Abortion votes still in flux with three days to go

Update. The Observer thought this subject right for an editorial, rather than the Executive deadlock.
It’s testimony to the strain of infantilism in NI politics that bishops are now echoing the politicians’ bleat that the “political process” could be damaged if Westminster voted to legalise abortion in the province this week. Not that Westminster will do any such thing. If local parties across the divide are united against abortion, how can it affect the future of the Assembly? Only if they commit suicide which they also loudly oppose. So hopeless is this level of debate that I almost wish they’d get on and do it. Meanwhile the Cabinet even in the middle of a financial crisis still hasn’t decided how to handle Wednesday’s votes on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill and its hot button abortion amendments. Their indecision isn’t out of tenderness for Northern Ireland but to appease Scottish Catholic Labour MPs a fortnight before the crucial Glenrothes by election. Given that the NI amendment was fated never to succeed, I can readily agree with a point made by an abortion opponent:

“A report due out today from academics chaired by Professor David Jones, a bio-ethicist and leading advocate of restricting abortions, calls for ‘further reflective and comprehensive review’ of the issues surrounding abortion. ‘It is not acceptable for matters of such moral and social importance to be decided by amendments tagged on to a government bill without adequate opportunity for reflection and public engagement.’

Until local politicians face up to the facts and learn about abortion and other ethical and social issues as they affect others, politics will never reach even adolescence, never mind maturity.
For instance:

“In 2007 alone, it estimates, around 1,400 women fled, paying up to £2,500 each for clinic and travel costs.”

“I’d been sick for ages, my blood pressure was through the roof and I was worried that something was seriously wrong,” she says. “The last thing I expected was to be told I was 12 weeks pregnant. I was still having periods.”

As a single mother on benefits, suffering with depression and chronic health problems, Smith realised she could not cope with being pregnant. After a few “very difficult days” she decided to have an abortion. “I just knew it was the right thing to do. I had to think of my two children. What use am I to them even more sick, or dead?”

These political attitudes are less an exercise of conscience, more an abdication of responsibility.

By the way it’s not the case that the devolution of justice and policing means the transfer of all social and ethical law making powers to the Assembly. And it remains absurd for any unionist to argue against the abortion amendment on NI on constitutional grounds. Better though, if MLAs could live up to their responsibilities.

  • Bohereen

    Dawn Purvis and Anna Lo, both MLAs, are trying to get a debate going, aren’t they?

  • Comrade Stalin

    That was a great blog, Brian.

    I always shudder when the men in skirts get involved in politics. I take some comfort from the fact that whenever they do so, they usually embarass themselves.

  • IJP

    Agreed, Comrade.

    And let’s hear no more from the “four main parties” about women’s rights. When it came to the crunch, Nationalists surrendered women’s right to dignity to the Bishops, and Unionists surrendered women’s rights to the same Health Services that exist in the rest of the UK.

    If the law in NI were really stopping abortions happening, that’d be one thing. But actually all it’s doing is shifting the act elsewhere, forcing NI women into an even more harrowing (and more expensive) experience. Which is, of course, easy for men to do…

    Pathetic.

  • Rory

    It’s bad enough men in skirts getting involved in politics, Comrade Stalin, it’s when bloody Roman Catholic priests, sworn to eschew their human sexuality (though often failing), start bleating on about the politics of human reproduction that really gets my hackles up . And I speak as one raised as an Irish Catholic.

    It is for the laity who have to struggle with the practice of their own god-given sexuality and its consequences everyday to be preaching to the Church on these matters in order that the benefit of their experience is imparted to those whose only experience of practising their sexuality is necessarily illicit, furtive and exploitative.

  • Unless my maths are wrong, 1400 women is less than 40 a week. I thought that figure sounded too high.

