Should NI women have NHS access to abortion..?

Few Northern Irish issues have stimulated debate elsewhere in the blogosphere like the failed attempt by Diane Abbot to get the provisions of the 1967 Abortion Act extended to Northern Ireland. Over at the Fabian Next Left Blog, Sunder Katwala lays out a couple of thoughts:

(1) As well as the Commons voting, at some point in the future, on extending the 1967 Act to Northern Ireland, perhaps there is a good case to put another ‘stepping stone’ reform on the agenda at the same time: mainland MPs should also propose to make women from Northern Ireland eligible to have an abortion on the NHS in the rest of the UK, until and unless the NI law is changed

(2) Secondly, there is very little good information on public attitudes to abortion in Northern Ireland – and a non-partisan study of public attitudes could help to create a more informed and less polarised debate. It may perhaps not be in the partisan interests of neither side to admit to the complexity of opinion.

He also notes:

Meanwhile, those promoting reform have this week released a poll with a clear majority in Northern Ireland for the right to abortion in the cases of rape and incest – with 60% in favour and 20% against.

I don’t know if they also polled the public on the support for the extension of the 1967 Act itself: if they did, the figures do not seem to have been released. (It would be a reasonable hunch to say that there would currently be public a majority against: it is reported (PDF file) that there was 25% to 30% support for abortion at the request of the woman in Northern Irish polls in 1992 and 1994. I have not seen any more recent information).

In the meantime, up to forty Northern Irish women a week make an often long and lonely journey to private English clinics, occasionally treated by nurses from home. Whilst, it seems, our politicians are happy to see this particularly awkward bundle of ethical questions kicked to touch by Westminster, even as Stormont remains powerless to take a decision.

Robert Keys’ contribution to that debate is worth clipping:

I therefore ask that they—and Parliament—consider changing the habits of a lifetime: they should accept that the very important issue of abortion should not be shuffled off to a private Member’s Bill but instead tackled in Government time with a Government Bill. We are mature enough in this country now to take those issues as public business; they are public business.

You can watch the full debate here:

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  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Just how ridiculous does the DUP look on this – denying Norn Iron the right to make it own decision on this by refusing to take on Polcie and Justice and yet complaining that the Englezes should not impose abortion on the people of Norn Iron.

  • RepublicanStones

    In my younger days I would have been pro-choice. But circumstances have changed and as such my opinion has too. I would agree with the poll regarding rape and incest, (although the latter usually involves the former anyway…unless your from Derry), even then, aren’t we punishing somebody else for the actions of another?
    But the ‘McDonaldisation’ of abortions is to be avoided at all costs. Instances where a child is unwanted or finacially impossible, one must realise that adulthood and its ‘house of fun’ as Maddness called it, comes with responsibilities and consequences. As pointed out the lonely trek many women are forced to make is absurd, but one wonders what percentage of these are going for self-centred reasons and what percentage are forced to go through the actions of others.
    Christ but this issue is a minefield !

  • USA

    “Should nI women have access to abortion?”


  • sammaguire

    Heard the apparently true story of a well heeled English lady seeking an abortion on the grounds that the final trimester clashed with a prearranged skiing holiday. Think she got it too. Most of the doctors over there are pro choice seemingly.
    Some sort of limited abortion is probably inevitable for extreme cases (rape, anencehaly,cases where the woman’s life is endangered etc) but the vast majority of people north and south don’t want abortion on demand and hopefully never will. Despite our failings in some regards the two main tribes on this island deserve praise for not losing certain basic values that most of the “civilised” world seems to have lost.

  • KieranJ

    Should NI women have access to abortions?

    Only if they are the offsping of Unionists and Loyalists. Perhaps then we can stop the destruction of the Ulster Province which has taken place in the past century.

  • Mick Fealty


    Before anyone else complains that’s pretty vile. But if it’s a serious political opinion, it stands. Better out than in, as the saying goes.


