Category Archives: Healthcare

Life, life, life

A few years ago, when I was on holiday in Belgium, I spent hours in churches. (The friend I travelled with, who hadn’t voluntarily been in a church in decades, and who knew I am an atheist, was worried I would catch Christianity.) What I wanted to see was the paintings. The invention of oil paint meant Lowlands painters could create pictures so finely detailed it is possible to see the weave in the carpet and the stitches in the embroidered clothing: pictures from five or six hundred years ago that glow from the canvas.

The Annunciation, by Jan Van Eyck, 1413And over and over again, pictures of Mary. Mary as a baby, with Anna her mother: Anna and Joachim, Mary’s father, together: Mary saying “Fiat” to the angel: Mary as a young woman, as a mother with a preposterously large infant on her knee, Mary being carried into heaven by a troop of angels on her death. Mary is supposed to have been conceived on 8th December, and on that date in 2009, The US Senate rejected by a narrow margin an amendment proposed by Senators Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska, and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, that was intended to modify “Obamacare” so that any private insurance company that got federal funding for Obamacare insurance, couldn’t offer health insurance plans that included abortion.
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Women Under Siege

Women Under Siege is an independent initiative documenting how rape and other forms of sexualized violence are used as tools in genocide and conflict throughout the 20th century and into the 21st.

Victoria Jackson, who describes herself as an outspoken activist for the conservative movement, on Facebook, reacting to the Connecticut shooting

20 children have been killed in Connecticut, and six of their teachers, all women. All of the heroes are women: the school secretary who warned the other teachers and was shot, the principal who tried to disarm the shooter and was shot, the teacher who was shot when she put herself between the shooter and her students.

[The heroes of Sandy Hook Elementary School: Rachel Davino, Dawn Hocksprung, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Russeau, Mary Sherlach, Victoria Soto.]

Mother Jones – A Guide to Mass Shootings in America:

Since 1982, there have been at least 62 mass murders* carried out with firearms across the country, with the killings unfolding in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii. … Just under half of the cases involved school or workplace shootings (11 and 19, respectively); the other 31 cases took place in locations including shopping malls, restaurants, government buildings, and military bases. Forty three of the killers were white males. Only one of them was a woman.

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Nadine Dorries returns – to what?

The author of Short Cuts Blog asks “What should Nadine Dorries do next?” and appears to be blithely unaware that although Nadine Dorries is suspended from the Conservative Party, she is still an MP, and will remain one until the next General Election, unless she decides to make David Cameron happy by resigning and triggering another by-election:

There’s a question mark over whether or not the programme-makers could have allowed her to promulgate a political agenda, under the terms of the Communications Act 2003. Perhaps she should have looked that up before she said yes, but she was too busy perverting the course of reproductive health (and whatnot).

Another miscalculation, I think, is that she assumed her likability would come across on screen. The truth is, in Portcullis House she is approachable, modest and subtly conspiratorial; but that kind of stuff is all relative. Somebody who seems nice in a room full of MPs does not necessarily shine in a box full of earwigs.

Nadine Dorries claims she is prochoice (no, really she does) she just wants women who need abortions after 20 weeks to have to travel to another country to get them, just as they do in Ireland for all abortions. So does Alex Neil, Health Secretary for Scotland, Alex Salmond, and David Cameron: an important company of men to decide what women can be allowed to do.
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Vigil for Savita

At 4pm today outside the Irish consulate in Edinburgh, about fifty people came to stand vigil for Savita Halappanavar, to sign Diwali cards for Enda Kenny and James Reilly.

This week Savita should have been celebrating Diwali with her family and with the Indian community in Galway. She and her husband should have been together, mourning the loss of her first pregnancy.

If they had chosen almost anywhere but Ireland to settle and have children, she would have been alive.
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Life-saving abortions and prolife indecision

Savita HalappanavarAs far as I can see, there are two prolife trends in response to Savita Halappanavar’s death in hospital, denied an abortion.

One reaction is to argue that she would have died anyway, so an abortion wasn’t necessary as it never is no matter what.

For example, SPUC dehumanises Savita as the foetus’s “protection” and argues that the hospital were right not to perform an abortion:

“It is not ethical to induce delivery of an unborn child if there is no prospect of the child surviving outside the womb. At 17 weeks’ pregnancy Mrs Halappanavar’s child was clearly not viable outside the womb, as there is no scientific evidence that unborn children are capable of surviving outside the womb at such a young age. Rather than removing the protection of the womb from unborn children, the ethical response to emergency situations in pregnancy is medical treatment of the mother for the conditions causing the emergency. In the case of infection, this is usually timely administration of antibiotics. It is also not ethical to end the life of an unborn child, via induction or any other means, where the child is terminally-ill.”

The other is to argue that there was medical incompetence because of course she could have received “all necessary medical treatment” to save her life: the familiar prolife distinction that makes some abortions, in their mind, not really abortions.

(Meantime, the prochoice majority is simply outraged. But that’s the human response.)

It is worth noting that had Savita Halappanavar got an abortion on 21st October and been home in time to celebrate Diwali with her husband, if similar publicity had been given to her getting an abortion in an Irish hospital as has been given to her death as a result of being denied an abortion, we would now be seeing from both sets of prolifers a universal outcry against her having been “allowed” to have an abortion: and any Catholics who performed or who assisted in her abortion would be excommunicated.
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New party?

NHA PartyYesterday, the National Health Action Party launched.

The idea behind the NHA Party is one I support: since the Labour Party is unable and unwilling to properly defend the NHS against the Tory attacks – unable because it is at present a minority party with an unpopular leader, unwilling because properly doing so would involve backtracking and acknowledging that the Labour Party itself went hellishly wrong during the Blair years – there must be political pressure on Labour to force them to act when, as I hope, they win the next election.

