Gender specific abortions: Hoo, what a surprise!

Doctors at British clinics have been secretly filmed agreeing to terminate foetuses purely because they are either male or female. Clinicians admitted they were prepared to falsify paperwork to arrange the abortions even though it is illegal to conduct such “sex-selection” procedures.

Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, said: “I’m extremely concerned to hear about these allegations. Sex selection is illegal and is morally wrong.

Not just a surprise, quite stunning in fact.

Now we all know that UK law does not in fact provide for abortions on demand. But that\’s what the law says. The debate around it is a little more clear cut.

On the one side, it\’s not a human, just a blob, entirely up to the woman what she wants to do with it.

On the other it\’s one of God\’s chosen creatures and so deserving of the same protections the rest of us get.

Despite not believing in the God part I\’m, as you know, very much in that second camp and thus resolutely out of step with modern society. My argument is the humanist one, that this life is all there is and no, no one should have their experience of it curtailed just because someone else doesn\’t want you around.

Sorry about that statement of belief but it always seems necessary when we discuss this particular subject.

Which leads us to the surprise: we\’ve a large and vocal minority (I am pretty sure that the majority are rather uncomfortably on the fence between the two positions going along with Bubba\’s hopethat it will be safe, legal and rare and something of a sadness but still something that must be done sometimes) telling us that it\’s damn all to do with anyone but the mother. At which point, of course there will be people offering sex specific abortions because that\’s what some people want. It\’s an inevitable consequence of the existence of the technology and that assertion that it is entirely the mother\’s choice.

And as to the statement that this is morally wrong, words, almost, fail me. It\’s morally acceptable, correct even, to hoick a baby out to die in a bucket because, well, I\’m going on holiday and it would be inconvenient, but morally wrong because it does or does not have a dick?

Even I, and indeed the Catholic Church, can see the point, the morality, of treatment which saves the life of the mother but has the side effect of the death of the foetus. But once you\’ve gone beyond that, to the effect that one person\’s choices determine the life or not of another, there is no moral dividing line between acceptable reasons for such choices and not acceptable reasons for such choices.

There may be political lines one can draw: We want women to be able to kill the babies they don\’t want but we didn\’t mean killing babaies just because they are female, as one example. But that\’s not a viable moral line. Either there are reasons why women should not be allowed to abort a foetus or there are not. And if we have already said that it\’s entirely the woman concerned\’s choice then we have already decided that there are no reasons why not.

Or, in short, women are generally, these days, expected to abort a chromosome 21 trisomy foetus. To go from this to insisting that an XX, XY, XXY, XYY or any other of the various possible combinations should not be aborted, indeed must not be aborted, it is immoral and illegal to do so, seems most strange. Especially when it\’s just fine to do so as long as that it is XX or XY isn\’t the reason you\’re doing it.

112 comments on “Gender specific abortions: Hoo, what a surprise!

  1. Here in Norway the debate is on the right to abort what would become someone with Down’s syndrome, and the argument used by those against this right, is that those that are for is not accepting the right to live of those currently living with Down’s, which to me seems like circular argumentation. If in your view terminating the process before birth is equal to terminating one having been born, then of course you deny the right of those living with Down’s to live, if not, then you do not see the abortion as directly influencing upon those living. The arguments do not follow from premises acceptable to both sides.

    Changing the proportions between the sexes has negative societal consequences upon which I believe agreement is possible though. But it gives the females more choice, so in that they may be compensated for not being considered a trustworthy pension plan!

  2. Why is the government concerned about sex ratios. This is the self-correcting problem of all self-correcting problems!

  3. We could approach this from a market point of view. Chinese and Indians, and other Asian cultures, are selecting boys over girls, because of tradition. This means that there will be a surplus of men. Those men will want to mate and marry. Baby girls will be wanted because there is a shortage of women. This will be good for women, because they will be more valuable. Market forces will achieve what tons of propaganda and well-meaning indignation can not: the cultures will get rid of the tradition that so cruelly favors boys over girls.

  4. “that this life is all there is and no, no one should have their experience of it curtailed just because someone else doesn’t want you around.”

    That’s a terrible argument! You can’t be said to have been harmed in some way by never being born. An infinite multiplicity of possible people were never born: we can’t say they were harmed by not being born. Existence is not a property: something can’t have the property of non-existence. While we can conceive of possible people, they don’t “exist” and therefore cannot be harmed.

    Perhaps what you really mean is that of course after contraception at least something does exist. I would argue: no, the person does not come into existence immediately after contraception. This is just the standard abortion controversy: at what point does the lump of cells become a person?

  5. For more on this, see David Benatar’s book “Better to Never Have Been”. Excellent book, one of the best I have ever read; extremely clear.

  6. I quite agree with the position that the foetus is actually a living individual and that abortion is therefore morally a bit iffy. But still, no person has a right to be a parasite and, more importantly, we have an absolute sovereignty over our own bodies. If a woman wants to hoick out a parasite, well that’s her decision. As immoral as it may be.

  7. “And as to the statement that this is morally wrong, words, almost, fail me. It’s morally acceptable, correct even, to hoick a baby out to die in a bucket because, well, I’m going on holiday and it would be inconvenient, but morally wrong because it does or does not have a dick?”

    What’s wrong with our society, right there, in 52 words.

  8. Does ‘Humanism’ not count self determination and the right not to be dictated to by others high on its agenda?

  9. “Does ‘Humanism’ not count self determination and the right not to be dictated to by others high on its agenda?”

    Yeah, because killing people is always to be considered a legitimate use of one’s self-determination, and the ban on killing people is a horrific violation of my right not to be dictated to.

  10. This article is being extremely coy. “Aborted because they are male or female”. Er, no. Overwhelmingly aborted because they are FEMALE.

    This is one of the classic unintended consequences of the “right to choose”: people choosing for females not to exist at all.

  11. While I agree with you Tim, there are a couple of contrary points to be made:
    1. It’s a woman’s right to choose. But in fact in many of these cases I suspect it’s the man doing the choosing.
    2. There is a social argument to be made. Do the woman’s rights overrule the interests of society in all circumstances?

  12. Interesting fact: female infanticide is a holdover from our days as noble savages, those peaceful, egalitarian societies where the male death rate from murder is at least 20% and normally much higher. So, you have to keep female numbers down and devote resources to raising males.

    So, if you’re a muslim, it probably still makes sense, considering the high probablity of your sons blowing themselves up for Allah, and all that.

  13. I’m pro abortion despite agreeing with Tim that “this life is all there is and no, no one should have their experience of it curtailed just because someone else doesn’t want you around.” – beautiful statement, by the way. Very poetic.

    For myself, I can’t accept that life begins at conception (Hugh: Note, conception and contraception are opposites, you used the wrong one). The first problem is, how do you define life? The genome is all there from conception, but then that’s true for any cell in your body. The zygote has the potential to develop into a human being given the right conditions, but you can say that for any stem cell in your body too. Why should these cells be privileged over any others?

    At week 6 the heart begins to beat, but hearts can beat in people who have lost their lives. This is how organ donation works. Anencephalic babies have fully developed heart/lung systems but they’re not really alive in any meaningful sense.

    At week 8, all the organs are laid down and it moves from establishing a body plan to developing the body plan. Is that a defining feature of life, that all the bits of a human are there? I don’t think so, too many cases of babies who have lived despite missing large bits.

    At week 13 you can determine sex by ultrasound, and the fetus can make sucking motions.

    At week 16 you can feel the baby move – this is the traditional definition used by the Catholic Church until the mid 1800s.

    At week 21 the first heroic cases of survival outside the womb occur. The results usually aren’t pretty though – survival is very low and the child is often disabled.

    At week 25 the brain starts to develop beyond an autonomic nervous system. The fetus can’t think yet but it’s growing the organ that will let it.

    At week 29 breathing motions begin, which slightly increases survival chances outside the womb. Sensory inputs start to be connected – the brain is beginning to be capable of sensing the outside world.

