours are a lost cause.

Things are beginning to change however, not least due to a number of pertinent questions being posed by MPs from the All-Party Parliamentary Pro Life group in both houses, which are highlighting discrepancies and abuses of the law, such as the doctors who faced no action for acting with impunity.

Pro-lifers have been reluctant to engage in any more potentially damaging politics due to fear of defeat and not wanting the agenda to be dictated to by the pro-choice groups and abortion industry. And look where that has got us. A situation in which the government are planning to stealthily introduce the largest, most wholesale change to the Abortion Act since 1967, radically changing and reinterpreting the law, without any sort of public debate or consensus.

A few years ago I would have talked about the pro-life lobby tearing itself to pieces with internecine feuds. By and large, slowly but surely people are beginning to get themselves together and many groups, especially those on the ground actively helping women in crisis pregnancies, just ignore any false outrage whipped up by the abortion-supporting press and get on with their mission.

But there is still the big incrementalism versus absolutism elephant in the room. Every single Catholic and pro-lifer is agreed that abortion is a dreadful thing and therefore most are scared of the public debate because of what it might mean. Could a massive public debate and consultation surrounding the UK’s abortion law lead to further liberalisation in some form or another? Isn’t it better they argue, to keep the uneasy status quo, while working to change attitudes at a grass roots level.

Those pro-lifers who are Catholic cannot act in any way which might appear to be advocating or sanctioning abortion at any stage. But that said, it’s clear that the law is in a total mess. Ensuring that it is complied with is a great place to start and neither should we refuse the chance to participate in a debate which could lead to firmer legislation which reflects the will of the public, which is predominantly far more pro-life than pro-choice in nature. Of course there is the risk that any tightening in one area could lead to  liberalisation elsewhere, but that does not prevent the important grass-roots work from going on, nor does a support for any strengthening give implicit acceptance of early stage abortions nor consent to their liberalisation which should also be fought against. I’ve had an allegedly easy early-stage abortion, packaged as little more than a pill popping episode to bring on a heavy period – there is no way that I would advocate turning a blind eye to a liberalisation of such a horrific and damaging procedure which indisputably ended a life and threatened to destroy mine.

There are two equal and opposite errors when considering how to address the injustices of the 1967 Abortion Act.  One is too foolishly rush in with a set of unfeasible and unrealistic demands which have no chance of ever being passed into law and validate the notion of aggressive vindictive pro-lifers. The other is to stick our heads in the sand until such time as it is believed that the time is ripe for abolition; a task which gets harder with each passing year.

We should not be afraid to call for a debate which examines the issue of abortion and the law in the twenty-first century and the light of new medicine and scientific techniques. The questions for society as a whole are still as they were in 1967. Is abortion ever a right? When, if ever is it acceptable; at what stage and for what reasons?

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A former friend of Tara Hewitt’s has written her a courageous and moving open letter with regards to her stance on abortion, to which I would like to respond offering an alternative perspective as a post-abortive woman.

What Charlotte has to say is valuable and needs addressing – Lauren Ely writing in this month’s  First Things  said that we need to embrace and listen to the voices of all post-abortive women, women who have had an abortion must be heard rather than ignored or theorised away, even if they may be saying things which we do not want to hear.

I believe that pro-life is pro-woman; marginalising the post-abortion stories that we don’t want to hear is a similar tactic to universities and other institutions that seek to silence a pro-life point of view.

Charlotte starts off by noting Tara’s apparent change of views with surprise and sadness. It’s a reaction that I have received from some of my friends of over 20 years standing who have difficulty reconciling the fun-loving, G&T swilling, Marlboro Red-smoking party animal with the orthodox Catholic mother of 4 children. While I’ll always be fun-loving at heart (and most Catholics are, the craic at Catholic gatherings is legendary) actually I grew up, gained a different perspective and am far more contented and at peace than I was in my twenties. A change of politics is often a sign of maturity, conventional wisdom holds that people become more socially conservative with age. It takes a lot of courage to admit that your former views were misguided or just plain wrong.

The issue of abortion is not some abstract debate for me. I’m not part of any “pro-abortion lobby”, but I do believe in a woman’s right to choose. It’s a right I’ve exercised, having had an abortion in my second year of university-

The same goes for me. The issue of abortion is not an abstract debate either and if you do read this Charlotte, I’m genuinely sorry to hear that you found yourself in a situation where you felt you needed to chose an abortion. I’ve been there too.

