Lyall Duff thought he’d made his Facebook profile private. The lesson everyone should take from the Telegraph’s “investigative journalism” – finding a few ranty sweary posts and quoting or partially quoting them – is that Facebook is never reliably private.
The SNP have suspended Lyall Duff, but it is too late to take his name off the ballot for Murdostoun ward in North Lanarkshire: the Telegraph waited to disclose Lyall Duff’s posts until after the deadline precisely so that the SNP’s possibilities for damage limitation would be minimal. This will benefit Scottish Labour; they won a majority on North Lanarkshire council in 2007, and half of the seats in the Murdostoun ward. The Telegraph ran another story this morning with an opening:
Labour questioned why the SNP was prepared to pass new legislation cracking down on sectarianism in football matches but has so far refused to expel Lyall Duff. They accused the First Minister of crying “crocodile tears” over the affair.
Why are the Telegraph runing a press campaign to help Scottish Labour win one more seat in a local authority ward in North Lanarkshire?
The Telegraph repeated – and the Scotsman, the Herald, and Wishaw Press have reiterated – a straightforward lie about the subject of Duff’s 19th January rant, about the midwives at Glasgow Southern General who didn’t want to have to care for patients who were in their ward because they were having or had had an abortion.
The lie was that the midwives had refused to perform abortions.
The right of medical staff to refuse to perform an abortion is protected by the 1967 Act and by considerable case law since. The midwives, Mary Doogan and Concepta Wood, were taking their employers to court because they believed as Catholics they were entitled to refuse to provide care to patients who were having abortions.
Let me just reiterate that. NHS staff thought they should be legally entitled to refuse care to patients based on their own moral judgement of the reason the patient needed care.
A patient on a ward needs care.
It is not up to the ward staff to pass moral judgements on any of their patients.
But it is a consistent claim by the prolife movement that medical staff should be allowed to deny care to patients. That moral judgement that the midwives thought they should be allowed to make, giving better care to one patient over another based on moral judgement not patient need, is actually now backed by law in the US.
In July 2006, Amnesty International adopted a policy on the rights of women and men to make informed decisions about sex and reproduction free from coercion, discrimination and violence – which policy led to the Catholic Church officially declaring it would no longer support Amnesty International. This policy which the Vatican found intolerable is:
- Provide women and men with full information on sexual and reproductive health;
- Repeal laws criminalising abortion;
- Ensure that any woman who suffers complications from an abortion will have access to the medical services she needs, whether she obtained the abortion legally or illegally;
- Ensure access to abortion services to any woman who becomes pregnant as the result of rape, sexual assault or incest, or where a pregnancy poses a risk to a woman’s life or a grave risk to her health.
Not one item of that policy is acceptable to the Catholic Church or to cheap-work conservatives. The midwives who claimed their faith shouldn’t require them to provide care to abortion patients were objecting to the idea that, post-abortion, a woman should have access to the medical services she needs.
The vast majority of abortions worldwide take place in the first trimester and are simple medical or minor surgical procedures. A woman who has discovered she’s pregnant and knows right away that she needs an abortion will obviously want to have an abortion as soon as possible. Delays caused by prolife GPs, parental opposition, or ignorance should be as strongly opposed as the delays caused by having to borrow money and travel from Ireland to mainland-UK as is required by the Irish policy of exporting abortions. But the majority of mid to late term abortions that may require hospital care are carried out because of health complications either for the woman or for the fetus.
Although prolifers will often claim they don’t object to those kind of abortions, where a woman has “good cause”, they only object to women “just deciding” they don’t want a baby, as a practical matter of fact prolife campaigns in the UK and elsewhere have generally focussed on late abortions.
Two reasons for this:
- The later an abortion is, the more likely a woman is to be visibly pregnant – so more dramatic images.
- Professional healthcare is the vulnerable supply-line which is easiest for prolife activists to attack, and the later the abortion the more medical help a patient needs.
That is why the Telegraph is running a campaign to support Labour in North Lanarkshire: as part of their and the Tories’ prolife campaign to attack healthcare for women, and through that campaign, to attack the universal care of the NHS.
The NHS, free at point of access, should be there for everyone.
No one – not Andrew Lansley, who ordered the Care Quality Commission away from their regular duties for a sudden mass inspection of all clinics providing abortions; not Anne Milton, who spoke in support of enforcing weeks of delay on women who’ve decided to have an abortion (the Dorries amendment): not David Cameron, who thinks women shouldn’t be allowed to have abortions after 20 weeks (ecclampsia, a leading cause of death for women in countries with prolife legislation, generally develops after 20 weeks and the only way to save the woman’s life is for her to have an abortion): not Nadine Dorries or Rick Santorum or any of the other blethering meddlesome prolife campaigners – no one should be allowed to stand in judgement on a patient in a NHS hospital and declare them morally undeserving of proper care.
The Telegraph claim that they’ve heard from Scottish Labour denouncing Lyall Duff and calling his comments “sectarian”. There’s no evidence been shown that Duff’s comments were sectarian. The Catholic Church opposes access to abortion, the right to use contraception, the war in Iraq, torture, the death penalty, gay adoption, and equal marriage. Agree or disagree with any of these positions on its merits: simple opposition, no matter how passionately (or how swearily) expressed, does not equate to sectarian bigotry.
Sectarianism is a serious charge in Scottish politics. The Telegraph have raised it againt Lyall Duff, but have presented no evidence to back up their charge. They should produce evidence or apologise and withdraw.
The Telegraph have come in on Labour’s side in this local authority election, hoping to get Labour’s partisan support against Lyall Duff and for the Telegraph’s prolife campaign.
The Scottish Labour candidates in North Lanarkshire, and Labour as a party, should make a clear statement in support of the principle that every woman is entitled to the NHS, and that they agree with the court decision that these midwives were just plain wrong to think their faith entitled them to deny care to patients.
Because the core issue here isn’t one candidate getting sweary on his Facebook profile, or which party is going to win control of North Lanarkshire on 3rd May, or which party in Scotland loses the “most disgusting abuse by a candidate” contest.
The NHS is for everyone.
That’s what the Telegraph is against.
That’s what the SNP and Labour should unite to support.
Because if they can’t unite to support the NHS, what are they for and is there any reason we should vote for either one?