I wondered when this argument would be made

The success of the Paralympics should trigger a rethink of Britain’s abortion laws to make it illegal to terminate a pregnancy because a child will be born disabled, a coalition of campaigners and charities argues today.

For there is a problem with the law as it stands:

An alliance of pro-life campaigners and religious groups is launching a new push to restrict the 1967 Abortion Act, to prevent doctors terminating pregnancies on the grounds of physical abnormality.

In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, they describe the practice of aborting foetuses on physical grounds as a form of “eugenics”.

The letter, signed by leading figures from groups such as Life and the Pro-Life Alliance, as well as the Catholic Bishops Conference of Scotland and a number of evangelical Christian groups, argues that the current law enshrines a form of disability discrimination.

Also among the nine signatories is Peter Elliott, a businessman who founded the Down Syndrome Research Foundation UK, after the birth of his son, David, in 1985.

The signatories say that while pregnancies can be terminated even up to 40 weeks on physical grounds in certain circumstances, the moment the child is born a “moral volte-face” is performed and the official approach is “full of compassion”.

We have a law that says that no one can or should discriminate against the disabled. We\’ve just had that extravaganza celebrating the achievements of the disabled. And yet in another part of the law we have a specific discrimination against the disabled.

A fetus/baby at 36 weeks is recognizably more a human being than it is anything else. But one with a club foot can be killed and one without cannot. That is discrimination.

Noe, I know it\’s all very rare, know that there are indeed times when what is there is definitely not a human (say, lacking a brain at all).

But there is, if you don\’t want to call it a problem, at least an illogicality here.

13 comments on “I wondered when this argument would be made

  1. A fetus/baby at 36 weeks is recognizably more a human being than it is anything else. But one with a club foot can be killed and one without cannot. That is discrimination.

    What is stopping anyone aborting one at 36 weeks? The law does not have an age limit except in Section (a) of 1.1. To quote it:

    (a) 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; or
    (b) that the termination of the pregnancy is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman; or
    (c) that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated or
    (d) that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped

    Or. Not and.

    But there is, if you don’t want to call it a problem, at least an illogicality here.

    Well that depends. If you think it is a parasitic clump of cells akin to a cancer before birth, then it seems consistent to abort it for any reason prior to birth to me. But I expect for most of the pro-abortion crowd, the risk of an unacceptable reason is justified because of the need to preserve abortion as a whole. Once it becomes restricted, even for good reasons, you start down a slippery path.

  2. perhaps, but how many of the participants were born with a disability, and how many became disabled after they were born. The other problem with the argument is that the outcome of the pregnancy is not certain until after the birth is complete – ask Gary Barlow for example. Final point – the law is full of illogicallity absurdities – its one of those things that keeps scribblers gainfully employed!

  3. <blockquote?know that there are indeed times when what is there is definitely not a human (say, lacking a brain at all).

    Members of the House of Commons and writers for Guardian Media Group?

  4. Hmm, I think there’s a bit of “entitlement poker” in play here. Because those who complain most loudly about disability discrimination are often also those who stand up most strongly for “a woman’s right to choose”.

  5. Sure it’s an illogicality but that’s because hypocrisy is not a mortal sin. The utilitarian approach can easily lead us into contradicting ourselves in our striving towards the goal of optimal outcome.

    So the fact is that a line is drawn at birth or at X weeks of gestation for the sake of convenience (much like speed limits, or ages at which one can vote and/or have sex). It’s so we don’t have to consider every case on its merits every time (and in the case of abortion increasing the cost in terms of waiting longer and having a more developed fetus to abort – which definitely represents an increase in “cost”).

    This doesn’t mean there is a moral volte face, just acknowledgement that there is a range at which some right or other never morally pertains to some person or entity (one can’t imagine a kid of 4 ever having adequate understanding and self-awareness to consent to sex), and some other range at which it does (you can’t reasonably stop a 25 year-old from giving such consent so shoudln’t try). We really don’t know where the dividing line is – it’ll differ from case to case as well. So we stick it somewhere we think about right, where we hope the overall cost (of the banning of late abortion and permitting of early abortion) is lowest compared to the overall benefit (of permitting early abortion and banning of late abortion).

