11 June 2007


There is some concern over the level of abortions in this country. Three years ago a report showed that over 20 per cent of pregnancies are being terminated. Recently there have been plans to lower the current time limit from 24 weeks, possibly to 20.

Abortion is an extremely emotive topic. A person's attitudes to it are often said to depend on his or her "value system". As with most emotive debates, attitudes may depend more on emotions - and particularly on strong feelings of horror or rejection - than on logic or religious doctrine. However, one should not assume that an attitude based on emotion is necessarily less justified than one based on analysis.

Those who are strongly "pro-choice" may perceive the horror of a woman having a very strong need or desire not to bear a child, while being unable to do so because of some illegality or social taboo. Those who are strongly "pro-life" may perceive the horror of a foetus being aborted without sufficient recognition that this may be different from killing an individual human only by a matter of degree.

One problem with abortion debates is that they tend to focus on hard legalities (pro-lifers want more restrictions, pro-choicers want fewer) while ignoring a whole range of factors which determine how much and how readily abortion is practised. One factor often ignored is that medicine is largely controlled by professional bodies and the government. This leads to the following points.

1) Whether a woman has an abortion will often depend to some extent on the views of the practitioner advising her, which in turn will reflect the attitudes of government and the medical profession.

2) The "privacy" issue (a woman's right to decide about her own body) is more complicated if "right" means claim on state medicine as opposed to liberty not to be legally prevented.

Is it possible that some women are being advised to terminate - and do so - when this is not an option they would ultimately have chosen if they had been freer to decide for themselves?

Other articles
Telegraph on Catholic Cardinals putting pressure on MPs
Telegraph on doctors refusing to carry out abortions
Nadine Dorries MP in support of Cardinals (see 4 and 5 June)
Not Saussure on Nadine Dorries
Devil's Kitchen on Nadine Dorries
Ministry of Truth on Nadine Dorries
The Times on abortion and Hollywood

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