Last week on the Daily Politics show, Rupa Huq, the Labour MP for Ealing who has been openly encouraging the pro-choice group, Sister Supporter, appeared to waver slightly on her stance.
When it was pointed out to her that it was in fact the pro-choice group Sister Supporter who have been turning the clinic vigils into something of a circus, Ms Huq responded as follows in relation to the protestors, “Clear them all” and “I would like to keep these pavements a safer space and clear of protestors from whatever side”.
I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not Anna Vegilo-White might not have seen that as something of a betrayal coming from the MP who has supported and encouraged her group . Ms Huq appeared to be saying that they were all as bad as each other.
The point made by Clare McCullough, one of the founders of the Good Counsel Network was a valid one. Until the emergence of Sister Supporter about a year ago, there had never previously been any complaints of nuisance by the local residents.
The vigil consists of a handful of mainly elderly people, on the green across the road from the abortion facility, who quietly pray the rosary. They have a couple of signs, one of the Virgin Mary, one a nice picture of a baby in utero, and another which invites women to approach them if they are in need of any assistance. Slightly more controversially, placed on the ground in front of them are three models of plastic foetuses, all anatomically correct and in proportion, corresponding to different stages in pregnancy. One volunteer stands near the clinic entrance offering passers-by a leaflet, which they are free to accept or decline.
If there was harassment of the nature alleged by Sister Supporter and Marie Stopes, including that which stops women and supposedly staff, from entering and leaving the clinic, then existing legislation, such as the Public Order Act, which has been successfully used to prosecute anti-vivisectionist and animal rights campaigners, would already have been used. In an age where the camera phone is ubiquitous and the clinic has two cameras permanently trained upon the vigil, why has there been no footage released of women being harassed, shouted at, abused and even, as Pam Lowe attempted to claim on BBC1’s Sunday Morning Live, having what she sincerely hoped was, holy water, thrown over them. A particularly vicious lie.
The fact is that no criminal prosecution or even arrests have taken place, because no criminal activity has occurred. The Public Space Protection Order, which Ealing Borough Council hopes to impose will criminalise the activities of those on the vigil. Activity, which could arguably be defined as freedom of speech and the right to protest, which is covered by sections 10 and 11 of the Human Rights Act.
Every Saturday, Sister Supporter and their pro-choice rentamob (consisting of an existing London network of pro-choice supporters), pitch up wearing pink high vis jackets, brandishing megaphones and boomboxes and attempt to disrupt the prayer vigil. They sing erudite songs of female emancipation such as Abba’s totemic ‘Dancing Queen’, before tailing off and launching into other classics, such as ‘If you like Pina Colada’. Let’s be honest, it’s about the only pain relief that’s going to be on offer inside a Marie Stopes, according to the recent findings of the CQC.
I’ve blogged about the antics of Sister Supporter before, but they have happily disrupted a peaceful religious procession which departs from Ealing Abbey every Saturday and also attempted to prevent Mass-goers from leaving the building. Their aim is to put as much pressure as possible on the abbey in order that they will then discourage Catholics from participating in any kind of pro-life activity in public. It seems that Sister Supporter aren’t very tolerant when it comes to religious freedom.
As Clare McCullough pointed out on a number of different media, it’s actually far worse for women entering the abortion clinic to be faced with a confrontational throng and an atmosphere of hostility, where they can’t tell who is who, rather than one single person, offering them a leaflet.
Back to Rupa Huq and today in the House of Commons, Ms Huq raised a question about the proposed PSPO in Ealing and whether or not these can be extended across the country, to which Conservative in name only, Amber Rudd appeared to signal her agreement. As part of her question Rupa alluded to the pro-choice demonstrators who have for the past year been creating a situation of hostility and chaos outside the abortion facility, making it very difficult for the general public to pass. (Unlike our quiet rosary prayers who stand on the grass).
It’s clear then, that Rupa Huq sees both sides as a nuisance and equally vexatious. Which begs the question, why does she regularly join in and lead the protestors such as she did this weekend, the day AFTER she had called for them all to be cleared on the Daily Politics show.
And riddle me this. Why then this morning, did Marie Stopes have to ask a group of pro-choice students from a local university not to film their clients as they entered the clinic? Did Marie Stopes note this pro-choice harassment in their log book? Did they film the pro-choice students filming? You can bet your life that had this been pro-lifers the footage would have been all over social media quick sharp complete with obligatory rosaries and ovaries hashtag.
A cynic would suggest that the new pro-choice tactic is indeed to cause as much disruption outside of the clinics as possible in order to get everyone tarred with the same brush and banned as swiftly as possible. No more women helped to choose life for their baby outside of the clinic and no awkward visible reminders of the humanity of the child whose life is at stake. How very convenient.
For the past 22 years a quiet pro-life vigil has taken place outside the Marie Stopes abortion clinic in Ealing, a vigil which, until the past couple of years went unnoticed. The police have been aware of the vigil since its inception and in 22 years there has not been a single arrest or charge laid against any of those attending.
What happens at this vigil is the usual type of thing – pro-life groups stand on the other side of the green, across the pavement from the clinic, praying for all inside, the pregnant women, their unborn children along with the staff themselves.
Pro-choice feminist protesters largely ignored what was going on in the quiet suburbs of Ealing largely because of its location. Ealing isn’t as easy to travel to as Bedford Square in central London, where up until 2013, BPAS operated a clinic which was previously the flashpoint in the abortion culture wars.
In fact the location of the Ealing clinic is fairly typical. Like the Marie Stopes facility in Buckhurst Hill, Essex, it is on the outskirts of London, in a picturesque converted suburban building with a discreet plaque, designed to look very attractive from the outside, blend in with the local community and distract from the horror within. Here’s a video of 40 Days for Life director Robert Colquhoun outlining the Christian history of the building.
When I look back on my own experience of abortion, one of the many surreal moments was sitting in a beautiful high-ceiling room complete with ornate coving, elegant light-fittings and all-round exquisite decor while partaking of a selection of delicious sandwiches from a local delicatessan, laid on for women who had just taken the first of two doses of pills to bring about an abortion. It felt bizarre sitting there with a group of women all of whom were studiously avoiding eye-contact with each other or alternatively making superficial conversation like a scene from a period drama, while we were all there for the same reason. It’s one of the aspects which still haunts me. I sat there, in terribly salubrious surroundings, stuffing my face with cucumber sandwiches to alleviate the boredom and unease during the prescribed waiting time, while inside me the child was being slowly poisoned to death.
Marie Stopes had warned us in the literature that protestors may be outside both the central London clinic that I attended for the initial consultation and also the one in Buckhurst Hill, but there wasn’t a protestor to be seen, much to my chagrin. I’ve written about this before, but inside, I was aching for a fight and for someone, somewhere, to challenge me.
Despite the fact that the Good Counsel Network have been conducting vigil clinics for 20 years in the UK, (and other groups for longer) it was only since the arrival of 40DaysforLife in the UK, in 2011, that suddenly clinic vigils became an issue and burst into public consciousness, because clearly the abortion clinics don’t like them very much and they are able to swiftly harness and tap into the support of both pro-choice MPs and mainstream media.
The tactics of those who attend the vigils have never altered. Contrary to popular myth, they do not block the entrances of clinics, they do not follow women down the street, they don’t video women and they certainly don’t shout abuse at them. They stand quietly, a respectful distance away, carrying signs with offers of help and praying. One counselor stands slightly nearer offering passers-by a leaflet.
Groups such as the Good Counsel Network and 40 Days for Life often get conflated with Abort 67, who display large banners of aborted foetuses outside clinics. Abort 67’s focus is not about prayer, but educating the public to the realities of abortion and they don’t just stand outside clinics but also in other public places, such as Speakers Corner in Hyde Park or outside the Department of Health.
In the age where smartphones are ubiquitous and where the abortion clinics have stationed cameras outside their facilities, not a shred of pictorial or video evidence has ever emerged to support the smears of harassment or intimidation by pro-life groups that do the rounds on social media. Andy Stephenson, the leader of Abort 67 was prosecuted, but the case collapsed. What Abort 67 do have, is cameras around their necks, strapped to their chests, to protect themselves against allegations of harassment and intimidation. So far the only footage to emerge is of members of the public challenging and threatening them, to the great acclaim of the public.