    As for the men in skirts argument. I never heard anyone complaining when churchmen condemned murders during the Troubles. They see abortions the same way. Similarly, I’m fairly sure no-one objects to CORI’s reports on poverty (except maybe the governments as it exposes their inadequacies). Now, I’m all for keeping religion out of politics (and everything else for that matter) but I also recognise when what amounts to crude prejudice and facile attempts to avoid debate are floating about just because they are saying things other people don’t like.

  • Ann

    Well Brian when was the last time you’d your period? The way you are harping on about this anyone could think your hormones were all over the place.

    Still hoping we’ll get the murder of the unborn through Brian, tisk tisk. Don’t the men in skirts have a say anymore, are they to be denied a political opinion? Are they not allowed to speak like their conscience dictates? They should shut up because it doesn’t fit in with womens groups who want to murder the unborn in western countries, but are too pc correct to speak out against the men in skirts who have a neck hold on their Islamic sisters?

    Ask the people and put it to the vote, after all what have these women got to fear from a democratic vote.

    Hopefully it will be pushed back and the unborn will be given a chance to see the light of day.

    Alternative to abortion =- adoption.

  • Ann

    How did a single mother on benefits get pregnant? Isn’t that a breach of the benefit rules, that you cannot live with a partner if you are claiming to be a single parent.

    Or was it a one night stand?

    But she’s depressed isn’t she, can she afford to go out and socialise? If she can afford that, she could afford a box of condoms, or indeed the boat to Britain…

  • joeCanuck

    Serves her right, doesn’t it Ann?

  • Ann

    Thats not my attitude joe, sorry if you feel that way or if i came accross that way, but people should be responsible for their behaviour, abortion is not the pill. Neither is extending the abortion act, a reason to say NI politicians are maturing.

    A mature way would be to ask the electorate.

  • noel adams

    40 women a week is probably true
    Last year there were 1,385 women from Northern Ireland delt with in GB approx 80 here.Plus those traviling to europe because its less expensive,plus some getting drugs on line.
    Donaldson said westminster MPs should not vote on the ammendment as its a local matter but he is very quick to speak and vote on abortion issues that only apply to GB illiogical position if ever there was one.
    hope the prcidueral motion falls if these tactitcs are comming into play the vote numbers must be verry tight.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Still hoping we’ll get the murder of the unborn through Brian, tisk tisk.

    Many women in NI seek and indeed receive abortions, Ann. I see you’re not addressing that issue, and in all likelihood, you won’t address it.

    Don’t the men in skirts have a say anymore, are they to be denied a political opinion?

    You wouldn’t be saying that if they were in favour of abortion. Why ? Because the churchmen are attempting to do much more than voice their opinion. They’re trying to use their religion to push their point of view.

    Ask the people and put it to the vote, after all what have these women got to fear from a democratic vote.

    I’d be completely open to the idea of a referendum, but that still wouldn’t address the real issue, which is that this legislation doesn’t effect whether people get abortions or not. It just effects where they get them, and the amount of suffering they have to go through while doing so.

    Hopefully it will be pushed back and the unborn will be given a chance to see the light of day.

    Alternative to abortion =- adoption.

    Yes, and why don’t we bring back the Magdalene laundries ? Given that opposition to this legislation is not about stopping abortions, but about making it more painful to go about getting one, the easiest conclusion here is that those of that point of view are more interested in punishing the women involved.

    Garibaldy:

    As for the men in skirts argument. I never heard anyone complaining when churchmen condemned murders during the Troubles. They see abortions the same way.

    They’re doing a lot more than condemning abortion. They’re trying to use politics to stop this legislation getting through. I couldn’t object if they were merely saying “we think abortion is wrong”.

  • Ann

    Many women in NI seek and indeed receive abortions, Ann. I see you’re not addressing that issue, and in all likelihood, you won’t address it.

