Dear God this is a fatuously stupid claim

Here is the fact that everyone debating abortion should know: there is no association between its legality and its incidence. In other words, banning abortion does not stop the practice; it merely makes it more dangerous.

How can anyone seriously put that forward as an idea let alone a factual claim.

Incidence means rate, frequency, of something happening. Legal abortion does increase the rate at which abortion happens. We really were not having 200,000 back street abortions a year in the 1950s.

Jeebus, how stupid does Monbiot think we are?

78 thoughts on “Dear God this is a fatuously stupid claim”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    The abortion rate before legalisation was certainly lower than the rate just after legalisation. The number of abortions has gone up a lot since then (although not by as much as you might think).

    You would have to be deluded to think that legalisation did not have an impact though. After all, let’s apply this logic to some other crime. Perhaps rape? We could make it much safer if we wanted. Two doctors can sign off on a form, safe rape rooms. But I don’t think we would want to. In no small part because the rate would climb. Not by much but by some degree.

    But if Monbiot seriously believes this, let’s pick a law at random, say, the Racial Vilification Act and call on him to support the abolition thereof. After all, legalising it won’t change the relative frequency of racism, right?

  2. Jeebus, how stupid does Monbiot think we are?

    Stupid enough that he makes a decent living out of providing well-referenced garbage to maintain the smugness quotas of the Guardian-reading classes.

  3. Tell you what, George, let’s raise the age of criminal responsibility to 21 and see how we all get on. Hell, since it’s society’s fault, let’s decriminalise everyone.

  4. Yes, a fatuous claim by Moonbat, ably skewered by SMFS’s final paragraph above.

    That said, the frequent rehearsal of the pro- and anti-abortion arguments here is growing not a little tedious. Abortion is a matter for the individual conscience – even if (like me) you disapprove of it.

  5. “The abortion debate is presented as a conflict between the rights of foetuses and the rights of women. Enhance one, both sides sometimes appear to agree, and you suppress the other”

    Only if you accept there is a ‘right’ for the woman involved in the equation. Contrary of the claims of ukliberty, I do not call women aborting their pregnancies murderers. However the ‘right’ to kill another Human being?

    And the Baby right x more r’s right = constant? What a sad world if ‘rights’, ethics, morality itself is a zero sum game.

  6. “let’s pick a law at random, say, the Racial Vilification Act and call on him to support the abolition thereof. After all, legalising it won’t change the relative frequency of racism, right?”

    No, but it might well increase the incidence of overt racist behaviour, just as legalising abortion increased the act if not the desire to act.

  7. In other words, banning abortion does not stop the practice; it merely makes it more dangerous.

    This is true, but contradicts the sentence preceding it:

    there is no association between its legality and its incidence.

    So the policy of allowing/banning abortion is a trade off between making it safer at the expense of increasing the number of abortions. It’s worth pointing out that a lot of people on here would make precisely this argument regarding drug prohibition and come out in favour of legalisation.

  8. So Much For Subtlety

    Theophrastus – “Abortion is a matter for the individual conscience – even if (like me) you disapprove of it.”

    Don’t like ’em, don’t read ’em. However whatever else abortion is, it is not a matter of individual conscience. Or rather that is question begging of the highest order. By claiming it is an individual matter you are denying the opposition case. If you believe that abortion is murder, or akin to it, it is emphatically NOT a matter of individual conscience. Any more than slavery is. You cannot say that murder is a question best left to individuals.

  9. ‘”After all, legalising it won’t change the relative frequency of racism, right?”

    No, but it might well increase the incidence of overt racist behaviour’

    Ironman,I think you’ve misread SMFS. From Monbiot down, we’re talking about the incidence of, practice of, abortion and racism. Which, as you say, tends to increase when legalised.

    Which is why Monbiot is wrong, again.

