Opinion: Questions for Jeremy Hunt on abortion

The Abortion Act 1967 Act was passed when I was nine months old. Women of my generation have grown up believing our rights were safe and our bodies were our own. Even those who had never heard of a backbench MP named David Steel had reason to be grateful to him for ensuring that women could not be forced by the state to continue with pregnancies they did not want.

Women of my generation and others now have to wake up and realise that the settlement, we thought was so safe, is no longer. Thanks to the Coalition, the Health Service is now in the hands of someone who believes that abortion should be restricted to a deadline when a significant number of women would not even realise they were pregnant let alone have time to make an informed and considered decision.

Why 12 weeks? There are philosophically coherent arguments for no abortion (the rights of the foetus are paramount at all times) and abortion on demand (the rights of the pregnant woman are paramount at all times).

The current limit of 24 weeks is a reasonable (though conservative) reflection of the viability of the foetus. A 9 week limit would at least have some coherence because non-invasive abortion can be carried out until that point. But 12 weeks comes from nowhere, the suspicion being that Hunt’s real position is that he is against all abortion but he has not got the guts to say so.

Pregnancy is hard work, a huge physical and mental challenge. Even those with wanted pregnancies sometimes feel overwhelmed with the physical discomfort and the emotional pressure. How would Hunt, as Secretary of State for Health, carry out his duty of care to those women who would be forced to continue for six months with pregnancies with which they could not cope?

If they threaten to self-harm will the NHS have the resources to give them proper care or will they be sectioned by the state until the foetus is viable?

If poverty means they fear having another mouth to feed will they be helped financially e.g. with measures like a restored Health in Pregnancy Grant (abolished by the Coalition)?

What support will be given to women who come for their 20 week scan, discover an abnormality and then are told they have to continue to term regardless of their own circumstances or feelings?

We should be rightly proud of the choice, and the time to make that choice, that, until now, we have enshrined in statute. As a Liberal, I am repelled by the thought that a central figure in the coalition wishes to confiscate that choice from women.

* Ruth Bright has been a councillor in Southwark and Parliamentary Candidate for Hampshire East

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54 Comments

  • “What support will be given to women who come for their 20 week scan, discover an abnormality and then are told they have to continue to term regardless of their own circumstances or feelings?”

    I think it’s worth bearing in mind that the current 24 week limit doesn’t prevent later abortions in the circumstances:

    “(b) that the termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman; or .
    (c) that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated; or .
    (d) that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.”

    I haven’t seen any suggestion that Hunt favours any change in the law concerning such cases.

  • If it isn’t a valuable conclusion to draw from Mr Hunt’s position, then what else do we surmise? What is his possible reasoning behind the notion of a 12-week limit? Or why should the limit beyond which a medical, non-invasive abortion be carried out be used to determine the statutory limit instead? A termination is a termination whether surgical or chemical and that 9-week limit is not related to the matter of whether the foetus has yet developed a conscious mind or pain receptors, but is related solely to the mother’s body. What will be considered important by many women is whether they are able to take a genetic test to determine the presence of any severe disorders. The CVS test cannot be carried out before 10 weeks. If one were to impose a statutory limit before that date, or so close afterwards (12 weeks) that it would be very difficult for many women, especially those in high risk groups, to take that test and be allowed to make a decision without an oppressive deadline – or worse, a missed deadline – then we would in effect be undoing all the progress of the 1967 Abortion Act . There is no “hysteria” here – but a straightforward inference that Mr Hunt is plucking numbers (deliberately low numbers, the reasons for which must be rightly questioned ) out of the air from a position of gross ignorance.

  • “What will be considered important by many women is whether they are able to take a genetic test to determine the presence of any severe disorders.”

    Please see my comment above.