    Why should I address it, it’s not the issue. The issue is the extention of the abortion law to NI, thats whats been debated, and thats a change in the law brought about by undemocratic means. It’s not the pro-life lobby who defined the parameters of this debate, it’s the pro-choice lobby. The pro-choiers knew they wouldn’t get it in democratically, so they’re backing a proposal by an English labour MP to have it extended here, offering them the same choice due to uniformity. Yet the UK is not uniform in many areas of law.

    The pro-choicers are bring out the sob stories to influence the debate emotionally, to muddy the waters about what they are trying to do.

    You wouldn’t be saying that if they were in favour of abortion. Why ? Because the churchmen are attempting to do much more than voice their opinion. They’re trying to use their religion to push their point of view.

    Yes I would. In the sound bite society, all are entitled to a political opinion even the men in skirts. If actresses and musicians can be invited on to panel talk shows to give their opinions on every subject why not the men in skirts? Are they not sexy enough?

    Yes, and why don’t we bring back the Magdalene laundries ? Given that opposition to this legislation is not about stopping abortions, but about making it more painful to go about getting one, the easiest conclusion here is that those of that point of view are more interested in punishing the women involved.

    I’ve a feeling you are mixing up your jurisdictions, since the laundries were in the south. We’ve never had abortion on demand in NI, nor magdalene laundries, so what exactly is your point?

    Re: making it harder to get an abortion. This isn’t about getting abortion with ease, it’s about walking over the democratic will of the people of N Ireland, who are mature enough to vote on this issue, and whose four main parties do NOT support this extention of this law.

  • Damo Mackerel

    ‘Serves her right, doesn’t it Ann?’ – joeCanuck

    Actually it does Joe. when you choose a particular lifestyle you have to deal with the consequences of that lifestyle. Yes, personal choice and all that.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Why should I address it, it’s not the issue. The issue is the extention of the abortion law to NI, thats whats been debated,

    Yes, that’s right. The problem here is that you are trying to characterise the debate as one about the rights and wrongs of abortion. That question is irrelevant. The law does not make abortion illegal. It makes it illegal to carry it out here.

    and thats a change in the law brought about by undemocratic means.

    Nonsense, it’s brought about by the same means as all other reserved matters.

    The pro-choiers knew they wouldn’t get it in democratically, so they’re backing a proposal by an English labour MP to have it extended here, offering them the same choice due to uniformity. Yet the UK is not uniform in many areas of law.

    It’s quite correct, and not undemocratic at all, for local politicians and citizens to lobby the UK parliament for legislation on reserved matters, and that will continue until NI is no longer part of the UK. And English (and Scots and Welsh) politicians are quite entitled to have a say in the matter, as they are responsible for legislation right across the UK. At the moment we are dumping our problem on the other parts of the UK by refusing to take responsibility for it ourselves.

    The pro-choicers are bring out the sob stories to influence the debate emotionally, to muddy the waters about what they are trying to do.

    So you don’t think describing abortion as “murder” is emotional ? You don’t believe your views on abortion are, in some way, derived from your emotions ?

    My concern for people and their welfare defines most of my political beliefs and it governs what I think is right or wrong. You may like to characterise this as emotion taking over rationality, but if I throw my personal feelings on things away, how can I feel compassion or empathy and, as such, from where should I derive my sense of morality or ethics ?

    Yes I would. In the sound bite society, all are entitled to a political opinion even the men in skirts. If actresses and musicians can be invited on to panel talk shows to give their opinions on every subject why not the men in skirts? Are they not sexy enough?

    I hope you’re not going to be one of those people who has to have something explained several times over. I did not deny that as individuals they were entitled to express their opinion. Please re-read what I said again. They are trying to use their position as clerics to influence matters. I do not believe that clerics should have any more influence than the regular man/woman on the street.

    I’ve a feeling you are mixing up your jurisdictions, since the laundries were in the south. We’ve never had abortion on demand in NI, nor magdalene laundries, so what exactly is your point?

    Does the jurisdiction change my point ?