    At week 34 survival after delivery is almost routine, and at week 37 the baby is full term.

    Now, which point along that continuum does life begin? My personal view is that all of the rights we’ve assigned to ourselves as human beings are based on the ability to think and reason. We justify restricting certain rights (smoking, drinking, sex) for children because of their lack of cognitive development.

    The point at which the right to life begins is, in my opinion, when the baby has enough cognitive development to justify treating it as a person. At a minimum, that includes consciousness and the ability to feel pain, self-awareness, communication and non-instinctive activity. Before that point I don’t see a fetus as a person, I see it as something that may develop into a person but which doesn’t have an absolute right to use someone else’s body to do so.

  14. Here you just pick your side and argue as if premise and conclusion both is the beginning and end of a circle. It seems rather pointless, at least beyond the opportunity of venting ones anger.

    Jamie Whyte, btw, had an excellent article in the Times where he pointed out that if the opponents of abortion really saw it as murder, well then their factual reticence in combating it must be seen as downright criminal. One would expect that if people had seen two year olds being slaughtered in a child slaughterhouse, they’d have gotten hold of guns immediately. (I would…) So maybe it’s mostly talk meant as assurance to celestial powers that the obedience required to obtain favours beyond has been observed and followed? “Hear me talking boss – I’m on your side!” Liberals do sometimes slide into conservatism, atheists into the elevation of moral authorities.

  15. How can”people” be said to exist who never been born? No that is not an objection to Tim’s piece.

    Abortion has always been a filthy trade and doctors concerned I would think are going to have a lot of explaining to do to the GMC.

    I wonder what the feminists make of this, it’s a woman’s right…to abort a female.

  16. In re the topic of the post:

    But once you’ve gone beyond that, to the effect that one person’s choices determine the life or not of another, there is no moral dividing line between acceptable reasons for such choices and not acceptable reasons for such choices.

    I agree with this, and I accept that my moral position on abortion allows for sex-selective abortion. I don’t like it, I wouldn’t do it myself, and I would try my damndest to talk someone out of it, but if there is a legal right to abort then then it’s none of the state’s business why.

  17. JuliaM: What’s wrong with our society, right there, in 52 words.

    Would you rather have someone like that raising a child?

  18. if the opponents of abortion really saw it as murder, well then their factual reticence in combating it must be seen as downright criminal. One would expect that if people had seen two year olds being slaughtered in a child slaughterhouse, they’d have gotten hold of guns immediately.

    Except that they would then be condemned as mad mass murderers by the law, which is why people often don’t take things into their own hands in our society. Come on, this is a bloody stupid argument.

  19. How long before an abortion has to be sanctioned not just by two doctors but also by a diversity co-ordinator?

  20. Hugo // Feb 23, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Why is the government concerned about sex ratios. This is the self-correcting problem of all self-correcting problems

    Because there is a very real danger one of those self-correcting mechanisms is war and the rest of us are seriously affected.

    I predict this is going to be one of Tim’s highest comment pieces, even without Arnald’s help.

  21. If we’re going to force women into having unwanted babies; I make no distinction here for reason of unwantedness; perhaps first we should force them into contraception. Seems a good statist answer.

  22. Let’s say this practice of sex selection is re-banned. What’s to stop a pregnant woman deciding she doesn’t want a boy/girl and coming up with a different reason for needing an abortion?

  23. Ian: That’s the point of my post earlier. Killing people is wrong, but abortion before a certain point isn’t killing a person, it’s excising a parasitic embryo. At what point do you think life begins and human rights are conferred?

  24. I’m having trouble here with the term “parasitic”. It doesn’t seem at all appropriate; it’s inherently perjorative. Childbearing is a normal and essential part of human existence; it is from a scientific view the sole reason we exist. Calling such a relationship “parasitic” is bizarre, isn’t it?

  25. IanB

    ‘I’m having trouble here with the term “parasitic”. It doesn’t seem at all appropriate; it’s inherently perjorative.’

    Just about to make the same point. I guess it boils down to whether the embryo/child is wanted or not. A woman who miscarries a wanted child doesn’t regard it as parasitic, I’m sure.

  26. Well it’s parasitic in the biological sense, but ok, I won’t use the term. The question still stands though – at which point does humanity begin?

  27. “My argument is the humanist one, that this life is all there is and no, no one should have their experience of it curtailed just because someone else doesn’t want you around.”

    You will then agree, Mr Timmy, with the converse that no one should have their experience of it (life) thrust upon them just because someone else wants you around?

    Your Humanist argument must also come out against contraception since this is preventing life just because. somebody does not want you around

    The “blob” has no experience of life, nor the “pre-blob” any expectation of it, so there is no such thing as “life” prepartem except in the general sense of cell respiration.

    If we were able to capture and hold the sperm half a millimetre away from the ovum – would we call this life?

    The potential is there, surely, but potential is not life.

    If two people have a say in whether to procreate at all, and will then have to suffer the consequences if they do for at least nearly two decades – perhaps longer – then surely they should have a say in what they procreate as long as it would not adversely affect an individual once delivered into the World.

    It is imaginable that in the future, materials might be inserted PV which could kill sperm carrying either Y or X chromosome as required, in order that a particular pregnancy can only be of a particular gender.

    Then where would the Humanist stand?

  28. “One would expect that if people had seen two year olds being slaughtered in a child slaughterhouse, they’d have gotten hold of guns immediately”

    “The question still stands though – at which point does humanity begin?”

    Maybe it’s because I don’t have children or spend any time around them, but in my personal hierarchy of wickedness, killing 2-y-olds is way below killing adults or teenagers – they can’t do a lot at that age, can they? Adult primates could outperform them in most tests and we could legally kill those in some circumstances.
    Birth seems the most reasonable cutoff between murder and not.

    I want to live a society with as many women to men as possible. That would a very liberal place.
    Indeed, I believe we should preference female immigrants visas over male ones.
    Unfortunately immigrants do form a disproportionately large chunk of new parents, and they tend to come from more conservative male-premium societies. I want to tell them what to do – which is where I realise that I have to step back and give them their freedom, no matter how much it interferes with my desires.

  29. This has all gone rather off Tim’s topic. Not my fault, for once. The point he’s making is that if you’re going to allow abortions on whim, there is no reason to have particular criteria. If people can rid themselves of unwanted foetuses, then that’s the end of it. Why they don’t want the foetus is irrelevant. At least, I think that’s tTim’s point.

    There are very few medical reasons for abortion; if there is a medical reason it is a medical dilemma, and not really part of the “abortion debate”. The abortion issue is overwhelmingly about whimsical abortion; “I don’t want this baby”, which is the reason for the overwhelming majority of abortions; that they are done on medical grounds is a justifying excuse.

    So either you allow women to abort unwanted foetuses or you don’t. That’s the point. There is no moral difference between “I don’t want a baby” and “I don’t want a girl”.

  30. I want to live a society with as many women to men as possible. That would a very liberal place.

    Not at the moment it wouldn’t be, it would be Puritan GULAG.

  31. Unlike most commentators here, I see the moral issues in shades of grey. There is no point at which abortion changes abruptly from excising an unwanted neoplasm to murder. Rather, I see abortion as an insult to human dignity which becomes increasingly grave as the embryo and fetus develop. And I see forcing a woman to bear an unwanted child as a different sort of affront. The issue for me is in what circumstances one harm outweighs the other.

    It follows that the woman’s motives can be relevant, as can be the duration of the pregnancy.

  32. I’m a Sky-Fairy chap myself.
    My advice on unintended consequences: Don’t sell the pass on euthanasia, especially if you are likely to leave a large estate.

  33. Extraordinary number of comments on here from MEN, aren’t there – who of course really know what it’s like to be pregnant and give birth to a child. Or have an abortion, for that matter.

