Tag Archives: human rights

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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Human rights: the right to vote

Ben Jennings - prisoners votesYesterday, for the fourth time, the European Court of Human Rights ruled again that the UK is in breach of human rights by having a blanket ban on allowing convicted prisoners serving a custodial sentence the right to vote: it’s nearly ten years now since the UK was first ordered to make some change in this ban, and neither Labour nor Conservatives have cared to do so. (The ECHR has made no order for monetary compensation, which is the only thing likely to move either party.)

In October 2014, there were 7,755 prisoners serving a custodial sentence in Scotland: the imprisonment rate in Scotland is 147 out of 100,000 people (via the Howard League). Since August 2010, there has been a statutory presumption against convicted criminals being sentenced to short periods of imprisonment, unless the court can show reason why this should be so. From the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010

“a court must not pass a sentence of imprisonment for a term of three months or less on a person unless the court considers that no other method of dealing with the person is appropriate.”

If a person goes to jail, it will under most circumstances be because they committed an offence that the court decided mandated a sentence of four months at least. The general rule for any sentence of 12 months or less is that a prisoner will be released automatically on probation after they have served half their sentence.
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Prolife is about forcing women

Quotes from a man who teaches prolifers to argue with prochoicers using the language of human rights.

Josh Brahm: We’re asking pro-choice people if they agree that all human adults have an equal right to life.

A publicly claimed motivation for shutting down the US government for over a fortnight was to “stop Obamacare”. And a very public reason why many conservatives say they oppose the Affordable Care Act is that ACA / Obamacare requires that all health insurance policies must now cover all female contraception with no co-pay.

This is objectionable to religious conservatives who think it’s wrong women should be able to decide for themselves whether or not to use contraception: because to a conservative Christian, sex exists in two boxes, Good Sex, which is heterosexual intercourse in marriage, couple open to having children. Anything else is Bad Sex. Although nothing prevents abortions better than women having free access to contraception, to the religious conservative abortion and contraception are linked because both mean that a woman – even a married woman – is having Bad Sex according to their definition: she is a slut.
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Assange and human rights

Julian Assange on balcony
Tomorrow, Julian Assange is invited to speak on human rights and diplomatic asylum, via weblink from his room in Knightsbridge, at a UN event for permanent representatives to the UN General Assembly.

From Live on RT, which is to broadcast the event:

Julian Assange will address permanent representatives to the UN General Assembly at a high-level talk on the legal and ethical legitimacy of diplomatic asylum. RT has exclusive rights to broadcast the event live from the UN headquarters in New York. [Note: this will be at 8:30pm in New York, so half an hour into Thursday morning in London.]

Among those joining Assange for the panel discussion at the 67th General Assembly Debate on Wednesday will be Ricardo Patino, Foreign Affairs Minister of Ecuador, and Baher Azmy, the Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

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The Wonderful GAY

“Time lies frozen there. It’s always Then. It’s never Now.” The Cardinal was afraid of Now, for Now has warmth and urgency, and Then is dead and buried. Now might bring a certain knight of gay and shining courage –

Crdinl Keith O’Brien has confirmed he will no longer use any of the letters in the word ‘gay’ and stressed

he was embarking on the phonetic moratorium because he did not want to be ‘prt of the problem’.

His spokesman said:

“Luckily ‘safe words’ include Jesus, communion, crucifix and Keith O’Brien.

“However he has had to change his job to title to ‘Crdinl’.

“Also, half the word ‘Mary’ is off limits so from now on he will refer to the Holy Mother as ‘Ethel’.

“It’s not blasphemous if it’s part of a bulwark against depravity.”

The spokesman added: “Golgotha comes out as ‘Oloth’ and Calvary is just ‘Clvr’, so Easter is going to be tricky. Especially if he’s calling it ‘Ester’.”

We confirmed with the spokesman that from now on the Crdinl says Continue reading


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Our constitution, July 2012: European Convention of Human Rights

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

“Guaranteed rights based on European Convention”

I love the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a religious person might love Scripture.

Drafted in 1948, sixty-four years old on 10th December this year, it is still a radical and inspirational document.

I find the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms less inspirational and less radical, even though it’s not even 5 years younger.
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Filed under Elections, European politics, Human Rights, Scottish Constitution, Scottish Culture, Scottish Politics

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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Human Rights: Abortion and gay marriage

I got into an argument on a Catholic blog recently about same-sex marriage, and – in passing, but with vehemence – also got into an argument about being pro-choice.

The two are on the face of it only peripherally related – both equality/human-rights issues – but of course are very directly related in one respect: they challenge a man’s right to own his woman.

Equal marriage, where both spouses have identical obligations, rights, and responsibilities towards and for and about each other, is a fundamental redefinition of traditional marriage. In traditional marriage, the woman’s father gave her in marriage to her husband: a financially-independent widow might give herself in marriage, but once married, a woman’s rights were subsumed into her husband’s rights.

Equal marriage is a victory of the feminist revolution, but it leads directly to the idea that given husband and wife are now legally equal and identical, why is there a ban on same-sex couples marrying? Of course this next step can only happen in a country with a strong LGBT equality movement, but it is a simple next step. Nothing about a same-sex couple marrying can affect a mixed-sex married couple.