    Of course those with a catholic complex who believe all human life is sanctified at the moment of ejaculation place a value of infinity on every fertilised ovum thus the cost of allowing even one abortion is considered higher than the benefit of allowing any abortion. I probably don’t need to mention that I think this cost estimate is bullshit.

  6. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

    Personally, I think that anyone who wants to prognosticate on either the problems of disability (from birth or acquired) or euthanasia should work in a full-spectrum medical home.

    I feel that it would give their arguments more credibility. And would almost certainly change their minds: there is only a certain amount of human suffering you can see up close and personal—rather than from the ivory tower of a glitzy press box—before you start to question the wisdom of such beliefs.

    DK

  7. “A fetus/baby at 36 weeks is recognizably more a human being than it is anything else. But one with a club foot can be killed and one without cannot.”

    Whilst I understand the point being made, club-foot is not anything like a serious-enough condition to give grounds for abortion. It’s only marginally more serious and harder to treat than a squint or some such.

    To deal with the actual issue at hand, I think it’s important to leave it largely up to the individuals involved because the effects of having a disabled child will vary greatly depending on circumstances. I can think of cases where one handicapped child has taken up around half the parents’ available time, leaving the several remaining children with as little attention as they’d have had if one parent had died and the handicapped sibling not been born. Then again there are households with plenty of money and time to support a disabled child.

    To my mind there are all kinds of problems which could be partially solved if we were more willing to combine households than people currently seem to be, and this is another example. In multi-parent households, there would be less reason to consider aborting a disabled child.

  8. JamesV – “Of course those with a catholic complex who believe all human life is sanctified at the moment of ejaculation place a value of infinity on every fertilised ovum thus the cost of allowing even one abortion is considered higher than the benefit of allowing any abortion. I probably don’t need to mention that I think this cost estimate is bullshit.”

    If you’re going to attempt to refute other people’s moral argument – especially moral arguments built by the greatest minds in the Western tradition over the past 2000 years, I think there is a small obligation to show the basic glimmer of understanding of said moral argument. Maybe that is just me. Catholics do not argue for life from ejaculation.

    You think this is bullsh!t? Fine. But you also think there is some point at which the unborn pass from being non-human to being human? And you think that the dividing line should not be based on science or anything like that, but political (or perhaps social) convenience?

    Which means you need to take into account that you may be wrong. The line may be in the wrong place. And so even by your debased standards, you would be killing people. Who are able to suffer etc etc.

    Now it is probably not a big deal in practical terms. Societies can survive with quite a lot of murder. Look at Rome. Or the Founding Father’s income streams. We could simply kill the old at 70 and I doubt that society would change much. The unborn just can’t bitch about it and, as the cliche goes, we can’t hear them scream.

    But to say that you’re fine with the likely probability that we are killing creatures you consider actually human just because it is convenient, would suggest that sneering at a more morally consistent and logically coherent position is not a sensible move to make.

  9. @SMFS –

    how about “conception” then?

    I know I am wrong – my line is in the wrong place – because it’s a line. But it’s definitely less wrong than where catholic thinking would put it. And that’s both biologically-speaking and utilitarianly-speaking.

    And I am perfectly fine with being inconsistent on this. I’d rather be a hypocrite for the greater good than have an impregnably consistent moral position that did more harm. That’s being a utilitarian though.

  10. And the ejaculation thing is actually true, because catholics are officially against contraception. Not that any catholics are hypocrites.

    Tim adds: No, not quite. The official line is that sex itself is only a moral activity if it is open to the possibility of conception. Everything else flows from that.

    You don’t have to agree with this view (of course!) but if you are going to critique it it would be better to actually critique the view itself, not some misunderstanding of it.

  11. I am still failing to understand my misunderstanding. Catholics believe that sex is only moral if (if and when ejaculation occurs) ejaculation occurs within the vagina (save perhaps for involuntary ejaculation outside the vagina for reasons of mechanics or lack of restraint that weren’t intended to reduce the degree of openness to conception) and no active steps are taken before, during, or after ejaculation that would knowingly reduce the chances of conception in the event of ejaculation occurring (hence rhythm is OK but withdrawal will result in God striking you dead). Ejaculation having occurred, conception should be allowed to happen if it happens, and conception having happened nothing should then be undertaken to prevent birth, should that be the eventual fate of the conceptus.

    Isn’t it just a more efficient use of bytes to say catholics believe in the sanctity of life from ejaculation onwards?

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