So anyway, back to Ealing where the pro-life vigil has taken place without incident for the past 22 years. The pro-lifers turn up every day, pray, give out leaflets, offer support and go home. Enraged by this, a group of pro-choice women calling themselves Sister Supporter have decided to pitch up every Saturday and put in a counter protest. They have been joined on occasion by Rupa Huq, the local MP for Ealing, who has decided to join this feminist cause celebre.
Pro-Lifers, including Ms Huq’s own constituents have invited her many times to engage with the women, many of whom are immigrants or from ethnic minorities and who, as a result of the help and support given by the pro-life groups, have chosen not to abort their babies. These are pregnant women who approached the pro-lifers wary of their claims that they would really be able to help and found themselves given significant financial and other practical assistance for as long they needed it. Women who did not qualify for any assistance or who would be presented by a bill by the NHS if they approached them for maternity care. In fact the only ‘choice’ that they were being given, was that of a free abortion. These are women are of all faiths and none who feel so empowered by the help that they were offered that they now join in the vigils, complete with infants in puschairs in an attempt to persuade others that there is another way. Ms Huq, has to date, refused to engage.
Pro-lifers accept that they cannot have it both ways. A free and democratic society which affords them the right to ‘protest’ (although they would dispute that their prayer vigils and offers of assistance are in any way a protest), also confers identical rights to those on the pro-choice side of the debate.
But at what stage does this cross a line? Yesterday, a local group, calling themselves “Sister Supporter” posted triumphantly on their Facebook page, that they had disrupted pro-life activities at the nearby Ealing Abbey. The logic behind this being that many of those who attend the pro-life vigils attend Mass at Ealing Abbey. So in the twisted minds of Sister Supporter, this makes everyone who attends church there, accountable and a potential target for punitive action. The old guilt by association fallacy.
Sister Supporter gleefully reported that they stood on the doorstep of Ealing Abbey, with the deliberate intent of intimidating church-goers, in order that they might experience how it feels. Despite the fact that those on a pro-life vigil, stand on the other side of the green across the pavement and do not block the doorway of the abortion clinic or obstruct anyone from entering or leaving. They then attacked church attenders for ‘sneakily’ using the rear entrance in order to avoid them.
Not content with their acknowledged intimidation of people attending church, Sister Supporter said that they weren’t going to let the people leave ‘without a fight’. A religious pro-life procession was leaving the church, so this group ‘sprinted in front of them’, blocking the huge icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary being peacefully processed around the streets, with aggressive pro-choice and anti-Catholic inflammatory placards.
Judging from the photos, only a handful of protestors were present at this stage, compared to those who blockaded the church and later stood outside the clinic adjacent to the pro-life vigil, but here we have a group of people who, by their own admission were out to ‘intimidate’ religious believers by way of ‘retribution’. Firstly the aim of those on pro-life vigils is never to intimidate, but secondly, didn’t anyone ever teach these people that two wrongs don’t make a right? One of the pro-life counsellors on the vigil said that last week a ‘Sister Supporter’ tried jumping up and down in front of her, when she was handing a leaflet to a woman, admitting that her conduct amounted to harassment. “Yes, it is harassment” she cried, “now you know what it feels like!”
Also, how is expressly setting out to intimidate and blockade a group of people on account of their religious beliefs, not a hate crime or at the very least, a breach of the Public Order Act? How is this any different to those who would nail a slice of bacon to a mosque door? The procession which took place is purely religious procession and organisers tell me that there are no pro-life placards or slogans on display. I do hope that the Metropolitan police take note. Apparently last week, these women screamed Lily Allen’s “F*** You very very much” while people were praying stations of the cross.
Other points to note. Sister Supporter claim to have been set up by a ‘concerned local’ in many of their posts and back-stories, however when I attempted to comment on their post, my comments were instantaneously removed, accompanied by the comments that I am a ‘known homophobe who has upset one too many of my friends to be able to be given a platform here’. Which would indicate pro-choice activists, the same ones who organized outside Bedford Square a few years ago and who were befriended by the usual motley gang of trolls, as opposed to an impromptu group of concerned local residents. They are also snowflakes if they can’t cope with a couple of perfectly civil questions or observations.
One of the questions I asked was why the comments in the thread used photographs of clinic protests that took place in America, not the UK, to justify their actions. Photographs which were subsequently removed, along with every comment which questioned their protest. Every single photograph I have seen of the Ealing protest depicts people standing a decent and respectable distance away. The imagery which is displayed is not that of aborted foetuses, but consists of 6 A4 laminated posters with images of unborn babies, which Sister Supporter has referred to as being ‘distressing and gross’.
Other posts mocked the attire of the pro-life women for wearing ‘long skirts and anoraks’. Shaming women for what they wear doesn’t seem to be very feminist. Unlike the recent anti-Trump demonstrations in which children were actively invited to participate, being exposed to foul language and filthy imagery, Sister Supporter ask that women do not bring their children along to their clinic protests. They don’t want to upset the clients inside. Although one might ask what the presence of children is related to a ‘non-human blob of tissue’ which is supposedly part of a woman’s body? A cynic might note that clients at Marie Stopes are far more likely to be irritated by a group of middle-class women belting out eighties music at the top of their lungs while they are having an abortion, than a few toddlers and children. One regular choice is “Give me all your money, all your hugs and kisses too” . Gallows humour suggests that this is grimly appropriate for a clinic charging about £700 for each woman’s baby they abort.
A regular pro-life attendee at Ealing chuckles recounting that “one Saturday they were supporting women by singing, or rather ‘singing’ half-remembered lyrics of ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘If you like Pina Colada’. The latter was mostly ‘Yes I like Pina Colada, and getting caught in the rain. Yes I like making love at midnight…mumble mumble giggle’. While Dancing Queen was rendered ‘Dancing Queen, young and sweet only 17, ooo yeah, before tapering off into a slightly awkward ‘la la la”. There was also the woman who kept barking ‘she’ll be respecting women when she comes’, to the tune of ‘Coming Round the Mountain’. It’s like watching a drunk uncle do karaoke at a funeral.” Quite. Don’t woman deserve better. It’s no surprise that it’s actually this pink pantomime deterring women from attending Marie Stopes Ealing, (whose staff members egg on and encourage the pro-choice contingent) and why they want pro-lifers banned. Fewer women having an abortion can not be allowed to continue.
Another regular attendee at Ealing reports this. “I have spoken to many ‘Sister Supporters’ outside the clinic. I asked them how they feel about those women for whom abortion is a matter of “no choice”
Some of them refused to believe that such women exist.
One openly mocked the story I told her of two women I know who had not wanted to have the abortion they were seeking and were helped to keep their babies by the GCN and who are mothers of lovely daughters now. She repeated in a sing song voice “and they all lived happily ever after…not”
So much for “pro choice”.
Another one kept interjecting when I was talking to three young Sister Supporters, repeatedly saying “Don’t talk to her, she’s a plant”.
Neither Sister Supporter, nor the clinics appear to be reaching out to women who feel so pressurised that they have no other choice than to abort. Women with no employment rights, no rights to benefits and no rights to obstetric care. These are women who are facing destitution if they have a baby, but whose plight Sister Supporter prefers to ignore and pretend they are invisible.
No doubt these women will be outraged to learn that so far during Lent, 17 (hopefully soon to be 18) woman have decided not to abort their babies and will mutter about manipulation. Women being persuaded to keep their babies rather than aborting them? That’s not the kind of choice which interests them, nor it would seem the general public, who prefer fake news when it comes to persecuted women.
A number of mainstream media outlets are reporting on the tragic case of a Sicilian woman, Valentina Milluzzo who became pregnant with twins following IVF treatment and then died after miscarrying them.
Scant detail has been reported, but according to reports, Mrs Milluzzo was admitted to the Cannizzaro hospital in Catania, Sicily, after falling ill and going into labour at just 19 weeks in pregnancy, on September 29 where she remained in a stable condition for a couple of weeks.
On October 15 her condition worsened and one baby was then stillborn, Mrs Milluzzo’s condition then rapidly deteriorated, her family then asked for the other baby to be aborted, doctors refused supposedly on the grounds of conscientious objection, then it appears that the other baby was miscarried, shortly after which poor Valentina Miluzzo died too.
