I dunno really, dunno

She was two days old and in “good condition” when a couple knocked on the door of a house in Collins Avenue, Dublin. It was 1954, a time when Ireland was ruled from the pulpit and unmarried pregnant women were told they were a shameful stain on their families and communities.

As the woman picked up the newborn, Nurse Doody – a well-known midwife in the city – said they should leave by the side door, out of sight of the baby’s birth mother. The couple and Doody took the infant straight to Our Lady of Consolation church in Donnycarney, where the local priest baptised her Theresa Marion Hiney.

Six weeks later, the birth was registered; the certificate records that she was born at home to James and Catherine (known as Kathleen) Hiney. A caution is printed along the bottom: “To alter this certificate or use it as altered is a serious offence.” There is no warning about giving false information in the first place.

It took another 48 years for Theresa Hiney Tinggal to learn that she was illegally adopted, although she had always felt she “didn’t belong” to her family and she never got on with her mother. And it took a further 15 years, until last April, to track down her biological family in Tipperary. She learned that her birth mother was dead and the man who was probably her biological father had long since emigrated to Canada.

Hmm.

Now almost 64, Tinggal is reconciled to the past, although the decades of betrayal and lies still hurt. But, she said, her case and the cases of another 125 people, to whom Leo Varadkar apologised this week for their illegal adoptions, were “just the tip of the iceberg”.

The taoiseach told the Irish parliament that the 126 illegal adoptions through the Catholic agency St Patrick’s Guild between 1946 and 1969 were “another chapter from the very dark history of our country”. People had been robbed of their identity, and many still had no idea they had been adopted decades ago. The revelation would be traumatic. “I am so sorry,” he said.

And then:

An abortion at the age of 23 gave me freedom
Hadley Freeman

During the Irish referendum, there was a lot of talk about abortion in extreme cases, but some – like mine – are banal but necessary

Which is the better outcome?

I lean toward – as regular readers will know – stuff the rules and get on with life. Others differ about that life bit, or perhaps whose life.

But who is going to argue that the non-existence of a 64 year old today is the better outcome? Over some fiddling with the paperwork that is?

Oh aye?

Theresa May ‘must prove she is a feminist by imposing abortion reform on Northern Ireland’

Theresa May has been accused of betraying the legacy of the suffragists by failing to impose abortion law reform on Northern Ireland.

The Prime Minister has insisted that Ulster’s strict abortion laws can only be relaxed by the power-sharing government at Stormont, as abortion is a devolved issue.

But with the Northern Ireland Assembly suspended for the past 16 months, Mrs May is under pressure to pass laws in Westminster to bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK, following a landslide vote in the Republic of Ireland to liberalise abortion laws.

Err, we’ve already said this is something for the people of Northern Ireland to decide. So, we must let the people of Northern Ireland decide, no? Instead of being all colonialist about it?

Womens’ interests are not in fact a monolithic block

Anti-abortion Life charity will get cash from UK tampon tax
Government confirms group will receive £250,000 despite outcry from MPs and women’s groups

There are a number of women in the country who are anti-abortion. Why shouldn’t their interests be funded?

That’s the argument being made, that only “progressive” causes should receive such money, isn’t it?

As it actually happens this isn’t the point at issue anyway:

A longlist said Life would receive £250,000 for “housing, practical help, counselling, emotional support and life-skills training for young pregnant women who are homeless”. The sum was among the largest grants on the list.

One would have thought there would be a certain amount of support for this. You know, abortion is “choice” isn’t it? Aiding people in actually having a choice is a good thing then, no? Rather than choice only doing what you’re told to.

Something of a trade off here then

Two factors led to the public becoming receptive to abortion law reform. Firstly, abortion became the leading cause of maternal deaths in the decade before the 1967 act was passed, with between 50 and 60 women each year dying of unsafe abortion.

To solve which 200,000 abortions are carried out each year.

Having had a look around it appears that DoH tells us that only one death (of the mother that is, obviously) was recorded in 2015 as having been caused by procuring an abortion. I’d sorta doubt that, I’d expect the death rate from near any medical procedure to be higher than that. But still, take it as being true.

Something of a trade off between 59 and 200,000, isn’t there?

