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?

Limits of thinking?

The debate surrounding the potential reduction in the 24 week abortion limit is very timely given the recent debate as to the merits of incrementalism on the Catholic blogosphere and Twitter.

Jeremy Hunt’s remarks, whilst perhaps not a distraction as previously thought, it seems that he was answering a straight question perfectly honestly, (even if primed by No 10) do seem indicative of a sea change in government thinking, in line with the views of the electorate. He has been applauded for his honesty even if many disagree with his thinking, although the outrage as to a politician expressing a genuinely held viewpoint is comical. People seem to have forgotten that Mr Hunt is the Secretary of State for health, he is an elected partisan politician and not a civil servant, therefore he is more than entitled to speak out about health matters according to his own personal and or political viewpoint.

What new scientific facts are there to prove that abortion after a certain period of time should be outlawed? Actually the science is to a certain degree irrelevant, life issues are never scientific but always ethical. We may use science to reinforce our ideological position but how we interpret the science will always be coloured by our philosophy. So for example you have pro-choicers at one end of the scale talking about the low survivability rates of babies of premature gestation and at the other, pro-lifers using the science to point out foetal development and sentience.

The issue of late-stage abortion shouldn’t pivot around the viability or survival rates of premature babies; whenever a baby is born alive every effort should be made to preserve its life. Ethically speaking the deliberate destruction of human life is equally grave whether we are talking about a 3 week old unborn baby or a terminally ill elderly patient with only a few weeks to live, but there is nonetheless something viscerally repellant about a late-stage abortion. David Alton goes into the detailed medical specifics but I defy anyone to read his description (no graphic photos) and not feel sick to their stomachs. It is undeniable that late stage abortion is repugnant and ought to be banned in any decent society.

No reputable vet would do this to a dog and yet it’s somehow acceptable to do it to unborn children, simply because as humans we are able to make a reasoned decision?! Not only do the babies die in agony, (note that the central nervous system is formed by six weeks) but being the recipient of such a violent procedure is also no good for women, either psychologically or physically. Typical injuries include scarring on the cervix, increasing the risks of infertility or problems in future pregnancies, infections and that’s before the psychological effects of having to give birth to a fully formed baby, or having been given medication whilst awake to cause the waters to break. No wonder women are reporting struggling with future wanted pregnancies, phobias about labour and giving birth and difficulty bonding with their newborns. In addition no specialist support is given to women experiencing pregnancy after a late-term abortion, unlike women who have had stillbirths. The abortion is deemed to have been their choice and many women report feeling too ashamed to be able to discuss things fully with their midwives.

The practice is utterly indefensible and needs to be stamped out. The death of the child, the moral evil, is exacerbated by the cruel and barbaric method by which it is executed.

This talk of limits is not simply just talk. Jeremy Hunt and Maria Miller have added their voices to a chorus of leading members of the Tory government who wish to cut the limit to 20 weeks, including Theresa May and David Cameron himself. Nadine Dorries indicated yesterday on Twitter that the issue could well come up, as back-benchers are again proposing a private members’ bill, although in her column in today’s Conservative Home, she has also stated that she believes the glut of Tory support to be a sop for some of the Tory grassroots Christians who have been alienated and outraged by the government’s determination to enact gay marriage in law, despite overwhelming opposition. Interestingly, Alex Neil, the Scottish minister for health has also now added his voice to the fray, pledging his support for a reduction in the 24 week limit.

Guido Fawkes points out that the Government is publishing its sexual health strategy in the autumn which will include contraception and abortion. A proposed limit cut could be on the cards. It is not simply media hype or a Twitter storm. David Cameron can state with total honesty that he has no plans to introduce legislation to reduce the abortion limit, however there is nothing to stop a private member’s bill from being introduced. Abortion has historically always been a conscience vote for individual MPs, and not a governmental or party policy, therefore we could see a bill being introduced before the end of this Parliament in 2015.

So what does that mean for pro-lifers? Can or should we support this? Can a Catholic pro-lifer support a politician who is lobbying for a reduction in the abortion time-limits? It requires some careful thinking.

SPUC have said this week’s events are just media hype, but it’s time to take a fresh look at the abortion issue. They are right up to a point, in that the way that the government funds the abortion and abortion-related industry certainly needs to be examined, especially the relationships between the DFID and Marie Stopes, who forcibly implement China’s one child policy and are expanding their global franchise.

