32 Comments on “Labour’s Deputy Leader Whipped Abortion Vote

  1. I still don’t concede. You are simply not following through the logicality of your argument, arbitrarily choosing a cut-off point where medics should support “non-viable” human lives.

  2. Peter-

    “You are simply not following through the logicality of your argument, arbitrarily choosing a cut-off point where medics should support “non-viable” human lives”.

    I’ve explained all of this across various comments, but I’ll consolidate them now.

    As I said, there is nothing “arbitrary” about the upper limit for abortions. It was set there based on scientific and medical opinions, the consensus of which is that it should still remain there. According to experts in the field, 24 weeks is the limit beyond which foetuses stand the best chance of surviving. I have explained that the only reason those that are born before that threshold even survive is thanks to access to advanced neonatal care, and foreknowledge of the premature birth that gives doctors the opportunity to “force” the growth of the foetus as much as possible. Even immediately after 24 weeks, the chances of survival are still low, but this is where the doctors and scientists have set the limit. Not based on obscure theology, but on their expertise and understanding of pregnancy and foetal development in the real world.

    I have no issue with medical intervention being undertaken prior to 24 weeks if it is the woman’s intention to keep it. You haven’t heard me arguing against foetal surgery, have you?

    My argument deals with this specific area, around the limit of viability. It does not extend beyond birth, to newborn children. The situations are not the same, nor are the issues involved.

    My position has always been that, up to 24 weeks, given what we know about foetal development, the woman’s right to choose wins out. Beyond that threshold, the child’s right then comes into consideration, except in very specific circumstances that I have mentioned: the mother’s life being in jeopardy, severe developmental disability, rape, and others.

    As far as I can see there is nothing inconsistent about my argument.

  3. Your argument is illogical. You would have one surgeon working desperately to save a baby’s life in one operating theatre, while in the neighbouring one he would be murdering a child of the same age, all because of what the mother wants. Why is one life more valuable than another? Your argument seems to be “because the mothers chooses it to be”. That’s got nothing to do with 24 weeks and everything to do with selfish concerns.

  4. I’m aware that this is rather cutting across the debate on this thread, but nonetheless would like to ask you both, if you’re willing to answer, about your views on pacifism (or should I say ‘waging peace’?). What’s behind that is partly me thinking that it would be consistent to be passionately against abortion, and also a pacifist – because the absolute respect for and valuing of life would be at the heart of both positions. Yet (and I know this is a bit crude and stereotypical, but I think there’s some truth in it), often those who are strongly against abortion aren’t pacifists by any means, while those who are pro-choice are often anti-war or anti-military. I’m not trying to imply that either of you fit those boxes by the way. Your post on May 22nd, Peter, about how the abortion vote split along party lines, was interesting – it could be illuminating to compare that with voting on renewal of Trident, say (…but was that voted on? My ignorance coming thru…).

    (Answering my own question – I attend Quaker meeting and with several caveats would say I am a pacifist… some of the caveats would be around the fact that I don’t have watertight answers to the obvious or typical questions people challenge pacifists with, and around the fact that I’m very bad at dealing with my own anger. In that sense and others I’m not a non-violent person and I think non-violence is difficult. I’m also aware that there’s a kind of colourless, bloodless ‘pacifism’ which seems to be based on denied anger and so has no energy to it – and I think some of that applies to me. I take heart from the example of such as George Macleod [Iona Community founder]though – a man who was a passionate, vigorous, peacebuilder and never a ‘passivist’ (and indeed, in early life, a soldier). On abortion, I find it difficult to give a clear-cut view – I realise this could be challenged given what I said about consistency above. That said, I was almost persuaded that a reduction from 24 weeks would be right, but not entirely as I note that none of the relevant Royal Colleges seemed to feel the evidence warranted this. I’m a bit inadequate when it comes to debate about abortion – though that could be a cop-out I know.)
    Scuse the lack of relevance though… :)
    in friendship, Blair

  5. I was greatly saddened to see the 20-week vote fail, and if the reported behaviour of Labour MPs is as described then that is deeply unfortunate to say the least.

    However, I am equally concerned by the politicising of the issue from the Conservative perspective. If abortion becomes an issue on which people divide down party lines (as has happened to a large extent in the US) then I think the lesson of the US is that that reduces the prospect of a meaningful reduction in the numbers of abortions, because it reduces the likelihood of cross-party consensus on a change. Labour MPs voting for a reduction become not only traitors to the “sisterhood” but traitors to their party.

    To put it cynically, it has suited the Republican Party in the US to be seen as the party that is “anti-abortion” – thus hoovering up the votes of evangelical Christians – while doing pretty well nothing of any real effectiveness to reduce the number of abortions in practice. It would be a shame to see the Conservatives go down the same path. I say this as someone who is anti-abortion but not a Conservative.

    Sadly, the fact is that at the moment abortion does not swing many votes as an issue, and a party that scrapped abortion would lose far more votes than it would gain. I wish that were not the case, and hope and pray that one day soon the opposite will be true. But in the meantime it would be harmful both to the anti-abortion cause and the political discourse of this country for abortion to become an issue on which one party “dog-whistles” a small but useful section of the electorate, thus poisoning the issue as a subject for cross-party campaign while ensuring that little or no real progress is made.

    If the Conservatives put 20 weeks in their next manifesto, call me. But until then I remain sceptical, though without taking anything away from Nadine Dorries’ admirable campaign.

  6. Hi Blair,

    I’m not a pacifist because I read Psalm 82 and I recognise that to defend the cause of the weak and fatherless sometimes involves removing those who think they are “gods”.

  7. Peter-

    “Your argument is illogical. You would have one surgeon working desperately to save a baby’s life in one operating theatre, while in the neighbouring one he would be murdering a child of the same age, all because of what the mother wants. Why is one life more valuable than another? Your argument seems to be “because the mothers chooses it to be”. That’s got nothing to do with 24 weeks and everything to do with selfish concerns”.

    My argument is not illogical, and simply claiming that it is is insufficient. It is not illogical to say that, before the limit of viability, the woman’s right to choose should win out. Past that point, unless there are the specific circumstances I mentioned above, the child’s right wins out, although the woman’s are still considered of course.

    Different women want different things. If a woman decides she does not want to have a baby, who are we to say that she must have it? You constantly refer to the right of the woman as being little more than “selfish concerns”, which strikes me as judgemental and condescending. The decision to abort is often the hardest choice a woman will have to make. I would say that it is more selfish to attempt to impose your views on her, especially when those views are fuelled by obscure theological reasoning and religious beliefs origniating from the Bronze Age. The world has moved on since then.

  8. Blair-

    I’m not a pacifist either. I suppose I’m anti-war but recognise that sometimes military action may be necessary, but only as a last resort (if that makes any sense!).

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