When I had an abortion, I didn’t think of it as a right, though that may be because it was back in the late ’90s when attitudes to abortion weren’t thought of rights - the internet was in its infancy and today’s narrative of media feminism including ‘reproductive rights’ hadn’t crossed my radar.

Actually one of the things which really shocked me about the whole process was that I was well aware of the law and believed that I would really need to firmly state my case for wanting an abortion. I understood that this was a serious thing, I did believe that it was a life in theory, but also thought that by the time I had the abortion just under the 9 week stage, it was neither a ‘baby’, nor ‘human’, was not properly formed, no bigger than a grain of rice, wouldn’t feel a thing, and therefore it wasn’t quite as a bad as say, aborting a twins just 1 day shy of the 24 week limit which someone close to me had done, following severe pressure from their family. Anyway, I found that no justification was needed whatsoever, I don’t know whether or not I had counselling, I made an appointment with Marie Stopes, saw a woman in a room with a box of tissues on the table, she asked me why I wanted an abortion, I told her and she responded that I was in no position to be able to cope with a baby.

I never once thought of abortion as being a ‘right’, I was pro-choice in that I thought it was better that women could have safe legal abortions rather than die horribly at the hands of a back-street butcher. Subsequent research  and statistics illustrate that this is something of a popular myth.

Telling me that having the child (though there is no guarantee that it would have survived to term, even without a termination) would have been better is telling me that I should have been forced to be pregnant against my will, at risk to my mental and physical wellbeing, just because that’s what your moral values say. Surely, you can see how unfair that is.

I don’t know how many weeks pregnant you were but statistically speaking once you’ve got to around the 10 week mark, there’s a very good chance that your baby would have made it to term. The UK has unacceptably high levels of stillbirth (death after 24 weeks in pregnancy) compared to other countries, in 2012 1 in 200 births were to a stillborn child, but that’s still a minor risk. 1 in 7 pregnancies end in miscarriage (before 24 weeks) the vast majority occurring in the first trimester.

In terms of being forced to be pregnant against your will which could risk your mental and physical wellbeing, I completely understand. It would be lying to pretend that pregnancy does not put you under physical and mental strain, pregnant women are generally recognised to be vulnerable, they are not ill, but their bodies are working hard to provide sustenance and life support for the baby. Having an unplanned pregnancy in less than ideal circumstances is hard. I can vouch for that. But the point isn’t really about one person trying to impose their moral values on another, but accepting that the baby is a human life (certainly biologically speaking) and therefore abortion, like it or not imposes your moral values on your baby, denies that its life has any value or consequence and terminates it according to your will. It might seem unfair and an attack on bodily autonomy (although they are not a physical part of your body) for you to be prevented from having an abortion, but to be blunt, it’s equally unfair on the unborn child to have their life ended because you do not want to carry them for nine months nor give birth to them, even though you may have felt that you had compelling reasons.

I know that sounds hard and I do sympathise, remember I too have been in your place.

Pregnancy takes a huge toll on a woman’s body, and I have friends who have had conditions like hyperemesis throughout theirentire pregnancy. For them, the child at the end made it all worth it. For me, it would have been nine months of suffering to then give my child away, or raise it in completely unsuitable conditions- a double punishment, and for what? Having the audacity to have sex?

Yep, I’m not going to deny it, pregnancy does exact a massive toll on a woman’s body. I’ve had hyperemesis in all of my pregnancies which at times I have found intolerable, especially with existing toddlers to take care of. I’ve laid on my bed and howled in pain like an injured animal, I can’t go out in the early stages of pregnancy without a stash of plastic bags in my pocket to handily vomit into, throwing up into a rubbish bin on Brighton’s London Road while people walked past in disgust was not one of my finer moments. At times I would have done anything to make the relentless nausea, growing pains and headaches go away, I’ve been terrified that I wouldn’t be able to look after yet another baby or cope, but every time I’ve managed it. I’m no superhero – I think we women are much stronger than perhaps we give ourselves credit for and as you say the baby themselves is always worth it. Besides not every woman finds pregnancy a harrowing experience, some positively bloom! The physical discomfort is only ever temporary and if it were so terrible, women would never have any more than one child.

