Oppression disguised as freedom of choice

Allison Pearson has written a thought-provoking piece about the burka debate in her Daily Telegraph column. I disagree with her, on grounds of both libertarianism and religious freedom, however she raises an interesting issue, quoting Sarah Wollaston’s tweet that the burka won’t be banned because too many politicians will hide behind the guise of freedom.

I’ve already written about this issue for this week’s Universe column, so I don’t intend to re-hash the arguments, but this point about creeping oppression dressed up as freedom of choice seems far more salient when it comes to the subject of abortion.

Arguably abortion is infinitely more oppressive than whether or not a woman is being coerced into wearing a piece of clothing or even prevented from certain activities (by the way Muslim women are not forbidden from swimming, specialised swimwear is available) because the way it is promoted and encouraged by society, automatically presents women with a choice, which is not a good in itself. Choice is not a value that we should put above all others. There is nothing to be ashamed about being labelled ‘anti-choice’ when one considers what the nature of that actual choice is, namely the decision to end the life of another human being.

But like it or not, despite the fact that the UK’s legal framework is designed for the protection of unborn life, every single pregnant woman is now forced into the position where she has to consider and indeed medically affirm whether or not she wishes to carry her unborn child to term and give birth to them. This then presents a whole new set of dilemmas and pressures, such as does a woman have the ‘perfect’ or ‘ideal’ set up to have her baby and if not, is she being responsible or even fair to unborn child to allow it to live?

When we consider that abortion on the grounds of sex seems to be allowed to go unpunished, in the name of reproductive choice, is this really freedom or oppression dressed up in the name of choice? Given that girls and disabled children are the main victims of freedom of choice, how can we claim this as liberating? What is free about a society in which children are not given the basic right to life, on the grounds that their sex or physical disability is seen as an inconvenience?

Equality is not achieved by banning a piece of clothing, but changing prevailing attitudes which leads to thinking that certain sections of society are second or third-class citizens. If we want to tackle perceived unfairness we should start with the fundamental principle that every unborn child deserves protection, regardless of the circumstances of their birth, their sex or their physical ability. Anything else is oppression, for mother and child alike, even if it is marketed and sold in the name of choice.

Feminist Supremacists and gender selective abortion

Gender selective abortion

I’m still suffering from severe morning sickness, which is making life particularly difficult in terms of writing and blogging, because for some reason I am yet to fathom, more than about 10 minutes in front of a screen, be it computer, tablet or phone, sends me hurtling towards the bathroom, which makes life a little tricky when you are trying to cobble together some additional income from freelance writing.

All of which means I’m a little late to the party when it comes to the topic of sex-selective abortion, which this week as been at the top of the UK pro-life agenda, with the Crown Prosecution Service deciding that it is not in the public interest to prosecute doctors who were discovered by the Daily Telegraph breaking the law, in that they were happy to approve second trimester abortions on the grounds of the sex of the unborn baby.

There isn’t therefore much to add to the excellent post by Catholic Voices which points out that this decision not to prosecute shortens the path to a eugenic society, but it’s certainly worth visiting this Facebook page which gives some guidance as to how to write to the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, who has also expressed his concern.

One question that is troubling me as the mother of four beautiful girls, who is in all likelihood experiencing her last pregnancy on health grounds, is whether or not there are those who would justify a decision to abort this baby if we were to discover that it was another girl? In my particular situation, which is probably more typical of the Western mindset, an abortion would be justified not because a girl is deemed to be of lesser value as in other cultures, but simply because we have this skewed notion of a perfect or balanced family. Someone has, in all innocence, asked me the question ‘are you just going to keep going until you get a boy’, a notion that is incredibly hurtful as it implies that there is something wrong with my beautiful girls, or that I am in some way dissatisfied and will remain unfulfilled until I have a child of the opposite gender.

Were I to have four boys, the issue would be exactly the same, it would be assumed that I am somehow desperate for a girl, the issue is not about feminism or misandry, although I have to say that my observation is that most women would like a daughter at some stage, most men a son, the desire for a specific gender seems to be more entangled with individual gender identity issues than with a cultural norm. There are various myths about raising genders, many of which are nothing more than projection or whimsy, i.e. that girls are easy as children and nightmarish as teenagers, and many parents seem to want to have a same-sex offspring in order to cultivate a rather unhealthy friendship type of relationship. Some women crave daughters to go shopping or get their nails done with, some men want sons in order to take to the pub and play football with, wanting their children to be an extension or better version of themselves.