The various media reports seem muddled. In the Daily Mail the family’s lawyer allegedly reported that one of the unborn twins was suffering from from a ‘breathing complication’. This doesn’t stack up because a baby in utero does not actually breathe through their nose and mouth, but rather exchanges oxygen and carbon dioxide with the mother through the placenta and umbilical cord. Clearly there was some kind of complication causing foetal distress which may have led to the miscarriage, but ‘breathing difficulty’ seems to be an overly-simplistic term. That said, this could simply be a translation error. But in any event the account in the Daily Mail, has the doctor refusing to abort both babies.
The BBC has a similar account, namely the doctor apparently refused to intervene to abort both babies after one got into difficulty, but the Guardian claims that having given birth to one stillborn baby, poor Valentina was in agony for 12 hours with the doctors refusing to intervene on the grounds that the other baby was still alive. The family begged for the doctors to abort the other child to save her life, the doctors refused and shortly afterwards the baby was born dead and Mrs Milluzzo died of septic shock.
The Guardian of course carries a photograph of pro-life nuns, just in case you hadn’t got with the programme about these evil Catholic types. It also runs a load of irrelevant copy with implied supposition about the recent decline in abortions in Italy being due to a shortage of doctors willing to perform them and whether or not Italy actually has enough people to carry out abortions because, shock horror, there’s a high rate of conscientious objectors. A decline in abortions, can never be seen as positive news now can it, and what this unsubtle inference fails to mention is Italy’s catastrophically declining birth rate. Maybe, just maybe, fewer women are getting pregnant and those who do actually want to keep their babies?!
First off, nobody should be blamed or jump to conclusions because the fact is that we do not know what happened. Of course the family would have been enormously distressed by the way events unfolded and one cannot blame them for wishing medics to take whatever action necessary to save the life of their beloved wife and daughter.
But in this situation, when we have the very sketchiest of facts, it is a revolting political opportunism that wishes to capitalise on a terrible tragedy of a woman, who is not yet buried, to claim, as the profiteers at International Planned Parenthood Federation (who make money from abortion) have done, that the right of medics to conscientiously object to abortion, puts women at risk and must be removed. Medics are not disrespecting the law, they are acting in accordance with it. Italian law in common with other European laws, allows for abortion in certain specific prescribed circumstances, and also allows doctors who feel that their remit is to save lives not end them, to opt out. Freedom of conscience ought to take primacy. Nobody should be coerced by the law into carrying out acts which they find to be morally abhorrent.
In the case of a woman who has achieved a much-wanted pregnancy via IVF, one can well understand the reticence of doctors to abort the child, if there was a chance that they might survive. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, in the case of miscarriage, the best clinical approach is to conservatively manage a miscarriage, which negates the risks and complications of surgery. It’s not clear how aborting the surviving twin would actually have saved her life – an unborn baby is not some kind of toxin, poisoning a woman’s system from within.
There seem to be several terrible parallels with the case of Savita Halappanavar going on here. Both women would appear to have died of septic shock. The HSE inquiry ruled that Mrs Halapannaver died of sepsis which went undiagnosed for too long. An abortion would not have saved her life, but prompt administration of antibiotics could well have done, though sepsis does require extremely swift diagnosis and intervention.
Dr Sam Coulter-Smith, master of the Rotunda hospital in Dublin commented that Ireland’s pro-life laws had little to do with Mrs Hlappanavar’s death and echoed the view of most gynaecologists saying
“I think most of us who work in obstetrics and gynaecology, there may be individual differences, but the majority would be of the view that if the health is such a risk that there is a risk of death and we are dealing with a foetus that is not viable, there is only one answer to that question, we bring the pregnancy to an end.”
Here are the known facts. At 22 weeks, Mrs Milluzzo’s much-wanted child was viable and potentially had a chance of life. Abortion is not on the protocols of treatment for pregnant women with sepsis. Patients and family wishes must of course be taken into account, but the fact that they may have been understandably begging for a course of treatment which they believed was the best chance of saving this woman’s life, does not mean that aborting the baby was the correct medical solution. Wishing to save both the life of the baby and the mother, if at all possible, does not mean that the doctors were negligent, uncaring or adopting a rigourist approach.
The hospital is strongly disputing the family’s account. They have said the following:
“There was no conscientious objection on behalf of the doctor that intervened in this case because there was no voluntary termination of the pregnancy, but (the miscarriage) was forced by the grave circumstances…I rule out that a doctor could have told the family what they say he told them.”
Italian law forbids doctors to withhold life-saving treatment when a mother’s life is at risk. This has been reiterated by a national association of Catholic doctors who said that when a mother’s life is at risk, doctors must do whatever is necessary to save it.
Regardless of what may or may have been said to the family by the doctor (and I think we also have to allow for misunderstandings, especially in such a traumatic situation) there is nothing as yet, which demonstrates that doctors wilfully refused to save the life of a dying pregnant woman and sacrificed her for the sake of her unborn child. We do not have enough evidence and we should not speculate or seek to vilify the doctors, who were the ones actually dealing with the situation and who had the medical knowledge to ascertain the best course of action. Presumably when Mrs Milluzzo went into hospital she was hoping that the doctors would do everything possible to save her children. The request for an abortion was a response to ease suffering and save her life when her condition deteriorated, but chances are that by this stage it was already too late.
There are always two sides to every story, what happened to innocent until proven guilty?
But sadly, that won’t stop the pro-choice bandwagon from using this story as further proof of the uncaring pro-lifers forcing women to die for the sake of their unborn children and trying to remove the conscience rights of doctors, even though tragic cases such as these are very few and far between. With an absence of backstreet butchery upon which to hang the need for compassion, any maternal death with any possible tenuous link to abortion must be milked to ensure every drop of righteous indignation and anger is directed at those who wish to protect the lives of the unborn, who must be portrayed as uncaring misogynists. Especially if they happen to be doctors.
Valentina Milluzzo was a beautiful woman with everything to look forward to. May she and her babies rest in peace.
As reported in the Catholic Herald, academic Catholic theologian Tina Beattie has signed a letter to the Polish Bishops’ Conference supporting ‘early, safe and legal’ abortion.
Joseph Shaw has demolished her ethical and theological arguments on his philosophy blog here – Mrs Beattie’s position is an indefensible one from a Catholic point of view.
But there is an another important element to Tina Beattie’s letter which is so far being overlooked. She says that in” those situations where abortion is deemed necessary – such as those currently permitted under Polish law, we believe that access to early, safe and legal abortion is necessary”.
Dr Shaw reminds us of the conclusions of the 2012 Dublin Declaration on Maternal health, which was signed by over one thousand medical practitioners, which explicitly stated that ‘the purposeful destruction of the unborn child – is not medically necessary to save the life of the woman.’
On those rare occasions that medical treatment needs to be carried out to preserve the life of the mother which could endanger the baby’s life, the timing is only important in as much as the treatment is performed at a stage when it is going to be efficacious. Sometimes life threatening complications do not occur until a later stage in pregnancy, at which point it is often possible to treat them, while at the same time preserving the life of the infant.
Tina Beattie seems to be propagating the point of view that the earlier an abortion is carried out, the easier and safer it is for the woman. This confirms the sales propaganda of the abortion clinics, who use this to pressure women to make swift decisions, ones which they may later regret.
I speak from bitter experience here as I bought the very same line, opting to take the swift ‘medical abortion’ route under pressure and thus avoid the need for surgery. If, as the letter suggests, women very often face an agonising decision in terms of what to do about their pregnancies, then suggesting that they need to make the decision as quickly as possible in order maximise health outcomes, only puts further pressure on them. The question is whether or not we ought to be ending the lives of unwanted unborn babies, not at what stage this ought to be carried out. The idea of swift early safe abortion for disabled children, is a red herring to justify the lie of abortion being the only compassionate and responsible option in certain circumstances.
The UK abortion industry justify their existence by noting that the majority of abortions performed in the UK are done so in the first trimester. For the last year that statistics are available (2014) the number of medical abortions performed, accounted for 51% of the total and 92% of all abortions were in the first trimester. Of the 184, 571 abortions carried out in this year, 2%, (3099 babies) were aborted on the grounds of foetal disability.