  10. So Much For Subtlety

    Tim Newman – “So the policy of allowing/banning abortion is a trade off between making it safer at the expense of increasing the number of abortions. It’s worth pointing out that a lot of people on here would make precisely this argument regarding drug prohibition and come out in favour of legalisation.”

    Some 47,000 women die from botched abortions, according to the usual bullsh!t feminist statistics collectors, across the entire world. There are just under 200,000 abortions in the UK every year.

    There were, I would guess, roughly zero deaths from back street abortions in the years before abortion was legalised. Not entirely zero but pretty much close to it.

    So it would seem that the deaths from a ban are grossly outweighed by the deaths from abortion.

  11. SE
    Tim can post on whatever he likes, and I never suggested otherwise. I was thinking of the commenters, particularly when this post by Tim is about the more about Moonbat and the misuse of statistics than abortion per se.

  12. The question really is “how stupid does he think HE is?”

    His answer, of course, would be “not at all!” and therein lies the nub of the problem.

  13. Some 47,000 women die from botched abortions, according to the usual bullsh!t feminist statistics collectors, across the entire world.

    There were, I would guess, roughly zero deaths from back street abortions in the years before abortion was legalised. Not entirely zero but pretty much close to it.

    Nah. I think that “roughly zero” is as realistic as the 47,000.

    So it would seem that the deaths from a ban are grossly outweighed by the deaths from abortion.

    Which won’t persuade anybody who doesn’t think a foetus being aborted is a death. So, back to square one and the status quo.

  14. Here is the fact that everyone debating rape should know: there is no association between its legality and its incidence. In other words, banning rape does not stop the practice; it merely makes it more dangerous.

  15. So Much For Subtlety

    Tim Newman – “Nah. I think that “roughly zero” is as realistic as the 47,000.”

    Some people here are of a certain age. Do you think any of them know anyone who died in a back street abortion? Who even know of anyone who did? Who heard about someone who did?

    “Which won’t persuade anybody who doesn’t think a foetus being aborted is a death. So, back to square one and the status quo.”

    Perhaps. But we don’t have to accept the foetus’ killing is a death. Just that it is something akin to a human being and so killing it is something akin to murder. Is it one thousandth of a human being? It is one thousandth of a murder? If so, it should be banned.

    Also, of course, the precautionary principle. If it is not a human being, well it doesn’t matter. People should go on terminating them if they want to look good in a bikini. If it is a human being killing it is an incalculable wrong. So we shouldn’t.

  16. Doesn’t Monbiot mean that people will want/need abortions regardless of the illegality?

    I agree that legalisation has made it more likely that there are more abortions than before, but that’s still only a best guess because the backstreets hardly keep records.

  17. Some people here are of a certain age. Do you think any of them know anyone who died in a back street abortion? Who even know of anyone who did? Who heard about someone who did?

    No, but then I could say the same thing about people who’ve died from misuse of JCB. I know enough about risk assessments not to insert my own personal experience into the calculation.

    . Just that it is something akin to a human being and so killing it is something akin to murder.

    Which is based on the premise that a foetus is akin to a human being. Given this is *the* bone of contention, and always has been, simply restating it doesn’t advance the debate or persuade anybody.

  18. SMFS:

    By claiming it is an individual matter you are denying the opposition case.

    No, I’m not. Rather, I am recognising the moral pluralism of modern society on abortion. Barring an Islamic takeover, a consensus will never be reached on this matter in the foreseeable future. There is no alternative but to leave it to the individual conscience, particularly when the hard cases involve complex moral trade-offs.

    If you believe that abortion is murder, or akin to it, it is emphatically NOT a matter of individual conscience.

    Well, some people think ‘meat is murder’. Others think pest control is murder. And such folk think their moral beliefs should be enshrined in law; but the moral consensus is that we leave such matters to the individual conscience (except for fox-hunting, of course), regulating as deemed appropriate.
    And, by the way, is abortion in your view murder or something “akin to it”?

  19. So Much For Subtlety

    Arnald – “I agree that legalisation has made it more likely that there are more abortions than before, but that’s still only a best guess because the backstreets hardly keep records.”