The problem with taking a fresh look at the abortion issue is that this paves the way for pro-choicers to demand even more liberal abortion laws, such as removing the doctor’s second signature and making early stage abortion unrestricted. I won’t link to the more outrageous polemical pro-choice rants, but one “angry woman” went off on a hysterical flight of fancy where women were simply dropping like flies through coat hangers and so on and called for abortion to be available throughout the duration of pregnancy. “As long as it’s inside it can be aborted” she cried. Whilst the public would never sanction such a thing, public opinion is firmly on the side of the 20 week limit, the trouble with emphasising the human form of the 20 week old foetus, is that it can have the opposite effect of de-humanising the early stages of pregnancy, after all it’s quite difficult to go all gooey over a blastocyst and even the little bean with paddles doesn’t have quite the aw factor. By concentrating on the foetal pain and awareness issues, as well as the revolting procedure, one risks inadvertently endorsing early stage abortions, which could be seen as more humane.

As yet the public appetite is not yet in favour of a total ban, so what we could realistically see is yet another compromise, along the lines of the debacle in 1990, when following the filibustering of Alton’s 1988 bill, a bill was passed lowering the abortion limit to 24 weeks, but allowing it up until birth for disabled babies, including conditions such as Downs Syndrome and cleft palate. Pyrrhic victory is too trite a phrase to describe the devastating effects and implications for the disabled, following this concession.

Another issue is whether or not a cut to abortion limits could render an overall abolition unlikely? Is there a chance that having cut the limits, even to an unlikely 12 weeks in line with most other European countries, that the majority of the country will be satisfied and there is little opportunity to work so that no woman ever feels the need or compulsion to abort her unborn baby?

It’s very difficult not to fall into utilitarian thinking, whichever way one approaches the issues. I think the response from right-to-life campaigners has to be qualified support. If the intentions are to primarily save lives, such as the almost 2,000 healthy babies who would undoubtedly be saved by a simple 4 week cut in limit and to prevent suffering, then morally there can be no question that this is the right course of action. The politicians have explicitly stated that such a cut would exclude disabled children – a disgusting, disgraceful and disappointing decision. If there is the opportunity to save 2,000 lives with no additional cost, then of course this should be grasped, in the same way that we grasp the opportunity to save just a single life.

Where due caution has to be exercised is in ensuring that any such cut to the limits is not accompanied by liberalising of early stage abortion, which is a real danger. I wrote last year about the realities of early stage medical abortion in response to the proposed change to allow people to administer the pill at home. Fortunately common sense prevailed in the court room, but as the case of Jessie-Maye Barlow demonstrates, destruction of the unborn child aside, early stage abortion is not risk free, particularly when the abortion clinic is negligent in terms of follow-up care.

But provided right-to-lifers are clear, not only about the sanctity of all life, provided that they take care not to endorse, encourage or condone abortion at any stage, then, they can, in good conscience support any measure that seeks to reduce the number of those killed and wounded by abortion, whilst continuing to work for total abolition, not only via parliamentary means, (including the creation of social conditions as to make abortion unnecessary) but also via prayer, practical help, education and support.

Most Catholics and those who support a right-to-life are neither qualified moral theologians, political strategists or social scientists, but simply those seeking an acknowledgement of the humanity of the unborn. It is impossible to know with any certainty what effect a rate cut might have – more legal protection for the unborn is no bad thing, although the inequality of the disabled must not simply be ignored.

What we have to ask ourselves is on that terrible day of judgement when we are called to account, was when we had the opportunity to save lives, did we grasp this with both hands, did we engage in activity such as galvanising support and writing to our MP etc? Or were we paralysed by fear that this was the wrong strategy or so concerned by the unforeseen consequences that we passed up the opportunity to outlaw a barbaric practice, enshrine advances in thinking in favour of the humanity of the unborn and thus allowed lives to continue to be lost and suffering to continue unabated, whilst waiting for the perfect solution?

Distraction technique?

Jeremy Hunt has now added his voice to that of Maria Miller, only this time he’s gone even further, stating that he would like to see the abortion limit dropped to 12 weeks.

Whilst many of us are delighted to see abortion back up at the top of the political agenda, I can’t help but inwardly sigh at all the inevitable clichés that are going to be trotted out by all sides.

Abortion is an apolitical, secular issue which requires neither recourse to any sort of theism or tribal party loyalty of any description. It boils down to one very simple question: is it ever morally justified to take the life of an unborn child? A negative answer does not necessitate an appeal to God or any belief as to a free-market economy, as evidenced by the various commie, atheist and pagan members of the UK secular pro-life society.

Anyone care to guess how many articles are going to be churned out by the Guardian on this over the weekend? Smoke is already erupting from the keyboards of Diane Abbot and Sarah Ditum. Christian right wing, US tactics, culture wars, women’s health, blah blah.