Safe, legal and rare

Abortion is the most common medical or surgical procedure in the UK: more than 200,000 women have one each year.

The underlying argument being made is that it’s legal, sure enough, but the State is spending enough on providing them for free.

The two being rather different things of course, that old positive and negative rights thing. That you can go do it is not quite the same as being able to insist that someone else do it nor pay for it.

Whut?

Weighing just 2Ib 14oz she lay hooked up to wires and tubes in a neonatal unit on August 29, 1977.
But there was no anxious parent nearby, lovingly holding her minuscule hand, desperately willing her to live.
Because Melissa Ohden’s mother had left the hospital in Iowa, believing the toxic saline solution she’d been given over a five-day period when she was eight months pregnant had aborted her child.
However the procedure had failed but Melissa’s mother had no idea her daughter had survived, against the odds, until 36 years later.
After Melissa learnt about her traumatic start in life, she spent nearly two decades searching for answers and would discover her guilt-ridden birth mother had not wanted to have the termination.
Melissa also learnt that she is alive today because a nurse heard her weak cries, slight movements and gasps for breath as she lay discarded as medical waste and rushed her to intensive care.
And in a macabre twist, it emerged there was another nurse at the hospital who had instructed the others to ‘leave the baby in the room to die’.
Devastatingly, Melissa, who lives in Missouri, US, found out that that woman – one of the supervisors in charge that day – was in fact her own grandmother.

Nope, I’ve nothing to say about it either.

As ever, there’s a clash of rights here

The police express inability to do anything under public order legislation and the situation has intensified with “both sides” sometimes locked in a stand-off. Back in January I raised this in parliament, and got no meaningful reply from the minister. Since then, ideas have been percolating on how to deal with this threat to women’s wellbeing. This week, a motion comes before Ealing council that would extend asbo powers – usually reserved to move on street drinkers and drug dealers – to stop these protests.

If successful, this approach could be replicated nationwide. This is, of course, far from being exclusively an Ealing problem; there have been similar protests in Camden, Twickenham, Southwark, Cardiff and Edgbaston in Birmingham, all aimed at frightening and intimidating women visiting abortion clinics.

This is about women’s security: every woman deserves to be able to go about her life in safety. I recently met some of those who work in the clinic and it was illuminating to hear stories from staff who frequently have their path obstructed by zealots simply while going to work. They keep an incident book; tellingly the chants and tactics differ for women entering and leaving. On the way in, it’s emotional blackmail: teddy bears are thrust at women who get called “mum”. On leaving they are met with anger and commonly told they’re headed for hell. Creepy footage of them shot without their consent gets transmitted via Facebook Live.

Abortion is indeed legal and it is and would be illegal to physically prevent someone from getting one.

Standing on the street expressing your views is also legal.

The intention here is that the free speech must be curtailed in order that the others don’t feel bad.

Hmm, let’s consider that. Ah, OK, considered : Fuck Off Matey.

Interestingly done

A pregnant woman was dropped from a BBC television debate on abortion after being told that she might upset others taking part.
Former nurse Sarah Costerton was interviewed as a potential panellist for a new BBC2 programme called Abortion On Trial, hosted by presenter Anne Robinson.
Mrs Costerton said programme-makers had seemed keen for her to participate but after being told her pregnancy might distress other participants or restrict what they felt able to say, she was informed that she would not be required.

The married mother of three said: ‘They were worried it would inhibit people speaking freely or cause upset; that me being pregnant would offend people who opted for a termination. That’s what was said.’
She said the programme-makers had given no explanation for not selecting her, but added: ‘It seemed that me that being pregnant was a stumbling block.’
She said that she did not see how a debate could fully represent all views on abortion if none of the participants was pregnant, and the programme makers had ‘missed an opportunity’ by not inviting her to take part.

We don’t, of course, know all of what happened. But it would be odd to have a discussion by only having those with one set of views, or perhaps by deliberately excluding a certain set of them.

‘If women who had terminations are willing to go on the television and testify to that and explain their reasoning, me sitting there pregnant shouldn’t make any difference or be offensive.’

Well, yes.

Well, at some point they should be actually

Abortion should not be a crime, say Britain’s childbirth doctors

At some point at least between fertilisation and 21 years and 9 months I think we’re really all pretty certain that it should be a crime. It’s the where, or rather then when, that is the argument, isn’t it?