  • Peter Watson 8th Oct '12 - 3:29pm

    “As a Liberal, I am repelled by the thought that a central figure in the coalition wishes to confiscate that choice from women.”
    Much as I dislike Hunt and what he stands for, I don’t like seeing abortion made a party political issue, especially in such a stark way. As an issue, I don’t think abortion sits comfortably on a left-right or libertarian-authoritarian spectrum. Importantly, I don’t think there is a right – wrong divide either. Discussions on another thread showed a range of views, all held deeply, passionately and thoughtfully, and I think they all deserve respect.

    Personally, I have been unable to form a firm opinion. What is certain to me is that somewhere between conception and birth, life begins and sentience emerges, and for at least two years after birth independent survival is not viable. Squabbling over an arbitrary number of weeks after conception at which a life counts makes me uneasy. It seems to me that the pro-life campaign has a single consistent principle (all life counts), whilst the pro-choice campaign seems to be more pragmatic (choice is more important than life up to a point at which it is acknowledged that the rights of two people must be balanced, but there is strong disagreement about where that point is). I feel least uncomfortable in the latter group but sympathetic to the former, and consequently I find myself in the rare position of tending to agree with David Cameron: it is very much a personal matter for politicians not a party one, and a couple of weeks lower than the current limit feels about right.

  • Richard Dean 8th Oct '12 - 3:35pm

    People of any gender or generation would be very foolish to believe that anything is permanently decided. Every new generation has a new perspective, and its rights to determine how it lives should certainly not be limited for all time by a previous generation’s choices. Every debate like this is continually renewed.

  • As they now want to limit how many children are eligible for child benefit, if a woman ends up being forced to carry her baby will she be allowed to claim child benefit for that child if she has more than the ‘allowed’ limit? What do they want?

  • Richard Dean 8th Oct '12 - 4:16pm

    I hope we all agree that babies have rights too, unborn as well as born.

  • Richard “I hope we all agree that babies have rights too, unborn as well as born.”
    Nope!
    Until the baby is born and the cord cut it is part of the woman. The woman is its creator. She should be in total control of wether the baby lives or dies. Only when that baby is born and the mother has decided to bring that child into the world does society have any right to inflict it’s moral codes onto them both. It is for the mother to live with her decision and to justify it to herself, not for others to judge.

  • Richard Dean 8th Oct '12 - 4:52pm

    Dave W. No-one in their right mind believes that.

  • Richard, I think you’ll find that people do believe that. Just as at the other far end of the spectrum people believe that the baby is a human being the moment the egg is fertilised, and thus should not be “murdered” at any time after that. Most people believe in something which is somewhere along the line joining those two furthest poles. The discussion is not furthered by accusing anyone – at any point across that spectrum – of not being in their right mind.

  • Richard Dean 8th Oct '12 - 5:49pm

    Stop trying to be a policeman Michael. It doesn’t work.

  • Stuart Mitchell 8th Oct '12 - 6:38pm

    “Nope! Until the baby is born and the cord cut it is part of the woman.”

    Creates mental image of midwife with scissors in one hand, lump hammer in the other.

    “So what do you want me to do – cut the cord, or smash its skull?”

    Richard’s right.

  • I agree that it is distasteful for Mr Hunt to raise this issue from his position and turn what is accepted as a matter of conscience into a partisan matter on the eve of the Conservative conference.

    It may be fair for him to state his opinion as an MP, and whether or not anyone agrees with him on a personal level, it shows his blatant irresponsibility as Health Secretary – to both government and coalition partners – to state his dissenting opinion without openly signalling a review of the policy he has a duty to uphold.

    I do not have confidence in Mr Hunt’s ability to do the job he has only recently been handed.

  • From the timing of this announcement, Jeremy Hunt is clearly making the most of this for some kind of distasteful party political advantage – as some dog-whistle politics to pacify the social conservative wing of the Conservative membership – and the idea of a 12-week limit is, I agree, arbitrarily short and not backed up by medical evidence.

