Abortion: a matter of science

This may seem a bit out of date to cover the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, but is it still going through Westminster and the dark forces are still trying to use it as a way of restricting women’s access to abortion.

One of the main areas of ‘debate’ is whether advances in science require a change in the abortion laws. I say ‘debate’ because there is scientific consensus on the issue and it is those with a ‘moral’ perspective who are trying to create allusion of a debate.

So is there a case? Well not according to the medical establishment. The British Medical Association and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, neither known for their radical feminism, have both submitted evidence to Westminster’s Science and Technology Committee in support of the 24 week time limit and a liberalisation of access to abortion in the first trimester.

So where are the medics and scientists marching in the streets asking for the law to be changed? Well, there have been submissions to the Science and Technology Committee advocating time limit restrictions from medical professionals who have not declared their religious affiliations. Luckily the press can do this for us:
Guardian Blog

The majority of them are activists from the Christian Medical Fellowship, an organisation which is opposed to abortion (unlike most Christians) and has already made a submission.

The scientific case hinges on the principle of the “viability” of the foetus outside the womb. It is claimed that foetuses that have been born prematurely at 24 or 22 weeks have be kept alive by science. As stated by the BMA, it is only a fraction of births at this gestation that survive, and most of those are severely disabled. However, then we have a conflation between the theoretical viability of a foetus at 22 weeks and the viability of a foetus that a woman chooses to abort at this time.

Women get a scan at 20 weeks which can show up problems with the pregnancy. Obviously we can’t be certain, but it is very very likely that those being terminated at this late stage have serious problems. Lets remember that 20 weeks is half way through a pregnancy, women would have a very good reason for going through what is a particularly invasive surgical procedure. Either the foetus is in fact not viable or these are particularly vulnerable women. Restricting their rights further is hardly the answer.

Which brings us back to the question, why are we talking about time limits? Suspicions rise further when we start looking at how many abortions we are actually talking about – in Scotland out of over 13,000 abortions carried out in 2006, 62 were between 20-24 weeks. That represents 0.5% of all abortions. So why exactly are we seeking to change the law for a fraction of a percentage (or around 1% UK-wide) of all abortions?

Because this is a tactic, part of a wider strategy to chip away at the right to abortion. Banning by increment. This isn’t my wild paranoia; this is exactly the course of action taken by the Anti-Choice movement in the USA. Restrict women’s access to abortion a bit at a time until it is effectively banned in some States and restricted to 13 weeks in others.

Advances in science do not change the principle that women must have control over their own body and must never be forced to endure an unwanted pregnancy.

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