Advocates of changing that law say that, if it happened, it would be more symbolic than practical, however. It would not change current abortion practice under the Abortion Act 1967, such as the 24-week legal time limit or the need for two doctors to be satisfied that the termination was necessary on medical grounds or in the interests of a woman’s health.

RCOG council members, who represent the UK’s 11,500 specialists in maternity care and women’s health, strongly backed a motion which said: “The RCOG supports the removal of criminal sanctions associated with abortion in the UK.

“We believe the procedure should be subject to regulatory and professional standards, in line with other medical procedures, rather than criminal sanctions.

“Abortion services should be regulated. However, abortion – for women, doctors and other healthcare professionals – should be treated as a medical, rather than a criminal, issue.”

Well, yes, except we did that under the original abortion act, didn’t we? Made it from a criminal offence into something that was decided upon by the professional competence of doctors. Those two signatures. The result being the abortion mills and the signing off of blank permission pads. Hey, maybe that’s the right way to do it too but it’s not a good precedent for professional standards being much of a limitation, is it?

Terrors, terrors

Editing the human genome brings us one step closer to consumer eugenics
Dr David King
Hijacked by the free market, human gene editing will lead to greater social inequality by heading where the money is: designer babies

Whereas how it should be done is GoodThinkers determining who else may live or die.

If you peel away the hype, the truth is that we already have robust ways of avoiding the birth of children with such conditions, where that is appropriate, through genetic testing of embryos.

Yep, he really does say it. It’s morally fine to kill off those disapproved of but not to modify those who don’t exist as yet.

Obviously so

The United Nations has just updated its “World Population Prospects,” and the numbers are stunning. Under a slow-growth scenario, we will have 9.6 billion people on this planet by 2100. On the high end, there will be 13.2 billion of us — a 76 percent increase above today’s 7.5 billion.

It’s time to get serious about encouraging policies at home and abroad that stand a chance of steering us toward the lower end of those United Nations projections. Family planning, birth control and voluntary abortion aren’t dirty words; they’re keys to our environmental survival.

If you kill lots of people there will be fewer people.

Rilly Polly?

This government staggers on, still trying to strike a costly and disreputable DUP deal, blackmailed by a party of Christian fundamentalists whose laws enforce childbirth on raped underage girls.

They do? Do we know the number of rapes of underage girls in NI? The number who go on to give birth as a result? And do the DUP come around to ensure pregnancy if the rape doesn’t take?

Sheesh.

Amazingly Polly, this is a democracy, one in which even religious bigots both have the vote and the right to representation. We are not in an ideological state, where only those with GoodThink are allowed to speak up.

Was ever a government in such chaos? Was ever a party less fit to govern? Was ever the country brought to such a state, by the wanton fanaticism of Tory ideologues, with their toxic combination of state-shrinkers and Europhobes?

Err, yes actually. ’76 to ’79 was worse, The Brown Terror as well……

You’ll have to explain this to me Suzanne

Only women bleed, sang Alice Cooper. And only women pay taxes on the products they use to deal with the fact that this happens. Sanitary products such as tampons are taxed as non-essential, luxury items at 5%. So are maternity pads. Some products remain exempt from this tax – such as edible sugar flowers and alcoholic jellies – but tampons are our little treat, aren’t they? We spoil ourselves silly with such luxury.

5% is not the luxury VAT rate now, is it?

If the average woman menstruates 450 times over a lifetime, it is estimated that will have cost her £18,450 (taking into account sanitary protection, pain relief and new underwear).

£41 a period? When a box of tampons costs £1?

The reason we are talking about tampon tax again is that though the Tories pledged to scrap this 5% VAT, they didn’t.

Because they’re not allowed to. The European Union insists that something which has a positive VAT rate cannot then be made exempt or zero rated, given a 0% VAT rate. That’s just the system, the problem is in Brussels. As Gordon Brown found out.

Abortions, like periods, are not shameful, but a fact of many women’s lives. If we are to have a tampon tax at all, the money generated should at least go to those who regard women as autonomous adults who make our own decisions. To hand it over to those who do not respect our choices and actively want to limit them is deeply shameful.

