Monday, October 09, 2006

Abortion Rights...and Wrongs

The hardcore 'Abortion Rights' group are opposing this summers early day motion by a Geraldine Smith, which is:

"That this House endorses Recommendation 77 of the Report of the Science and Technology Committee, Human Reproductive Technologies and the Law; and calls on the Government to set up a joint committee of both Houses to consider the scientific, medical and social changes in relation to abortion that have taken place since 1967, with a view to presenting options for new legislation."

Let's look at exactly what is being proposed. Smith is in fact opposed to all abortion herself, but the motion is not to make all abortion itself illegal. It is simply asking for an inquiry based on scientific and medical changes that have occured since 1967, and the social effects of abortion. Any new legislation that may result will only be a reduction in the upper time limit, based on earlier viability and greater medical knowlege about the development of life in the womb. This is not 'anti choice' (sic) pseudo science' as they claim but actual medical knowlege gained by the use of technologies such as ultrasound. At 18 weeks a foetus can show signs of distress (such as grimacing), yawn, respond to sound and touch, along with taste. At 20 weeks it can open it's eyes. As premature babies born at 24 weeks are not treated without anaesthetic it is wrong to make the assumption that they would not feel pain in the womb, although they would probably have no memory (as we would understand it) or anticipation of it. But it is disputable as to whether some lower animals do either.

And this brings me to another question: Imagine the bad press the scientific community would receive if they actively opposed an inquiry into vivisection and the level of pain experienced by animals. They would be shunned by most people as being unfeeling sadists. So why are human foetuses given less regard than animals in this respect? They would be laughed at if they stated that to claim that animals have feelings is 'pseudoscience' promoted by animal rights extremists. They would in effect be doing the work of 'animal rights extremists' themselves. In many ways, then, 'Abortion Rights' are assisting their opponents.

'Abortion Rights' earlier made the claim that a reduction in the upper time limit would result in illegal abortions. This does not stand up. The abortion time limit is among the highest in Europe here. Yet other countries such as France are not filled with an epidemic in illegal abortions.

Neither should 'Abortion Rights' call themselves 'pro choice'. It is only one choice they are interested in - namely abortion. If they really were pro choice they would spend time campaigning on other issues besides, such as forced abortions in China and the forcible sterilisation of Roma women in the Czech Republic. Yet they are silent on these matters. The human rights activist Chen Guangcheng (whose picture is in my blog header) is currently in a Chinese jail for exposing the forced abortions and sterilisations under China's one child policy. If an Irish or Polish abortion rights activist was under arrest for fighting against the criminalisation of abortion in their country they would no doubt be campaigning for this person's release. So I won't do these people the favour of calling them 'pro choice' - they are pro abortion. They have a nerve labelling their opponents (many of whom, unlike them, have exposed coercive population control measures) as 'anti choice'.

They are currently following the example of the US based 'Ms' magazine, who recently launched a petition for women to speak out about their 'no regrets' experience of abortion link.
Considering, however, the enormous numbers of abortions having taken place in that country since the procedure was legalised, 5,000 seems a very small amount to sign their petition.

Their British counterparts have this to say:

"Abortion Rights is always looking for opportunities to publicise women’s ordinary, usually positive, experiences of abortion in order to break the taboo and anti-abortion media bias around the issue. We are frequently contacted by women’s magazines, newspapers, radio and TV programmes for interviews with women who have had an abortion and want to run fair, balanced features on the issue.

We have recently worked with Marie Claire magazine on a special 'I had an abortion ' feature and speak out event in parliament, with Cosmopolitan magazine, and with numerous other magazines, newspapers, radio and TV shows."

'Usually positive'? They cite no statistics to back this up, as there are none. Any opinion about this is bound to be somewhat anecdotal, but in my own experience I have only come accross one woman who told me of an abortion experience that amounted to being 'positive'. Second hand I have come accross a couple of others. But predominately in the research I have done and my own experience the feelings of most of the women amounted to being if not regretful (as was the case with some, especially those who had been coerced in some way by relatives or a male partner) at the very least ambivalent. This was even when they believed themselves to have made what was the right decision at the time.

