Feminist missing the point on abortion

Call me an old-fashioned feminist but isn\’t that the real point of accepting the limit for what it is; a date that simply allows women time to make up their own minds about something deeply personal.

Your support or otherwise for abortion limits should simply be a matter of personal choice. Friends, colleagues and acquaintances can all agree to differ on term limits, just please don\’t become \”minister for women\” and act immediately to control the bodies of over half the population.

Err, no. For the legal position is really rather different. And it should be rather different.

Sorry, usual clause here about how I know that I disagree with almost everyone on this subject. Get that over with.

At some point from before conception to the 18 th birthday party 18 years and 9 months later what was quite obviously not a human being has turned into something that quite obviously is, along with all of the rights (and yes, even duties) that that exalted status implies.

18 because you\’re not allowed to be photographed with your baps out until that age. That\’s pretty much the latest that anyone in the UK accrues any more rights. Plus the vote of course.

OK. OK, now where that magic line is crossed, where not human becomes human is a bit of a difficult argument. A Sorites problem in fact. And as it happens we say that different rights accrue at different times. By the time you\’re one year out of the womb the right not to be killed is pretty much entirely established. Those who try it will be prosecuted for murder (or attempted) if they tried to kill you and manslaughter if they managed it while not quite meaning to and so on. Your rights against being killed are a little less between birth and 12 months as there is still infanticide to consider (mother of disturbed mind as a result of having given birth). The months leading up to birth are covered by the procuring of an illicit abortion.

Strangely, these rights seem not to accrue to those with a club foot but that\’s they way it is.

At the other end, the meeting of the gametes to cause conception is not just recognised as being an entirely lawful act to perform it is actively subsidised by the government. As is the prevention of the conceptus from attaching itself to the uterine wall (\”morning after\” pill).

And then to the subject of debate. While it is supposed to require two doctors to say that something terrible will happen if the foetus is not scooped out in reality we\’ve abortion on demand up to 14, 16 weeks. The rights of the mother most definitely trump those of that potential human being. Legally from 16 to 24 weeks the situation is the same. It does become slightly more difficult in practice to get an abortion here as there are fewer places that do them.

All of that is what the situation is. But we still have this Sorites problem. When is a human being a human being that has the right not to be killed? Yes, I know what many people say is the solution.

But it isn\’t particularly a feminist argument, nor an anti-feminist one, to say that as medical skill and practice advances then this distinguishing point changes. As, in fact, it has done in the past, from 28 weeks to 24 weeks.

We are, as ever, trying to achieve the correct balance of rights. Yes, many disagree on what that correct balance is. But the abortion time limit isn\’t about allowing women time to make up their minds. It\’s about what is a human being that has a right not to be killed and what is not a human being that someone can decide to kill.

24 comments on “Feminist missing the point on abortion

  1. The argument is poorly and inelegantly stated, but I think the gist of what it is getting at is that, for all the reasons you state abortion is a complex moral decision, nothing clear-cut at all. And the person best placed to take a complex moral decision is the one most directly affected by it.

    OK, there’s a potential human and also a prospective father affected by the decision (whichever way it goes) but I don’t see a practical way around that conundrum. Other than expecting the prospective mother to consider those other parties too. The argument for legal abortion is entirely utilitarian, it’s really not that anyone thinks its a nice thing at all. Just in some cases the least worst of the available bad choices.

  2. There aren’t many births below 24 weeks that survive. Even then they need expensive and extensive medical intervention.

    Whatever scares the least horses. The most important horse being the child bearer.

    For me, it’s a practical, medical issue. A woman who has an abortion has an opportunity to have another child. If a child is forced on her then there are more long term effects than coping with the actuality of abortion.

    Just because a small minority of society are stupid enough to use abortion as a contraceptive after thought, it shouldn’t mean that the procedure should not be available.

    To think that it is ever taken lightly (as some folk do) is ridiculous.

  3. Who are you and what have you done to Arnald?

    To think that it is ever taken lightly (as some folk do) is ridiculous.

    While I accept the basic position, I’d disagree with the “ever” and refer you to your previous paragraph. I suspect that the number of people who take it lightly is even smaller than the number of people who use it as a contraceptive but non-zero.

    Note – I don’t consider the “day after” pill abortion in this context.