    HOWEVER, it has to be said that just because Hunt is wrong on the doesn’t mean that the Abortion Act isn’t in need of rethinking in light in modern medical evidence – since I believe that it is. Indeed we should remember that the Act’s original proposal, former Liberal Party leader David Steel, has written some very interesting articles in which he argues just that.

    The article above alludes to the fact that, in drawing an objective compromise for when “social” abortions should be allowed – i.e. those which are NOT due to medical issues identified in the foetus or due to a risk of life and limb – that the cut-off point should be that of viability. This was based on the moral principle that, if a foetus is capable (with medical support) of surviving independently of his/her mother then we need some very good reasons (i.e. parts b, c or d of the Act) in order to justify abortion.

    In 1967, this “viability point” was about 34-35 weeks, so 24 weeks was chosen as a good point that (it was thought) medical science would not be able to catch up with. Unfortunately for the Act, however, medical science has advanced further than was originally thought. Today, however, premature babies have been known to survive from 20 or 21 weeks – and in ever increasing numbers.

    To give a personal example, there is a child in my own extended family who was born after just 21 weeks pregnancy and, against medical expectations, has survived into childhood without any consequence disabilities (at least as far as we are aware!). This is a girl who could have legally been aborted at the time she was born (being <24 weeks) – and the numbers of new-borns like her are increasing every year.

    I am therefore am sympathetic to calls to reduce the limit to 20 weeks – not because I'm anti-abortion (as I'm most definitely not) or because I'm motivated by religious conviction (I'm actually an atheist), but because I believe there are real objective reasons to believe that the medical evidence that justified a 24-week limit are nowhere near as strong as they were in 1967.

    Whilst the reasons for Jeremy Hunt's pronouncement probably owes more to political calculation than an objective analysis of the medical evidence, when it comes to reviewing abortion legislation Lib Dems would be well advised to remember the words of the great Liberal economist John Maynard Keynes: "when the facts change, I change my mind".

  • Foregone Conclusion 9th Oct '12 - 4:03am

    The central point is that Hunt failed to justify why he supported 12 weeks. Maria Miller’s view that the law should be changed to 20 weeks is based on the supposition that, as medical science has advanced, the viability threshold has shifted backwards (I see no real support for this in terms of many babies surviving in the 20-24 week window, but it is at least an argument). Hunt, on the other hand, offered no real reason *why* we should pick 12 weeks. All legal limits are, of course, arbitrary, but they at least have some kind of philosophical, moral or religious justification. On an issue like this, where there is no ‘right’ answer, the reasoning behind any given number is of central importance.

  • Foregone Conclusion 9th Oct '12 - 4:07am

    Interestingly, the same applies if, in a few decades time, 20 weeks does become a threshold for viability outside the womb; defenders of the status quo will have to reformulate their justifications for the 24 week limit along radically different lines than those argued for in Parliament and elsewhere since 1967.

  • Richard :- My position is very simple I do not believe I have the moral authority to dictate to anybody what they can and cannot do with their own bodies. Are you on some higher moral plane that allows you to do so? Perhaps it’s your “rightmind” that allows this?

  • Another thing that has always puzzled me is what are you actually going to do if a woman, after your time limit, says that she is going to have an abortion? Are you going to arrest her? Imprison her? Restrain her? Section her? Put her life at risk with an enforced caesarean? And what if she has an abortion, are you going to charge her with murder?

  • Miranda Whitehead 9th Oct '12 - 9:16am

    Women Liberal Democrats strongly disagree with Jeremy Hunt’s view that twelve weeks should be the upper legal limit for abortion.

    In an ideal world all unwanted pregnancies would be prevented by safe, cheap and reliable contraception, or terminated medically in the first few weeks, but life for women is more complicated than that.

    Already 91% of terminated pregnancies are terminated under 13 weeks, some half of them without surgery, and 78% under 10 weeks; this is welcome progress towards termination under 12 weeks that is the safest option for a woman with an unwanted pregnancy.