There is no 'anti abortion' bias in the media either. The right wing 'Daily Mail' seems to have an anti abortion slant, and the Telegraph does slightly, the Independent is neutral (as is the BBC) while the Guardian is strongly pro. What this group really want is for the whole of the media to have a pro abortion stance. It is not enough that the left wing press are virtually held to ransom by this self selected clique that represent nobody but themselves. Their views certainly do not tally with those of most British womenlink. YouGov has not been the only survey that has shown such results.

Groups like 'Abortion Rights' show a callousness towards women who have had painful experiences of abortions that they regret, by portraying 'most' experiences as being positive. Despite my stance on porn and prostitution, for instance, I would never claim that *most* experience of women participating in them is positive, just that of *some*.

The fact that this organisation commands the support of many unions is a worrying fact. It has the support of Unison, which represents a large number of medical workers, not all who support abortion. Both rail unions, the RMT and ASLEF, support this group. Workers in these professions who feel very strongly against abortion will resent their funding going to such a campaign. If they feel strongly enough they may even pull out as a matter of principle and thus lose representation. I don't know exactly how this was decided by the Unions concerned, it was probably via *some* kind of democratic process. But the Unions have been known to make decisions in a bureaucratic way that represents the views of those at the top of the hierarchy, not always the rank and file. It would be far preferable if they made it a policy to remain neutral on this highly charged issue.

Meanwhile one of the reasons given why unions should affiliate is this:

"Access to safe, legal abortion is crucial for women's equality and has transformed women's employment and education prospects, incomes and opportunities."

It is only 'crucial' in this sense if women are forced to adapt to a wombless male world, a capitalist system initially created by and for men to work in, without taking into account the needs of women, who need time off to give birth and nurse children. It has only 'transformed' women's prospects under a harsh condition, that they adapt to become as men and not give birth at inconvenient times. This is why the birthrate is at an all time low and professional women often have no choice but to wait until they are well into their thirties to have children. The workplace is not a friendly place for mothers, and pregnancy discrimination is rife. Yet by the sentence above we are supposed to relax as we have been given the sop by our employers of legal abortion to rid them of our biological problem (pregnancy). If anything unlimited abortion will increase pregnancy discrimination. I'm sure an unsympathetic boss would find it much more expedient for a female employee to abort an unplanned pregnancy rather than give her adequate maternity leave and a flexible working environment.

Such a stance is not 'radical' in the slightest' - it is a sellout and an endorsment of the status quo, which in this case stems directly from the leftovers of the patriarchal public sphere and the man made working environment. Capitalist working conditions were put in place to accomodate men, not women, who traditionally stayed at home. In the modern age when women are in the workplace the workplace should adapt to meet their needs, not women who should adapt to meet it's needs. To suggest the opposite is a right wing position and should be inimical to anything claiming to be representative of any kind of feminism or socialism.

Which is why the unions should not endorse this view. And why the 'feminist' credentials of 'Abortion Rights' should also be questioned.

They claim that their aim is to defend the current time limit (24 weeks) and to make abortion available on request up until 14 weeks. A closer reading of their material, however, implies their position is more extreme than this.(link).


Paddy Garcia said...

Very good!
AR also have the audacity to suggest on their website that Britain has one of the most restrictive abortion regimes in Europe when the very opposite is true. How the fuck do they get away with lies like that?

Liz said...

They justify saying that by using the fact that the signatures of two doctors are required, whereas in France, for instance, abortion is available on request up until about ten weeks. However, the upper time limit in France is much lower than here, and likewise in most other countries in the EU. Really the signature of two doctors is not the point, as it seems most often to be a mere formality. Therefore I would not object to a change in the law which allowed for it on request up until around 10-12 weeks and reduced the upper limit.

Paddy Garcia said...

I agree with that as a transitional demand with a view of outlawing it altogether when the social and economic circumstances allow.