On 28th April 1968, the 1967 Abortion Act became law in England, Scotland, and Wales.
For the twelve years before the Act, abortion was the leading cause of maternal mortality in England and Wales. The first Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths in 1952-54 reported 153 deaths from abortion, which was “procured .. by the woman herself in 58 instances.” The terminal event in 50% of illegal cases was sepsis but in 25% it was air embolus from “the injection under pressure of some fluid, nearly always soapy water, into the cervix or into the vagina.” The Report commented that most of the women were “mothers of families”. After 1968 maternal deaths from illegal abortion fell slowly but did not disappear until 1982.
This Saturday 28th April a different kind of organisation from the RCOG
will mark the Abortion Act becoming law: SPUC plan to hold a “kerbside protest” in cities across the UK, including Edinburgh.
The RCOG works to save the lives of both women and babies: SPUC tells lies.
No one would want the bad old days of death by illegal abortion to return. Whatever your personal view on abortion, it is a good thing any woman or girl who needs an abortion can have it legally and safely: and the decision as to whether she needs the abortion is between her and her doctors, no one else – it’s certainly not Andrew Lansley‘s right to decide for her. (Lansley recently interrupted the work of the Care Quality Commission to have them go on a prolife mission to inspect clinics that provide abortions.)
What SPUC (and other prolife organisations that have the ear of the Tory government in Westminister) claim to believe is that abortion can be prevented by telling teenagers not to have sex – the so-called “abstinence education” system.
Years of federally-funded trial in the US have proved that educating children about sex by offering chewed food in a glass of water and telling dubious stories about wolf-killing is no substitute for factual information about safe sex and contraception: the abortion and STD rate among teenagers went up whenever their only formal source of information about sex was an abstinence-only programme.
STUC have got just one idea: that the problems of teenage STDs, abortion, and pregnancy can all be solved by discouraging teenagers from using condoms or going on the Pill, telling appalling lies about abortion, and instructing teenagers they shouldn’t have sex till they’re married. (SPUC in 2011 campaigning to have teenagers told nothing about sex at all because if they’re not told, they won’t want to have sex. Right.)
Yes, that’ll work.
Cordelia: So does looking at guns really make girls wanna have sex? That’s scary.
Xander: Yeah, I guess.
Cordelia: Well, does looking at guns make you wanna have sex?
Xander: I’m 17. Looking at linoleum makes me wanna have sex. (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 2.4 “Innocence”)
(In “Innocence”, Buffy has sex with her boyfriend, who dumps her afterwards and behaves cruelly towards her, telling her that it’s her fault for having sex with him. (Admittedly he does this, in BtVS, because he’s a centuries-old vampire who has just become soulless and evil.) SPUC’s resolution to this story is to instruct all teenagers to avoid sex because bad things happen: we don’t need to be vampire-slayers to say that a better resolution is to provide teenagers with trustworthy information and reliable support and affection.)
SPUC isn’t just an anti-abortion group. They wouldn’t be so problematic if they were. They tell very harmful lies about abortion, including claims that it “causes breast cancer”. They oppose abortion prevention. Even Christian AID, which could hardly be described as “pro-abortion”, has come under fire from SPUC because Christian AID supports preventing abortions, STDs, and unwanted pregnancies, all part of its primary mission against poverty and injustice: and while Christian AID won’t fund abortion provision, they also won’t condemn women for choosing abortion. That’s not acceptable to SPUC.
While SPUC talks largely about being against abortion, an organisation opposed to abortion would work to minimise the number of abortions. As the RCOG reminds us – and as practical evidence from Germany and the Netherlands shows -
Abortion numbers, however, rose steadily, helped by media “pill scares”, and reached 193,700 in 2006. The current British rates – 18.3/1000 in England and Wales and 12.4/1000 in Scotland – are similar to those in many Western European countries, but higher than those in Germany (7.6) and the Netherlands (6.5) and slightly lower than those in the USA (20.9) and Australia (19.7).
the way to prevent abortions is to prevent unwanted pregancies, and the way to do that is to provide good sex and relationships education and to encourage contraception use.
Whereas SPUC’s opposition to abortion prevention is clarified by their opposition to contraception – and the shakiness of their cause is illuminated by their opposition to clear, accurate, and honest information in schools and elsewhere.
To oppose this ugly organisation and their lies, join us on Saturday 28th April for 11am to 1pm in support of a woman’s right to make her own decisions about contraception, pregnancy, and abortion.
Update: My blogpost at the demo!
Basic common sense tells us that the best way to prevent abortion is to provide comprehensive sex education and access to contraception.
SPUC are against that.