Mrs Beattie’s push for early, safe and legal abortion for situations of disability, rape and danger to the mother’s life as well as being morally and ethically unsound is based on a dodgy grasp of the physical reality and one that could potentially mislead women into making an irreversible decision, on mistaken health grounds.
The idea of an early, safe abortion for babies with disabilities is dangerous myth. The first screening test for abnormalities occurs at the end of the first trimester. Most women going for a 12 week scan will have already made the decision that they are keeping their baby. Women are now able to discover that they are pregnant even a few days before their period is due. The nuchal fold combined screening test, which is a specific test for chromosomal abnormalities such as Downs Syndrome, is performed somewhere between the 11th and 14th week of pregnancy. The results of an ultrasound are combined with the results of a blood test in order to give women a result which tells them the probability that their baby has Downs Syndrome or another chromosomal disorder. If the result is higher than a 1 in 150 chance, then you will be offered counselling and a further diagnostic test, either an amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling which will confirm any diagnosis. Sometimes, a nuchal fold screening may not be able to be performed, if for example the baby is in the wrong position, in which case a quadruple serum test would be carried out after 14 weeks, but like the nuchal fold test, this will only give you a probability score.
The earliest that one is therefore likely to receive a confirmed diagnosis, will be around the 14 week mark, taking into account the timing of lab result tests and appointments. Should you decide that you want to have an abortion, then it would not be performed for at least another 24-48 hours.
Realistically, an abortion for a chromosomal abnormality will take place at around 15 weeks at the earliest, at which point the procedure is already more risky due to the rapidly growing foetus. The option of a medical abortion will be long gone and the suction method to evacuate the baby from the womb, is no longer possible either. You are already looking at a more complicated D&E procedure, which carries more risks. At 15 weeks many women will be experiencing foetal movements.
That’s not to promote any method of abortion as being the more desirable, but if Tina Beattie is going to cite medical facts, then she needs to be aware that swift, early stage abortion, is off the table for women who find that their babies have a physical abnormality. And there are many other non-chromosomal disorders which are not discovered until the 20 week scan, which if the mother decided that she didn’t want to keep the baby, would necessitate a traumatic late-stage abortion.
It’s therefore deeply problematic to cite or advocate early stage abortion as a solution for disabled children, not just on the eugenic or moral grounds, but because it is not a physical reality. A brief look at the current ante-natal support threads on Mumsnet, will tell stories of mothers being given false diagnoses of disability, along with women really agonising over what to do and not wanting to take the decision to abort their baby, until they really do have every last piece of information regarding their condition and have sought second opinions, advice, counselling and so on. Nobody is rushing to abort, even though many report feeling under pressure from the medics.
It’s a disservice to women who find themselves in this heartbreaking situation, to present them with an option of early abortion, that they do not actually have. It displays a profoundly disturbing obstetric ignorance from someone who ought to have done more basic research. It is disingenuous in the extreme to use disability as a justification for early-stage abortion.
If I were to claim to be a card-carrying member of the Labour party and yet propagate Tory views, claiming them as legtimate Labour views and actually use my membership to gain myself a platform and employment as a representative of the Labour party, then they would be well within their rights to have my membership withdrawn and to be clear that I did not represent the party’s political views.
This isn’t about the Polish Church attempting to impose theological views on the rest of the country, but merely making their doctrinal position clear, as they are entitled to do so. Poland is a functioning democracy; any measures to protect the right to life of the unborn child are in full accordance with Article 3 of the UN Charter for Human Rights which specifically lays out the right to life, are being enacted by an elected and accountable government.
The attempt to tell the Polish bishops they are wrong seems to be about imposing a feminist agenda onto Catholicism, more than a little presumptious as well as ethically, theologically and morally incorrect, as Father Alexander Lucie-Smith has also made clear. Hence the resulting outrage.This is not the Catholic position; to present it as such could cause confusion and worst still, cost lives.
Update 11th February 2017
Tina Beattie has asked me to point out that she does not support pre-natal testing for Downs Syndrome and therefore my photograph should not mislead anyone as to her position. A few days after I published this post, which was supposed to be about the physical risks of later termination, after physical anomalies have been discovered, Tina published a blogpost outlining her view on abortion, which I am happy to reproduce here. http://tina-beattie.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/my-position-on-abortion-setting-record.html
The pro-life world is currently in uproar about remarks made by Chelsea Clinton at a recent fundraiser for her mother, Hilary, in which she claimed to have left the Baptist Church at the age of 6, thanks to its stance on abortion.
I was raised in a Methodist church and I left the Baptist church before my dad did, because I didn’t know why they were talking to me about abortion when I was 6 in Sunday school.
Going on to defend her faith and that of mother’s which she believes is wholly compatible with a pro-choice viewpoint, she said “I recognized that there were many expressions of faith that I don’t agree with and feel [are] quite antithetical to how I read the Bible…But I find it really challenging when people who are self-professed liberals kind of look askance at my family’s history.”
The subtext is clear – support of abortion is compatible with Christianity as evidenced by her family’s own religious faith. Many people would take issue with how far the Clinton family exemplify Christian values, but let’s be charitable and accept her belief that her family are all God-fearing Christians. It still doesn’t mean that their interpretation of the Bible when it comes to abortion is the correct one, and billions of Christians around the world, would vehemently disagree as to whether a Christian can sanction the killing of the unborn. But I can accept that this is a genuinely held, if theologically flawed, point of view.
Where I do take issue, is the idea that voters are being asked to uncritically accept the idea that the six year-old Chelsea had such a prodigious intellect that she was able to criticise the appropriateness of abortion as a topic in Sunday school and make a conscious decision to reject the Baptist church thanks to a theological difference of opinion. It stretches credulity to say the least.
A far more likely explanation is that upon being asked about what they learnt about in Sunday school that week, little Chelsea piped up something about abortion and Hilary whipped her out sharpish and promptly attempted to unpick any pro-life sentiment or ideas which may have taken root in the impressionable six year old’s brain.
How many, even precocious, six year-olds would really object to being given a pro-life point of view in Sunday school, believing that abortion was a vital necessity and one which could be supported by a certain interpretation of Scripture?
Either Chelsea’s recollection of events is distorted, or she is telling blatant untruths, but either way it displays an unhealthy narcissism. Does she genuinely expect voters to believe that hers is such a brilliant mind that she was able to critically engage with theology and the thorny issue of abortion as a six-year old? In effect she is saying, ‘I was so wise and wonderful, that I knew, even at the age of tender age of six, that abortion was a great, wonderful and necessary tool for women’s empowerment. I am descended from the great tribe of political and academic heavyweights, listen and look upon my mighty intellect, ye proles, and take heed’.
Where pro-lifers are wrong however, is to assume that if she is telling the truth, that this is evidence of abusive or bad parenting, on the basis that no six year-old ought to know about abortion. If that is the case, then the Baptist Church which was mentioning such things to six year olds, deserves criticism. Although pro-choicers like Chelsea, ought to be honest with themselves as to why? If abortion is simply more than a removal of unwanted tissue or cells, and not a real human being, then what is the problem with telling children about it, in similar terms to describing a tonsilectomy or other similar minor procedure?
I remember losing a glut of Facebook and Twitter followers, who were all ironically pro-choicers, who were appalled when I mentioned that I’d had to discuss abortion with my eldest child, who was about seven at the time. It was felt that children wouldn’t be old enough to fully understand abortion and therefore shouldn’t be told. Which is in itself an admission that there’s something more moral and fundamental at stake that just putting a stop to a pregnancy. There’s also the feeling from both pro-lifers and pro-choicers that the role of parents is to protect their children from life’s horrors, until they are able to contextualise them. Again, an implicit understanding that abortion is not a ‘nice’ thing or a suitable topic for children.