You say that you would have had to have given your baby away or raise it in unsuitable conditions. Doesn’t that make you want to fight to remedy that injustice, so that women are not forced between a rock and a hard place? Chances are you would not have wanted or been able to give your child away and though it wouldn’t have been easy, I suspect you would have coped. You talk about unsuitable conditions, society encourages us to believe that in order to thrive that a child must be born into certain ‘ideal’ situations. I often talk about this myself in that I believe that it is ideal for a child to be born to married parents and to have a mother and a father. Your situation would have been less than ideal, however many single mothers do a fabulous job and so do many non-conventional families (contrary to what people might have you believe is my stance on this).

While we shouldn’t contrive or encourage however is situations which are less than ideal. In the case of a single mother or young pregnant student – no it isn’t ideal but with the right support she can raise a baby and complete her degree. It is a disgrace that in the case of students there often really is very little practical choice, again it’s something I have personally experienced, I was told that I would not be able to bring a newborn baby to lectures and seminars and yet the nursery wouldn’t admit babies under 6 months old. Accommodation, facilities and opportunities for student parents are either non-existent or low quality. You are made to feel like a pariah. While I do not condone your decision, I can fully understand what motivated you to take it. You could have kept your baby, but it would have been too much of a self-sacrifice, which is not meant pejoratively.

Having a baby should never be thought of as punishment – that’s an attitude that’s often projected onto pro-lifers and one that horrifies me. It says that having a newborn baby is a terrible and dreadful fate whereas most women, even those in very difficult circumstances don’t ever regret their child. Having a baby will always entail some hardship and self-sacrifice, some women will find it more fulfilling than others, but we should be working for a society which always welcomes children. I don’t know of a single pro-lifer who isn’t terribly concerned about the welfare of mothers who have had an unplanned or crisis pregnancy.

I have friends from various faith groups, from Muslim to Mormon, and although many of them might not have an abortion themselves, they’re not coming after my right to.

Abortion isn’t a legal right in this country. The way the law is currently interpreted and practiced can make it seem like that, but you must fulfil one of the prescribed criteria.

You can hold, and express, whatever personal opinions you want but free speech also means the freedom to disagree with you and to hold you to account for what you say. This isn’t about your right to a religion but that you are in a position to impose your views on others who do not share them. You work as a diversity consultant for the NHS where you have an input into patient care, and you are seeking elected office where you will be able to vote on many matters of conscience like abortion and surrogacy.

Completely agree with the first sentence. I think we can accept for many people pro-life views are part and parcel of a religious view, although they can legitimately be held outside of a faith. In terms of imposing views on others - every single person in this country would like to see the law reflect, or impose, their particular viewpoint. You’d like to see the law reflect the point of view that abortion is a right and unborn babies can be terminated. I’d like the law to reflect the right to life of the unborn.

The diversity consultancy role is irrelevant, Tara is not in a position to impose her views on anyone, her input into patient care will not extend to making decisions about terminating pregnancies. There is nothing that Tara has said that would indicate that she would like to punish or cause harm to women seeking abortions or needing aftercare. The elected office is a fair point, although it should be noted that we have elected politicians who do take a similar stance to Tara and a cross-party All Party Parliamentary Pro-life Group. Being pro-life should not disbar you from entering politics though of course the voters have a right to know your views on these matters.

Women who have abortions face enough stigma and shaming, don’t be part of the problem. When you say things like this, it feels like a personal attack. From someone who was once a friend, it’s an extra kick in the teeth. I don’t need you to believe what I did was right or justified, I just need you to stop mouthing off on Twitter about how it isn’t and adding to a ‘debate’ that may one day mean a girl in my situation won’t have the choice I did. I can guarantee I would not be here today if I had been forced to go through with my pregnancy.

The meaning is clear. Charlotte, you are saying that when someone disagrees with your decision, especially if it is a friend then it feels like a personal attack. Sometimes friends have to tell the truth as they see it, a friendship that blindly affirms for the sake of peace is probably not all that genuine. My closest friends often tell me uncomfortable things that I would rather not hear, but I know that they do so with my best interests at heart. I would rather that no-one felt that they had to lie to me.