    Re: making it harder to get an abortion. This isn’t about getting abortion with ease, it’s about walking over the democratic will of the people of N Ireland, who are mature enough to vote on this issue, and whose four main parties do NOT support this extention of this law.

    There are a few home truths to get used to. We’re exposed to laws that we have no say over all the time. A lot of them from London, a lot of them from Europe – such as the refuse/landfill fines that Sammy Wilson was in the news about earlier this week. I don’t really think that your concern for democracy is the real basis for your point of view here.

    Damo:

    Actually it does Joe. when you choose a particular lifestyle you have to deal with the consequences of that lifestyle. Yes, personal choice and all that.

    You’re not quite making the argument that women who wear short skirts deserve to be raped, but you’re coming damn close.

  • Ann

    Yes, that’s right. The problem here is that you are trying to characterise the debate as one about the rights and wrongs of abortion. That question is irrelevant. The law does not make abortion illegal. It makes it illegal to carry it out here.

    Did we have a debate about it in the assembly. Not as far as I know, but theres a debate on slugger, (how could we miss it) which is the one I’m referring to. We had a programme on about it – panorama- still no debate in the assembly! The parties are out against it, and it is being linked to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill which will not only liberalise the abortion laws but change conditions for granting IVF and without any public consultation or debate this bill will allow tissue to be taken from the mentally infirm without their consent.

    Have the nazi’s descended upon us?

    It can now be revealed that a Government amendment, agreed after the main parliamentary debates, would allow tissue to be used from people who lack the “mental capacity” to give consent, children whose parents give permission, and anyone who has previously donated samples to hospitals for medical research but can no longer be traced

    Yet somehow you assure us that all proper parliamentary procedure has been correct in this issue.

    My concern for people and their welfare defines most of my political beliefs and it governs what I think is right or wrong.

    Yet you argue that this bill is fine, that the taking of tissue from those who cannot give consent is ok, that the unborn can be done away with more liberally, and that IVF treatment should all somehow be linked together, amended and adjusted after debate, is all to the good of society, and your fellow citizens?

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/health/3224172/Human-tissue-could-be-taken-from-the-infirm-without-their-consent-and-used-for-research.html

  • Ann

    I hope you’re not going to be one of those people who has to have something explained several times over. I did not deny that as individuals they were entitled to express their opinion. Please re-read what I said again. They are trying to use their position as clerics to influence matters. I do not believe that clerics should have any more influence than the regular man/woman on the street.

    And media personalities don’t? Try Oprah,Ellen DeGeneres and on and on…

    But thats sexy, its not stuffy old religion. Is it better for society to be influenced by media personalities, or men in frocks? Either way they’re both trying to influence.

  • Ann

    There are a few home truths to get used to. We’re exposed to laws that we have no say over all the time. A lot of them from London, a lot of them from Europe – such as the refuse/landfill fines that Sammy Wilson was in the news about earlier this week. I don’t really think that your concern for democracy is the real basis for your point of view here.

    Then you don’t know me, for I am as opposed to the EU as much as I would be abortion by a back door.

  • Danny O’Connor

    An alternative is adoption,Stop the NHS paying for expensive IVF treatment,there are no guarantees with this costly treatment,if the same criteria was applied in relation to value for money-as it is with cancer drugs,it would be.

  • Clumperino

    Garibaldy – 1400 women last year travelled to England to have an abortion and gave an NI address. There are no figures relating to women from NI who give English addresses nor for those women who travel to other parts of the EU for abortion services – which is thought to be another 600 or so. That is where the 40 women a week comes from.

    It is about time women in NI had the right to control their bodies and it would be a shameful dereliction of duty if the Government does not push through this amendment. 41 years is a long time, but it is not too late!

  • Damo Mackerel

    ‘You’re not quite making the argument that women who wear short skirts deserve to be raped, but you’re coming damn close’.

    Deliberately quoting me out of context, aye? I never said anything about women deserving to be rape. That’s your agruemnet not mine.