I was forced to broach the issue, albeit in very gentle terms, with my daughter when she was in Year two or three, simply because she could read. She saw a leaflet from a pro-life organisation that was kicking about the house and asked what the word meant. She also overhead an answerphone message from a media outlet inviting me on a show to discuss abortion.The final nail in the coffin was having to drive past large displays of graphic images outside Brighton’s abortion clinic. She could see for herself what they were. I don’t believe in lying to children, or treating them as though they are stupid, but answering their questions in age-appropriate ways. Ours is a household in which lots of things are discussed calmly and sensibly, without ever once inviting scorn or hatred upon people. My daughter’s school was taken over by the notoriously progressive Brighton College – therefore we found ourselves forced to broach certain difficult and taboo topics, living as we did in a hub of LGBT activism with a disproportionate amount of the population who reject heteronormatism. It’s ironic that many of those who are campaigning for children to be taught sex-education including the topics of homosexuality and transgenderism in schools from the age of 5, are recoiling at the notion that children could be told about abortion.
It was perhaps inevitable that a child in my household would become exposed to the concept of abortion, although interestingly it hasn’t yet cropped up with my younger children, the oldest of whom is now also six. So I don’t blame Hilary Clinton for Chelsea’s exposure to pro-choice views from an early age, because to some extent this was inevitable, although I would question anyone, on either side of the debate, who decided to sit down and explain the concept of abortion with a young child. I don’t have a problem with taking young children to pro-life events, or even with them joining in with prayer vigils outside clinics – it can very simply be explained without having to go into the specifics of abortion.
Most children, when they learn about abortion, are naturally horrified. They know instinctively that it’s an abhorrent and upsetting thing, which is why caution needs to be exercised and the topic needs to be discussed sensitively.
The horror and disgust levelled at Hilary Clinton is because, if Chelsea is to be believed, then she must have put in quite a bit of work to overcome a young child’s natural revulsion and convince her that abortion is a perfectly acceptable act. Children instinctively look to their mothers to protect them, they understand that their mothers have carried them in their tummies and the thought that a mother might decide to kill or get rid of a baby in her tummy is the stuff of childish nightmares and anxieties, especially if they believe that it’s something that their own mother might do at some point.
Heaven knows, I have some terrible explaining of my own to do at some point, which is why I was so distressed to be so publicly outed and betrayed by a former friend about my own abortion, a few years ago.
But where we do need to be careful, is in our condemnation of Hilary for her supposed indoctrination of Chelsea. No matter how heinous her views, as a parent, she has every right to pass them down to her children, and tragically this seems to have been the case. Chelsea obviously feels immensely proud and privileged to have been the recipient of such an upbringing and that her mother did the right thing in imparting her views.
The rights of parents as primary educators of their children is integral to Catholic teaching and therefore it is hypocritical of us to attempt to abuse or denigrate others for exercising those very same rights that we lay claim to when it comes to our own children. We don’t have to tolerate the ideas which others are passing on to their children, but we must respect others’ rights to educate their children into their own value system, with the proviso that these views do not encourage, condone or coerce vulnerable youngsters into acts of violent terrorism.
The same accusation of harm or abuse, that we could level at militant atheists or devoted pro-choicers, could and often is, similarly and far more frequently lobbied at those of us with religious and socially conservative views.
As a 35 year old mother, Chelsea Clinton has had ample opportunity to reflect upon the values instilled in her as a child and either accept or reject them. But her experience bears out what both Catholics and left-leaning socialists accept. The family remains the most powerful source of political and religious evangelism there is and a family who not only expresses, but also positively lives out their convictions or views without hypocrisy are infinitely more likely to pass them down to future generations.
A few weeks ago my friend posted a status update on Facebook highlighting a plea for help from a forum mainly populated by men. A poster’s girlfriend had found herself unexpectedly pregnant and the young man simply didn’t know what to do.
Without going too much into the specifics of the situation, he was a mature student, his girlfriend was slightly older than him, had a well-paid secure job and a child from a previous marriage. On discovering she was pregnant, her initial reaction was one of delight she assumed that they would be having the baby and set about telling all her friends and family.
Though the young man shared some of his girlfriend’s excitment, he was at the same time, daunted and understandably so. Although he loved his girlfriend, he took the responsibilities of fatherhood seriously and wasn’t sure whether or not now was the right time to take their relationship to the next level. The news that she was expecting sent the woman into what seems to be a frenzy of nesting. Immediately she made a series of demands upon him which involved him making a series of unnecessary and excessive sacrifices. He would need to abandon his plans for a PhD in a specialist scientific discipline, take up extra shifts on his minimum wage job and move in with her. He’d also not be allowed to take any of his pets into her home and neither would he be allowed any space of his own to study. He’d have to make do with the family’s kitchen table. Furthermore the baby’s arrival date was causing him some concern, it was due to coincide with his finals. He’d therefore had a major panic, feeling trapped, that she was bouncing him into a baby that he wasn’t ready for and while he wasn’t averse to the idea of a baby, he just couldn’t see how things were going to work out.
The replies to his request for advice made for uncomfortable and depressing reading. They ranged from the uncharitable to the downright misogynist. The general consensus was that nobody with any ounce of intelligence ever became accidentally pregnant. His girlfriend had obviously done it deliberately to trap him and he’d be best off getting rid of the pair of them. The mother of the baby was put on trial, her contraceptive arrangements were analysed in minute detail with all the blame for the mishap laid at her door.
Which is where I came in. Under the use of the pseudonym for obvious reasons, I weighed in with some friendly impartial advice. I pointed out that his girlfriend would likely be feeling physically dreadful as well as emotionally vulnerable. The effects of progesterone, in particular, should not be underestimated. It was only understandable that she might want to go into a ‘everything needs to be instantaneously perfect’ tailspin, but that she also needed to understand that while everything would be fine in due course, not to fret or sweat the small stuff right now. The issues about the kitchen table, workspace and so on could all be sorted in due course. Likewise, while she would need his support when the baby was born, the University should be able to be flexible in terms of timings of exams and that actually, a newborn baby is not perhaps as time-consuming as he may be imagining. While he’d need to be on hand, that would be more to help his girlfriend, rather than be responsible for all of the care of the baby. Newborns tend to sleep for the first few weeks or months of their lives and most men don’t tend to take huge amounts of maternity leave. Being there for his girlfriend didn’t mean that he wouldn’t be able to have a few hours to himself every day to catch up on study or revise for exams. The woman’s daughter would be at school, so he might have to help with school runs etc, but it wouldn’t be an unmitigated logistical nightmare. All relationships involve an element of compromise and sacrifice.
I also pointed out to the assembled posters, that contraception can and does fail. We shouldn’t automatically assume the worst of people, especially when BPAS are quoting that over 60% of those presenting for an abortion claim to have been using some form of birth control. Some of the posters had been suggesting BPAS counselling – I pointed out in a matter of fact way that I hadn’t found abortion clinic counsellors either impartial or helpful and that there was the tiny matter of vested financial interests.
So, anyway, having given him some food for thought, without proselytising, but just helping him to see that it could be logistically possible, he countered that having given himself some time to think about it, actually he really did want to have the baby.
But by then it was too late. Thanks to his wobble, his girlfriend had decided that he was too immature and too unstable to be a father and booked in for an abortion. He then began to message me and then text me privately to ask what he should do. His girlfriend claimed that any normal man would have been overjoyed at her news and gone straight round her house with a bunch of flowers to celebrate.
The guy doesn’t deny he messed up, his prevarication had cost him dearly. She was terrified at the prospect of becoming a single mother of two children, she believed that all the work would fall on her shoulders and was unprepared to take the risk. What could he do, he begged me, to convince her how serious he was about her?
Err, get married, I suggested tentatively. Funnily enough, he said, he had planned to propose to her early next year when it was their anniversary and they had a country hotel booked for a friends wedding. He had even asked one of her female friends to scope out a ring. Tell her that, I urged. He did. It was not enough. Start making concrete plans to show how serious you are, was the next suggestion. He did. He already had a savings account set up which he had designated for the baby. Just keep talking to her was my advice, tell her not to rush things.
But no, she repeatedly told him that she needed to be ‘realistic’, she couldn’t trust him and that she would only bring him down. He was going out of his mind with anxiety, texting me to tell me that he thought she might have mental health issues because since deciding to abort she had gone sick from work and was hiding away from the world.
He spoke to her parents, who already knew and they were in agreement with him, feeling that she had been unreasonable and unrealistic in her demands, but understanding that following the collapse of her previous relationship she was feeling vulnerable. They also did not want her to abort the baby.