    However the remaining 9% of pregnancies are terminated later for many reasons. Foetal abnormality can often only be diagnosed much later than 12 weeks or a developing illness in the mother may only present as the pregnancy develops, sometimes women have a contraceptive failure, continue bleeding and do not know they are pregnant, or sometimes they have a life that is chaotic. The woman may have been the victim of abuse, or she may be very young or at the menopause, times when it can be difficult to tell you are pregnant.

    To prevent all abortions after 12 weeks would drive these later and less safe abortions to private clinics overseas for the rich and to the back street or the Internet for everyone else, with disastrous consequences.

    Many doctors of my generation will never forget seeing the terrible consequences of septic back street abortions and the almost complete cessation of these cases when the Abortion Act was passed.

  • “My position is very simple I do not believe I have the moral authority to dictate to anybody what they can and cannot do with their own bodies.”

    But what’s at issue is precisely whether it is just a question of what women can do “with their own bodies”, or whether the foetus also has rights that need to be taken into account.

    An anti-abortion absolutist could just as easily say something like “My position is very simple I do not believe anyone has the moral authority to kill a baby” and so on. Neither statement really advances the discussion.

    What’s interesting in a way is how many people come out with these simplistic, absolutist positions, when only a tiny percentage of the population supports them. But maybe that’s online discussions for you.

  • Richard Dean 9th Oct '12 - 10:25am

    People don’t want to dictate what the mother can do with her body, they’d rather dictate what the baby should do with its body, viz die?

  • Only one female comment, amazing!!!!

  • Alex Baldwin 9th Oct '12 - 11:42am

    @DaveW

    Is this story relevant to your question? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-19621675

    “A woman who aborted her own baby in the final phase of her pregnancy has been jailed for eight years. Sarah Louise Catt, 35, of Sherburn-in-Elmet, North Yorkshire, took a drug when she was full term, 39 weeks pregnant, to cause an early delivery. She claimed the boy was stillborn and that she buried his body, but no evidence of the child was ever found. “

  • Richard Dean 9th Oct '12 - 12:13pm

    My partner says baby is alive well before birth. Science is still learning, but it seems that birth itself may be triggered by a chemical signal from baby to mother, so it represents baby taking control – a rather important decision! Birth is a trip along a tube into a new world. Baby brings with it its own temporary life support system, placenta and cord, which shows that these are not really part of mother´s body, but baby´s. Many babies probably find the trip interesting, with lots of new sensations, and no fear since baby does not know the possible consequences of problems.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/physical_health/birth/birth_labour.shtml
    http://www.askamum.co.uk/Pregnancy/Search-Results/Week-by-week/Your-babys-development-in-the-womb-/

  • “People don’t want to dictate what the mother can do with her body”

    But Richard you may not want to, but you are! After a set number of weeks you are telling the woman she no longer has rights over her own body that these rights have now been transfered to the “baby”. If this is what you believe then fine, The problem with the abortion debate is that few people are really willing to say what they think. Who gains rights, who loses rights, how is the law enforced etc.

  • “The problem with the abortion debate is that few people are really willing to say what they think.”

    Well, do you believe there should be legalised abortion on demand right up to full term?

  • Richard Dean 9th Oct '12 - 1:31pm

    Ok, Dave W, so you’d rather dictate what baby does with its body, you’re ok with telling it to die?

  • Stuart Mitchell 9th Oct '12 - 6:59pm

    Tony: “This is a difficult question but I for one find it very difficult to believe that it should be decided mainly by men.”

    Interestingly, though pro-choice activists have an irritating tendency to presume to speak for all women (see the first few lines of Ruth’s article for a good example), there are of course plenty of women on the pro-life side of the fence.