    That “parasitic” comment is frankly ridiculous. We are mammals. Our young are internally carried until they are sufficiently capable of supporting themselves in the big wide world. After birth they continue to be physically nurtured (breastfeeding) for some time. And even after breastfeeding ends, it is years before children are really able to support themselves without adult assistance. They are parasites for YEARS, not just for 40 weeks – in fact these days, well into adulthood (but that’s another story!). Does that give us the right to kill them? Clearly not. The “parasite” argument is simply silly and displays an extraordinary lack of understanding of women’s biology.

    Women’s bodies are designed to nurture foetuses and, after birth, to feed babies. That doesn’t mean that a woman necessarily has to do that, just that she is able to (in most cases). If children were parasites, would women’s bodies have so adapted to their care?

    In the end, NONE of the men on here have the right to tell a woman what she does with her body. I don’t agree with abortion, myself, because I think it is a cop-out – get rid of the inconvenience rather than address the problems in society that lead to women feeling they have no other choice. But I defend absolutely a woman’s right to choose the best path for her and for her family, even if that means some children are never born.

    Sex-selection is a cultural phenomenon. Fix the cultural attitudes – among men as much as women – that result in women seeking abortions because the foetus is the wrong sex. Don’t blame women for making that choice or doctors for helping them.

    *Rant over*

  34. pjt – “We could approach this from a market point of view. …. Market forces will achieve what tons of propaganda and well-meaning indignation can not: the cultures will get rid of the tradition that so cruelly favors boys over girls.”

    You might think so. On the other hand Chinese people have been killing baby girls for a long time. It was also (and is) a polygamous society. As are places like Pakistan which do not, in theory, kill baby girls.

    Yet female rights and female emancipation are not exactly strong features of either traditional China or modern Pakistan.

    You might think that by making girls rare, you make them valuable – and so you give every family an incentive to control their females very carefully indeed. Which does not bode well for the rights of the female child.

  35. Frances Coppola – “In the end, NONE of the men on here have the right to tell a woman what she does with her body.”

    Well that way lies gender apartheid. We have one society with one legal system that applies to men and women equally. If you do not want that and think women should have their own legal system, then fine. But that means some form of legal separation. In fact everyone in this society has every right to tell anyone else in this society what to do with their body. As we see every day with virtually every law. Perhaps they should not. But if you think the law should not be this way you need more than a sound bite.

    “Sex-selection is a cultural phenomenon. Fix the cultural attitudes – among men as much as women – that result in women seeking abortions because the foetus is the wrong sex. Don’t blame women for making that choice or doctors for helping them.”

    Cultural values do not grow up in a vacuum. There is no reason to think they are not grounded in some objective reality and so that they will not go away any time soon. But this is another absurd claim. Don’t blame the women? Who the hell do you think is supporting these cultural values? You think it is only the evil men? Surely blaming the women and the men is precisely the first step we need to take towards changing those cultural values. If we can. It is specifically those women who are agreeing to these abortions who are the problem – as it is the women who mainly carry out FGM or in China in the old days, foot binding. You can’t just insist that the women doing it are as pure as driven snow and it is all the men’s fault.

  36. Oh Dear.
    First IanB starts ranting about money cannons, now Frances goes off-piste about how only women can have moral opinions.
    Better find some new heroes.

  37. Rub-a-dub – “Maybe it’s because I don’t have children or spend any time around them, but in my personal hierarchy of wickedness, killing 2-y-olds is way below killing adults or teenagers – they can’t do a lot at that age, can they?”

    That is funny because that is precisely why I would think killing 2 year olds is worse. An adult, or even a teenager, can defend themselves at least to some extent. It is probably no coincidence that the Holocaust, for most people, is personified by Anne Frank – a defenceless child – not by a mother of six.

    “Adult primates could outperform them in most tests and we could legally kill those in some circumstances.”

    I bet they couldn’t.

    “Birth seems the most reasonable cutoff between murder and not.”

    And yet abortions are performed on women who have already gone into labour.

  38. SMFS

    “Gender apartheid”? Gender has nothing to do with this. We have biological apartheid by definition, simply because we are mammals. The decision as to whether or not to bear a child can only belong to the person bearing that child – which because of our biology can only be a biological female (even if that female chooses to call herself a man). No-one else has any right to interfere. That in fact is the law at the moment – biological males DO NOT have the right to interfere with a biological female’s decision to have an abortion.

    No, it is not the “women who are agreeing to these abortions” who are the problem. That’s exactly what I mean by a cop-out. Nor have I suggested that it is all the men’s fault, either. I am not assigning “blame” at all. Blaming people is unhelpful. Understanding and addressing the reasons why they make choices of which we do not approve is what I am suggesting.

  39. blokeinfrance

    Anyone can have a moral opinion. But that doesn’t mean you have the right to impose your moral opinion on others, especially when it involves forcing another human being to go through a physical changes that she does not want and that you, yourself, cannot possibly experience.

  40. Frances Coppola – ““Gender apartheid”? Gender has nothing to do with this.”

    How can you claim that men have no right to tell women what to do with their bodies without that involving gender? If you want to say that people who have not experienced pregnancy cannot comment on those who have, by all means. A gender-neutral formulation. But you did not say that.

    ” The decision as to whether or not to bear a child can only belong to the person bearing that child”

    A large number of other cultures and countries would beg to say otherwise. Places where other people, sometimes even the father, have a say.

    “No-one else has any right to interfere. That in fact is the law at the moment – biological males DO NOT have the right to interfere with a biological female’s decision to have an abortion.”

    That is a fact in the law as it stands now. At least in the most part. In rare circumstances, less so. If a pregnant woman is in a car crash that puts her in a coma, and needs an abortion, they will ask the next of kin who is likely to be a man. But that law is a social construct. There is nothing that says it has to be that way.

    “No, it is not the “women who are agreeing to these abortions” who are the problem. That’s exactly what I mean by a cop-out. Nor have I suggested that it is all the men’s fault, either. I am not assigning “blame” at all. Blaming people is unhelpful. Understanding and addressing the reasons why they make choices of which we do not approve is what I am suggesting.”

    Well if you want to change social attitudes, some blame is going to make an appearance at some point. No matter how you try to soften it. But as long as it is a gender-neutral lack of blame I won’t object.

  41. Bloke In France-

    Well, sorry about the money cannons. But it’s pretty standard Austrian School stuff- Von Mises, Rothbard, Ron Paul, etc.

    Frances-

    If men have no connection to babies, should they be required to fund those babies that women choose to have? No taxation without representation, and all that.

    ***

    One significant point to make also is that “forcing a woman to have a baby” which she is responsible for existing in the first place is always portrayed as some terrible sentence; but it is only a few months out of her life. After that, she can give the parasite away if she doesn’t want it. There is a ready market of people desiring to adopt. Is it reasonable to balance some months of inconvenience against a life?

  42. Frances Coppola

    “Anyone can have a moral opinion. But that doesn’t mean you have the right to impose your moral opinion on others, especially when it involves forcing another human being to go through a physical changes that she does not want and that you, yourself, cannot possibly experience.”

    Do you also feel that way about, say, child support? No one has the right to enforce their moral opinion that someone ought to pay for his ex-wife’s new boyfriend?

  43. Jahn

    “Jamie Whyte, btw, had an excellent article in the Times where he pointed out that if the opponents of abortion really saw it as murder, well then their factual reticence in combating it must be seen as downright criminal. One would expect that if people had seen two year olds being slaughtered in a child slaughterhouse, they’d have gotten hold of guns immediately. (I would…)”

    No you probably wouldn’t. We are taught not to kill and to go along with the rest of society from an early age. For most of us it sticks. It is true that some Americans do believe this so literally they are murdering abortion doctors. Just then Catholics do have this Just War thing that tends to conflict with the idea they should do that. So what do you do when there are two wrongs involved? Most people choose peaceful protest.

    If that. After all, Germans did not protest about the Holocaust. No one much protested about slavery – and when they did, virtually all of them did so peacefully. Human beings were being murdered and brutalised but only John Brown took up arms against it. No one much protested about Stalinism. Although admittedly that would have been brave.

    The fact is most of us go along with everyone else. And if we object, we do not do so violently.