    My God. Monbiot has said something so dumb that even Arnald thinks it is wrong!

    Backstreet abortionists probably didn’t. But coroners probably did. A botched abortion is a hard thing to hide, and a dead body difficult to dispose of. We can be pretty sure every death was counted.

    Which means there were virtually none.

  20. But coroners probably did. A botched abortion is a hard thing to hide, and a dead body difficult to dispose of. We can be pretty sure every death was counted.

    Bollocks.

  21. So Much For Subtlety

    Theophrastus – “No, I’m not. Rather, I am recognising the moral pluralism of modern society on abortion. Barring an Islamic takeover, a consensus will never be reached on this matter in the foreseeable future. There is no alternative but to leave it to the individual conscience, particularly when the hard cases involve complex moral trade-offs.”

    Yes you are. You can say the majority of people are happy to leave it to individual decisions. But you cannot say as a matter of fact that it is a matter of individual conscience without refusing to accept any alternative point of view exists.

    Complex moral trade-offs, almost by definition, cannot be left to individuals.

    “Well, some people think ‘meat is murder’. Others think pest control is murder. And such folk think their moral beliefs should be enshrined in law”

    And if you want to have a discussion with them you have to acknowledge where they are coming from. You cannot have a discussion if you begin by saying meat is not murder.

  22. But we’re not talking botched abortions.

    Even then coroners wouldn’t record “botched abortion”. It would be something like blood loss, internal bleeding or septicaemia.

  23. And if you want to have a discussion with them you have to acknowledge where they are coming from. You cannot have a discussion if you begin by saying meat is not murder.

    Hang on. Who’s asking for the discussion? Not those who are happy with the status quo. You want the discussion because you want things changed. If you want to change things *you* need to engage with *them* – which would require *you* accepting *their* premises. Otherwise you’ll be ignored and the status quo will remain.

  24. Even then coroners wouldn’t record “botched abortion”. It would be something like blood loss, internal bleeding or septicaemia.

    Fucking hell, I’m in agreement with Arnald!

  25. So Much For Subtlety

    Tim Newman – “Buried them. Your faith in the accuracy of bureaucratic reporting is touching.”

    Someone finds a dead body, blood every where, perhaps part of a foetus protruding from the body, and they cover it up? They wash the body and hide the injuries? The entire family goes along with this? The examining doctor too? After all the authorities will want to know why an otherwise healthy young woman died.

    And they did this on a regular basis for thousands of corpses every year?

    That is absurd.

    Tim Newman – “Hang on. Who’s asking for the discussion?”

    Well not me actually.

    “which would require *you* accepting *their* premises. Otherwise you’ll be ignored and the status quo will remain.”

    It requires me to engage with them, not accept them. Certainly not pretending they have no premises at all.

    Tim Newman – “Fucking hell, I’m in agreement with Arnald!”

    Then it is time to re-think your priors. The idea that dozens of people in authority would conspire to cover up illegal abortions and the people who carried them out is bizarre.

    If women died, we would know.

  26. Theo – Well, some people think ‘meat is murder’. Others think pest control is murder. And such folk think their moral beliefs should be enshrined in law; but the moral consensus is that we leave such matters to the individual conscience (except for fox-hunting, of course), regulating as deemed appropriate.

    Because they’re animals, and because the vast majority of us aren’t the singer from The Smiths.

    But we do (rightly) punish murderers, torturers, rapists, child abusers and people who are cruel to animals.

    Our postwar moral consensus around abortion is no such thing. It’s just cowardice, deliberately turning a blind eye to evil. That’s why it’s usually couched in euphemistic language about “choice”. The truth is too ugly.

    Tim Newman says “Which is based on the premise that a foetus is akin to a human being. Given this is *the* bone of contention, and always has been, simply restating it doesn’t advance the debate or persuade anybody.”