This is an attempt to shut debate down, by framing your desire not to feel uncomfortable about your abortion as being a need. But let’s talk stigma and shame for a moment.

The ONLY stigma and shame I have ever been made to feel was by two different groups of people. One was the clinic staff, who from start to finish made me feel like a shameful naughty little girl who had been exceptionally stupid. I think this is where a lot of shame comes from when it comes to abortion. Not necessarily the abortion itself (although it often kicks in later when you have a wanted pregnancy) but we are programmed to believe that pregnancy is avoidable, that sex is safe. Therefore when contraception doesn’t work as we’d hoped, whether through user error or other failure we are so used to believing that we are in control of our own fertility and bodies, that we feel stupid, especially if it was our ‘fault’ and the failure was preventable.

Part of this is historic and dare I say due to patriarchal attitudes about a girl having got herself into trouble and so on, but it’s not from the part of pro-lifers or religious people. Without exception every single person who knows that I have had an abortion have told me how sorry they are about it. There has been no judgement, only compassion and love. The ‘judgement’ that post-abortive women often feel, is more often than not projection or an over-sensitivity, drawing inferences which were not meant. Stating that all babies have a right to life is absolutely not the same thing as calling post-abortive women murderers, which is a phrase I am extremely careful not to use, not least as I don’t believe it to be true.

Pro-lifers understand the complexities of unplanned pregnancies far more than they are given credit for; one organisation I know of, literally picks up women off the street who have been chucked out of the clinic early and who are literally vomiting and fainting. They administer first aid, love compassion and care and help the woman to get home safely, i.e. what the clinics should have done. Those are not the actions of haters or judgementalists.

The judgement I have had for having an abortion came from the clinic staff and various pro-choicers as well as liberal ‘Catholics’ who have tried to use my abortion to shame me. “How can she be pro-life when she’s had an abortion herself”. “Having an abortion is not a badge of honour, I don’t know why the Catholics are patting her on the back”. “She wants to deny others the same choice she had herself”. I’ve had my abortion discussed on Twitter by a group of people I’ve never met, making huge assumptions and using it to as a weapon to undermine my credibility.

While I cannot avoid responsibility, I also know that like most women, my decision was not made in a vacuum. I really felt that there was little other choice and used sophistry to argue away the existence of my unborn child. My experience was so horrific and so damaging, that I vowed to fight that no other woman should have to go through it. It is not hypocritical because I don’t for one moment try to justify my abortion as being the right thing for me whilst arguing that nobody else should have it. I recognise that my choice was neither free and the decision was flawed. I can accept that other people will agree with this, whilst still thinking that I am a decent person. What I do know though without a shadow of a doubt, is that I would have been a great mother to the child I aborted despite the obstacles, some of which I over-estimated in my shock, panic and terror.

Can you Charlotte, really guarantee what would have happened had you continued with the pregnancy? From my experience pregnancy is often a terrifying time especially if it’s your first one and sometimes even when its planned, you can have the jitters. There are so many anxieties, your changing body, the prospect of birth, of adapting to being a mother, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the fear of the unknown.

The letter ends with asking Tara to shut up in no uncertain terms, emphasising the idea of bodily autonomy and a woman’s right to life, one which inherently rejects that of the baby or foetus.

Poignantly in the comments, another woman confesses to having an abortion due to contraception failure, states that she believes it was the right thing, she would be a ruinous mother, but nonetheless, despite going on to have two children, she still suffers from guilt. An NHS diversity consultant condemning her, only exacerbates that.

Here’s the thing. Many women will feel guilty post-abortion because they will instinctively know that they have taken action to end the life of their child. Memories of abortion are often resurrected in subsequent pregnancies. I felt guilty after mine, not because of some sort of religious programming or cultural indoctrination (my parents are firmly pro-choice and my Catholic school didn’t go in for pro-life education) but because philosophically I think I’d always accepted life began at conception. There was also an intuitive visceral ache immediately afterwards.

But this guilt is neither deserved, nor is it imposed, it stems from the conscience which knows that a life with all it’s potential, has ended. Hence the ‘what if’. A pro-life, anti-abortion viewpoint is often painful to post-abortive women which is why they don’t wish it expressed. The ‘judgement’ or ‘condemnation’ they feel is imagined, no pro-lifers hate or condemn me or any woman who has had an abortion. A viewpoint that says ‘abortion is wrong’ confirms any anxieties or negative feelings that a woman may have had and understandably causes defensiveness.