  4. Of course it’s a fucking feminist issue, Tim. If the Government forced you to have someone clamped to your todger for nine months in order to save their life, you’d be screaming about civil liberties and demanding that soneone be strung up. But somehow because it’s about wombs and biology, it’s ‘different’. It’s not. Governments are notoriously not to be trusted when it comes to deciding whether something should be allowed on the basis of ‘biology’. And as long as people like yourself who are otherwise bang-on when it comes to liberty think otherwise, it will remain a feminist issue.

  5. Pingback: Of course it’s a fucking feminist issue « Decline of the Logos

  6. Who cares? They want to hoover out their inards, then let them.

    Of course, there are many people around that are evidence as to the advisability of allowing a mother to abort the child up until the age of 30 years.

  7. A friend from the rugby club had a daughter born at 23 weeks. She seemed a bit disabled as a child but has recently graduated from UCL, has a good job and a steady boyfriend. I know this isn’t entirely rational but it has coloured my opinion of abortion limits.
    I expect the knowledge does colour her opinion on abortion too, though I don’t dare ask.

  8. [quote]If the Government forced you to have someone clamped to your todger for nine months in order to save their life, you’d be screaming about civil liberties and demanding that soneone be strung up.[/quote]

    And quite rightly so too, for that would be the government’s fault.

    However, if you voluntarily (and leave rape out of it – you, I, every man and his dog know that isn’t the reason for 99.99% of abortions) engage in an activity that results in your needing to spend the next 9 months with them as you so eloquently put it “clamped to your todger” to save their life, then I frankly have no sympathy at-all for you.

    You decided that (risky) activity was a good idea at the time, you live with the consequences. If I decide it’s a good idea to drive home from the pub after 10 pints and mow down someone’s kid on the way, I won’t get a sympathy vote because when I sober up in the cells the following morning I decide it wasn’t such a good idea after all.

    It’s also not as though it’s difficult to prevent having kids either – the government spends a small fortune supplying a whole range of stuff for that sort of purpose to anyone who wants it, and if all else fails, you can always opt for the age old technique of not bonking someone in case they (or you) get pregnant… it’s really not that difficult.

  9. …As is the prevention of the conceptus from attaching itself to the uterine wall (“morning after” pill).

    No, the morning-after pill works by postponing or preventing ovulation.

  10. Legally from 16 to 24 weeks the situation is the same. It does become slightly more difficult in practice to get an abortion here as there are fewer places that do them.

    The reason behind the distinction is that up to 16 weeks and abortion can be carried out by surgical abortion (usually vacuum aspiration), but after the 16th week, intact dilation and extraction (IDX) must be performed.

    IDX means results in the foetus being brought prematurely to term, without the physical capability to live outside the womb. Given the nurses are handling something which looks like a small, albeit dead baby, this is a far more traumatic way of abortion – especially for those carrying out the operation.

  11. Perhaps an understanding of what a Right is will help.

    In our Common Law system a Right does not confer a freedom on an individual – that’s Napoleonic Law – the individual already has that freedom under Common Law.

    A Right is a legal instrument which defines to what extent the State may limit the Common Law freedom of an individual.

    Common Law does not recognise Human life before birth.

    A woman has the freedom to do as she please with her body and its contents.

    Abortion laws do not then extend any freedom to a foetus or an embryo or even a zygote they limit the freedom of a woman to terminate or have terminated her pregnancy.

    The precise limits of this freedom are then a matter of debate which should centre on what is in the best interests of the women who have to make the decisions.

    Let’s leave moral clap trap, God and medical technology out of it.

  12. Let’s leave moral clap trap, God and medical technology out of it.

    So back to coat hangers and a bottle of gin then? I don’t think so…

  13. Well if we leave morality, God and science out of it we might as well leave everything out of it. Lonely old world without
    the family
    the money
    the boyfriend
    any advice
    and so on.

  14. @John B

    A woman has the freedom to do as she please with her body and its contents.

    Other people having a legitimate interest in the abortion debate.
    1. The entire population, since absent the six million kids legally aborted the nation has had to import a few million immigrants.
    2. Doctors and nurses who have to do the deed.
    3. The people who use the above health professionals and suffer from their being desensitized by what they’ve done.

  15. yes what about national interest?
    In spite of all you do need cannon fodder , working fodder, stable society and so on

  16. Arnald – “There aren’t many births below 24 weeks that survive. Even then they need expensive and extensive medical intervention.”

    Nonsense. That may have been true years ago but it has not been true for a long time. And I do have first hand experience of two children born before 24 weeks that are just fine.

    “For me, it’s a practical, medical issue. A woman who has an abortion has an opportunity to have another child. If a child is forced on her then there are more long term effects than coping with the actuality of abortion.”