So before we are too disparaging about cultures that are unapologetic about a strong gender preference in children, we also ought to examine our own cultural attitudes towards gender selection and perhaps think more carefully before embarking on thoughtless banter, such as “another girl oh no, how disappointing, you really need to give him his boy” which is what a former parishioner said to me as I limped into Mass, 4 days post c-section proudly holding my baby girl, delighted to have made the Easter vigil.

There will be feminists out there who would experience dissonance were I to announce that I would abort this baby on the grounds that it was a girl, torn between disgust at the patriarchal attitude implicit in the decision, but also supporting my right to choose and have control over my own body. On the other hand there will be feminists who would condone such a decision on the spurious grounds of mental health, claiming that if  a girl would cause me such mental distress and given that this could well be my last opportunity for a baby, then I should be free to choose, having already done my bit for the sisterhood. Others would take an unashamed attitude, reasoning that the reasons behind abortion are irrelevant, it is my decision that should take precedence. Wanting to abort a baby is a good enough reason in and of itself.

Admittedly it is enormously distasteful and more than a little traumatic to be hypothetically discussing whether or not I would be justified in killing my unborn child. But it goes to show that far from being concerned with equality, the nature of modern feminism is to do with supremacy. Recently I was interviewed by the broadcaster and theologian Vicky Beeching, on whether or not it was possible to be a pro-life feminist, to which one feminist replied ‘no, because the rights of a woman come before those of a foetus’. Whereas any pro-lifer worth their salt, will tell you that the two lives are of equal value. One should not be sacrificed for the other and even in those extremely difficult and rare cases, where a mother’s life could be put at risk, every effort should be made to preserve both lives. No pro-lifer would advocate for a law which would entail a pregnant mother being denied life-saving medical treatment, even if it were to mean that her unborn child may die as a result.

This type of militant feminism doesn’t strike me as being concerned with the rights of equality or the most vulnerable, what a woman wants, she must have, regardless of the impact upon other people and regardless of whether or not the killing of a baby girl contributes to and reaffirms a culture of misogyny. I’ve also yet to hear this argument framed in terms of whether or not it’s acceptable to abort unborn baby boys on the basis of gender. Whether or not it is a widespread practice is irrelevant, if it’s not okay to kill a girl on the basis of gender, it’s not okay to kill a boy and as Fr Lucie-Smith highlights, it’s a small step from denouncing sex-selective abortion to being pro-life.  Perhaps that’s why the silence from the feminists has been overwhelming.

The question should not be is it possible to be a feminist and pro-life but rather is it possible to be a feminist and support the killing of your unborn sisters, simply because they happen to have been created female? What kind of ideology is it that will throw one more baby girl down the sluice in the name of female emancipation?

Slippery Sophistry

In response to the series of exposes by the Daily Telegraph last week, Voice for Choice, ‘the coalition to defend and extend women’s choice on abortion’, has released an open letter of support. (h/t SPUC)

I was left open-mouthed in astonishment by some of its claims, which are crying out for a good fisking.

As can be expected, all of the signatories are members of pro-abort lobby groups and providers, including Ann Furedi, Chief Executive of BPAS and Lisa Hallgarten, director of the former charity, Education for Choice. The amateur nature of the arguments encapsulated in the letter was summarised by the suggested reading list, which included blog entries from the various signatories, such as Ms Berer and Ms Hallgarten, a link to Nadine Dorries’ piece on Conservative Home, links to the Telegraph articles and most amusingly an editorial from that bastion of common sense and moral ethics – The Observer. Had the pro-life lobby signed a letter with those sources, Dr Evan Harris and his ilk would have been all over it like a cheap suit, decrying the lack of scientific evidence and satirising the use of opinion pieces as sources. Instead of linking to scientific studies and sources, or academic papers regarding the practice and ethics of gender selective abortion, readers are urged to reference individual blogs and a supportive column in the national press and take this as “supporting evidence”. The only reason for the mention of the Telegraph and Mrs Dorries’ piece is so that the reader can read what is being referenced and instead of being directly linked to in the letter, they are listed at the bottom of the list of sources, to be read once the pro-abort lobby have had their say. If I wrote something for widespread circulation that I expected to be taken as a basis for informing policy and debate citing only opinion pieces and personal blogs, then the work would be written off for lack of an evidence base and its biased nature.