    And from a dialectic perspective, he has a point.

    But… unborn children are human beings. It might not persuade anyone to say so, but it still needs saying. Stones are hard, water is wet, and burning tiny babes in the womb with chemicals, then slicing them up with medical implements is wrong.

  27. Someone finds a dead body

    No, you’re assuming women die in the hands of the abortionist. She doesn’t: she goes to the hospital with an injury/infection/whatever later and dies. Your prejudices have removed all common sense.

    It requires me to engage with them

    I suggest you try that, then.

  28. But… unborn children are human beings.

    I’m sorry, but this is not true in the minds of a lot of people. And unless you accept that, and engage on those terms, you’ll never change the status quo.

    And this, ladies and gents, is why the status quo isn’t changing and won’t change: those trying to get it changed go about it the entirely wrong way. Repeating the contentious points over and over and over won’t change a thing. Nobody’s mind will be changed. Good luck with trying, but you’ll fail.

  29. Smurfs

    You’re wrong. If you die of lung cancer, the coroners don’t put death by smoking. Even with “parts of foetus” it would be recorded as complications in pregnancy. If knitting needles were found, it would be accidental death by misadventure (or whatever that’s called now. Maybe even alcohol poisoning.

    “The idea that dozens of people in authority would conspire to cover up illegal abortions and the people who carried them out is bizarre”

    Yes it would be if it happened.

  30. So Much For Subtlety

    Tim Newman – “No, you’re assuming women die in the hands of the abortionist. She doesn’t: she goes to the hospital with an injury/infection/whatever later and dies. Your prejudices have removed all common sense.”

    I don’t see how that helps your case. She either leaves a baby corpse lying around somewhere for the authorities to find, or she brings it to the hospital. Or both. Pregnancy leaves visible signs. So do botched abortions. Everyone in the hospital is now involved in covering this up?

    This is just absurd.

  31. I don’t see how that helps your case.

    I know you don’t, because your prejudices have removed all common sense. But I’ve already said that.

    Still, good luck fighting the good fight. Go and see the “meat is murder” crowd for details on how successful it’ll be.

  32. So Much For Subtlety

    Tim Newman – “I’m sorry, but this is not true in the minds of a lot of people. And unless you accept that, and engage on those terms, you’ll never change the status quo.”

    Actually I am not sure that is true in the minds of a lot of people. I think that everyone accepts that the baby is a human being, or human-being-ish. The number of people who think of it as a cancer is small. There are just other reasons for supporting abortion. That is why they say things like “safe, legal and rare”. If they were honest about what they believed that “rare” would not be there.

    “Repeating the contentious points over and over and over won’t change a thing. Nobody’s mind will be changed. Good luck with trying, but you’ll fail.”

    Actually I disagree with this too. You don’t convince people by agreeing with them. You will never convince people of the benefits of free markets by praising socialism.

  33. You’re wrong. If you die of lung cancer, the coroners don’t put death by smoking. Even with “parts of foetus” it would be recorded as complications in pregnancy. If knitting needles were found, it would be accidental death by misadventure (or whatever that’s called now. Maybe even alcohol poisoning.

    Yup, Arnald has it again.

  34. “But coroners probably did. A botched abortion is a hard thing to hide, and a dead body difficult to dispose of. We can be pretty sure every death was counted.”

    Most deaths, if not all, from “back room” abortion were, notoriously so, from complications afterwards. Bleeding and infection.
    A coroner would most likely have noticed, but generally would have used terms that would have “protected the memory of the deceased” , especially when the lady in question had parents/family with some social clout, or when the coroner was simply….human..
    There’s a lot of ways you can say “systemic failure caused by post-operative infection” in Medicalese without referring to abortion as the primary cause.

    And a botched abortion is indeed a hard thing to hide, and coroners did notice, and generally ensured the real butchers were found and shut down quickly, while leaving the operations that did do a proper job “in peace” , because necessary evil, and stuff.
    You just simply can’t tell by the official records, because Sensitive Subject.