There are many women who are anti-abortion, indeed Life is rather full of them. If money is to be spent upon women’s issues, as is the point with this tampon fund, that does not mean it should be spent only upon wither those women or those issues you agree with. Because not all women agree with you.

Well, if you say so

Forcing pregnant women who do not want a child of one sex or the other to give birth could harm both the baby and the mother’s mental health, a leading doctors’ union member has said.

Prof Wendy Savage, a voting member of the British Medical Association Council, also said women should have the right to terminate a pregnancy at any stage.

But it does seem rather one sided, no?

Isn’t this an interesting problem

I’ve been with my boyfriend for about six months. I’m 39 and he’s 51. We have a great relationship. I fell pregnant after only a month and a half. In a decision made jointly with full support, I had a termination. The sex we’d had before was always great. However, since the termination my partner finds it very difficult to ejaculate. Could the termination have an effect on this? He insists not.

In the answer:

There is normally a mourning period following a termination, which needs to follow its course and be respected.

Why is there a mourning period if it’s just an insensate clump of cells? There is no more there than just a normal period is there?

Yes, I know, I know, I disagree with just about everyone on this. And yet I see great echoes of New Soviet Man here. That was the idea that if human beings were different then we could have a different economy. Entirely true, if human beings were different we could, it’s the creation of a different type of human which is the difficult thing. Here it’s that it ought to be that it’s a clump of insensate cells which no one should worry about disposing of. And yet it turns out that human beings aren’t quite like that and they do worry. To the extent that a mourning period is normal.

Oooops.

Which neatly brings me back to the New Soviet Man thing – our aim is to build and economy which works for the human beings we have. So too with other aspects of society. We don’t assume that murder/rape/robbery/fraud will never happen because we know that human beings aren’t like that. We thus design systems to deal with, to minimise the happening of them. For we can’t actually make humans what they are not.

Apparently this extends to not being able to spurt when the point and purpose of the spurting is flushed away down the drain. For some people at least.

Well, yes Jessica

If you had any doubt that that Republicans were taking their cues on women’s health from The Handmaid’s Tale, consider Oklahoma representative Justin Humphrey, who said this week that women are not individual people once they get pregnant, just “hosts”.

Humphrey, who just proposed a bill requiring women seeking abortions to get written permission from their sexual partner, told a reporter at the Intercept that while he understands that women “feel like that is their body”, they are mistaken to think of themselves as autonomous human beings.

“What I call them is, you’re a ‘host’ … I’m like, hey, your body is your body and be responsible with it. But after you’re irresponsible then don’t claim, well, I can just go and do this with another body, when you’re the host and you invited that in.”

The upside is at least they’ve dispensed with any subtext.

The subtext being that this is a Sorites Problem.

For in a mammalian species the female is indeed the host. Sure, 20 minutes after fertilisation it would be very extreme indeed to say “host!” and host only. 270 days later it would be equally extreme to claim that there wasn’t something very hostlike about this situation. Just as with the development of the child itself, it’s a process with no clear dividing lines other than conception and birth (or termination, of course).

No, this isn’t to say that I support this specific law (although I’ve always had a very soft spot for the argument that as the male will be forced to pay for 21 years for a live birth then said male should indeed have some say in whether there is a live birth or not) but the basic concept of “host”, the thing you’re complaining about, isn’t an outrageous one at all.

Anti-choice legislation – from clinic restrictions to waiting periods – all come from the same ideology that trumps the potential life of a fetus over a woman’s right to autonomy, health and sometimes life.

And isn’t that an interesting argument? Because pretty much everyone agrees that at some point in our Sorites progression that it does. But when?

Err, no, not really

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the onus was on the nominee to explain his position on the issue.

“Given president Trump’s promise to appoint a supreme court justice that would seek to overturn Roe v Wade, we need to know whether Judge Gorsuch would do just that,” Northup said.

“Our constitution guarantees a woman’s right to safe, legal abortion. Any effort to gut those protections would harm the rights and health of women for generations to come.”

The Supreme Court found, in the penumbra of said constitution, the right to abortion. And while it’s rare it is possible for said Court to change its mind on such matters.

The Constitution itself most certainly says no such thing of course.