Tag Archives: Abortion Support Network

Goodbye Alex Salmond

Alex SalmondThere are two things I will always remember about Alex Salmond, who has just announced that he’s stepping down as leader of the SNP and First Minister of Scotland.

One of them is that on 20th May 2008, as MP for Banff and Buchan, he paid one of his rare visits to the Commons to vote for forcing women who need abortions after 20 weeks to have to leave the UK by making abortion illegal for them to access in the UK.

Most abortions after 20 weeks are either for medical reasons (read personal stories from women in Ireland who were in that situation) or because a young woman delayed getting help out of confusion, ignorance, fear – or sometimes malice on the part of prolife medical personnel: or because it took them so much time to save up the fare from Ireland and the cost of an abortion here.

When asked to explain his position on abortion as an MP by a Banff and Buchan constituent, Alex Salmond wrote back to her on First Minister notepaper to say that abortion was a reserved issue.
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The deaths at Tuam: a voiceless testimony

Tuam Babies unmarked graveThere is an unmarked mass grave in Galway which has become briefly famous by the work of historian Catherine Corless, who spent years tracing the death records of each child whose remains may have been buried there. (You can hear her being interviewed about her work on the mass grave here.)

Timothy Stanley, a Telegraph blogger who converted to Catholicism from the Anglican church, argues that the mass grave is “a human tragedy, not a Catholic one”. At more length, Caroline Farrow, a spokesperson for Catholic Voice, explains that first of all, this wasn’t really so bad, and anyway, everyone except the Catholic Church is probably lying. (I note for the record: the sheer quantity of misinformation and distortion provided by both Stanley and Farrow is quite astonishing.)
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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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This strange thing happens to my city every year

My parents never used to throw anything away. Sometime in 1982 I found an Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme from 1964, tucked into a box with a lot of other theatre trivia, and what startled me wasn’t finding a thing like that from before I was born: it was the size. Obviously meant to double as a wall-planner, the programme had been folded out of an A3 glossy sheet of paper: it was a calendar for the three weeks of the Fringe, which then ran concurrently with the Festival, and every show and venue was listed on it. I mean the whole thing fitted on to one side of A3 paper. Twenty years later, supposing that anyone had wanted to print such a thing, you could not have fitted one day on to a side of A3.

I’ve lived in Edinburgh for most of my life, and so for most of my childhood it did not occur to me that there was anything strange about how, every August for three weeks, the city blossomed with theatrical performances. That was just what people did in August, it seemed to me: either stage a show or go to see one.

In the 1970s and 1980s, tickets were cheap, concessions were half-price, and some venues that couldn’t get fire insurance or proper seating dealt with this by offering free shows, entry by donation.

Lavender Menace, Scotland’s first queer bookshop, did some magnificently silly readings of lesbian and gay romances to the tiny audiences that could fit into its basement home on Forth Street; when it moved to a larger venue on Dundas Street, that was where I first heard David Benson “do” Kenneth Williams, and heard Armistead Maupin read from Tales of the City before he was famous.
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Christian Doctors Who Don’t Like Women

Christian Medical Comment is a blog written by Doctor Peter Saunders, who says it “deals mainly with matters at the interface of Christianity and Medicine”:

How many women really died from abortions prior to the Abortion Act?

He writes:

A common argument from the pro-choice lobby is that legalising abortion in 1968 saved thousands of women who would have otherwise died from back-street abortions.

There is a specific example of a European country, Romania, which had legal abortion (from 1957) but in 1966 Nicolae Ceausescu enacted a law that banned abortion. On 26th December 1989, one of the first acts of the new transitional Government of Romania was to repeal Ceausescu’s restrictive abortion legislation. This was done because Romania had one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in Europe.

The “pro-choice lobby” in this instance would be The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Continue reading

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Teach children lying liars lie

On 23rd March, the Guardian broke the news that SPUC (the “Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child” to give them their full, misleading name) had a presentation for schoolchildren that wasn’t so much anti-abortion as anti-science. The headmaster who invited SPUC into his school to give a prolife presentation to the children says he provided “balance” by asking a feminist group along too, but this showed a real lack of interest in the children’s scientific education and wellbeing.
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Every woman who needs an abortion should get it on the NHS

I’m pro-choice. Whatever your view on the ethics of abortion or your judgement of any particular woman’s reasons for having an abortion, it seems an unqualified wrong for anyone other than the pregnant woman herself to have the first choice and the final say on whether she will terminate or continue any pregnancy. Her body, her health, her life: her decision. Attempts by the state to deny a woman safe legal abortion merely result in higher rates of unsafe illegal abortions – the pro-life ideology is lethal to women: and is own brother to the idea of forcing women to get pregnant.

No one in the UK who needs an abortion should have to work out how to pay for it. It’s a crying shame, as well as a tragedy, that UK citizens in Northern Ireland, who pay the same taxes for the NHS as everyone else, should have to go private when they come to mainland UK to get an abortion, while abortion in the Republic of Ireland is banned completely.

From the Abortion Support Network’s case files:

A woman who was 19 weeks pregnant with 3 children, including one under the age of one. Initially she looked into trying to self-abort as felt could not afford to pay for a termination. She was in a desperate state when she called Abortion Support Network. She knew she was pregnant at 10 weeks but could not book an abortion because she had no funds. After saving for 8 weeks, she managed to put aside 600 Euros. She was worried about her own health but ‘terrified’ to go near a hospital in case they would force her to have the baby. Abortion Support Network agreed to pay for her flights and the remainder of her clinic fee.

Ireland’s outsourcing of its abortions to mainland UK has been found to be in breach of international human rights law because in a recent test case, an Irish woman with a clear health need to abort had found that:

“neither the medical consultation nor litigation options, relied on by the Irish government, constituted effective and accessible procedures which allowed the third applicant to establish her right to a lawful abortion in Ireland”.

From 30th April 2012, Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) ruled, private clinics will be allowed to advertise abortion services – and pro-life centres that do not provide medical referrals for abortion will have to make that clear in their advertising.

Not-for-profit pregnancy services are already allowed to advertise on television and radio and for-profit clinics can already advertise in all other media, including newspapers.

Under new rules clinics will have to make it clear in all advertising if they do not offer referral for termination.

This was because of strong public health grounds, BCAP said.

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