The young man was worried about the effect of abortion on his girlfriend’s physical and mental health as well. He didn’t identify as ‘pro life’ but he could not see a good reason for her to abort the baby. He desperately wanted to be a father to his little boy or girl. He sent her a series of impassioned and harrowing texts begging her not to take the life of his baby, telling her what a great mother she was, how he wanted to be a proper family with her and her child, how the child would love a sibling. Please, he said, talk to me, cancel the appointment, please don’t kill our innocent baby, please give them a chance. He said that he would take custody of the child, if she was so adamant that she did not want him or her.
I informed a Facebook pro-life group who, together with a monastic community, were storming heaven. The guy had no idea where the abortion was going to take place, or at what time. His girlfriend had shut him down. She wasn’t responding to his texts, apart from to say ‘if you love me then you’ll support and respect my decision’. To which all he could say was that loving someone doesn’t mean validating their destructive actions.
All day my phone was pinging. He hadn’t heard from her, perhaps, he said, our baby is being killed right now. I kept trying to hold out hope for him that she may have had a change of heart, although counselling him that he had done all he could. If she was dead set on the idea, then there was very little he could do to stop her. She didn’t deny it was a baby, but this was all about doing what she believed was right for her. Her last text to him was ‘you need to stop this’.
Anyway, at about 6pm he discovered that she had gone ahead and had the abortion this morning. She had spent most of the day groggy in hospital, but he was angry, because she had appeared to spent much of the afternoon on Facebook instead of telling him. I have told him not to be angry – she is obviously feeling defensive and wanting distraction.
The point of all this? Anecdote is not the plural of data, but here is the story of one baby who has lost their life to abortion this year. A baby who was much wanted by their father and grandparents and initally by their mother. Sharing stories and personal experiences help us to make sense of the world. I want to write this down and share it, by way of memorial to just one of the unborn children who will have lost their lives today. Rest in peace little one. Know that many of us prayed for you. We have the consolation of knowing that you have gone to the Lord.
My thoughts are pretty simple. This is just another demonstration for me of what a wicked and insidious development abortion-on-demand is. There is no happy ending here. A baby has lost their live and a man is at home beside himself with grief. He says he hasn’t been able to sleep or eat properly for weeks or concentrate on work. A formerly loving relationship is in tatters, with both parties harbouring feelings of anger and resentment. A mother has to deal with the repercussions of her decision while at the same time, caring for her child.
Not once in his man’s decision was there an element of patriarchy, wanting to control her uterus or chain her to the kitchen sink. This guy realised that he loved his unborn baby and wanted them to live. The reality of abortion means that every single pregnancy becomes a lifestyle choice and children are given a specious right – to be meticulously planned and born into ‘perfect’ circumstances which supercedes their basic right to life. Had abortion not been an option, he wouldn’t have had his damaging wobble and would have stepped up to the plate sooner. But we are all now conditioned to think not of new life, not of a baby, but of choice.
The abortion clinic who carried this out have neglected their duty of care and potentially broken the law. If there were mental health issues necessitating abortion then these needed to be further investigated and treated. Though they only appeared to manifest once the decision had been taken. But if the mother gave the reason as being that she had trust issues with her boyfriend, this case wouldn’t seem to neatly fall within section C of the act.
There’s also a lesson in there somewhere about the wisdom of believing that committing to have a baby with someone is a different thing from enjoying a long term sexual relationship with them. The greatest commitment one can give to another is to be open to the possibility of having a baby with them. Stripping sex of a procreative element, inherently strips it of an element of commitment. But that’s for another time. I think the guy has been foolish, but I don’t blame him for it, he’s no different to most men in contemporary society. The feminists who would shout their abortions would no doubt lynch both him and me for being manipulative, but I see no winners, no victory, no progress and certainly no joy in this woman having exercised her ‘reproductive right.’.
Readers of the Catholic Universe can read my comment about the case of Bernadette Smyth there.
Just a few points to note:
Bernadette Smyth has been indicted of harassment towards the dormer Northern Ireland politican, turned clinic director, Dawn Purvis. This is a charge which she denies and intends to appeal. Mrs Smyth claims that on no occasion did she ever attempt to contact Mrs Purvis, no bad language was ever used and indeed on both occasions where the harassment was deemed to take place, it was Mrs Purvis who approached her and invaded her personal space.
It is then, not clear why the judge thought fit to make remarks about women seeking abortion in Northern Ireland when the case was concerned about an unpleasant personal spat between two individuals. One may also question the appropriateness of these remarks , considering that the legal situation surrounding abortion in Northern Ireland is unclear – it is still contrary to the Offence against the Persons Act. In case anyone may be tempted to argue that this is an antiquated anomaly, the legalisation of abortion has been debated several times over the past few years at Stormont and on every single occasion MLAs have voted against any change to the law.
One could argue that those who stand outside clinics in Northern Ireland are in fact attempting to prevent a crime from taking place. In any event, the judge seems to have gone way beyond his remit in terms of making this case about the wider issue of protest outside abortion clinics. Judge Chris Holmes’ comments in this case amount to his taking of the law into his own hands and attempting to change or redefine it.
It is unsurprising that pro-choice campaigners are seeking to make hay out of this case and using it to leverage and promote legislation which would set up buffer zones outside abortion clinics, in the same way as has happened in a few US states.
One might argue that this is an inevitable consequence of pro-life campaigners turning abortion clinics into flashpoints of conflict, but it should also be noted that so far there have been absolutely no arrests of anyone involved in the peaceful 40 days for life campaign which has been running since 2010.
The only legal action which has taken place, was against Andrew Stephenson from Abort 67, the group who display graphic imagery outside clinics. The case against him collapsed due to lack of evidence.
Without re-hashing the pros and cons of different types of abortion clinic protest (my strong preference is for a silent prayer vigil, accompanied by appropriate information about foetal development and pregnancy along with resources on where to get help), the lack of arrests do not mean that the police do not have sufficient powers or that more legislation is needed.
The public order act amply covers for protection from harassment. My experience of participating in 40 Days for Life vigils, is that no harassment occurs, no filming takes place and women are neither followed nor approached. The former BPAS clinic in Bedford Square had a camera permanently trained on those participating in the vigil, which took part across the road. Any illegal or inappropriate behaviour would have been filmed, passed to the police and no doubt circulated all over the internet.
My experience of participating in silent prayer vigils is that the only aggression comes from random passers-by and strangers on the internet who have no idea of precisely what happens. (You turn up and pray the rosary either silently, or quietly). For some people the very act of turning up and praying is interpreted as passive aggression. The very presence of people who disagree with abortion is deemed to be harassment, because women, understandably cannot bear to see a physical manifestation that there are some people who disagree with them and they find the concept that they are terminating a life very painful and difficult to bear. The night that I had hyped-up women and men, screaming obscenities and deliberate blasphemy within inches of my face and that of the 6 week old baby strapped to my chest, blaring loud klaxon horns and hurling abuse as a response to silently standing outside a clinic and praying, (when it was closed) is an occasion which is seared into my memory.
Never before have I been confronted with such raw, visceral, violent hatred and anger, simply for standing across the road from a clinic and praying. There was nothing whatsoever about my behaviour that merited such a response, it was simply the fact that I had the temerity to publicly witness against abortion. A similar response is garnered by the Oxford pro-life group who gather outside a hospital where abortions are performed on a Saturday, when no actual proceudres are taking place. They cannot be accused of harassing women, however under these proposed new buffer zones, their protest would be illegal. The behaviour which is being objected to is of public disagreement with abortion, nothing more. If pro-lifers were accusing pro-choicers of intimidation, accusations of lying would be flying about and substantive proof demanded. Why is in then that these general accusations are being believed as Gospel truth and why are the clinics not asking the women who claim to have been harassed to point out those individuals responsible, state precisely what it was they are supposed to have done and calling the police? This could easily be done without compromising anonymity. In the case of Northern Ireland, Precious Life have been praised by senior police officers for the peaceful nature of their protests.