    So much so, that If we allowed this question to be decided solely by women, there might actually be much more likelihood of the 24-week limit being lowered. See :-

    http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/religion/2012/10/do-pro-choice-feminists-really-speak-women

    “There is indeed a gender divide on the abortion debate in Britain, and it is especially stark in relation to the question of term limits. A YouGov poll in January found that… twice as many women as men (49% as opposed to 24%) wanted to see a lower limit… An Angus Reid poll in March found an even more dramatic difference, with 35% of men favouring a reduction below 24 weeks and 59% of women doing so. Back in 2006, a MORI poll published by the Guardian found that 47% of women wanted to lower the limit, and a further 10% would ban abortion outright.”

  • The fact that over 90% of abortions occur before 12 weeks is inconsistent with the assertion that “a significant number of women would not even realise they were pregnant” by then.

    Maybe Hunt has looked at the international evidence, something we are always calling for on other matters, that 12 weeks along with other improvements in education and availability and acceptibility of contraception provides the most effective balance of interests between mother and child.

  • Helen Dudden 10th Oct '12 - 12:09am

    Another worman will make a comment. I am a mother to two children both grown, and with children of their own. My daughter was born early and took her time to catch up, she appeared not to grow as she should in the womb. I kept believing things were ok, and they were. I would have found it hard to kill my own child, but then who am I to judge others, but in the past abortion has been used as form of birth control. How many children are born that are part of failed birth control, I think if I remember correctly, quite a few.

    It appears that there is quite a few rather strange ideas being put forward from some MP’s, some, I feel are almost nanny state, and I find them uncomfortable.

  • @Ruth Bright
    I’m surprised that a Lib Dem would make a statement like “But 12 weeks comes from no where” when the majority of the countries within the EU have a 12 week limit – did they all make that decision on a whim? Also, he actually did say that he came to the conclusion that this was when life started, so it did come from some where but he didn’t go into the nuts and bolts of how he came to that conclusion.

    Earlier on, Dave W made the comment “The problem with the abortion debate is that few people are really willing to say what they think.” If the level of debate is to call people cowards and liars then why would anyone want to put forward their ideas and beliefs. I have to add that it is a pity that you don’t yet seem to have joined the debate that you have started.

    If I may be permitted a generalisation for a moment, LDP members are probably the most pro-EU people in the UK, so has anyone from the Party actually researched the reasons why those countries adopted a 12 week limit to see if there is anything we can actually learn (I ask as you have been a Party member of 26 years and so would probably know)?

    @Stuart Mitchell
    Re the polling point, I hadn’t seen the article that you have referred to but I had read the one on
    UK Polling Report (http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/6253) which I guess is talking about the same polls, they both make interesting reading so thanks for the link.

    @Chris 8th Oct ’12 – 11:58pm
    “To give a personal example, there is a child in my own extended family who was born after just 21 weeks pregnancy …..”

    Although we don’t know the exact details of the case you refer to so can’t really comment on it specifically, there is a general point that the gestational age may not always be accurate (unless IVF is used of course, then the fertilisation date/time will be recorded). Early ultrasound dating is probably the best dating method and even that may be out (the term they use is accurate estimate), the last time I had anything to do with this sort of thing, I think the potential error rate was about 5 days. I think using Last Menstrual Period without ultrasound was +/- 14 days. I know 5 days doesn’t seem a lot, but in pregnancy a lot can happen in that time which would make the chances of survival better.

    @Helen Dudden
    ” but in the past abortion has been used as form of birth control.”

    Would it not be fair to say that it probably still is used as a form of birth control?

    “It appears that there is quite a few rather strange ideas being put forward from some MP’s, some, I feel are almost nanny state, and I find them uncomfortable.”

    Are you just referring to the 12 weeks or are there also other things causing that feeling?

  • Jonathan Lancaster 10th Oct '12 - 1:07pm

    On the 12 week limit, the logic leading some people to that position is that at the stage the foetus is anotomically complete, though admittedly not neurologically active. I can understand the emotional impulse against terminating something that ‘looks like a baby’, though it’s not a position I find terribly convincing. I have to say, as an aside, that I find debates about abortion rather unstatisfying – everyone has their own analysis, the state has to take a certain standpoint, and either way you’re going to have people that are unhappy. That’s about the end of it.

