Category Archives: Women

Abortion and human rights at Holyrood

Vigil for Savita HalappanavarYesterday, in anticipation of abortion law being devolved to Holyrood, a familiar coalition launched.

They’re SPUC Scotland and CARE Scotland; also three religious bodies, the Catholic Church in Scotland, the Free Church of Scotland, and the Scottish Muslim Council; and two purely anti-choice groups: the Abortion Recovery Care and Helpline (ARCH), Cardinal Winning’s Pro-life initiative.

Anyone who followed the campaign to lift the ban on same-sex marriage in Scotland will know what the organisations in this coalition are about. (SPUC and CARE on same-sex marriage.)

John Deighan, who campaigned against same-sex marriage as the Parliamentary Officer for the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, became the chief executive of SPUC Scotland in April 2015. The Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, also a vicious campaigner against same-sex marriage, said then:

“John has provided dedicated and energetic service to the church in Scotland for sixteen years and we wish him well in his new role. His ability to skilfully analyse political development and track legislative changes has been immensely helpful to the Bishops’ Conference. The links between the church and the SPUC in Scotland are already strong, but they will be strengthened and renewed as a result of John’s appointment.”

Many, if not most, Catholics, Muslims, and Presbyterians fully support a woman’s right to make her own decisions about terminating or continuing her pregnancy: just as many Catholics, Muslims, and Presbyterians supported the right of same-sex couples to legally wed and receive the same rights, responsibilities, and benefits as mixed-sex couples. That the leadership of these religious bodies sees fit to campaign against human rights in Scotland, shouldn’t smear all the adherents of these religions as against human rights.
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Sex work and Amnesty

Amnesty International: In Solidarity, Uphold Human RightsOne of the commonest distortions of the resolution Amnesty International voted on this August is that Amnesty want to make sex work a human right.

What Amnesty International resolved to do

develop a policy that supports the full decriminalization of all aspects of consensual sex work. The policy will also call on states to ensure that sex workers enjoy full and equal legal protection from exploitation, trafficking and violence.

I’d say this distortion from “protect the human rights of sex workers” to “sex work is a human right” was bizarre, except that I have seen similar distortions before, when Amnesty finally agreed that in a very limited set of circumstances (such as pregnancy caused by rape, especially in a war zone) they would treat access to abortion as a human right, and that they would treat healthcare – medical support of a girl or a woman who’s had an illegal abortion and needs treatment – as a human right. That got distorted too.

So, Amnesty International are taking the position that sex work should be decriminalised, in order to protect the human rights of sex workers.
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Filed under Human Rights, Police, Poverty, Women

Susan Rae: Leith Walk and Hawick Riding

Susan Rae Leith WalkComfy in Susan Rae’s tiny sitting-room, in her flat at the top of Shrubhill, with a cup of tea, I ask her “So why did you move to Edinburgh from the Borders?” I knew she’d moved here seven years ago.

An American once told me, exasperated, “When I ask why you guys always say ‘Well, four hundred years ago – ‘”

This is of course quite untrue. Sometimes, it’s five hundred years ago.
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Filed under Elections, Historic Scotland, Politics, Scottish Politics, Women

Fate of the Third Child

Approved and Unapproved FamiliesFrom 7th April 2017, parents claiming child tax credit will be limited to claiming it for two children only. This is George Osborne’s latest flashy scheme for punishing low-income families in a pretence of “saving money”.

Liz Kendall openly supports this: Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper decline to oppose it (Cooper says she’ll “fight” it but that didn’t extend to voting against it in the Commons). They know that 50% of people who voted Labour in May 2015 support the two-child rule, and Burnham and Cooper aren’t about to try to stick their heads over the parapet and say it’s wrong to do so.

I wrote a few weeks ago why I think this policy is wrong, but this post is about the people who are blithely sure this won’t really affect children of low-income families, and why they haven’t thought it through.

What this policy is really for is to push the idea of the feckless poor, and especially, feckless women who have children without thinking of the consequences. (Iain Duncan Smith and his wife Betsy Fremantle have four children, but that’s OK, because Iain Duncan Smith has a huge salary and Betsy Fremantle is wealthy in her own right.)
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Filed under Children, Poverty, Women

Chutzpah: Julian Assange

It surely cannot be the case that Assange can rely on his own refusal to go to Sweden to escape answering the allegations. However, this does seem to be the case.