In the style of the indomitable Father Z, I shall reproduce certain extracts and highlight my comments in bold.

In the face of the Daily Telegraph’s attempt to entrap and discredit a number of doctors who provide abortions – entrap? That means to force a person to commit an offence that they would not ordinarily have committed. So the doctors would not normally have referred to abortions on the grounds of gender then? They would not normally have said “no questions asked” or, as in the case of Dr Mohan, falsified paperwork? Those mean old undercover investigators made them do it?

we believe…that the provision of safe, accessible abortion care is a vital element of health care provision. I guess that depends upon whether or not you are the unborn baby, for whom the procedure is not particularly ‘healthy’. Nobody has mentioned the Republic of Ireland where abortion is banned and yet maternal death rates are among the lowest in the world and still dropping.

Similarly, abortion on grounds of sex selection is neither legal nor illegal in itself.1 Under the 1967 Abortion Act, it is the effect of the pregnancy on a woman’s health, mental health and life that must be taken into account to determine whether or not she has grounds for abortion. – actually they’ve got this bit correct, but that still means that “no questions asked”, which 3 of the consultants stated, was in breech of the Act. It is morally and legally dubious to pronounce that having a specific gender is going to cause so much damage to a woman’s health, mental health and life, that she must abort the baby, with no further questions asked. The law demands further enquiry and probity.

Rather, the law gives doctors the responsibility to decide whether the risk of continuing the pregnancy to the woman’s health and mental health is greater than if the pregnancy were terminated. In making this judgement, doctors are directed by the law to take into account the woman’s personal circumstances. – which rules out a no-questions asked policy. Duh!

The 1967 Abortion Act gave doctors the responsibility for authorising abortions in the belief that women could not be trusted to take this decision for themselves. – spot the feminist revisionism. No it didn’t. The Abortion Act gave doctors the responsibility, because it recognised the gravity inherent in the taking of a life of the unborn. Trusting a woman had nothing to do with it. The Act recognised that this was a medical procedure, like any other and thus the clinical decision needed to be taken by the medics, having taken into account all of the circumstances, if all other possibilities were closed to a woman. Abortion was NEVER envisaged as a right or a lifestyle choice. If I went to the GP tomorrow and asked for breast implants to take me up to a double HH, otherwise there was a serious risk to my health, the doctor would not simply refer me for the procedure forthwith. They would recognise the risks inherent in surgery and explore whether or not this was a strictly necessary procedure. The abortion is the ending of a human life, the removal of a baby from a mother’s womb. Why is this decision of less gravitas than cosmetic surgery for whatever reason? A woman will still have to live with the outcome of her cosmetic surgery or lack thereof, so what right does a doctor have to refuse it?

Hence, most doctors are willing to provide an abortion referral for a woman if she requests it because they understand that continuing an unwanted pregnancy is not good for women or their children, and will almost always cause a woman greater distress than having an abortion. – really? Do we have the stats to back that up? If so why are they not cited? Whether or not abortion is more harmful than pregnancy is greatly contested amongst the academics. Certainly not what the study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry reported in September 2011 – stating that women who had an abortion had an 81% increased risk of mental health problems. Have any qualitative studies been carried out of women (such as myself) who have carried an unplanned/unwanted pregnancy to term? Would it really have been better for me to have had 3 of my children aborted? Would I feel so much better? Hmmm. No-one can qualify this claim with any certainty because of the nature of the variables.

We think that abortion should be available on a woman’s request, and not be governed by criminal statute at all. – in the words of Mandy Rice-Davies – they would say that wouldn’t they? Which would presumably mean abortion up to birth and post-birth abortions, if you follow through that logic.

We are also opposed to gender discrimination, but sex selective abortion is not gender discrimination. – ???? Eh. What???? Lovely piece of semantics here. Sex is not gender because it’s a social construct presumably? We’re in Blackadder territory – “Lord be Praised, it’s a boy without a winkle”!! In any event it’s evidence that most have not yet thankfully bought into Judith Butler’s nonsense. Discrimination means choice. What is abortion on the grounds of a lack or addition of penis, if it is not gender discrimination?