    Whilst we all have our opinions, the thing that gets me is why Hunt feels it’s even remotely appropriate, as a cabinet minister, let alone for health, to express his personal opinion when this matter isn’t even on the government’s legislative programme.

  • That some may seek to exclude others from this debate is highly offensive.

    The criticism that the general decision of how to regulate abortion should be decided only by ‘women’ is massively flawed. We are all offspring of our parents, and therefore we all have a contributions to make to the political debate on abortion – it could’ve happened to any of us.

    This is a completely separate point from the argument about control over one’s own body, as women still have the final say in the particular situation where they may find themselves facing the choice of keeping a pregnancy.

    Regarding the time limit for abortion: if we accept the principle of viability, should we then set the limit at the lower or higher extreme of the viability range, understanding the consequences of each?

    Regarding Secretary Hunt, it’s completely disingenuous for him, his supporters or his interviewer to claim this was merely a private opinion since he was asked the question in a formal setting with the specific interntion that his view be aired in public, he complied and his view has been publicised.

    If it was his ‘private’ opinion he should’ve kept it private: he didn’t, so it isn’t, at best it is his ‘personal’ opinion.

  • John Richardson 10th Oct '12 - 11:25pm

    I think you’re nitpicking the difference between ‘private’ and ‘personal’ there. It’s obvious he means it’s his opinion as an individual as opposed to an official opinion as a government minister. The personal opinion of a minister, or any decision maker, is only one factor that contributes to their final judgement. At least that is true for the good ones. His official opinion is to have no opinion.

  • Many thanks to everyone for their comments.

    Chris_sh – I was hoping this article would have been up a bit earlier. The timing means that I have not been able to respond because I have been away from home working and much as I love LDV I did not want to use a work computer to post my comments! i will try and redeem myself now.

  • It is interesting that very few people (with or one or two honourable exceptions) have actually addressed the questions about the realities of enforcing a 12 week limit. This is not just about Hunt having to address a few “nuts and bolts” nor about “hysteria” (interesting turn of phrase) nor about debating points on amale-dominated website but about the hard choices many women face in their imperfect lives.

    Stuart Mitchell – I am not a “pro-choice activist” just a mum who knows what it means to carry two babies to term.

    In general I am not sure it is very useful for one side to be caricatured as baby killers or the other to be caricatured as mad Jesuits who go around christening sanitary towels!

    I went to a girls’ school, I work and have worked in a female dominated profession and as a mother of two young children I know many other mothers. In all my years of discussing this subject with other girls and women I have only ever met one woman (and she was nun) who thought her anti-abortion views meant that other women should unwillingly give birth. I agree that many, many women are anti-abortion but in my experience the vast majority do not wish to impose that view on other women. Forgive the very personal example – if I got pregnant, now, at 45, I would be in absolute despair but I would definitely go through with pregnancy. I would also, however, despair if the state compelled someone like me to go through with a pregnancy she did not want, where, at 45, she faced a 50% risk of miscarriage anyway and a 1in 20 risk of Down’s Syndrome.

  • Richard Dean 11th Oct '12 - 10:37am

    Babies and young children get really, really good at controlling adults through tears. Watch carefully, but secretly, and you’ll sometimes see them watching you and altering the volume, tone, and wetness depending on how they think you’re reacting! Of course a parent must provide, but a parent must also educate through reason, natural limitations, and by convincing the child of the value of sharing with others, for example.

    It’s the natural cycle of control in which starts in the womb with baby demanding life, continues through childhood with sweets and ice cream and all sorts of attention, slows with maturity, and fails as the adults have new babies who beat them at the same game.