    What are the long term effects of carrying a child to birth? She might love it? No one is forcing her to keep it.

    “To think that it is ever taken lightly (as some folk do) is ridiculous.”

    Of course it is taken lightly. You yourself have said so – the effects are minor according to you. But why shouldn’t it be? If it is just a tumour-like clump of parasitic cells, why should there be any issue at all?

    4 Adam Bell – “If the Government forced you to have someone clamped to your todger for nine months in order to save their life, you’d be screaming about civil liberties and demanding that soneone be strung up.”

    Men who are unfortunate enough to get some girl pregnant can expect to pay for 18 years. If they lose their job they can, and are, be jailed. If the Court forces them to pay more than they earn, they can lose their driving licence, their passport, and so on. Yet this is not seen as a civil liberties issue. Why should pregnancy?

    9 PaulB – “No, the morning-after pill works by postponing or preventing ovulation.”

    That depends on the type of pill surely? RU-486 is certainly an abortifact and I assume that is what TW was referring to. A drug, by the way, that the company did not want to produce and tried to withdraw, only to have the French government insist that the rights of women to an abortion trumped their property rights.

  17. …And as long as people like yourself who are otherwise bang-on when it comes to liberty think otherwise, it will remain a feminist issue.</i

    The central question is exactly what Tim says it is: at what point between conception and death does a clump of cells become an entity with a right to life? Because building a person is a gradual process, there's no magic moment we can point to, hence the endless argument about where to draw the line. You're suspicious of government deciding things "on the basis of biology." Pro-lifers are just as suspicious of the government's ability to declare a tiny human a non-person who can legally be killed.

    The only reason any of this is a feminist issue is that the whole process takes place exclusively inside women's bodies.

    You seem to think that we wouldn't be having the argument if men could bear children. I submit that if men could bear children, cultures worldwide would treat their bodies exactly the same way they treat women's bodies.

  18. SMFS: RU-486 is an abortifacient in large doses, but delays ovulation in small doses. However, it’s not used as an emergency contraceptive in the UK, so if that’s what Tim had in mind, he was mistaken.

  19. PaulB – “RU-486 is an abortifacient in large doses, but delays ovulation in small doses. However, it’s not used as an emergency contraceptive in the UK, so if that’s what Tim had in mind, he was mistaken.”

    I know Wikipedia is for idiots but still:

    Mifepristone can also be used in smaller doses as an emergency contraceptive; if taken after sex but before ovulation, it can prevent ovulation and so prevent pregnancy. In this role, a 10 mg dose is not as effective as the 600 mg dose, but has fewer side-effects. [20] Mifeprex and Mifegyne are only available in 200 mg tablets.[21]

    A review of studies in humans found that the contraceptive effects of the 10 mg dose were probably due mainly to its effects on ovulation, and not inhibition of implantation, but “the knowledge of the mechanism of action remains incomplete.” Treatment with 200 mg of mifepristone changes steroid receptor expression in the fallopian tube, inhibits endometrial development, and effectively prevents implantation. [22]

    So sure, if you use 5% of a single tablet, it will mess with your ovulation. But if you use all of one tablet, it will prevent implantation and so abort.

    If it is not used in Britain as a morning after pill, what is it sold for? We do not have that many cases of Cushing’s disease.

  20. smfs

    •22 Weeks: Less than 10% of babies born at 22 weeks live to NICU discharge.
    •23 Weeks: Survival varies greatly. Between 1/4 and 2/3 of babies born at this gestational age will survive.
    •24 Weeks: About 1/2 to 3/4 of babies will live.
    •25 Weeks: Up to 85% of babies will survive.
    •26 Weeks: 80% to 93% of babies born at this

    so how am I wrong?

  21. Arnald quote from #2:

    There aren’t many births below 24 weeks that survive.

    Arnald quote from #2:

    23 Weeks: Survival varies greatly. Between 1/4 and 2/3 of babies born at this gestational age will survive.

    “Not that many” versus “between 1/4 and 2/3″. These are not mutually compatible.

  22. oh SE you’re such a bore.

    Nothing has changed much for survival rates in the last decade, despite advances in medical tech. The fact is that very prem babies don’t have proper lungs and their brains are not wired up properly, mainly.

    So at 22 weeks the chance of survival is low. At 21, well they don’t even bother recording it. 1 is an extreme exception.

    Even at 23 weeks the cost of intervention is high.

    Dunno why you’re arguing the toss. It’s irrefutable.

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