It would seem that, in the circumstances, any charge will require an investigation to close; and, in turn, for an investigation to close requires there to be an interview with the suspect. David Allen Green, lawyer & legal blogger

Leo Rosten in The Joys of Yiddish defines chutzpah as

“gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible ‘guts’, presumption plus arrogance such as no other word and no other language can do justice to”.

Famously, Rosten defines the term chutzpah as

“that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan”.

Julian AssangeThe Oxford English Dictionary will need to add a new definition to chutzpah: Julian Assange.

In Swedish legal procedure, to be charged with a crime you have to be interviewed by the police. Julian Assange has now permanently evaded being charged with sexual assault in Sweden by the following series of actions.

First, Assange left Sweden.

Julian Assange had applied for residency in Sweden on 18th August 2010. On 31st August 2010 he was questioned by the police and told of the accusations: the investigation was re-opened. Assange left Sweden on 27th September 2010, and went to the UK. He did not return. On 18th October 2010, the Swedish Migration Board denied Assange a residency permit: Assange was still in the UK.

On 18th November 2010, the Stockholm District Court approved a request to detain Julian Assange for “questioning on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion”. Marianne Nye, the Swedish Director of Prosecution, told the court that Assange he has “not been available for questioning”.
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Filed under Unanswerable Questions, Women

Project Truth: SPUC off

Is going swimming in natural water (that is, in a river or a lake or the sea, not a swimming-pool) a particularly dangerous thing to do? Between 2008-2010, 160 people died of drowning in natural water.

We don’t think of pregnancy as being a particularly dangerous undertaking in the UK. But between 2008-2010 147 people died of their pregnancy and/or childbirth.

(Between 2006-2008, 261 people died of “causes directly or indirectly related to their pregnancies”: the mortality rate for pregnancy in the UK 2006-2008 was 11.39 per 100,000 maternities and still declining.)

Pregnancy may be regarded as about as dangerous as going for a swim in open water. Most healthy adults who go for a swim in natural water survive the experience – even if they accidentally fall in. Nothing would justify pushing someone into deep water without knowing or caring if they could swim: not even if they survived. Anyone offered the experience of a swim in natural water should have a right to say “no thanks”, or to change their mind and go back to shore. Any organised swim across open water ought to include rescue boats to pull people aboard if they change their minds, for any reason or none.

Most people in Scotland agree: the same applies to pregnancy. Even if most healthy adults could survive a forced pregnancy, nothing would justify pushing a girl or a woman to have a baby against her will, her conscience, or her judgement. And anyone can decide for herself that her pregnancy needs to be terminated: no one should be denied rescue from an unwanted or unsafe pregnancy.
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Filed under Healthcare, Human Rights, Poverty, Women

Prolife parliamentary procedure

Extend the 1967 Abortion ActThis afternoon in Westminster, MPs will debate the last stage of the Scotland Bill before the third reading and voting to pass the Bill to the House of Lords.

One of the recent amendments added to the Bill is from Fiona Bruce, a Conservative MP from an English constituency.

In the House of Commons there is an unfortunate concatenation of MPs who seek to ensure that UK healthcare outsources safe legal abortion overseas, and to subject women who cannot afford to travel to a forced pregnancy. Their excuse for doing so is that a human fetus is protected by “the sanctity of human life”, though a pregnant woman is apparently not so protected.

Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton, is a member of this group and was the proposer of the last-minute amendment to the Serious Crimes Act which would have ensured doctors were banned from allowing an abortion if the abortion was sex-selective. This significant change to the 1967 Abortion Act was proposed as a late amendment which would be discussed and voted on only at the third reading of the Serious Crimes bill before it was voted into law.

No consultation on this amendment had been done with groups such as the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Royal College of Midwives, or the British Medical Association, all of which opposed the amendment.

The expectation of Fiona Bruce and her supporters was that MPs would vote for her amendment because they would not want to appear to support sex-selective abortion: there would be no time – they evidently hoped – for any consultation or explanation why it was a bad idea to vote for doctors to be criminalised if they could be accused of approving sex-selective abortions: how there is little to no evidence of any sex-selective abortions on social grounds in the UK (the key “evidence” was a sting operation run by a Daily Telegraph journalist who lied to doctors and clinic staff and secretly filmed their honest response to her lies).
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