    So an experienced parent can be a bit cautious about interpreting the “I would be in despair” argument. It’s a bit close to the tears approach – the “I want what I want and I don’t care about baby’s rights or anyone else” argument.

    Some children really will damage themselves to get what they want, so a paremt has to be flexible enough to provide what is wanted well before anything like that happens. In the same way, “I would be in despair” could presumably be interpreted as a valid medical reason – risk of depression and self-harm. I expect that many doctors would recognize and understand this and accept it as valid.

    I imagine that “a 50% risk of miscarriage … and a 1in 20 risk of Down’s Syndrome” might also be covered in the legislation, in the form of medical reasons for termination?

  • Richard I think that is pretty offensive, suggesting I have used the word despair in a childish way. I was trying to give a personal example in a debate which is too abstract.

  • Richard Dean 11th Oct '12 - 1:00pm

    Ruth, thanks, your reponse is indeed what might be expected from a sulky child. The context of the debate really is the cycle of new life taking control of old life.

  • Ruth

    I’ve found to my disappointment that a few of the regular contributors on Lib Dem Voice are incredibly mysogynistic. (Last week, one or two men on here were defending the Page 3 models on the grounds that men should be allowed to enjoy the female form!). I found your comment to be very insightful and I’m amazed that anyone could think it was sulky or childish in any way. However, do not be surprised to be patronised or personally insulted on here. I do wonder what happened to the nice Lib Dems.

  • Richard Dean 11th Oct '12 - 1:44pm

    But Phyllis, isn’t your reply just demonstrating my point too?

    My comment was not offensive – it was Ruth who decided to interpret in that way. Children re-interpret that too, when they don’t get their way. They go off in a sulk claiming all sorts of things! I did not write that Ruth’s comment was not insightful or was childish. That seems to be your claim. Children claim all sort of things, when they don’t get their way!

    This is an important aspect of the debate because of the suggestion that many women don’t want to “impose their views on others” in this particular context. Why not, I wonder? Can this be the selfish child – I want what I want? Are women really so focussed on their own rights that they refuse to defend the rights of others’ unborn children?

    No offence intended. Someone did say, right at the start, that is an emotional issue. It can be helpful to see what the emotions are, rather than focus exclusively on avoiding upsetting people. 🙂

  • Ruth Bright 11th Oct '12 - 2:50pm

    Thanks Phyllis. A few years ago when I was a PPC I attended a meeting where a Lib Dem councillor referred to a Tory councillor as a “cow who should be milked”. He then went on to discuss her underwear. Needless to say I was the one portrayed as the humourless (and presumably Richard, sulky) whinger when I protested!

  • Richard Dean 11th Oct '12 - 3:25pm

    The grandparent in me is seeing those symptoms again! 🙂

  • Ruth Bright 11th Oct '12 - 4:44pm

    .Any further views on the actual article still appreciated!

  • @Ruth

    Outrageous!! how do they get away with that sort of behaviour?! I have heard, over the years, Tory people saying that Lib Dems can be pretty nasty and perfidious. I did not give any credence to these comments (coming from the Tories! ) but now I am thinking there was some truth in them.

    As it happens, I am a couple of years older than you and I, too, would be in utter despair if I was to become pregnant. I don’t think a termination would be something I could contemplate for myself (but who knows until one is actually in that position? ) and yet it would be totally abhorrent for women to be forced to carry on with unwanted pregnancies. Do we really want a return to backstreet abortions? Shudder!!

  • Richard Dean 11th Oct '12 - 5:38pm

    So,Phyllis, would you be ok legalizing abortions at 8 months, for a mother who changes her mind at that time? She has a healthy foetus, but her husband just died. She’s adamant that she doesn’t want it. Or would you force her to carry on with the unwanted pregnancy?

