26 March 2012
‘Abortion: the case for change’
A Guardian editorial on 26 March argues that 'A woman's right to choose is not best defended by legislation that on paper at least excludes her views'.
The Guardian states:
‘Abortion law in the UK is a mess. It is defended in the name of a woman’s right to choose, yet technically it is up to two doctors, not the woman herself, to make the decision. It is neither uniformly nor automatically available. It does not even extend across the whole of the United Kingdom; Northern Ireland has always been beyond its scope. The 1967 Act was a necessary compromise between paternalistic post-war social conservatives and 1960s liberals. But attempts to modernise it are stalled by anti-abortion campaigners who would like instead to outlaw it altogether.
‘On Friday, selected news outlets were briefed by the Department of Health that an investigation into illegality in independent abortion clinics was under way. The hard-pressed Care Quality Commission was carrying out urgent spot checks in search of evidence that as many as a fifth of the 250 clinics inspected were carrying out terminations on the basis of authorisations signed by doctors who had no connection with the patient. The health secretary Andrew Lansley said he was “shocked and appalled”. The CQC said it would inform the police and the GMC where evidence of a breach in the law was found.
‘There are, at least on the face of it, grounds to suppose this investigation – instituted by the health secretary himself, rather than the CQC – is politically motivated. Ann Furedi, chief executive of BPAS, one of the charities whose clinics were visited, insisted there had been no change in the way they operated for the past 10 years or more. One explanation for the question “why this, why now?” is that Mr Lansley is under pressure from some on the Conservative Christian right including backbenchers like Nadine Dorries who want much more restrictive right to abortion. Last week, she was quick to use the investigation as new grounds for a review of the law, one the Department of Health has now revealed is under consideration. In an earlier attack on the reputation of clinics, a Daily Telegraph investigation last month led to one woman doctor being suspended for allegedly allowing a termination on the grounds of gender. In all this squall there are worrying portents here of the way that the abortion debate in the US has been hijacked by hardliners who want to take away a woman’s right to abortion.
‘A woman’s right to choose is not best defended by legislation that on paper at least excludes her views. Nor is double-think that cherrypicks reasons for abortion any use. Women either have the right to choose – and that might include choosing to abort a foetus with a cleft palate, or one that is the “wrong” gender. Or they don’t. The law should be based on one straightforward, rational principle – that women should be treated in law as the autonomous individuals they are.’
Abortion: the case for change. A woman’s right to choose is not best defended by legislation that on paper at least excludes her views. Guardian, 26 March 2012
AR topic archive: Anti-abortion round-up