Nope, just a bunch of people who think killing unborn children is quite wrong. Women do not need direct abortion for their health and how, in this instance late term abortion with all its horrors and side effects can be justified as healthy, is beyond me.

As far as pro-life is concerned, Andy Stephenson is quite correct, this is all a total irrelevance. Time limits and survival rates of premature babies are not the main issue here. The question is when does life begin? Not when does sentience start or when can the baby be said to be alive or philosophical beard stroking as to definitions of awareness, but when does human life begin? If not at conception when precisely does the unborn child suddenly become either human or alive?

The science is firmly on the side of the pro-lifers, even Ann Furedi of BPAS admits as much, writing that

“the question is not when does life begin but when does it begin to matter?”

The answer to that does not depend upon religious views or political leanings although of course they may influence one’s answer. I can’t reconcile myself with how the Labour party, once traditionally preoccupied with the protection of the poorest and most vulnerable in society, with its traditional ideology of solidarity, can ride roughshod over the rights of humanity on the grounds that it is not yet born. The lives of those humans who are yet to make the journey through the birth canal are not as important as those who have?

Abortion limits matter little when one is talking about the lives of the unborn. It is as abhorrent to kill a three week old unborn baby (who incidentally has a heartbeat) as it is one at twenty four weeks.

Whilst all pro lifers support measures that would reduce the amount of abortions being performed and suffering caused to women, actually what we want to see is an end to abortion.

Neither Jeremy Hunt, Maria Miller or even Nadine Dorries are pro life as they all support a lowering of limits and nothing more. It’s laughable when they are portrayed as pro-life bigots when the truth is that pro-lifers are crying out for politicians who openly support the cause and not what they believe to be achievable.

Personally, like many others I am in favour of a reduction in limits as it will save lives and avert terrible suffering, but there is the risk that such a measure could backfire. We know that women are often pressured and coerced by others, not least by the abortion industry itself. An early limit could in some cases cause a woman to rush her decision and make a mistake that she will regret for the rest of her life. It will however spare some women the agony of late term abortion and could force the unwanted pregnancy rate down.

There is no comparable statistical data available as to what happens when a country drastically reduces the limits on abortion after 40 years of effective abortion on demand, so whatever side of the debate you are on, pro choice, incrementalist or absolutist, the consequences are, to a great extent, guesswork.

It’s great to see the topic of abortion back in the spotlight, public opinion is beginning to change, but the cynic in me scents a distraction. Maria Miller and Jeremy Hunt have not proposed any such legislation or even consultation on the matter, this is simply their personal views. Cameron’s Conservatives are doing appallingly, his personal rating is at an all time low, Osborne is not doing much better, the department of Transport made a huge Horlicks last week, the re-shuffle was a damp squib, Ed Milipede has begun to emerge from his chrysalis, the government have made more u-turns than a motorist who’s switched their sat-nav to Apple maps and suddenly the focus is on private views held about abortion?

Either it’s a total distraction to keep the media and masses talking or they’ve run out of ideas and want the coalition government to be seen to have been decisive and achieved at least one thing over their disastrous tenure.

There is nonsensical talk emanating from the pro-choice lobby about an “abortion policy fit for the 21st century”. What does that mean, teleporting unborn children out of wombs? It’s a desperate attempt to make those who oppose the killing of our unborn seem out of touch, Victorian, paternalistic and uncaring. At least the Victorians actually took some responsibility for the poor and weak, as opposed to outwardly killing them off. What this talk is aimed at is reforming our abortion laws in order to enshrine abortion on demand as a right and removing current medical safeguards. What could happen in practice is we see a reduction in limits coupled with unrestricted early stage abortion, something that would neither be good for women or children, however politicians and members of the public would feel appeased by an intellectually dishonest and unsatisfying compromise.

If the government or an MP really wants to make a difference in terms of reducing abortion, they should stop funding the abortion clinics who make money off the back of women’s misery, not just in the UK but as in the case of Marie Stopes, in China. They’ll also stop funding organisations who promote abortion as being the main option for unplanned teen pregnancies. They’ll ban advertisements for abortion services and pour money into helping mothers, especially young or single mothers and heavily subsidise childcare for those in greatest need. They’ll also give pro life organisations funds to properly counsel and support frightened pregnant women.

Unless and until all of those things happen, it’s all tinkering around the edges, a lot of unnecessary conjecture and a contrived escalation of the perceived culture wars. Let’s face it, the government has firmly stuck its fingers in its ears over the overwhelming majority who do not wish marriage to be re-defined, why are they suddenly going to introduce legislation to cut abortion limits?

The fewer babies killed and women hurt the better, but let’s be honest, without the above measures, bringing limits down is of very little import if one’s ultimate destination is in the sluice of BPAS.