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.
On 27th April 1968, 46 years ago, the Abortion Act became law, and women in the UK – except in Northern Ireland – were entitled to get safe, legal abortions. That’s half a lifetime ago. There can be few doctors or nurses still practicing who have first-hand memories of the bad old prolife days.
Every year for the past few years, on the Saturday closest to that date, SPUC stand in a line down Lothian Road, on the Sheraton Hotel side, and express their sorrow and regret for 46 years of health and wellbeing for women.
Seven thoughts about abortion:
- All prolifers I’ve ever discussed abortion with, live in countries where women have access to safe legal abortion.
- No prolifer who’s ever given me their views on abortion has had any informed views on what would happen if women in their country no longer had access to safe legal abortion.
- The best person to judge if an abortion is necessary is almost invariably the woman who is pregnant.
- In the rare exceptions to point three, the better judges of whether an abortion is necessary have medical training and are medically responsible for the health and wellbeing of the pregnant woman as their patient.
- No woman who knew she needed an abortion ever refused to have what she needed.
- No man who cared for a woman ever wanted her to be hurt or die doing without what she needed.
- Prolife arguments for making abortion illegal are never about preventing abortions: only about making abortions more difficult, expensive, and dangerous.
Abortion was decriminalised in England, Scotland, and Wales in 1967. No one much younger than sixty can have direct personal memories of what it was like to live in a country where the law said that unless a girl or a woman was going to die when she was forced to have the baby.
As 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.
About quarter to 12, my oldest friend, who’d been staring at the SPUC Edinburgh protesters across the road, turned to me. “You know, I remember us demo’ing for this in the 1980s. And in the 1990s. Now it’s 2012. And we still have to do it?”
On 28th April 1968, the 1967 Abortion Act became law in England, Scotland, and Wales.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists reminds its members:
For the twelve years before the Act, abortion was the leading cause of maternal mortality in England and Wales. The first Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths in 1952-54 reported 153 deaths from abortion, which was “procured .. by the woman herself in 58 instances.” The terminal event in 50% of illegal cases was sepsis but in 25% it was air embolus from “the injection under pressure of some fluid, nearly always soapy water, into the cervix or into the vagina.” The Report commented that most of the women were “mothers of families”. After 1968 maternal deaths from illegal abortion fell slowly but did not disappear until 1982.
This Saturday 28th April a different kind of organisation from the RCOG
will mark the Abortion Act becoming law: SPUC plan to hold a “kerbside protest” in cities across the UK, including Edinburgh.
The RCOG works to save the lives of both women and babies: SPUC tells lies.
In the UK, all pharmacies are required to abide by the guidance of the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) that a pharmacist has a right to refuse to sell the contraceptive pill (or emergency contraception) on the grounds of religious or moral beliefs.
Access to effective methods of contraception (including education in contraceptive methods and strong societal encouragement to use contraception except when intending to conceive) is shown to be the only effective method of preventing abortions.
Rising contraceptive use results in reduced abortion incidence in settings where fertility itself is constant. The parallel rise in abortion and contraception in some countries occurred because increased contraceptive use alone was unable to meet the growing need for fertility regulation in situations where fertility was falling rapidly.
From Boots the Chemist:
This is something that nationally affects all pharmacies, and not just Boots. The guidance however, is clear in that where a Pharmacist chooses not to sell or dispense, we expect that they explain this to the patient as sensitively as possible and that they’re directed to an alternative source for the medicine.
Whilst we appreciate that this isn’t great for any of our customers we have an obligation to respect the code of ethics to which all Pharmacists work to. I can, however, share with you that the GPhC are looking to review this particular area of their guidance and once this review has taken place we’ll support all our Pharmacy teams with whatever the changes could mean for them.
Most women are born with two ovaries and all the eggs she’ll ever have. Post puberty, most women go through a predictable hormonal cycle of roughly 28 days, during which one follicle on one ovary will ripen and release an egg, which travels down the Fallopian tubes. Since the dawn of recorded time (literally – there are recipes for contraception in some of the earliest written records in the world) the objective for everyone who enjoys heterosexual intercourse has been to solve the problem of women having unwanted pregnancies as a result. (There are records of abortions being performed even earlier than contraception.)
How the Pill works: Hormones in each pill, progestin and estrogen, restrict the follicles on the ovary from growing, and thus stop the woman from ovulating. No egg, no pregnancy.
Emergency contraception works the same way only more so Continue reading