Gender discrimination applies only to living people. A fetus does not have rights in the same way as a living person does, and therefore cannot be said to suffer from discrimination. – ah there’s the nub of it. It’s not really a person and therefore has no rights, therefore we can do as we please with it. Choosing to abort because the baby is not a boy/girl isn’t discrimination, which can only apply to a person. I see. Discrimination is only concerned with the treating of people unfairly, so given it’s not a person, it can’t be unfair to kill it because of its gender. Hmmm. I see…

sex selective abortion may be one of the consequences of gender discrimination, but it is not a cause of gender discrimination. – its getting increasingly slippery here. Think you’ll find that if there are less girls (or boys) in a country’s overall demographic due to sex selective abortion, it has a massive impact upon that society’s behaviour. Societies where there are less girls for example, suffer from more violence, more violent crimes against women and higher rates of sex-trafficking. China is taking steps to limit this practice due to concerns that a boy’s inability to marry will cause psychological concerns and more violent crimes. Sex selective abortions are all about the worth of a particular gender’s (usually women) life.

Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, who otherwise claims he wants doctors to be in charge of all our health care services, said that doctors would face the “full force” of the law if they break the 1967 Abortion Act. This is hard to swallow, especially considering that many of us hadn’t even been born the last time a doctor had to face the full force of the law in relation to illegal abortion. – how’s that for a piece of irrelevant cant? I wasn’t alive when the offence against the Persons’ Act was passed, most of us weren’t alive when many laws that affect our everyday lives were passed, that doesn’t make them any the less applicable or binding. Ignorance of the law is no defence.

The Health Secretary should know better than most that the 1967 Abortion Act was formulated precisely to allow doctors to exercise their professional judgement. It is shocking that he would threaten them with prosecution for doing so on such flimsy evidence. – flimsy evidence? You mean video recordings showing the doctors not making any attempt to adhere to the law and make any enquiries as to whether or not the woman fitted any of the grounds laid out in the Abortion Act. Nothing like a piece of outrage to up the emotional ante, attack being the best form of defence.

Then follows the obligatory smear of Nadine Dorries, without which, no pro-abort literature is worth its salt. Then to conclude:

The vast majority of heterosexually active people of reproductive age are currently using a method of contraception to the best of their ability, but one in three women in Britain will have an abortion in her lifetime. – no contraception is 100% effective right? So is that 1 in 3 women will have a contraceptive failure, or 1 in 3 women will choose to have an abortion? Nice bit of conflation to befuddle the issue and typical of the soft marketing messages given out by the abortion providers. Social conditioning is a known sales, marketing technique. When faced with a choice or dilemma we look to the examples of other people to validate our own actions. What do we teach our children? I’m not interested in what little Johnny does. What matter is what YOU do. Same principle.

We applaud their commitment in the face of unwarranted harassment and condemnation. – unwarranted harassment. I remember last year Dr Evan Harris’ absence of evidence is evidence of absence argument. He argued that because there was no evidence of abuses by clinics with regards to abuses of the law, then that lack of evidence was in itself evidence that everything was fine. Undercover filming to ascertain whether or not clinics are operating in according to the law, is not harassment. It’s a review, which should have been done by the Quality Care Commission. Every other industry is subject to outside review, it seems that this is yet another area in which the CQC has been lax. Which is why Cynthia Bower resigned last week.

every public debate show that most people in Britain are aware of and support the right to use contraception and the right of women to seek abortion when pregnancy is unwanted. – rightyho, so what do you make of the Sky News Live poll last week in which 74% of participants expressed the view that abortion is far too easy to obtain?

We call on everyone who supports family planning, including safe abortion, to express their appreciation for the health professionals who provide them. – by baking them cakes and buying them thank-you cards, like the 40 Treats for Life people? Bleurgh. Looking at that photo stream again, I noticed that Easter eggs are some of the treats donated? Could anything be more subverted than the Easter egg, the symbol of new life, given to people who think that destroying it is serving some great purpose to humanity.

Voice for Choice. It’s a catchy name for a group, but like so many other slogans, it’s utterly shallow.