The wild claim that same-sex marriage leads to polygamy is a product of the American Christian Right’s script, and is provably false even in North America where it originated and where there are small Mormon communities of men who marry each other’s daughters and exile the “surplus” boys, the sons who can’t be allowed to marry inside the polygamous community at all. Polygamy as traditional Mormonism would have it is a profoundly sexist marriage: a man has rights and privileges over his wives that they do not have. It is the reverse of equal marriage. It is a profoundly patriarchal concept: only the chief men of the community, and their heirs, get to marry. A recent attempt in Canada to claim that it was discriminatory to deny legal marriage to polygamous men and their wives, failed precisely because those opposed could show in court how damaging polygamous marriage can be: and how it would directly affect couples married already. No such evidence can or ever has been shown for same-sex marriage: the Catholic Church’s campaign against same-sex marriage in Scotland relies, as many another campaign, on the lies put out by an anti-gay hate group in the US.

Traditional marriage is already legally at an end in Scotland. No husband has rights over his wife that she does not already have over him. Even the old traditional signal that a woman must become part of her husband’s family and change her surname to his, is fading away: no one need change their surname on marriage, but it is as easy for a man to change his surname to his wife’s as the reverse, as easy for a mixed-sex or a same-sex couple to mutually change their names.

Denial of legal abortion to a woman who is pregnant and needs to terminate does not seem to connect to that: it’s a simple public health issue and a simple human rights issue.

With regard to public health, it is much more damaging (and more expensive for the NHS) if a woman who wants to have an abortion is forced either to wait until she can find the money to pay for it, or to have it done illegally on the cheap and use the health service to clean up after her. (There is something of a postcode lottery in Scotland as in the rest of the UK as to whether a woman who needs an abortion can get it easily and quickly on the NHS: but the vast majority of abortions done are on the NHS, if sometimes with unnecessary delays.)

Throughout Ireland, abortion is banned: the government of Ireland and the assembly at Stormont claim that Ireland is a Catholic country and abortion is unacceptable. The net result of this is what you might expect: Ireland exports almost all its abortions to the UK. Women in Northern Ireland, though they pay for healthcare on the NHS via their taxes like anyone else, must not only travel to mainland UK to get one, they must pay for it privately when they get there. The Catholic Church can make abortion illegal in Ireland, but they cannot stop women from getting abortions, they can only make it difficult and expensive for a woman to do so. In countries where abortion is illegal but there is no convenient pro-choice country to provide abortions for women living under a prolife regime, the net result is even nastier: women die of illegal abortions.

Not that the Catholic Church is the only prolife campaign organisation: the Christian Right in the US is mostly Protestant, and has ensured soldiers in the US military who need abortions must request leave to travel back to the US and pay for the abortion privately: they are not allowed to get an abortion at the nearest US military base, nor are they allowed to have their abortion paid for by the US military healthcare system. Nor, if they wish to continue their military career, can they put “pregnant, need an abortion” as their reason for requesting leave. This applies to soldiers who have been made pregnant by rape, married soldiers, soldiers who have an affair… all are simply denied this basic healthcare and the US military will not even take note of how many soldiers have been denied.

WIth regard to simple human rights: no woman should be forced against her will through pregnancy and child birth: no woman should have her body used against her will to make a baby. All women, therefore, should have as a basic human right, once pregnant, to decide whether to terminate or to continue the pregnancy. It’s her pregnancy: it’s her body: it’s her decision.

This upsets the patriarchal ideal of male ownership of women’s bodies. Prolifers will argue that a girl’s father ought to make the decision for her: that the “baby’s father” should have the legal right to decide whether or not the woman will have the baby: that above all the woman must not have the right to decide what’s best for her. Even the UK system of two doctors signing off a woman’s abortion is a product of this thinking: while most abortions in the UK are effectively abortion on demand, as is right, in law a woman has to convince two doctors that she or her family will suffer if she doesn’t get an abortion.

Just as anti-marriage campaigners bring up the false spectre of polygamy, so will prolifers bring up the false cuddly claim that they’re only concerned about the fetuses – that they want to prevent women having safe legal abortions because they regard a fertilised egg as exactly the same as a baby, and a woman having an abortion (and the doctor performing it) is exactly the same as a woman hiring an assassin to kill her child. This is a fantastic lie, told and elaborated on as a justification for hurting women who have abortions. We can tell it’s a lie because prolifers are vastly unconcerned with preventing abortions. The most effective means of preventing abortions is to ensure that every time a mixed-sex couple have heterosexual intercourse, unless they actually intend to conceive, the man uses a condom and the woman is either on the Pill or using a barrier method herself. If prolifers were really truly into preventing abortions, if the Catholic Church really regarded ending a fetus’s life as a sin worthy of excommunication, then the Catholic Church would be right out there promoting condoms and the Pill. (As indeed many lay Catholics already have.)

Denial of legal abortion is about denying women autonomy and equality. Denial of same-sex marriage is about denying that marriage is a relationship of equals. It’s not really surprising that the people who oppose the freedom of same-sex couples to marry are generally also the same people who oppose the freedom of women to decide how many children to have, and when.


Filed under LGBT Equality, Women