  44. Pregnancy is not an inconvenience, it is an invasive and risky experience. Women have about a one in a hundred chance of dying in childbirth, although modern medicine has reduced that to two in ten thousand. For comparison, donating a kidney carries a three in ten thousand risk of death.

    As for the parasitism thing, don’t forget that a third of pregnancies end in miscarriage. A good fraction of the very early ones are due to the mother’s immune system recognising and attacking a foreign organism.

  45. Modern medicine has also invented a variety of means of not getting pregnant in the first place, most abortions being the ultimate result of people fucking without using them.

  46. SMFS

    If you would prefer me to say that no biological male has the right to tell a biological female what to do with her body, I am quite happy to rephrase. And yes, the (lack of) blame should be gender-neutral.

    Just because other cultures allow biological males to dictate to biological females what they can and can’t do with their bodies doesn’t make it right.

    Regarding your second comment…..

    No-one is EVER asked to support his ex-wife’s new boyfriend. A man (sorry, biological male, since we now need to keep this gender-neutral) may be expected to continue to support the children that he has sired even when ex-wife has a new boyfriend. But please explain to me why new boyfriend should be expected to support children he didn’t father?

  47. Condoms break, pills don’t always get absorbed properly, anal sex can result in the infamous “dribble pregnancy”. Not every woman gets a choice about contraception, particularly those who are raped.

    Fundamentally I agree with Frances – I don’t have the right to tell someone what to do with their uterus.

  48. Ian B

    If a woman chooses to have a baby against a man’s wishes, I don’t see that he should be expected to support that child even if he is the natural father. It is a woman’s decision whether or not to have a child, but she must take into account the consequences of her decision – including loss of support if the man doesn’t want the child.

    With regard to “it’s only a short time out of her life”, I refer you to Matthew L’s helpful comment about the risks associated with pregnancy. And I would say, personally – having had two children – that physically one is never quite the same again after pregnancy and childbirth. As I said, I don’t agree with abortion, actually – but I can completely understand why a woman might make that choice.

  49. Frances Coppola: “Anyone can have a moral opinion. But that doesn’t mean you have the right to impose your moral opinion on others” – but this IS the very reason the debate is so thorny, no? The whole “not imposing moral opinions on others, particularly with drastic consequences for them”? Killing someone, because you want to (potentially for very good reasons, potentially for bad ones*) and because in your moral opinion doing so is justifiable, is pretty drastic. Of course it’s the “killing” and the “someone” that is contested, and that’s why end-of-life cases (e.g. Terri Schiavo) and beginning-of-life cases (abortion, and at various times, contraception and infanticide) are so difficult to conclusively resolve.

    Saying “it’s a woman body, nobody can impose their own opinion on what relatively minor medical procedure she does with it” can’t beat “it’s the unborn baby’s body, nobody can impose their own opinion on what extremely major medical procedure to do with him/her” but can trump “it’s the mindless blob’s body, it lacks opinions, rights and interests but why not give the little bugger a chance?” So “it’s a woman’s body” actually can’t sidestep the tough, substantive issues.

    * Tim’s post is quite thought-provoking on whether it makes any sense to distinguish between the two once we admit a right to abort. Admittedly discussion is largely off-topic but kudos for the provocation.

  50. MyBurningEars: At which point my question comes up again – when does it become a baby deserving of the protection of law?

  51. Myburningears and Matthew L

    It’s more fundamental even than that, really. At what point does the child’s right to life trump the woman’s right to control her own body? I agree it is a thorny issue. But – being blatantly sexist for a minute – it is an issue where I feel that women’s voices are far more important than men’s. Most women DON’T want to kill their children, after all. Why can’t women be trusted with these decisions?

  52. Frances; the problem is this. The assumption seems to be that a woman should not be blamed for her initial state of pregnancy; as if the baby sort of crept in while she wasn’t looking. So, taking that position, why is the man responsible? He didn’t want a baby either, presumably.

    Your formulation is that the man must pay child support if the woman decides to keep the baby, and that he gets no say in that decision. There is an obvious asymmetry here; if he didn’t want a baby, he is still responsible for it. If a woman didn’t want a baby, she isn’t. She can terminate it. The man may have good reasons for not wanting to pay for a baby; yet he gets no say in that.

    So we come to “it’s her body”. Well yes it is. But that includes her vagina, which she chose to enclose a penis with. She is not held responsible for that decision. The man, for choosing to put his penis in a vagina, is held responsible.

    This is the classic Feminst formulation; rights for women, responsibilities for men (the famous joke at the time of the Titanic: “Votes for women! Boats for women!”.

    Surely, a man should have the same level of rights and responsibilities as a woman; as such, he should be able to decide whether to have a baby as much as she. As the biological asymmetry is insurmountable, he should surely be able to register an intention not to pay child support, and she can use that in her judgment as to whether to kill the baby or not. But you can’t have it both ways, if you wish to be just. If men have no shoice over whether to have the baby, they cannot be liable for its support.

  53. Condoms break, pills don’t always get absorbed properly, anal sex can result in the infamous “dribble pregnancy”. Not every woman gets a choice about contraception, particularly those who are raped.

    Ho hum. Most abortions are due to lack of contraception. We all know that. The number of rape pregnancies in particular is microscopic, and I would expect that “dribble pregnancies” are hardly common either.

    So anyway, ignoring all those accidents; where a woman knowingly has sex without contraception, do you still take the position that she does not bear any moral responisbility for the ensuing pregnancy?

  54. Why can’t women be trusted with these decisions?

    Because the decisions affect at least one other person very seriously- the baby. They also probably affect another person- the father. They also have general social implications and, as this is a moral issue of literal Life And Death, the problem becomes a general one for society because laws have to be made to either allow or disallow the practise. In the same way as laws regarding treatment of children and other dependents.

  55. Can I release my inner Fabian (didn’t know I had one) and suggest a compromise?
    Abortion with no question up to 13 weeks.
    After, you can abort – even do infanticide up to the age of weaning. But this comes with a penalty.
    Your ovaries are also removed along with the parasite because you’re obviously too stupid to know you’re pregnant or assume the responsibilities of motherhood.
    Mutatis mutandis for feckless fathers of course.
    On second thoughts, I won’t move this vote. (Not really a Fabian.)

  56. Ian,

    “Your formulation is that the man must pay child support if the woman decides to keep the baby, and that he gets no say in that decision.”

    Here is what I actually said:

    “If a woman chooses to have a baby against a man’s wishes, I don’t see that he should be expected to support that child even if he is the natural father.”

    You didn’t read it properly before commenting, did you?

  57. Frances says “NONE of the men on here have the right to tell a woman what she does with her body”. Which seems to imply that women do have such a right. If so, I disagree. I don’t think a 60-year-old nun has any more or less standing in this issue than a 60-year-old monk.

    It’s a coherent position to hold that the decision should rest entirely with the pregnant woman herself. But I’d find that pretty hard to agree with if it means allowing abortions of viable fetuses well into the third trimester.

  58. Ian,

    So 50% of the adult population can’t be trusted to make responsible “life and death” decisions? Wow.

  59. PaulB

    Yes, fair point. I was responding to the great numbers of men on this thread who think they DO have that right. The decision rests only with the woman concerned and no-one else.

    The “viable foetuses” question is a tough one, I agree. It’s back to the question I asked earlier – at what point does the child’s right to life trump the mother’s right to decide what she does with her own body?

  60. Frances #66

    Oops, that’ll teach me to involuntarily skipread long threads. Sorry.

    #68 None of us are trusted to make life and death decisions. This was particularly upsetting for myself and sister when our mother went through terminal cancer and begged to die.

    But that is the way of things; there are rules and laws about who can kill who, and most of the time we aren’t allowed to take those decisions on our own- if at all.

  61. Frances #69

    The whole problem here is that the “own body” argument is fallacious, because there are two persons involved, the woman and the baby. Women are routinely allowed to make “own body” decisions; as with plastic surgery or medical treatment. The whole problem with abortion is that it involves one person inside another person, a unique arrangement.

