Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Abortion Debate

I've just been angered by watching the BBC News at Ten, and seeing the report on the abortion debate. The head of the Catholic Church in the UK has called for a decrease in the limit at which an abortion can be performed (currently 24 weeks). I find it frustrating that someone in such a position of responsibility can speak out so recklessly about such an inflammatory issue.

The Abortion Law in the UK has been established since 1967, and there is no real reason to bring the limit forward - i.e. no new evidence about foetal development or similar. There are currently no plans to change the Abortion Law, but it must be pointed out that most women who have abortions do so before 12-13 weeks, and only a small proportion go beyond 20 weeks. Although more foetuses now survive at 24 weeks, there is an association with long term problems - it's not all plain sailing.

Being a Pro-Choicer, I feel that the Cardinal concerned is ignoring the newer holistic approach to healthcare - that is, the biological, psychosocial and social factors that blend to create a healthy individual.


Richard said...

Perhaps I'm a bit slow, but I fail to see what killing an unborn child has to do with biological, psychosocial and social factors that blend to create a healthy individual. Last time I checked, the purpose of an abortion was not to have a healthy individual, rather, it was to terminate the life of a healthy individual, albeit, one yet to be born.

The Cardinal's position is from the standpoint of moral, ethical, and theological concerns, none of which can be argued within the context the psychosocial and social factors you mention. Your "pro-choice" position takes into account only the choice of the mother responsible for making the decision to take the life of her child; the child whose biological existance is terminated and has no choice, never has an opportunity to concern itself with such psychological and social factors you mention.

Your "pro-choice" position (and those who share your position) ignore the importance and sanctity of human life, arbitrarily establish a time from conception that life exists (determined solely on political, social, and self-centered concerns), and place no importance on the morality of taking a life for what amounts to little more than just because the mother decided she didn't want the child.

BTW, I'm an immunopharmacologist, not a theologian. But I happen to be one of those people that the mother didn't want, but at the very last minute changed her mind. Now, 62 years later, I'm sitting here asking you to consider the other side of the life and death equation related to abortion.

Warm regards, and may your life be fullfilling and with great happiness. We both are quite fortunate our mothers did not decide to abort us - and instead gave us the choice of life she would have otherwise taken from us.

aj said...

Thanks for your comment Richard. Despite this being a personal issue for many, I do feel that with regards to the holistic model of health, we must give equal weighting to each of the areas concerned, primarily from a woman's point of view. It is established that pregnancy can cause physical problems, but the social and psychological aspects are significant too - as taken into account by the Abortion Act.

The Abortion Act 1967 is as follows:

A the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman greater than if the pregnancy were terminated;

B The termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman;

C The continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman;

D The continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of any existing child(ren) of the family of the pregnant woman;

E There is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped; or in emergency, certified by the operating practitioner as immediately necessary:

F To save the life of the pregnant woman; or

G To prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman.

[with thanks to]

With regards to consent for a medical procedure, an individual must comprehend and retain information about that procedure, believe it to be true, and integrate it into their situation in order to make a decision. Under UK Law competence is deemed to be from 16 years of age. This proves difficult for young girls undergoing a termination of pregnancy who themselves may not be 'Gillick Competent' (showing competence before age 16).
[see] for more details]

My undergraduate Obstetrics and Gynaecology experience has taught me above all that the woman comes first. As a doctor-in-training, learning not to judge patient choices is also paramount to being able to treat without letting my own emotions cloud my judgement.

'Pro-Choice' means I respect the right of a woman to make her own choice, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the issue.

S said...

Richard, I'm very much in agreement with Mother Teresa who said the worst feeling in the world was 'knowing' you were 'unwanted'.

There's no point in bringing someone into a world where they'll be resented.

It's also worth having a hygenic and medically-safe way of terminating on offer: the consequences of having untrained personnel carry out terminations are dangerous, in the least. A report on the Phillipines told of many women *dying* after exercising what could be a relatively 'simple' procedure in the West.

Having said that, I do support a cut in the legal abortion limit (for grounds 'other' than severe fetal abnormality): I personally think the potential to MRS GREN, aka, maintain a functional + productive eukaryotic life should be taken into account when deciding on the limit.

I agree couples should think more carefully about contraception to try and minimise the number of abortions taking place. A cut in the limit will help them do this.

Ghost Writer said...

The dangers of illegal abortion are addressed in the 1960s film 'Saturday Night, Sunday Morning'.Perhaps this is another one for PCC?

aj said...

'Vera Drake' also depicts the backstreet abortion business. See an earlier post here -

Giskin said...

Was there an abortion in the film, 'Saturday Night, Sunday Morning'? It's one key difference between the plot of the film and the book. In the book, Brenda gets sloshed on gin and has a very hot bath which leads to her losing the baby. In the 1960s film, I seem to remember, she decides to keep the baby. Various articles suggest that this was because censors interfered (abortion was illegal until 1969).

Ghost Writer said...

I think there is an 'attempted' abortion in the film. Albert takes Brenda to his aunt, who is to carry out the abortion. I seem to remember the procedure didn't have the desired effect and then Brenda decides to continue with the pregnancy. Might be wrong though so I will have to watch it again to be sure!