  35. So Much For Subtlety

    Tim Newman – “I know you don’t, because your prejudices have removed all common sense. But I’ve already said that.”

    You have no idea what my prejudices are. I have never actually stated a personal view on this subject. You are just assuming.

    Moreover your case at present is that if a young girl turned up to a hospital in 1900, with a knitting needle sticking out of her body and blood everywhere, every single person in the hospital would cover up what was a clear botched abortion and if said girl died, would lie on the death certificate. I don’t think I am the one with the problem of prejudices getting in the way of common sense.

    “Still, good luck fighting the good fight. Go and see the “meat is murder” crowd for details on how successful it’ll be.”

    Actually they are kind of winning.

  36. SMFS:

    But you cannot say as a matter of fact that it is a matter of individual conscience without refusing to accept any alternative point of view exists.

    I am saying that it needs to be left to the individual conscience precisely because alternative points of view exist!

    Complex moral trade-offs, almost by definition, cannot be left to individuals.

    You’ve lost me there. Your view of moral agency seems eccentric. It is precisely the complex moral trade-offs that have to be left to the individual conscience, because the law cannot foresee them or deal adequately with them when they occur.

    And if you want to have a discussion with them you have to acknowledge where they are coming from. You cannot have a discussion if you begin by saying meat is not murder.

    I can see where you are coming from on abortion, and I’m not wildly enthusiastic about abortion myself. However, I do think that at least some abortions can be justified. How many, how late and in what circumstances is a matter in my view of moral judgement and as such should largely be left to the individual. And what Tim Newman says above.

  37. Actually I am not sure that is true in the minds of a lot of people.

    Yes, I know you don’t. You simply can’t believe people don’t share your opinions. Yet, mysteriously, there is no substantial anti-abortion movement in the UK. It doesn’t come up at elections, and it is, for all intents and purposes, a non-issue. I can’t think of a single person that I know offline for whom current abortion laws are an issue.

    Actually I disagree with this too. You don’t convince people by agreeing with them. You will never convince people of the benefits of free markets by praising socialism.

    Hey, I didn’t say you shouldn’t keep trying. If this is what you wish to direct your efforts towards, good luck to you. But you’ll either be ignored or find yourself preaching to the crowd. A bit like the “meat is murder” lot.

  38. So Much For Subtlety

    Grikath – “A coroner would most likely have noticed, but generally would have used terms that would have “protected the memory of the deceased””

    You are projecting modern cowardice backwards on the past. What possible basis do you have to claim this? Abortionists were arrested and prosecuted. There is no reason to think that coroners regularly violated their oaths and professional ethics to cover up murder.

    “You just simply can’t tell by the official records, because Sensitive Subject.”

    And you know this because ….. ?

  39. Tim Newman – I’m sorry, but this is not true in the minds of a lot of people. And unless you accept that, and engage on those terms, you’ll never change the status quo.

    I dunno. Most people in 1800 probably thought slavery was OK, or just didn’t think about it.

    Anyway, the only thing I can think of is to tell the truth.

    And this, ladies and gents, is why the status quo isn’t changing and won’t change

    It’ll change, one way or t’other. We can’t afford to flush 200,000 English babies down the toilet every year forever. The demographic maths don’t support it.

  40. You have no idea what my prejudices are.

    Okay:

    But we don’t have to accept the foetus’ killing is a death. Just that it is something akin to a human being and so killing it is something akin to murder.

    That’s your own view, not objective fact. Prejudices, if you will.

  41. So Much For Subtlety

    Theophrastus – “I am saying that it needs to be left to the individual conscience precisely because alternative points of view exist!”

    Alternative points of view now exist on slavery and rape. I hope you are not advising the Home Office. If this is what you think, say it. Don’t say that people opposed to abortion do not actually believe what they believe.

    “It is precisely the complex moral trade-offs that have to be left to the individual conscience, because the law cannot foresee them or deal adequately with them when they occur.”