  62. Ian B

    And therein lies the disagreement. To what extent does the child’s right to life override the woman’s right to control her own body? My point is that because men (biological males) do not face this dilemma they cannot really make an informed decision. It must be for women to decide.

  63. Presumably nobody but soldiers should have an opinion on war, then. Nobody but bankers should…

    Oh, right.

    On a fundamental level, surely the right to control one’s body (in this sense, to avoid what amounts to self-inflicted incovenience and discomfort) cannot amount to the same level as life itself?

    It comes down to the bottom line that if a foetus is a live individual, abortion cannot be justified morally. Would there be another situation where one person could ethically avoid temporary inconvience by killing another?

  64. Anyhoo, all this still comes back to the reality in Tim’s post that there are really only two points of view in this; abortion should be illegal, or legal up to some point in the pregnancy, and in the latter case the only logical position to take is abortion on demand.

  65. Ian B

    Unless there is conscription, soldiers voluntarily join the armed forces knowing that they may be putting their lives at risk. They also have the right to leave the armed forces if they choose. You are seeking to deny women a similar right, namely the right to end pregnancy if they choose.

    What have bankers got to do with this?

    Pregnancy is much more than “inconvenience and discomfort”. You, as a man, cannot possibly understand this, because you are physically incapable of experiencing it. Your dismissal of women’s experience of unwanted pregnancy as “temporary inconvenience” is based on zero experience and apparently little knowledge. You didn’t even take any notice of Matthew L’s comments did you?

    You, as a man, have no right whatsoever to compel a woman to continue a pregnancy that may put at risk her physical and emotional health or those of her family (those are the relevant criteria under the 1967 Act). That is the law as it stands in the UK. You may personally view the right to life of the child as more important than the mother’s physical or emotional wellbeing, and you are entitled to your opinion. But you don’t have the right to impose your views on others.

  66. Frances, one doesn’t need to experience a thing to understand it. Most of us won’t experience most of the things other people suffer. I have never starved. I’ve been hungry but never starved. That doesn’t mean I don’t have any empathy for the starving. And, you have never experienced being a man. You don’t know what that is like either.

    And this does get into Feminist rhetoric, I’m afraid; this idea of femaleness that men, not experiencing it, cannot comprehend. It is in fact fairly easy to get a grip on what it might be like to be pregnant, because all human beings have experienc of discomfort of all kinds. I have never experience my sister’s menopausal hot flushes; but I have experienced unpleasant nervous sensations- not least due to my migraines, which most other people have not experience the like of either.

    Pregnancy from the perspective of suffering comprises a number of forms of discomfort, which vary from woman to woman. They are not so serious as to dissuade most women from voluntarily undergoing the process. It is not without suffering, but it is not the end of the world either, and I think it’s a bit tiresome when women trot it out as being far more onerous than it really is.

    I’m trying to avoid being rude here because I have this very great respect for you as a commentator here, but under normal circumstances my response (to women making these points) would be, “just for once, get over yourselves”.

  67. Frances, I think you’re in danger of painting yourself into a corner here.

    You say each and every woman is an atomised being with wholly independent choice, regardless of the wishes of the father or of society. Impregnated by mysterious means which have no relevance to her decision.

    Holy Shit! You’re talking about the Virgin Mary. At the rate of 200,000 per year.

  68. blokeinfrance

    You are attributing a number of things to me that I didn’t say. I don’t think you can have read what I actually said.

    At no point did I suggest that women’s pregnancy had nothing to do with men or with sex. Nor did I suggest that the manner in which conception occurs would have no bearing on a woman’s decision. You’ve invented all of that.

    I said that the decision to TERMINATE a pregnancy rests with the woman alone. The father, and the rest of society, have no say in the matter. It is between the woman concerned and her doctors. That is the law in the UK and I support that law. I do not believe that any man has the right to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body, and furthermore I believe that women are perfectly capable of making reasonable “life and death” decisions taking into account all the issues.

    I also said that if a woman chooses to have a baby against the wishes of the father of that child, the father should not be expected to support it. Women must accept the consequences of their behaviour too – but that stops short, in our society, of compelling women to carry babies to term.

  69. Gentlemen, pull your socks up. There is a uniqueness to feminine suffering. From period pains which justify everything from bad manners to assault (where my swollen ‘nads would provide no such defence or mitigation) to post-natal depression which is the sole province of girls, and at all points in between and beyond, the fairer sex suffer more. This is well-known.

    In other news, hunting sabre-toothed tigers and mining coal are agreeable lifestyle choices. Also, Koreans believe life begins at conception, which is why they have two birthdays, the first to celebrate conception the second to celebrate birth.

    Has anyone in this thread worked out when life begins? Please?

  70. Ian B

    Oh, ffs. You may well be able to imagine what starvation feels like, because you have felt its gentler cousin, hunger. But you can have NO idea what pregnancy is like, because you are not physically capable of experiencing anything remotely similar. I don’t claim to be able to experience what being a man is like. Nor can you experience what it is like to be a woman.

    However, I did point you in the direction of some actual facts, which you are STILL ignoring. Women can and do die in childbirth and from complications of pregnancy. Yes, because of good medical care, good nutrition and so forth, the risk is very low in the UK. But it is not zero, and in countries where access to medical care is more limited it is much higher. Worldwide, 10-20% of births require surgical intervention, and assisted deliveries are even more common. Childbirth is NOT an easy option and carries significant risks to a woman’s physical health. Yes, a woman who WANTS a child will be willing to take these risks. But that isn’t what we are talking about, is it? We are discussing a woman who, for whatever reason, DOESN’T want a child. You are expecting her to risk her life and health for no benefit.

    I understand your argument, but your position is essentially that the child’s right to life trumps the woman’s right to physical and mental wellbeing. Whether you like it or not, that position is not consistent with the law in the UK.

  71. Edward Lud

    You chaps have simply forgotten how you are supposed to gain points on the suffering stakes. Go and fight a few duels defending the honour of the fairer sex, for goodness’ sake!

  72. Frances Coppola – “Most women DON’T want to kill their children, after all. Why can’t women be trusted with these decisions?”

    As the abortion rate creeps ever upward, I am not sure that is true. In America at least in some communities, there are more abortions than live births. You insist on dividing this into a woman and man issue. I would continue to prefer you to ask why can’t the individual be trusted.

    Frances Coppola – “I said that the decision to TERMINATE a pregnancy rests with the woman alone. The father, and the rest of society, have no say in the matter. It is between the woman concerned and her doctors. That is the law in the UK and I support that law.”

    Except that is not the law in the UK. It is how the law is applied, but in reality, the decision to terminate is a joint enterprise between a woman who desires to end a pregnancy (in most cases) and two doctors. It is not a right for women nor is it the woman’s decision alone.

    “I do not believe that any man has the right to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body”

    But women have a right to tell men what to do with their bodies? Either you are supporting some form of gender apartheid – and why do 86 year old nuns get a say in what women can do with their bodies? – or you need to change that to some extreme form of libertarianism which says no individual or group of individuals has the right to tell any other individual what he or she does with his or her body.

    “and furthermore I believe that women are perfectly capable of making reasonable “life and death” decisions taking into account all the issues.”

    Although as the concerned party they may have a bias.

  73. Frances Coppola – “But you can have NO idea what pregnancy is like, because you are not physically capable of experiencing anything remotely similar.”

    So men can’t pass laws against rape because they have no idea what that feels like? In fact only rape victims ought to have a say in rape laws? This is going to be tough for murder.

    “I don’t claim to be able to experience what being a man is like. Nor can you experience what it is like to be a woman.”

    And so you do support gender apartheid? Either this criteria is not as important as you think, or there is some special reason why it should only apply in this one case.

    “Yes, a woman who WANTS a child will be willing to take these risks. But that isn’t what we are talking about, is it? We are discussing a woman who, for whatever reason, DOESN’T want a child. You are expecting her to risk her life and health for no benefit.”