But the upshot is not that Charlotte, or the anonymous commentator are nasty, uncaring, bad, immoral, feckless, ignorant or naive women. They made a decision to terminate the life of an unborn child,  in difficult circumstances. Making a wrong decision is not indicative of moral character or fibre. The decision may be wrong, it doesn’t follow that the person is therefore a ‘bad-un’.

Do we have to be so reliant on the affirmation of others that we have to shut or shout them down? Or is there something else deep-seated and unresolved, hence the recurrent feelings of guilt and anger?

There are plenty of secular and religious organisations out there who can help with post-abortion counselling and who do not judge women or introduce elements of guilt  but help them to talk through their feelings about and come to terms with their abortion experience. Sometimes just acknowledging the loss can prove enormously healing.

If you have read this far – thank you. For what it’s worth my faith tells me both of our children will be in heaven, praying for us.

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So many unnecessary pixels are wasted on the ethics of social media, upon what people should say and how they should say it.

Here’s an inspirational young Catholic woman who is putting Evangeli Gaudium and the Gospel message of love into action. This is what Christian witness on social media should look like.

No lofty attempts at cultural analysis, no hidden political agenda, no passive-aggressive snipes, nothing but pure undiluted caritas.

Rachael Patrice has spent the past five hours attempting to show Josie Cunningham that she is loved and valued and drowning hate with love.

Awesome.

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A host of freedom of information requests  submitted in the wake of the Care Quality Commission’s 2012 investigation into 14 abortion clinics, has revealed that 67 doctors were referred to the General Medical Council  for disciplinary action after it was discovered that they had pre-signed piles of HSA1 abortion forms.

This practice of pre-signing abortion forms is illegal and cases should be prosecuted, as Earl Howe (under-secretary for Health) confirmed recently, speaking in a House of Lords debate on 3 April:

Addressing Lord Patten’s question, Earl Howe confirmed that pre-signed forms are a clear breach of the law and if the practice is found to be happening, a prosecution should be brought. Earl Howe also confirmed that the CQC will continue to cover the issue of pre-signed forms as part of its inspections and action will be taken against any provider where there is evidence of pre-signing. Following a later comment by Lord Patten on the lack of prosecutions that have been made for conducting gender selection abortions and pre-signing forms, Earl Howe also agreed to circulate a letter to all Peers who attended the debate outlining the follow up actions that have been taken on those issues.

According to the GMC, 67 doctors were disciplined for pre-signing following the CQC investigations in 2012, none of whom had their cases referred to the police, none of whom were removed from the medical register, and none of whom had the details of their cases made public by Fitness to Practise panels. In one case, an abortion clinic continued to use a pre-signed form four years after the doctor had left.

There isn’t much to add to Jim Dobbin MP’s statement:

This is clear evidence of the abortion-on-demand culture throughout the medical establishment. 67 doctors happily referred for abortions without knowing a single thing about the woman requesting them. Worse, at the very top, senior doctors and lawyers at the GMC decided to keep these crimes to themselves. This shames the GMC and makes a mockery of the Abortion Act.
Good practice is that two doctors see and examine the pregnant woman before making a referral, for the sake of her own health. Yet the Government is in the process of liberalising this rule. In light of these revelations, I hope that David Cameron will overturn this madness and require both doctors allowing an abortion to have seen the women they are dealing with.

Regardless of where one stands on the abortion debate, the practice of pre-signing forms is a reckless endangerment of women’s health and safety. The two-doctor rule was implemented recognising that women would be put at risk by an abortion-on-demand culture and to stop doctors from acting with impunity. Abortion is a serious medical procedure which involves either internal surgery or large doses of synthetic hormones designed to bring on labour, it is imperative that a doctor examines a woman to ensure that there are no contraindications which could jeopardise her health.