    If they are complex, they are unlikely to be dealt with well by individuals. That is why we have laws.

    Tim Newman – “Yes, I know you don’t. You simply can’t believe people don’t share your opinions.”

    Now you are just being petty as well as annoying. You have no idea what I think. And I have never once claimed most people oppose abortion. I am well aware of the figures. But I also notice what people do. They may well support abortion, or not want to think about it, and yet still be very uncomfortable with it. It is just not the case that most supporters of abortion think the foetus is not close to human. That is why they get so emotional about it.

    “Yet, mysteriously, there is no substantial anti-abortion movement in the UK.”

    Which is irrelevant. That has nothing to do with what I said.

    “It doesn’t come up at elections, and it is, for all intents and purposes, a non-issue.”

    Like capital punishment it is one of those issues our Elders and Betters have decided we cannot have. So they refuse to discuss it at elections. That says nothing about what would happen if it was discussed. Most people are happy to go along with the status quo.

    The Meat is Murder crowd dominate policy on animal testing. They are nuts but they are winning.

  42. Most people in 1800 probably thought slavery was OK, or just didn’t think about it.

    I very much doubt that. According to Wiki:

    By 1783, an anti-slavery movement to abolish the slave trade throughout the Empire had begun among the British public.

  43. So Much For Subtlety

    Tim Newman – “That’s your own view, not objective fact. Prejudices, if you will.”

    Which is odd because I did not say it was my view. You keep prejudging what I do believe and it is annoying.

    If the anti-slavery movement started in 1793 then almost by definition it was a minority view in 1800.

  44. SMFS – Like capital punishment it is one of those issues our Elders and Betters have decided we cannot have. So they refuse to discuss it at elections. That says nothing about what would happen if it was discussed. Most people are happy to go along with the status quo.

    This.

    Steele’s abortion bill wasn’t passed because of some groundswell of popular opinion.

  45. So Much For Subtlety

    Tim Newman – “Why yes. Yes they are. Why would that be, I wonder?”

    I have no idea. What does it matter?

  46. Which is odd because I did not say it was my view

    I’m supposed to assume you are not stating your own views in your writings? Okay, I’ll bear that in mind.

    If the anti-slavery movement started in 1793 then almost by definition it was a minority view in 1800.

    Okay. From Wiki:

    In 1808, Parliament passed the Slave Trade Act of 1807, which outlawed the slave trade, but not slavery itself.

    Good luck getting abortions restricted by 2025.

  47. SMFS

    “The Meat is Murder crowd dominate policy on animal testing.”

    That’s wrong too. The life science corps dominate the policies on animal testing.

  48. So Much For Subtlety

    Tim Newman – “I’m supposed to assume you are not stating your own views in your writings? Okay, I’ll bear that in mind.”

    You can assume what you like. If I say something is what I believe then I believe it. If I don’t, I don’t.

    You keep moving away from the topic and towards me.

    “Good luck getting abortions restricted by 2025.”

    When I take the slightest step towards changing the law, I will let you know. However a law passed to increase the value of slave owners slaves is not really a good parallel is it?

    Arnald – “That’s wrong too. The life science corps dominate the policies on animal testing.”

    The Testers have not won on any issue in recent times. The Animal Rights protesters have not got all that they want, but the law has consistently moved their way. It is now much harder to test on animals and the regulations vastly tougher. People now move to the US to avoid them.

  49. -SMFS

    “And you know this because ….. ?”

    Poetically put, the anecdotal bit amounts to being born into a family of “Nurses, begotten by Nurses”.
    They talk, and sometimes they need to.. unload.. You get to hear Things.

    The non-anecdotal part has to do with starting out in Life as a biologist, with a specialisation in developmental biology.
    The study of What Can Go Wrong, and Why, does tend to put you into contact with a lot of research, academic or not, on the subject.
    Especially given that the “medical” arm of my chosen subject deals with the same question in humans, and puts you into contact with the whole coroner business to begin with.