    That is a little strange. For a start that is not what we are dealing with. We are dealing with a woman who at one particular time may not want that baby. Five minutes of depression say. Well a little more than that. No one views on babies remains consistent. I have once met a woman who admitted to regretting having a child. It is a process of evolution as far as feelings go.

    And to say that a baby is no benefit is harsh.

    “I understand your argument, but your position is essentially that the child’s right to life trumps the woman’s right to physical and mental wellbeing. Whether you like it or not, that position is not consistent with the law in the UK.”

    But your position that it is the right of women to choose, period, also is not consistent with the law in the UK. What we actually have is a fig leaf so in effect you are right. In which case you need to be consistent and say that the right of the baby does not trump any passing whim of the mother.

  74. Frances: “It’s more fundamental even than that, really. At what point does the child’s right to life trump the woman’s right to control her own body?”

    I think you are putting the cart before the horse here. Not all approaches to ethics are rights-based; for instance you might take a values-based or duty-based approach, or (as utilitarians do) base it on ethical interests. These things are not interchangable: even though they often lead to similar results in everyday life, they tend to diverge on edge cases.

    Even if one selects the rights-based approach, it is not self-evident that the correct way to frame the debate is in terms of the woman’s right of control over her body versus the child’s right to life. It’s arguable that other actors should have a role (the father? wider family? society at large? Opinions on this may vary based on cultural context). It’s debatable whether the “child” is really a “person” at all, and whether they are capable of possessing any “rights” and if so whether these are qualitatively different to those possessed by consciously functioning adults (similar issues appear in the utilitarian analysis: whether an unborn child can possess ethical interests, and whether these should be weighted differently). And not everybody agrees that it’s “right to life” (or “give the little blighter a chance”) that matters. David Benatar is an antinatalist philosopher, who proposes (in works such as “Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence”) that all pregnant women have a moral obligation to terminate their pregnancies, because the unborn child has a right not to have the sufferings of life imposed upon them.

    While antinatalism is extreme, I am simply pointing out there are far more fundamental issues to sort out, even if you do conclude from them that all boils down to a bodily-autonomy versus right-to-life dichotomy. It seems to me that even reduction to that binary decision, can only be achieved by cutting out a whole heap of nuance, complexity and uncertainty.

    I’m actually sympathetic to your viewpoint that women’s opinions should carry more weight than men’s on this topic – and in practice I suspect they do, since it’s usually women who get to make their own decisions (albeit often with male influence) about abortion. But even if you reduce the abortion debate down to “body-rights versus life-rights”, as I said before, it’s impossible to sidestep the substantive issues raised by MatthewL, PaulB et al, and place the weighing-up of those rights purely in the hands of the woman involved, simply by recourse to “no-one has the right to impose their moral opinion on others”. You are hoist by your own petard: if the unborn child counts as an “other”, the statement posits that the mother does not have free rein to impose her own moral opinion on him/her. If the unborn child counts as a “thing”, then the statement does give the power to the mother – including the power to abort based on aesthetic/cultural considerations such as appearance or sex (my brief attempt to come back on-topic!). And if the unborn child is something in between, then presumably things are even more complicated. So a “personhood” discussion, usually proposed to be of the kind MatthewL raised, must be more fundamental.

  75. Back to Edward Lud’s question-

    Has anyone in this thread worked out when life begins? Please?

    There’s the nub of the matter. The only clear defining point is conception. That is the moment when the individual comes into existence. Compare that to the sperm and the egg; they are different DNA sequences. They are not the new person yet. Once they join, then you have the new individual.

    So, this is the only qualitative change that occurs. Afterwards, they are all quantitative changes. And people then argue about what quantity of development is the minimal requirement for personhood.

    But without doubt, life itself begins at conception. That’s why we have a special name for it. It is the creative moment.

  76. Ian B – “There’s the nub of the matter. The only clear defining point is conception. That is the moment when the individual comes into existence.”

    Yes but birth serves as a useful alternative. It too is clear and well defined.

    But in reality most of us chug along with the equivalent of the Constitution counting slaves as three fifths of a free person. We know it is flawed. We would probably prefer not to think about it. We don’t like the extremists on either side, but as any one of us might get someone pregnant, we turn a blind eye.

  77. Ian B: If life begins at conception, then the contraceptive pill is murder. Do you support that conclusion? What does your wife think about it?

  78. Matthew, I made a distinction between the individual and personhood. I was just pointing out that that is the creative moment. There isn’t any other. HOwever, you could argue that conception is a process which includes implantation, without which you only have novel DNA, not a developing individual. Without that, you don’t have a pregnancy.

    Speaking as an atheist, I go with the old Catholic idea of ensoulment, myself, purely on pragmatic grounds.

    SMFS- birth isn’t very clear or well defined. A baby well before birth is quite capable of an independent existence with varying degrees of medical intervention. You could argue that the baby gradually transforms from a parasite into a prisoner and using that prisoner status as justification for killing is thus doubly immoral.

  79. SMFS

    1) Some women do treat abortion lightly. I don’t agree with this or approve of their decisions. But most women do NOT take abortion lightly. It is a difficult decision and many women feel they have no other choice.

    You would prefer me to ask “why can’t the individual be trusted?” But the individual in this case is always a biological female. Your idea for the “individual” to decide therefore actually seems to add up to “why shouldn’t biological males decide whether their children get to be born”? By all means argue that case, but do so openly, please.

    It is precisely BECAUSE the woman is the “concerned party” that the decision rests with her. Yes, doctors are involved – because termination of a pregnancy requires action on the part of the medical profession and they therefore have to agree to do it. Other men – including the father – have no say. That is the law, and as they do not physically have to bear the child, in my view the law is reasonable.

    I did not suggest that women have the right to tell men what to do with their bodies. Nor would I. For example, I have no right to compel a man to get a vasectomy, do I? But if he does not, and I believe that he has, then it is I – the woman – who bears the cost of his duplicity. And you want him to have a say in whether or not his child comes to term?

    2) As far as rape is concerned – rape is a violent crime that can be experienced by men as well as women, so your example is fundamentally flawed.

    I have said nothing about gender. This is a biological matter not a gender issue, as you know perfectly well. I use the terms “men” and “women” loosely on the assumption that everyone on this thread – including you – know that I mean “biological males” and “biological females”. Obviously you would prefer that I use those more accurate terms, but that is pedantry, frankly. You know perfectly well what I mean.

    At the point at which a woman decides to abort, she DOES NOT WANT THAT BABY. In claiming that this is simply a passing whim, you are effectively saying that biological females don’t know what they want, are excessively driven by transient emotions and therefore can’t be trusted to make reasonable decisions. In fact “female irrationality” seems to be the main thrust of your argument. Patronising, much?

    A baby is not a benefit to someone who doesn’t want a baby, or perhaps doesn’t want THAT baby (because it is the wrong sex, or has physical deformities). Harsh, maybe, but true.

    The right to decide DOES belong to the woman. That is not a fig leaf, it is the law. My position is consistent with the law as it stands and with my belief that women, as responsible adults, are capable of making the best decisions for them and for their families. You may prefer to believe that the right of the child to life trumps everything else. I don’t agree with you. My position on this is no more “inconsistent” than yours.

  80. Frances, you keep appealing to the authority of the law. But the law only legalises abortion for medical reasons, not abortion by choice, as SMFS pointed out. It is utterly abused in that regard, but that is the law. There is no “right” for the woman to choose an abortion in the law you keep appealing to. What actually happens instead is that women get a de facto “right” to choose due to the complicity of doctors fabricating medical justifications. The legal right you are referring to simply doesn’t exist.

  81. Goodness, the threads you miss when you are off working in the Smoke.

    I’m afraid I’m a pragmatist about this. I despise abortion as a method of contraception – but have no problem at all with the destruction of a zygote or blastula. So, for example, the morning after pill gives me no qualms whatsoever. Despite, according to other people’s moral codes, this being equivalent to late stage abortion.