    Here’s an interesting article, though it helps to hear it to experience the full impact:
    http://www.angelfire.com/nj3/rebekah8369/

  • John Richardson 11th Oct '12 - 6:43pm

    There is a problem with abuse on both sides of this argument. Believe me I have read all the comments on LDV and on other Lib Dem sites. And although I am somebody who wants to see the abortion limit reduced substantially I don’t think of myself of as either a “reactionary” , a “women-hater” or a “lunatic”. Those kind of mindless comments, whichever side they come from, should be ignored and not used as an excuse to avoid addressing the substantive issues.

    Meaningful participation in this debate can only be achieved by those at least willing to acknowledge the legitimate concerns of the other side. If you think Jeremy Hunt’s position is extreme, beyond the pale, you’re not doing that. It is fact beyond dispute that many other liberal countries with far better outcomes in this area have 12 week limits. At least one area of common ground is that everybody wants to reduce the number of abortions. Some of those countries have abortion rates as much as half that of the UK. Perhaps it would be a more productive discussion to look at how they achieve it? Then a reduction in the limit might be less controversial and we can all be happy with the law!

  • “Last week, one or two men on here were defending the Page 3 models on the grounds that men should be allowed to enjoy the female form!”

    As someone who isn’t at all a fan of page 3, I have to say that the thing I find really shocking is that anyone could call herself a liberal and take issue with a statement that men should be allowed to enjoy the female form!

  • @Ruth Bright
    “the realities of enforcing a 12 week limit.”
    Except for the time limit, what realities would be different than now. Or to be more precise (using the 2011 stats as a guide), as 92% of women have an abortion within 12 weeks what would the reality be for the remaining 8%?
    I suppose that it is probable that part of that 8% will be the people unfortunate enough to get the bad test results, or perhaps those who find that a pregnancy may be dangerous for them. This group could be easily catered for under existing law (as Chris pointed out in both the 1st and 4th comment).
    So what about the percentage of cases where the woman didn’t realise they were pregnant or perhaps they didn’t sort things out quickly enough? Well I’m sorry if I sound hard nosed or uncaring but have you ever heard the phrase Hard cases make bad law?

    I believe that you also seem to be assuming that all of those cases will result in bad things, I don’t think that may always be the case so I’ll pass on a little story if I may. One day (whilst in a previous marriage), my wife went to the doctor because she was feeling a bit off, her normal GP wasn’t in and there was an old grizzled locum there. The moment she walked in the door, he looked her up and down and said “pregnant, about 6 months I’d say”. My wife thought he was having a laugh as she had been having periods for all off that time and didn’t see any signs within herself of pregnancy. But to be safe, a test was done and it turned out that the doctor was pretty much spot on. Less than 2 months later she gave birth (early) to her second son, she’d not even had a chance to get used to the thought of being pregnant and found it impossible to bond, so she did what she thought was for the best and filled out the adoption paperwork and gave it to her social worker (who she had because of various other things going on). So how does she feel now? Well, she thinks that social worker is the best thing since sliced bread, she’d decided to delay my wife’s choice for a few weeks and kept the forms in her handbag. After a couple of weeks, my wife did change her mind and she’s now happy to tell people she has a great son and why she is lucky to have him. She’s had some tough & (very) bad times since taking that decision but she has never regretted it. So, in short, you never can tell and shouldn’t always assume the worst.

    Having said the above, I don’t actually agree with the 12 week limit, but any limit is going to throw up hard cases.

    @John Richardson
    If I may say, very well said.

  • Chris
    “As someone who isn’t at all a fan of page 3, I have to say that the thing I find really shocking is that anyone could call herself a liberal and take issue with a statement that men should be allowed to enjoy the female form!”

    When did I call myself a Liberal? you presume too much.

    And it was the idea of grown men ogling young girls (Sam Fox was only just 16 when she was on P3) in highly sexualised poses with accompanying brain-dead captions and calling that ‘enjoying the female form” that I found shocking. I thought Lib Dem men would be a bit more ‘evolved’ .

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