    My knowledge may not be first-hand, but it’s pretty close to the fire.

  50. Tim Newman: “I’m sorry, but this is not true in the minds of a lot of people. And unless you accept that, and engage on those terms, you’ll never change the status quo.”

    Bruce Jenner is a woman in the minds of a lot of people. I’m not going to accept that, or engage on those terms, because he’s a bloke.

  51. Dunno if any of you chaps watched the new Battlestar Galactica series a few years back, but it had an interesting subplot on abortion at one point.

    The human race was down to about 50,000 survivors, so the (mooshy liberal) lady president was forced to outlaw abortion, even though it offended her proggy principles.

    So we have a declining native population. Birth rates are in the toilet. We’re rapidly being overtaken by Islamic immigrants so they can pay for our pensions. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

    Anybody want to bet we will still permit 200,000 abortions a year by the middle of this century?

    Nah. The thing about contra-survival behaviours is that they don’t survive. This is like someone sawing at his own jugular, insisting he likes it and will always saw at his own jugular, and boo-sucks to you if you disagree.

    No, he won’t.

  52. Moreover your case at present is that if a young girl turned up to a hospital in 1900, with a knitting needle sticking out of her body and blood everywhere, every single person in the hospital would cover up what was a clear botched abortion and if said girl died, would lie on the death certificate.

    That’s not his case and you know it.

  53. I’m not massively interested in the abortion debate (I’d prefer abortion not to happen) but can anyone point me in the diretion of any evidence as to the number of backstreet abortions/maternal deaths from prior to the legalisation?

  54. SMFS

    Alternative points of view now exist on slavery and rape…. .

    Very, very few people in the UK today believe that slavery or rape can ever be justified, whereas opponents and proponents of abortion are quite numerous. In a democracy, you cannot easily outlaw something that a majority or significant minority approves of (or even prefers to tolerate) – at least not without criminalising large numbers of otherwise law-abiding citizens.

    Don’t say that people opposed to abortion do not actually believe what they believe.

    I am not saying that.

    If they are complex, they are unlikely to be dealt with well by individuals. That is why we have laws.

    If they are complex, the law will struggle to deal with them, because a law cannot anticipate each and every hard case and allow for it accordingly. And, in any case, experts (legal or gynaecological) do not have superior moral judgement. In general, the law is there to balance competing interests, not to solve moral dilemmas.

  55. Steve

    …unborn children are human beings. It might not persuade anyone to say so, but it still needs saying. Stones are hard, water is wet, and burning tiny babes in the womb with chemicals, then slicing them up with medical implements is wrong.

    That unborn children are human beings is exactly what is under dispute.

    There are three basic positions on abortion:

    1. Only the mother has rights: the conceptus/foetus/baby has none.

    2. Only the conceptus/foetus/baby has rights: the mother has none in respect of what is in her womb.

    3. The conceptus is not a human being, but a blueprint for a human being (just as an acorn is a blueprint for an oak tree). The foetus/baby is a potential but not actual human being until it can survive outside the womb (with technological assistance). As a blueprint for a human being, or as a potential human being, the conceptus/foetus/baby has rights which increase as it develops, though those rights can be outweighed by the rights of the mother (in what circumstances and on what grounds depends on the specifics of particular legislation).

    (1) implies that all elective terminations are justified. (2) implies that no termination could ever be justified. (3) implies that some terminations can be justified in terms of being the lesser of two evils. And (3) seems to me to be the most rational and humane principle of the three available.

  56. When I take the slightest step towards changing the law, I will let you know.

    Oh, please do!

    The Animal Rights protesters have not got all that they want, but the law has consistently moved their way. It is now much harder to test on animals and the regulations vastly tougher. People now move to the US to avoid them.

    You appear to be saying that the “meat is murder” crowd have been more successful than the anti-abortion crowd. I wonder which lesson you’re going to take away from this?