    And I see Tim’s point – if you allow abortions for genetic defects, you should certainly allow abortions for being male (that being, at base, a chromosome defect.) But I disagree. There is a public policy point in disallowing actions in some categories while allowing the same action in others. XX versus XY, and the putative “gay gene” I’d definitely categorise as the wrong side of the line, whereas colour-blindness is the right side. Downs is a tricky one.

    I concede Frances’s point that, in individual specific cases, the final decision should be the woman’s. Advised, by law, by her doctor and, in reality, by who she choses to have around her. Which may, or may not, include the male genetic donor. If she, indeed, knows who that is.

    I’ll also support her on the “parasitic” thing – technically, if you want to insist on biological correctness – parasitism (and symbiosis and commensalism) only occur between species, not within them. Although this is not the common social use.

    However, I refuse to concede the wider point that men should not be permitted to express a reasonable opinion on abortion law. #60, at least, I read that way. It is an important matter of public policy. And I’m going to express mine.

    We have Matthew’s list and Matthew L’s (echoed by Ed) question? Where do we draw the line? Because “when does life begin” simply begs the question “what do you mean by ‘life’”.

    Clearly, to me at least, there should be a get out for “mother’s life in danger”. Nasty, nasty moral question (given that I immediately imagined the scenario where the foetus would survive given a caesarian but that would kill the mother.) Don’t want to go there or say anything else about it. There may be justifiable other reasons for “over the normal limit”, as well. (Kidnapped and raped and not rescued until over limit, is one that comes to mind.)

    So, this “normal limit”? Well, for the little my pseudonymous e-2p is worth, I would set the limit slightly but distinctly less than the earliest practical medical survivability date. And that is survivability as a functional human being to at least the 9-ish months at which they would have been born naturally. And, as medical advances improve, this date will reduce. But not that far (until we actually develop artificial wombs.)

  82. MyBurningEars

    Yes, I agree that the definition of the child is the key issue here – is a foetus a “person” or a “thing”? And the question I asked does to some extent depend on the definition of the child. But not entirely: even the Catholic Church, which is absolutely committed to the unborn child as “person”, accepts that abortion may occasionally be necessary to save the mother’s life. They have moved on from their original position (when I was at school) which was that the child’s right to life trumped the mother’s right to life and that therefore abortion could not be allowed under ANY circumstances.

    The tension between the rights of the child and the rights of the mother extends well beyond the abortion debate. For example, what about women who are compelled to have caesarean sections against their will in order to save the life of the child? The medical profession has been known to invoke the provisions of the Mental Health Act to enforce surgical intervention when the woman is prepared to let her baby die rather than undergo a caesarean section. It’s unusual, but it has happened. I remember a High Court action where the woman argued that the death of a baby was in the natural order of things and saving its life was not more important than her own right not to have surgery without consent. I think she lost the case.

  83. Frances Coppola – “1) Some women do treat abortion lightly. I don’t agree with this or approve of their decisions. But most women do NOT take abortion lightly. It is a difficult decision and many women feel they have no other choice.”

    We could quibble over numbers but I see no point. We are close enough. I think that the problem with this debate is in that claim it is a difficult decision. Why is it? After all, if it is, as someone else here said, a clump of cells and a parasite, it ought to be no more traumatic than a cat coughing up a fur ball.

    “You would prefer me to ask “why can’t the individual be trusted?” But the individual in this case is always a biological female. Your idea for the “individual” to decide therefore actually seems to add up to “why shouldn’t biological males decide whether their children get to be born”? By all means argue that case, but do so openly, please.”

    No that is not my case. My case is that you are demanding gender-specific rights on a gender-specific basis. If you want to defend the right of people to do what they like with their bodies, then please do so. I can live with that. You don’t. You continually deny men the right to have a say with what women do with their bodies while tacitly agreeing that women are entitled to a say over what men do with theirs. That is not fair.

    “Yes, doctors are involved – because termination of a pregnancy requires action on the part of the medical profession and they therefore have to agree to do it.”

    Thus it is not up to women.

    “That is the law, and as they do not physically have to bear the child, in my view the law is reasonable.”

    Although the final say is the doctors and they do not have to bear the child either.

    “I did not suggest that women have the right to tell men what to do with their bodies. Nor would I. For example, I have no right to compel a man to get a vasectomy, do I?”

    But you do have the right to force him into uniform for two years. Or down a coal mine. Because Parliament does vote on things like conscription. You have not complained about this that I can see here. So by all means, be consistent. Either we all have a right to do what we like with our bodies or Parliament does have a right to say otherwise. You can’t say only women are entitled to be free.

    “And you want him to have a say in whether or not his child comes to term?”

    Not really. Although as a matter of practicality, as a voter he does have the ability.

    “2) As far as rape is concerned – rape is a violent crime that can be experienced by men as well as women, so your example is fundamentally flawed.”

    Well vaginal rape sure as hell can’t be. What is more it is only experienced by a tiny number of men. Yet we all get to vote on it. Is that wrong?

    “At the point at which a woman decides to abort, she DOES NOT WANT THAT BABY. In claiming that this is simply a passing whim, you are effectively saying that biological females don’t know what they want, are excessively driven by transient emotions and therefore can’t be trusted to make reasonable decisions.”

    I do not say abortion is carried out on a passing whim. I say it can be. Women do not need to do anything other than have a short period to get rid of the foetus. It can be done in such a way. Not that they all are.

    “In fact “female irrationality” seems to be the main thrust of your argument. Patronising, much?”

    Then you have not understood my argument.

    “A baby is not a benefit to someone who doesn’t want a baby, or perhaps doesn’t want THAT baby (because it is the wrong sex, or has physical deformities). Harsh, maybe, but true.”

    Again, they may not feel at that particular time it is not a benefit. But surely we all know people who felt that way, contemplated abortion and then changed their mind – to their later but deep and lasting pleasure. Children are a very complex issue and they are not suitable to reduction to simple black and white solutions.

    “The right to decide DOES belong to the woman. That is not a fig leaf, it is the law.”

    If a woman decides on an abortion and she can’t find two doctors to agree, she will not have an abortion. Women do not have a right to an abortion in the UK. At least in theory. Of course we have enough doctors who are deeply committed to abortions so that finding two is always easy – but that is the difference between the fig leaf of the law and reality.

    “My position on this is no more “inconsistent” than yours.”

    I agree. Except your continued insistence that women are entitled to total control of their bodies – despite the law – while refusing to agree men should be too. That is not consistent.

  84. SE

    I didn’t mean it that way. Of course men have a right to an opinion on abortion. I just think that women’s voices on this issue carry more weight, since it is they who actually bear the consequences of both childbirth and abortion (which is itself not without cost). And at an individual level I don’t think any man has the right to tell a woman that she may not end a pregnancy if she chooses – or, for that matter, that she MUST end it. It is her decision, not his.

  85. Frances,

    I’m entirely happy about the individual case. Although I probably wouldn’t feel that way in the specific if I was the father (or, more likely nowadays, grandfather). Actually, I hope my relations with the women in my life are sufficiently good that they would choose to involve me. But, if they don’t, that’s just my tough luck.

    On the general case – I understand your position. But would you want Nadine Dorries (clearly barking) views to be given more weight just because of her sex?

  86. SMFS

    No, I have not argued that women have the right to dictate what men do with their bodies – not even tacitly. In case you hadn’t noticed, Parliament is mainly made up of men…..so who, exactly, is dictating what men should do with their bodies?

    We have not had conscription in the UK since World War II. Were it to be introduced now, women as well as men would be called up. Your argument is therefore flawed – again. Abortion can only be experienced by biological females. But both women and men can be forced to fight for their country.

    You evidently didn’t see this post from Tim on the subject of male rape:

    http://timworstall.com/2012/02/22/more-men-are-raped-than-women-in-the-us/

    Male rape is a “tiny minority”, is it? Even if it were, rape is still rape. So men can’t experience vaginal rape. As rape is really a form of physical assault, which orifice is used seems irrelevant, frankly. Women can be anally raped too.