The 1967 Abortion Act recognised that abortion was a grave procedure which should only take place in certain clearly proscribed circumstances, namely if the woman was believed to be at serious medical risk as a result of her pregnancy. The two doctor rule is the check and balance designed to protect the general public, in the same way that it is a mandatory requirement that a second doctor must examine a deceased person prior to a cremation?
As a point of interest, prior to a cremation, a third doctor has to oversee the entire paperwork. Why then is a living, breathing, pregnant woman and her unborn child believed deserving of less protection, especially when we know that coerced abortion, especially on the grounds of the sex of the baby or due to domestic violence, is a very real problem.
Lord Steel, the architect of the 1967 bill has repeatedly confirmed that the intention of the Act was not to usher in a culture of abortion on demand, he has said that he never envisaged the number of abortions which take place today and in a recent email  said that ‘it was just assumed that two doctors would see the patient.’
Once again, we need to ask ourselves what has changed and why have these breaches been ignored? And while we’re asking questions, the following present themselves:
- what were the doctors’ names?

- how did the GMC develop their policy of not reporting crimes of pre-signing?

- how many pre-signed forms were discovered in each case?

- what kind of abortions were pre-signed (spurious disabilities? Social abortions?)
- how far in advance of the referral the pre-signing took place. The CQC investigations said that, in one case, a doctor whose pre-signed forms were being used had not been working at the clinic for four years prior to the referral. This must be one of the 67.

 

The law needs to be upheld and if not the public is entitled to a full and frank debate with regards to the protection of pregnant women,  the status  of the unborn and should demand accountability and an explanation from their elected representatives.

This weekend I have witnessed with horror the outpouring of hatred and disgust towards a vulnerable young woman who is seemingly aborting her fully-formed unborn baby so she can go on TV and pursue her quest for fleeting celebrity fame. The abuse has not come from pro-life quarters or activists, the majority of whom have either remained silent, stated that they will pray for her or have respectfully begged her to reconsider, even offering to adopt her baby in many cases. What’s been interesting is that an overwhelming majority of young people have recognised that this woman’s child is fully-formed and that while they might sanction abortion, this is only in limited reserved instances where it would appear that the woman has little other choice. The case of Josie Cunningham is clear reflection of British attitudes towards abortion; most people are repelled by an attitude which regards a baby as a disposable object and accept that by the 18 week stage, it is fully-formed and human.

The general public’s revulsion at the callous disregard for life displayed by a young woman aborting her baby, 6 weeks before the legal limit on what would appear to be a whim, is precisely what the law is supposed to reflect and indeed a recent poll of woman by Com Res demonstrated that 9 out of 10 women believed that women seeking abortion should always seek a qualified doctor. Furthermore 80% felt that women’s health would be put at risk if women seeking abortions are not seen by two doctors and 80% also said that doctors who lie about having seen patients should be prosecuted. Well over half believed that the two doctor requirement should be more rigorously policed in private clinics.

The two doctor law is what women want. 

Doctors who treat the law with impunity and put women at risk must be prosecuted. Secondly, urgent questions must be asked of the GMC’s role in all this. Independent witnesses should be appointed to Fitness to Practice panels to prevent crimes from being hushed up.

Thirdly, the remedy for all this is for two doctors to see and examine the pregnant woman. How on earth can anyone form an opinion in good faith without ever having seen a woman and how can her safety be guaranteed? These are precisely what the 1999 RSOPs required and it is absurd that the government is currently attempting to liberalise practice which only serves the best interests of the abortion providers. These measures come at a time when abortion clinics are currently suffering from a recruitment crisis and struggling to recruit enough qualified staff.

It’s difficult to see how a stealthy and undemocratic removal of checks and balances does anything other than feed a culture of abortion-on-demand, one which endangers women.

We have rightly condemned and cracked down upon the appalling practice of FGM in the UK. It’s time to do the same with abortion, which does so much harm to women, their unborn children and society as a whole.

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pink range rover

More valuable than a baby?

A girl named Josie Cunningham, who is by all accounts  (in)famous has given an interview in the Daily Mirror stating that she intends to abort her 18 week-old unborn child later this week, in order that she can appear on Big Brother, ‘be famous, drive a pink land rover and buy a big house.’

The story merits comment and not for the obvious reasons; from reading a little bit about her and learning that she is unclear as to whether or not the father of the baby is a premiership footballer, a friend, or a former client (who happens to be a surgeon) from a period when she was working as a prostitute escorting, it is evident that here is an extremely vulnerable young woman who is a product of our consumer culture and who has very little self-esteem or sense of worth.