  57. I loathe these endless attempts to drag into British politics issues that are a big deal in American politics. As far as I can tell, abortion law is just not a big issue here. True, abortion on demand was introduced knowingly by people who lied and said it wouldn’t be abortion on demand, but there you are. It’s done now.

  58. Presumably mainly due to the unavailability of antibiotics in the “back streets”, a problem that is unlikely ever to recur.

    In fact, as hospitals fill up with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, maybe DIY abortions will become relatively safer.

  59. SJW

    Apologies for not reading your link, bandwidth reasons, but was there any attempt to assess deaths from those rumoured techniques such as drinking large amounts of gin in hot baths?

  60. Interesting as the comments above are, I think you miss the wider implication of Tim’s post.

    If laws don’t change behaviour, what’s the point of laws.

    Or as Lord Stanley put it: We hang men who steal horses, not for stealing horses, but so that horses don’t get stolen.

  61. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/04/claim-of-800-childrens-bodies-buried-at-irish-home-for-unwed-mothers

    That would be an average of 22 a year at one small ‘home for unwed mothers’ in Ireland. Although it’s possible some died of other causes, it’s hard to understand why they would have been buried in secret if the reason for their deaths was one that could be acknowledged.

    Those Catholic nuns, eh?

    I’ve heard the stories from older relatives, too. A lot of them were smothered at birth, rather than being aborted. But I don’t think anyone knows how many, what with it being such a shameful secret. Midwives didn’t openly talk about it.

  62. Well the argument of its practiced by a significant number of people and would be safer for all concerned if it was regulated and controlled applies to prostituition and drugs as equally as to abortions.
    While Canada is exploring drug legislation under the new government its response to the Supreme Court overturning the prostitution laws was to move prosecution to the buyer not the seller.

  63. diogenes: I haven’t got the reports, and I don’t know the methodology (there’s some information on wiki). I guess the enquiries asked hospitals and GPs to report any deaths which appeared to be related to pregnancy, and investigated them.

    I suppose they’ll have missed some cases. In particular, there’s a row in the table I linked to for deaths following “spontaneous abortion” which falls off dramatically after 1967.

  64. It is interesting that all the comments seem only concern with individuals’
    The wealth and strength of the nation seem to be of little interest.
    No babies equals demograhic death.
    Impoirting breeders brings cultural death even with the governmenmt putting its boot on free speech.

  65. No babies equals demograhic death.

    I think we’d need to consider what percentage of aborted babies would otherwise go on to be net contributors to the nation’s wellbeing first.

    But it’s a valid point.

  66. Coercion is illibertarian, incentives are better. So what we need is a negative wealth tax, per child, to encourage rich people to have more children.

    Say 1% of net UK assets each year for each child. All those in favour?

  67. He is possibly referring to this global study which compared rates in countries where abortion is legal and illegal, and did find there was no association:

    http://mobile.nytimes.com/2007/10/12/world/12abortion.html?_r=0

    And re this:

    “I suppose they’ll have missed some cases. In particular, there’s a row in the table I linked to for deaths following “spontaneous abortion” which falls off dramatically after 1967.”

    Well, for those who believe ‘life’ begins at conception, something like half to two thirds of all conceptions result in spontaneous abortion, which is something like an order of magnitude more than induced abortion, and for that matter just about anything else that kills ‘chidren’.

    In other words, to those people, abortion that occurs naturally should be the biggest public health emergency of all time, having killed more people than have ever been born. Yet apparently nobody seems interested in doing anything about it. You would think somebody would at least be running a marathon or setting up a justgiving page about it.

  68. Ah I see he is referring to later studies making a similar point.

    Re this:

    “We really were not having 200,000 back street abortions a year in the 1950s.”

    We weren’t having 200,000 legal induced abortions in 1967 or 1968 or indeed in 1971 either. Has abortion got nearly twice as legal since, or does something else account for it maybe?

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