    I’ve already explained why doctors are involved. Other men, however, have no voice, and that is as it should be. You may argue that the interpretation of the 1967 is now far looser than it was originally intended to be, and I may agree with you. But as long as that interpretation complies with the written law, it is not illegal. You may view it as morally wrong, and you have the right to express that view, but you don’t have the right to impose it on others.

    Personally, I would like women not to choose abortion. I would like them not to feel they HAVE to choose abortion. I would like men, particularly young men, to recognise that contraception is a joint responsibility, not simply the girl’s job. I would like to see a more responsible attitude to sexual behaviour taught in sex education classes in school. I would like to see the cultural issues that lead to men AND women valuing one sex more highly than the other addressed. I would like to get rid of the automatic assumption that a disabled child should be aborted – and I would like the medical profession to stop pressuring women to do this. So I am not a supporter of abortion per se. What I am defending is a female’s right to choose whether or not to have a child, irrespective of the opinions of males. I would rather they did so before they became pregnant, not afterwards. But I don’t agree with denying them a right after conception that they have before conception.

  87. There are all sorts of complaints, on this thread and others, about unfair treatment of men in the UK today. You lot need to wake up and smell the coffee. Men are still the privileged sex, for social as well as for biological reasons.

    If you don’t want a woman to make a decision you hate to abort the pregnancy you have conceived together, keep your cock in your pocket until you meet a woman you can trust to share the decision with you.

  88. SE,

    It depends what is being considered. If the question being addressed is the definition of the child – “person” or “thing” – and the moral arguments around that, then women’s voices are no more important than men’s. If the question being addressed is whether women have the right to decide whether or not to have a child, then I’m afraid I do think women’s voices should carry more weight, even if they are barking. I would hope that there are enough sane women out there to outweigh the nutters.

  89. If the question being addressed is whether women have the right to decide whether or not to have a child, then I’m afraid I do think women’s voices should carry more weight, even if they are barking.

    Hmm, yes.

    Nadine seems to have two points, because she needs to disguise the underlying “ban abortion” meme. One is a scientifically unjustified (they claim otherwise but their science is faked) reduction in the maximum term limit. Modified for political acceptability. So she’ll vote for anything less than current and hope to screw it further down later and eventually to zero. The “Sinn Féin” approach to the abortion question.

    The other is mandatory councilling with groups not involved in providing abortion services (i.e. Xian fanatics – by which I don’t mean orthodox Catholics.)

    I’m not too sure that there are that many sane voices around this debate and, on the saw that what happens in American happens here 10 years later, it is only going to get more polarised.

  90. For those new to this thread, let me summarise Frances’ argument:
    “Men!”
    Oddly enough I’m coming round to your absolutist position, Frances, but not for the reasons you give.
    Historically the interference by family and state has been mostly bad. So pragmatically we should leave the decision to the individual herself.
    Bring back the Back St / Harley St abortionist!

  91. Pingback: You can think a foetus is a person and still think abortion is okay « Left Outside

  92. Frances Coppola – “No, I have not argued that women have the right to dictate what men do with their bodies – not even tacitly.”

    Then, as I originally said, you are supporting some form of gender apartheid. This would be a lot easier if you actually read what I said.

    “In case you hadn’t noticed, Parliament is mainly made up of men…..so who, exactly, is dictating what men should do with their bodies?”

    The representatives of the voters are telling the voters what they can and cannot do with their bodies. That is kind of how the system works.

    “We have not had conscription in the UK since World War II. Were it to be introduced now, women as well as men would be called up. Your argument is therefore flawed – again.”

    You have not understood my argument so far so you are in no position to say whether it is flawed or not. You are also factually wrong. We fought Korea with conscription. We even sent people down the coal mines well past 1945. I am not sure women would face the draft. They have not done anywhere so far except Israel. Not even there.

    “You evidently didn’t see this post from Tim on the subject of male rape:”

    Given I commented on it actually I did.

    “Male rape is a “tiny minority”, is it? Even if it were, rape is still rape. So men can’t experience vaginal rape. As rape is really a form of physical assault, which orifice is used seems irrelevant, frankly. Women can be anally raped too.”

    No rape is not rape. We have laws to that end. And yes, male rape is probably a tiny minority. So if men cannot experience vaginal rape, do you think they are entitled to any say on it?

    “You may view it as morally wrong, and you have the right to express that view, but you don’t have the right to impose it on others.”

    Again you are just not bothering. Try to reply to what I actually said.

    “What I am defending is a female’s right to choose whether or not to have a child, irrespective of the opinions of males.”

    And I continue to object to the blatant sexism of this. By all means, defend the right of a woman to choose – irrespective of anyone else’s opinion. I do not see why her Mother-in-law is entitled to a say her Father-in-law is not.

  93. PaulB – “There are all sorts of complaints, on this thread and others, about unfair treatment of men in the UK today. You lot need to wake up and smell the coffee. Men are still the privileged sex, for social as well as for biological reasons.”

    That depends on what you mean by privileged. As men tend to produce more, then naturally they tend to have more. As they tend to work harder and for longer, they tend to be promoted. This is just natural. Inevitable even.

    “If you don’t want a woman to make a decision you hate to abort the pregnancy you have conceived together, keep your cock in your pocket until you meet a woman you can trust to share the decision with you.”

    By all means. Although at least one man has been forced to pay child support after a woman broke into a sperm bank and stole sperm he had stored there. However notice this is precisely what men are tending to do these days. And that the border line tough cases are much more common than they used to be.

  94. No rape is not rape. We have laws to that end. And yes, male rape is probably a tiny minority.

    I may be misunderstanding what you are trying to say here. This is the law (s1 Sexual Offences Act 2003):

    Rape.
    A person (A) commits an offence if—

    (a)he intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person (B) with his penis,
    he intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person (B) with his penis

    So, the sexual difference is more subtle. Only men can commit rape (women can commit the s2 “Assault by penetration”) but whether vaginal, oral or anal, and, in the latter two cases, whether a male or female victim, it is still rape.

    “No rape is not rape” does not make it clear whether that was the point you were trying to make. Because Frances was clearly making the point that anal rape is still rape. And you appear to be objecting to Frances’s point?

  95. PaulB-

    There are all sorts of complaints, on this thread and others, about unfair treatment of men in the UK today. You lot need to wake up and smell the coffee. Men are still the privileged sex, for social as well as for biological reasons.

    This is an unsupportable assertion. You are making the same (deliberate?) mistake of using a narrow view to spot a few areas where males appear to be dominant. Females are alpha-focussed, and the mass of males are effectively invisible to them. They may envy a tiny number of men who lead corporations; they ignore the masses of powerless labourers. Feminists and feminist supporters- many of whom are low-status males seeking female approval- routinely ignore this error.

    But let’s not go down the difficult path of bandying statistics with multiple interpretaions. There is a more direct measure of social privilege, which can be used on any society (and even other species). It is that of dominant or deferrent behaviour. We don’t need a survey to figure out who is the dominant dog or cat in a house, or dominant gorilla or chimpanzee in its group. We can sit back, observe the behaviours, and figure it out.

    Sexism is modelled on the American racial struggle, and Jim Crow gives us an excellent model to test that, since we can all agree that blacks were a significantly inferior class to whites. So, with gender, we can compare behaviour patterns and see which class is dominant and which is deferrent.

    Which race gave up its seat to which? Which gender?

    Which race had to socially conform to the social behaviours expected by the other? Which gender?

    Which race was routinely treated more harshly by the legal system? Which gender?

    If members of two races got in a fight, which one was automatically blamed? Which gender?

    Which race did the hardest work, and which race expropriated their labour and spent the money? Which gender?

    Which race was routinely portrayed in the media as inferior in behaviour, morals and so on? Which gender?

    Which race received special privileges from the State? Which gender?

    Which race’s opinions were hegemonic? Which gender?

    Answer those questions, and quite suprisingly different pattern emerges to the one you believe.

  96. Pingback: The next step in abortion | Abolish the Bank of England

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