Monday, 19 May 2008

The 20 or 24 week limit debate

Interesting exchange of views between two Tory MPs over the abortion time limit, which the Commons is voting on tomorrow. Mark Pritchard emailed all MPs, drawing their attention to a Sunday Telegraph article from a doctor who refuses to perform late abortions. (I can't find the article on the ST site now, and it's too long to reproduce in full). This provoked the following response from Robert Key, which is interesting in that it puts the case for retaining the 24 week limit from a Christian viewpoint.

Hello, Mark. Yes – I saw this piece. But what’s your point, please? In terms of the debate on the upper limit for termination of pregnancy, the views of Dr Argent are no more significant than your views or mine. I could quote the Gynaecologist I met last week who performs late abortions, or the woman with three children with whom I discussed her decision to have a late abortion. As it happens, I do have strong religious views (Christian) and one abortion is one too many for me and I want very much indeed to reduce the tragically high number of abortions in our country – over 90% of which take place in the first twelve weeks. As a Christian I do not see it as virtuous to punish or take revenge on the women who face late abortions – for that is how it looks to a great many of them. Why take it out on the women who face the most difficult decisions in the most vulnerable circumstances? As one clinician put it to me last week, “many of these women are like a train crash – everything in their lives has gone wrong at once”. Or do you think we should punish those “wicked gals” who play fast and loose with their bodies and need to be forced to have their babies come what may? Fast and loose at 20 weeks? Get real, Mark!

So as a Christian, I wish to do all I can to prevent unwanted pregnancies – proper sex and responsibility education in schools, not just the approximate mechanics of sex. Plus adequate, workable provision of contraceptive and health education resources instead of the patchy teaching in our schools today. Oh, and by the way, who is most likely to be opposed to sex education in schools? The same people that want to lower the upper limit on abortion!

As a Conservative, I object to the State telling a woman (or a man) what she may or may not do with her sexuality. I notice neither you nor Dr Argent make any mention of the responsibility of the men who cause the women to get pregnant. No state intervention necessary for us, then! Whatever a Member of Parliament, a Minister, or a clinician may think about abortion, the very bottom line is that it is an individual human being, made in God’s image, who happens to be a woman, who must decide whether or not to continue with her pregnancy. In the interests of the foetus and in the public interest the State may surely take a view, based on the evidence, of where to draw a line. But that view should certainly not be taken, as Dr Argent argues, on the level of personal revulsion (surely shared by most of us) at what is a comparatively rare procedure. Fair comment, but not a reliable moral or ethical guide.

Finally, if we are trading the merits or otherwise of newspaper articles, I prefer Simon Jenkins in The Sunday Times. “For the most part MPs should stop meddling in how people choose to plan and protect their families. They have enough trouble with their own”.

Good wishes from Robert.

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