Comparisons with America, are moot – other than to note that there has been no history of violence of intimidation towards abortion clinic operators or staff in the UK. Ann Furedi is more than happy to debate abortion on university campuses and has never expressed any well-founded fear or threats to her personal safety. The same cannot be said for me however, before I even began writing this blog, one woman spammed me with several personal abusive emails threatening to report me to my husband’s former Anglican bishop for ‘endangering vulnerable pregnant women’ due to my pro-life views and has made several attempts to interfere with any professional or media work. I receive a number of threats, specifically wishing for my death in childbirth, and the removal of my children or for them to have an abortion, on a depressingly frequent basis. The only people ever to throw mud and cause guilt and shame about my past abortion are themselves pro-choicers, who purport not to judge!
When it comes to the filming of women, I drive past Wistons clinic in Brighton, the home of Abort 67 on a daily basis and often walk my dog past, to take a discrete shufty. I’ve never witnessed any intimidating behaviour, unless one counts the offering of leaflets and certainly never any filming of women, which is strictly prohibited by 40 days for Life. My understanding is that one campaigner from Abort 67 has a camera permanently switched on strapped about their person, not trained on any specific individuals but rather to provide evidence of behaviour in case harassment is alleged and indeed in case they themselves are subject to attack.
Whether or not prayer vigils are prudent is one issue, but that is not the same as whether or not they ought to be illegal. In the case of Abort 67 or God’s Helpers of Precious Infants who offer passers-by literature, again this is not illegal and is no different to the very many chuggers who stand on the streets handing out material that many people would consider desperately offensive.
There is little to choose between the offensive literature of the anti-vivisectionists and political campaigners who litter the streets of Brighton displaying graphic photographs of dismembered and suffering animals, or of young children shot and tortured in the Middle East, and the material that Abort 67 hands out. When it comes to the religious nuns and older ladies who stand tirelessly outside some abortion clinics – they only offer rosaries and leaflets on alternative pregnancy resources and nothing graphic or offensive. It’s nowhere near as distressing as some of the images that my children are subjected to if I take them into Brighton on a busy Saturday. Neither is the atmosphere as intimidating as that created by the protestors who until recently stood outside the Soda Stream shop next to Waitrose, hassling and heckling passers-by and effectively preventing people from going into a shop. Same with the anti-fur folk from PETA who hound anyone who dares either to wear fur or frequent retailers who stock it.
For those who object to the comparison, if you are claiming that a baby is not in fact a human being, or a life, or anything other than a blob of non-sentient parasitic tissue which has no rights, then why is protesting against its ill-treatment and untimely death so unconscionable? Why is it okay to harangue shoppers and make them feel guilty for consumer choices or force them to look at dying animals in appalling conditions overseas or tortured in laboratories and yet not acceptable to make other people aware of what an unborn baby actually looks like, or consider whether or not abortion is killing? If we are accepting that the plight of humanity is more important than that of animals, then why are we excluding a discussion of human life at the very place that it is terminated?
One of the most unbearable aspects of this pro-choice campaign, is attempts such as these from Emma Barnett, the Jewish editor of Telegraph women, to define and impose her version of what should constitute Christian behaviour onto others. As Laura Keynes points out, Christ did not shy away from hard truths and while He would have undoubtedly had compassion for women feeling that they had little other choice than to abort, he would not have minced his words about clinics which seek to make money from the killing of desperate women’s unborn children. There is no doubt that organisations such as the Good Counsel network perform corporal works of mercy, feeding, clothing and housing women who would otherwise be on the streets and who are already living hand-to-mouth. They are allowing the children of the poor and marginalised and very often immigrants, to be born and allowing those who would otherwise receive no benefits or medical care, to not only survive, but to thrive.
Whatever you think of the tactics of Abort 67, Andy Stephenson displays the radical unapologetic and unashamed honesty of Christ himself and indeed causes similar outrage and scandal. We may be called to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves, but we should equally remember that Christians are not called to appease public opinion, rather than to do what is pleasing to God. Secular society wishes to define Christians as fuzzy well-meaning do-gooders, a bit like tank-cleaning fish. We are supposed to quietly and unobtrusively go about our business, sucking up and cleaning the scum or dirt, but never making ourselves visible or detracting from the other more attractive and colourful species. We can hold our funny views about abortion or whatever, but we should not be allowed to promote these to others and if possible, we ought to change them if we want the important people to like us and be nice to us.
Make no mistake, the sentiment behind those looking to create buffer zones is the same illiberality that wishes to close down abortion debate which seems to be pervading in our universities. This is not about making abortion clinics ‘safer’ places for women but about suppressing any point of view which states that abortion is wrong and takes the life of an unborn child, especially in a place which could cause women to rethink her decision. Laura is not the only one who wishes that someone had offered her a viable alternative the morning she walked into an abortion clinic, had someone been there the morning I walked in, I would not have wiped out my baby’s future either. Many of the volunteers with Good Counsel Network are those very women who were themselves helped a few years previously and who are able to tell people, exactly what is on offer. No wonder Marie Stopes wants them gone.
Some people think that abortion is wrong. The function of the law is not to protect people from hearing points of view which they find objectionable, no matter how attractive this prospect may seem at times.
In 2012, an investigation by the Telegraph uncovered several abortion clinics where doctors were prepared to carry out abortions for women who had discovered that they were carrying a baby girl.
Opinion appears to be divided on whether or not this practice is actually illegal in the UK, back in February the health minister Lord Howe, said guidance would be sent to all abortion clinics warning them that the practice of sex-selective abortion is illegal, however both the BMA and BPAS (the UK’s leading abortion provider) dispute this interpretation of the law, the BMA claiming that there could be mental health grounds and BPAS believing that the law is silent on the matter. This is a view backed up by Neil Addison, Catholic barrister and director of the Thomas More Legal Centre.
In order to clarify the situation, a cross-party group of MPs, led by Fiona Bruce, are putting forward a Ten Minute Rule Bill on 4 November. The Abortion (Sex-Selective Bill) would not only remove all doubt about the legality of gender-selective abortion, but would also allow the Government to find a way to offer help to women who are seeking gender-selective abortions.
As the interview above demonstrates (click on the picture for the link) gender-selective abortion is an issue faced by many women in the UK, which is often under-reported. It is by no means a callous decision, women feel that they have little other choice when faced by cultural pressure and often domestic violence. Criminalising the practice would send a firm signal that discrimination and violence against women and girls is not to be tolerated. The anonymous interviewee, “Asher” still shows signs of trauma; she clearly isn’t reconciled with her allegedly free choice, 18 years later. This is not the empowered decision sold by the feminists, but a woman accepting and validating patriarchal attitudes, having witnessed first-hand how much worse life is for girls in some communities. Women, especially feminists ought to be rolling up their sleeves and fighting the injustice that demands baby girls are treated as lesser human beings. Not only that, but most women who undergo sex-selective abortion are forced to endure an additional horror of a late-stage abortion entailing giving birth to a deceased baby, as scan techniques identifying the gender are not effective until around 16 weeks at the earliest.
When defending late-stage abortions feminists claim that the nature of them means that it is only the very desperate who seek them. Expecting a child of a particular sex should not put one in a desperate situation in any progressive society.
A recent investigation commissioned by the Independent in January 2014, estimated that as many as 4,700 girls could be missing from the 2011 Census data, but according to Rani Bilkhu, spokeswoman for the Stop Gendercide campaign and founder of women’s rights organisation Jeena International, this figure is conservative.
I’d love to see white feminists and outspoken proponents of abortion right up til birth, Kate Smurthwaite and Sarah Ditum attempt to defend this situation, telling Asian women that it’s quite alright for them to abort their baby girls to satisfy cultural and familial male expectations.
Every woman should be allowed to have a daughter. While this is predominantly a problem which affects a minority culture in this country (hence the silence) gender selective abortion is not confined to Asian communities. Anecdotally I’ve come across a few white women who have aborted children in order to achieve family ‘balance’.
I am currently 19 weeks and 6 days pregnant with our fifth child, being mother to 4 beautiful girls. Over the last week the baby has begun to really make their presence felt, I regularly feel the baby moving about inside, kicking or reacting strongly to certain stimuli.
