Yes, this is an interesting point

With this in mind, it is clear that a very large number, and quite possibly the vast majority, of abortions carried out in this country are against the spirit, if not quite the word, of the law, and that practically all the doctors in this country who sign abortion forms are every bit as guilty as the reviled consultants who have offered sexually selected abortion.

If it is indeed the spirit of the law that must be followed, as we are told by our favourite retired accountant from Wandsworth, then why aren\’t half the doctors in the country behind bars?

10 comments on “Yes, this is an interesting point

  1. It is an interesting point. It may even be an accurate one. But it is not a logical conclusion from what is said previously in the article.

    And, as we well know, it is the letter of the law that matters (and subsequent case law where more interpretation is required, hence the need to read the relevant judgements). No matter what Ritchie wishes.

  2. I note that the article is illustrated with a photograph of a third-trimester pregnant abdomen. A picture lies better than a thousand words.

  3. Surreptitious Evil – “And, as we well know, it is the letter of the law that matters (and subsequent case law where more interpretation is required, hence the need to read the relevant judgements).”

    The letter of the law requires a good faith belief by two doctors that not having an abortion would cause a grave and lasting physical or mental damage to the woman.

    I think the claim most doctors signing off on abortions are doing so in violation of the law is pretty hard to deny. Given the reasons that most people say they get abortions.

  4. SMFS: what the letter of the law says is that abortion is legal if “two registered medical practitioners are of the opinion, formed in good faith…that the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family”.

    This is pretty close to allowing abortion on demand up to about 10 weeks, since the risks are then very small, and who, doctor or not, could say that a woman is wrong if she tells them that continuing the pregnancy will cause her mental anguish exceeding those risks.

  5. I think the claim most doctors signing off on abortions are doing so in violation of the law is pretty hard to deny.

    I’m happy for you to think it and pronounce it on this blog (not that, quite rightly, you could care less about my happiness in this regard.)

    You may even be entirely correct.

    I’m less happy with the Telegraph allowing the publication of an article which makes the same controversial, yet wholly un-evidenced, point.

  6. SMFS,

    Yes, PaulB forgot to point out that your test:

    not having an abortion would cause a grave and lasting physical or mental damage to the woman.

    is actually a paraphrase of s1(b). If that test is met, you can have a legal abortion for any term length pregnancy.

  7. In fact the risk of damage to physical health is greater from childbirth than it is from abortion at any stage of pregnancy (assuming that late-term abortions are surgical, which I believe the majority are – not that there are many of those anyway). So on those grounds alone abortion is always justified and doctors are not breaking the letter of the law. But there is no doubt that they are breaking the spirit of the law. It was never intended to allow abortion on demand, which is effectively how it is being used.

  8. I think Dalrymple errs about the spirit of the law. He argues that the people who got it passed didn’t want abortion on demand. My memory is that many of them did, but lied about it and settled for a wording that appeared to forbid it but would in practice allow it. Maybe they were right, maybe they were wrong, but certainly they were crooked.

  9. It’s pretty obvious that the law was phrased to mean, some particular medical problem, not a general statistical (population level) risk. That is, there is some specific medical matter in regards to the specific case under review. Turning that into a general statistical level risks-of-pregnancy interpretation is reminiscent of the torture-to-destruction of the US Constitution’s interstate commerce clause.

  10. PaulB – “This is pretty close to allowing abortion on demand up to about 10 weeks, since the risks are then very small, and who, doctor or not, could say that a woman is wrong if she tells them that continuing the pregnancy will cause her mental anguish exceeding those risks.”

    Except surely the language of the act does not refer to the risks of pregnancy in general, but the risks to a specific woman? You can look at a woman who has had a car crash and say she will die without an abortion. That is presumably what they meant. After all, they need two good faith opinions. They did not say any old risk. They meant in a specific case, two doctors are to examine the woman and offer their opinion on the risks of that particular woman continuing with that particular pregnancy. This was passed long before population studies became popular.

    But of course it has been used to justify abortion on demand. Even though that was not what was intended.

    Oh, and anguish is probably not the sort of harm they had in mind either. Anguish is not really an injury is it?

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