Founded by a group of health professionals, our party strongly opposes the Health and Social Care Act. We believe the Act is wrecking the NHS in England by allowing it to be broken up and sold off. We intend to put up around 50 candidates in carefully chosen general election constituencies, and we will urge the Labour party to repeal the Act. We’ll also field candidates in local council elections.

Party co-leader and cancer specialist Dr Clive Peedell said: “For generations we’ve trusted the NHS to be a safety net for everyone in times of need. Putting the values of business and the markets ahead of those of patients and communities will ruin the NHS. This destruction is being fast-tracked by Tory and coalition policies. We hope our new party will halt this process.”

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Nadine Dorries is back – Hallowe’en debate on abortion

On 31st October, Nadine Dorries has been granted a 90 minute debate in the House of Commons on reducing the time limit for legal abortions in the UK from 24 weeks to 20 weeks.

In 2011, less than 9% of the total number of abortions carried out in England and Wales were performed after 13 weeks. The number of abortions and the abortion rate have been falling (UK and worldwide: abortions and the abortion rate fall as women get access to contraception and teenagers are routinely educated in the use of contraception). A girl or a woman who is pregnant and doesn’t want to be, will try to get an abortion as early as possible: that’s common sense and it’s confirmed by the statistics.

NHS pre-natal care includes offering a scan between week 18 and week 20 to find if there are major physical health problems with the foetus. The scan is offered at this point because of the timescale of human foetal development: basic biological science which neither 50,000 years nor modern technology has changed.
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Dear Mehdi Hasan

In response to your latest column in the New Statesman.

Being “a lefty” has a vague definition. To Daily Mail readers, it may mean anyone leftwing of Kenneth Clarke: to Mitt Romney’s followers, David Cameron is an unacceptable lefty. But let’s suppose it means, more or less, that you consider “social equality” to be more important than individual profit. I put “social equality” inside inverted commas because I appreciate that this is itself a concept that people have a different understanding of: it’s not so long since LGBT people were not included in any lefty mainstream understanding of “social equality”, and as we see with the current support for restricting abortion rights, for Julian Assange’s “right” to dodge being questioned on a sexual assault charge, for the silence about Jimmy Savile’s sexual abuse for so many decades, it’s still uncertain whether many men think to include women in their ideal of “social equality”.
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When is an abortion not an abortion?

Twenty years ago the Irish government, in the person of Attorney General Harry Whelehan, sought to take custody of a child made pregnant by rape, because she needed to have an abortion and the Irish government thought it entitled to prevent that: their intention was to force the child to have the rapist’s baby.

This became the “X” case, and on appeal, the Supreme Court of Ireland ruled that the Irish government did not have the right to force a woman through pregnancy/childbirth at the risk of her life – and that risk to her life included her suicide. (Note: edited substantially. I’d misremembered the chronology quite seriously. My apologies.)

Nothing has been done in the twenty years since: the Irish government claims there are no lawful abortions in Ireland, prolifers claim this proves abortion is never medically necessary, and women silently vote with their feet.

The ECHR has ruled:

  • first, anyone may leave their prolife country to have an abortion if they wish and the prolife government is not allowed to prevent them; and,
  • second, that the Irish government must take steps to be sure that a pregnant girl or woman whose life is in danger can have an abortion in Ireland.

The first part the Irish government couldn’t stop, but the second – this the Irish government still refuse to do. Action on X is a campaigning group trying to bring about a change in the law in Ireland. Cardinal Sean Brady, who cares so much for children, is against it.

(There is an agreement that Northern Ireland, while part of the UK, will not pass legislation that would put it significantly out of step with the Republic of Ireland. As I understand it, it’s this agreement that makes it improbable that Northern Ireland will make abortion legal so that women living in NI can have abortions where they live, on the NHS, as they would if they lived in any other part of the UK. Put simply, if abortion was legal in Northern Ireland, women in the Republic of Ireland who needed an abortion would head north to the Six Counties, much cheaper and much less inconvenient for them than going over to London or Liverpool – but also very openly, Northern Ireland would be doing for the women of all Ireland what the Irish Republic will not do for their own citizens – though many think they should.)

how not to be a ‘legitimate’ rape victim:

When I was in eighth grade, a classmate – let’s call her Anna — said that she’d been raped. She told me during lunch at our desks, tipping her chair until it seemed she might fall over. It happened on a rocky lakeshore. The man came off a boat that was anchored nearby and she could hear voices yelling to him in the darkness. She was freezing. When it was over, he threw her jeans in the water and said, “I hope you get pregnant.”

Abortion has been legal in Ireland only on the most tightly-defined grounds, but where it is legal, it is obtainable. Only when an Irish hospital can be absolutely certain that the woman will not survive unless the abortion is performed and the fetus will never be viable.
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Hunt for the NHS

Jeremy Hunt isn’t just an unscrupulous toerag – we knew that. He’s now Health Secretary, despite believing that:

  • Homeopathy works*
  • That this House welcomes the positive contribution made to the health of the nation by the NHS homeopathic hospitals; notes that some six million people use complementary treatments each year; believes that complementary medicine has the potential to offer clinically-effective and cost-effective solutions to common health problems faced by NHS patients, including chronic difficult to treat conditions such as musculoskeletal and other chronic pain, eczema, depression, anxiety and insomnia, allergy, chronic fatigue and irritable bowel syndrome; expresses concern that NHS cuts are threatening the future of these hospitals; and calls on the Government actively to support these valuable national assets. (EDM 1240 in support of Homeopathic Hospitals, 2007, h/t Tom Chivers)

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