On Tuesday I have the 20 week scan in which we definitely intend to discover the sex of the baby. Many many people have asked or assumed that we have deliberately conceived this baby in order to ‘try for a boy’. This must be our last child, for a whole host of reasons. Many people have throughout the course of my pregnancies expressed disappointment on behalf of my husband that I am yet to produce a male. I even had a parishioner once reduce me to tears when I hobbled into the Easter vigil a few hours post hospital discharge with a newborn 4 day old girl who said “oh no, how disappointing, not another girl, you’ll have to try again and give him his boy”!
If I were to discover this baby is a girl, legally I’d have another 4 weeks in which to abort the baby with no questions asked. Is this what it means to be an unborn child in 21st Century Britain? In order to survive and be awarded basic human rights, you must be, amongst other things, of the correct gender?
A few weeks ago I wrote an article published by Mercatornet comparing how abortion, which was brought onto UK statute books, supposedly for emergency and desperate case circumstances only, with the so-called safeguard of requiring the signature of two independent doctors, has been automatically built into the health care system, meaning that in all stages in pregnancy women are presented with the virtue of our age – choice.
It’s inevitable that if assisted suicide is eventually enacted into legislation, euthanasia will drift exactly the same way. Any decent or civilised society should not be putting the option of whether or not to kill another person on the table, let alone committing the act for you.
I mentioned before how this incorporation of abortion into part of the package of ‘health care’ options offered to pregnant women, not only violates the Abortion Act itself, under the terms of which one might expect the request to be led by the woman herself, rather than suggested by the clinicians. My experience of the past few weeks, which to be fair is no different or more outrageous than in previous pregnancies, more than illustrates this.
This time I have been fortunate, there has been no doctor or midwife attempting to hector or pressure me into considering abortion on the grounds of not having adequate spacing between the children. Two years ago, I remember sitting in tears in the midwife’s office as she loudly tutted and suggested that I really ought to think about what I was doing and consider counselling for abortion and sterilisation while I attempted to pacify two bored and noisy toddlers as I hadn’t been able to arrange childcare for that particular appointment and had been told that there wouldn’t be another slot available for another 5 weeks. In the pregancy prior to that a self-identifying Catholic GP had proceeded to lecture me about how the Church was wrong about contraception and abortion and again suggested abortion, this time as a cure for acute morning sickness.
So actually this time has been a picnic, but nonetheless abortion has been subtly suggested as an easily accessible and acceptable pathway. Many readers will note this approvingly, however when so many women find this such a difficult and heart-wrenching decision and suffer agonising physical and emotional consequences, it is worth asking on those grounds alone, along with the irrefutable fact that abortion ends a life, whether it ought to be treated so lightly on the NHS. It’s always there, always looming over you as an option, and for most women has the effect of adding pressure and really having to justify continuing with a pregnancy.
So let’s consider what happened to date. Firstly, I couldn’t manage to get the obligatory GP appointment wherein I turn up and say “OK doc I’m pregnant, I’ve done a positive test” and they say “right okay and you are fine with that?”, I confirm, it gets typed in on the computer screen along with dates, and from there I am allowed to proceed to book in with the midwife. The GP appointment does nothing useful for the pregnant woman, there are no blood tests, no care plan suggested, it’s nothing other than a gatekeeper appointment for those who have perhaps experienced an unplanned pregnancy or are undecided. If you are pregnant, happy about it and want to proceed straight to midwife, in my surgery, it is not allowed. With 4 children and a lot on my plate, it’s an unnecessary hassle.
Due to holidays and an early threatened miscarriage I managed to circumvent that particular rigmarole, helped by the fact that I had presented at the Early Pregnancy Unit who had directly booked me in for a 12 week scan, rather than having to go via midwife. It meant that a swift appointment needed to be found with a midwife to ensure that I had a set of notes with me and so they managed to slot me into a cancellation without first seeing a GP.
But even at the Early Pregnancy Unit, before I had even been scanned to find out what was actually happening with my uterus, the very first question I was asked, was whether or not the pregnancy was planned, which seems something of an insensitive irrelevance when a woman wants to know exactly what the status of the embryo or foetus (from 8 weeks) is.
I wanted to know whether or not the baby was miscarrying. Did it really matter at that point whether or not it was planned, or would it have affected my treatment? The only possible reason for that question was to discuss abortion options if necessary or work out whether or not it was worth attempting any preventative action which could save the baby.
The next question was “do you accept the pregnancy?”, which was fatuous. Either a woman is pregnant or she is not, regardless of whether or not she accepts the fact. It’s a clear euphemism and again presents an option on the table for a woman to think about. Why should the first thing that a woman anxious that she might be miscarrying a baby be asked, is whether or not she planned her pregnancy and whether or not she ‘accepts’ the baby.
I’ve said before, this question always reminds me of the questions asked of parents in Baptism and is for me a public confirmation and affirmation of the life inside, but nonetheless it was a disconcerting irrelevance. Would this happen in the diagnosis of a terminal disease. “Do you accept the prognosis and traditional plan of palliative care?”. Putting a big fat elephant in the room as to whether or not you are truly making a ‘moral’ choice by selfishly continuing with your life until its natural end.
From there on everything proceeded smoothly and as I said earlier in the week on Conservative Woman, I declined the option for Downs Syndrome screening.
One of the comments in which a woman claimed that I had no idea what I was talking about, did give me pause for thought as she outlined how a diagnosis could be helpful even if you were not planning on abortion, as Downs carries lots of risks for the child in utero. Technically a care plan should be tailored to ensure the safety of both mother and child, but when you are faced with the screening options, this is never specifically outlined in terms of your decision making and many women report being given very little in the way of positive support or information when told that their child has a genetic abnormality.
Indeed the leaflet warns that once you have had the screening, you cannot turn the clock back and that unless you are prepared to cope with the stress of knowing that you have an increased likelihood of a child with Downs, or are prepared to consider a further diagnostic test (with a 1-2% chance of miscarriage) then you might be better off not having the screening at all.
I declined because I didn’t want to be worrying about it. If the baby has Downs then while it will be far from easy, especially as I already have a number of children. I’d rather meet the challenges and difficulties as and when they come, rather than spend sleepless nights worrying about hypothetical scenarios. Furthermore the leaflet states that the primary purpose of all the risky invasive tests is to detect Downs Syndrome, although other conditions may be discovered.
So the scan went ahead yesterday. As predicted, I was asked to confirm whether or not I wished for the nuchal translucency test for Downs, which combines a screen result with a further blood test. When I said no, I was pretty candid about it, stating that the only thing that I was hoping to see on the monitor was a live baby after what happened last year.
The sonographer was very sympathetic, but nonetheless they said that she would still measure the nuchal translucency, i.e. the amount of fluid behind the baby’s neck to see whether it was within normal parameters. An increased amount of fluid is a strong indicator of Downs Syndrome. If the measurement was high, she would inform me in order to give me the option to change my mind about having the full screening!
It turned out that the measurement was well within normal limits. That doesn’t mean that the baby definitely does not have Downs Syndrome, but in all probability there is a lower risk.
I’ve been left feeling disconcerted as though I somehow went back on my word. When they told me that they would measure the fluid anyway, I should have firmly stated “look I’m not interested either way” but at that point, when you are lying on the table, there is a sense of having ceded control and powerlessness. I just wanted them to hurry up and switch on the equipment so I could see whether or not there was still a heartbeat.
I also have to confess to a slight sense of relief which goes to show that even the most pro-life amongst us are not immune from the insidious pressure and notion that a Downs Syndrome diagnosis is a catastrophic thing. All of which adds to the stigma, both for sufferers themselves and their parents, which Dawkins did his best to stoke, adding unrepentantly that he’d only upset a small minority, in any event. If the NHS didn’t make such an issue of flagging up Downs Screen for pregnant women, going so far as to suggest that it can be such a problem that women ought to consider risking their baby’s life, most probably wouldn’t give it much of a thought.
It’s not that I reject the idea of pre-natal screening or wish to demonise those who opt for it, but surely it ought to be offered purely for theraputic reasons, to alleviate and treat conditions, either in utero if possible, or to prepare future healthcare strategies and plans for mother and child, rather than continually present the issue of whether or not the child ought to live. Screening the unborn for disabilities does nothing to help advance research into therapies to help sufferers.
It doesn’t feel as though the NHS has got the balance right, when they are being so proactive in terms of continually presenting abortion as a consideration.
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.