There is the possibility that Josie’s public deliberations over whether or not to keep her unborn baby is part of a cynical attempt to boost her fame and manipulate Channel 5 into accepting her as a contestant, however one has to feel desperately sorry for someone who feels driven to seek attention in such dramatic fashion, as well as for her unborn baby – the equivalent of a chance or community chest card on the celebrity monopoly board, with his or her life hanging in the balance.

The most responsible course of action for any media outlet would have been to completely ignore Josie instead of attempting to validate and endorse her search for fame and attention, until she actually did anything of merit. What message does this story send out to young girls today? Get the NHS to pay for breast augmentation as Josie did, generate publicity, become an escort, have a controversial abortion and your route to fame and fortune is guaranteed?! Is this really the sort of career investment which should be funded by the taxpayer? Does the potential future tax revenue from Josie’s career allow the state to co-opt her sexual exploitation by funding her unnecessary surgery and picking up her abortion tab? Are notions of self-improvement constrained to physical appearance  or economic contributions? Is this what constitutes social responsibility?

Whatever the outcome of Josie’s decision, her life and that of her child, even if she does go ahead with the pregnancy seems set to be blighted unless she gets out of the spotlight. The public needs to unlearn its habit of eager voyeurism which feeds the public car-crash of so many celebrity lives. How is her baby going to feel knowing that their mother publicly discussed getting rid of them? What about the impact upon her other two young children?

As Josie shows no inclination of keeping a low profile, Channel 5 should accept her as a contestant on Big Brother, only on the condition that she remains pregnant. If it is in fact true that negotiations stalled following revelations of her pregnancy, as a feminist statement Big Brother ought to prove that it embraces pregnancy in the workplace. Josie’s progression through pregnancy would provide a far more diverting narrative than their usual diet of has-beens resurrecting petty dressing-room squabbles of twenty years ago.

According to a poll currently running in the Mirror, 92% respondents have said that they will not watch Big Brother if Josie appears on the show having had an abortion which demonstrates the British public’s natural antipathy towards social abortion. Contrary to feminist rhetoric it is not seen merely as a woman’s choice, but rather as a necessary evil. That so many people have expressed their disgust, shows that we see an 18 week old baby as deserving of dignity, respect and above all, life.

This also busts open the popular idea that late-stage abortions are only due to difficult circumstances, Josie demonstrates a mindset which puts her own perceived needs and ambitions above the life of her child, regardless of their stage of development. It doesn’t matter that she might have felt her little boy or girl kick and move, it is her right to end her baby’s life right up until the 24 week limit if it interferes with her ambitions or plans. The published photographs of Josie posing with a visible four-month bump containing a baby who might never be born cause distress, irrespective of whether or not one takes a Catholic or absolutist position on abortion.

While no-one should condone the online abuse that Josie has suffered, it is difficult to feel sympathy for a woman who is exploiting her decision as to whether or not to end her baby’s life to make money and it will be particularly hard to swallow for those who have experienced the agony of miscarriage or infertility. Scrolling through her timeline, the insults and negativity is not emanating from professing Catholics or Christians, but from young people who are revolted by such blatant disregard for a baby’s life.

If, as Josie claims, she wants to beat the trolls, then actually the best thing she can do is to go ahead with the baby and prove her moral fibre as well as her ability to be a good mother. Who could really enjoy a house or car purchased with cash drenched in the blood of an unborn baby?

When the abortion act was passed, Baroness Knight was jeered at and derided for her ‘emotive’ speech in Parliament when she stated that the law would lead to abortion on demand and that unborn children could be disposed of on a whim. She was accused of scare-mongering.

Any doctor who signs a HSA1 form agreeing to this abortion should be prosecuted as it is a clear breech of the law. If it is illegal, as Earl Howe, under-secretary for Health has recently confirmed, to abort a baby on the grounds of gender, then how can be legal to abort one on the grounds of ‘being an impediment to a pink range rover’?

How does not appearing on a reality show as a result of being pregnant constitute a grave threat to mental health, greater than that of having a baby? Surely by aborting her baby so that she may be free to continue to sexually objectify herself and define the role of female reality TV contestants, Josie Cunningham participates in her own oppression and that of women overall?

How can this choice, especially when the potential fathers of the child have expressed their wish for him or her to be born, be in any way justified? The term ‘anti-choice’ has just lost its sting.

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