    Is this another one of your contentless rants or are you going go beyond the DUP are wrong because they are wrong line of argument. Interesting that Jeffrey invokes the ‘ghost’ of Gerry as backings for his party’s position.


    I,’m really not sure if there is such a process as the McDonaldisation of abortion. If can use such a glib term, I doubt you’ve known the tribulation of anyone who’s gone through it.

    And the truth is that none of our politicians seem remotely interested in tackling the issue in the mature manner that ‘public business’ requires. IIRC, none of the parties are going to give you what you think might be reasonable.

    As a footnote, I suspect that if they 67 act had not already been applied to Scotland and Wales none of their local devolved local parties would have had the sensibility to tackle this one.

    That there is choice in the UK at all, comes down, I suspect, to the liberal metropolitan elites in England.

  • graduate

    Seriously tricky this one innit? Yes, I’m inclined to believe that women should have access to abortion AS A LAST RESORT AND AFTER SERIOUS COUNSELLING, not the crap they waffle at abortion clinics. This is a hugely difficult choice for any woman to have to make and to say it’s emotionally charged is putting it mildly. I have friends who finally made the choice in favour of abortion and it’s haunted them since-particularly the friend from here who had to travel to England- broke her heart and support from the other half was non-existent. I believe that women aren’t given the choices that include adoption- any baby didn’t ask to be born and sometimes adoption is a plausible choice, although again, hugely difficult to make I also think the time limit needs to be reduced to 12 weeks or so. We ignore all the subtlties of this subject if we simply reduce it to pro-life, religious fervour. Our politicians are letting us down big time on this because it is such a minefield but sometimes we have to make hard decisions, especially if they’re morally and ethically right. So, for what it’s worth here’s my proposal
    1 Abortion should only be considered as the last resort and must be accompanied by proper sympathetic counselling and a full exploration of other options (look at adoption waiting lists if you don’t believe me)
    2The time limit should be reduced to 12 weeks
    3 Women who choose this course of action should not be vilified and stigmatised the way they can be at present- they’re human too
    Abortion is not a contraceptive device- it’s a hard bloody place to be when you make that decision

  • jeff

    Yes I quite agree there will be tension between devolution and human Rights in a place like NI but it is the Governments duty to make sure there are no inequalities unfortunately for the woman of NI unlike Civil partnerships and age of consent there is no Human Rights route to take to rectify the inequalities in the province.


  • graduate

    BTW we need to improve quality of sex educaiton and try to reduce number of unwanted pregnancies. That also includes the professional classes who seem to screw it up as much as everyone else

  • Bob’s My Uncle

    Should NI women have NHS access to abortion?

    I vote yes. I am female, 30+, married, no kids, employed, neither unionist nor nationalist, neither protestant nor catholic.

  • irishnothappy

    Should NI women have NHS access to abortion?

    Yes there should be equality for all women in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. If a woman wishes to make that ultimate decision and take that step. Then help should be there for them.

    Why is it that as a uk citizen and lived in Manchester they could get access to NHS Abortions? But as a uk citizen in Belfast they cannot get access to NHS abortion?

  • Ann

    As a woman I would like to get involved in these discussions on abortion, but since doing so I’ve been told mainly by chekov that I should have been aborted. Then a warning was issued by Mick Fealty to all concerned, and right afterward I am told again by chekov to shut the fuck up.

    Should I heide my gender and pretend to be a man, or should I shut the fuck up and follow the foot steps of miss fitz who left due to abuse.

    Are women wanted on slugger or not.

    Will mick fealty follow through on his threat to issue cards to those who broke the rules again after his warning. Yes or no. And should all women shut the fuck up or will we be got rid of one by one?

  • Doreen Thompson

    Absolutely not. If abortion had been available 58 years ago, I might have been murdered and my sons would never have existed. Why does no-one think of adoption anymore.

    It is so sad and hardly cost effective that in some hospitals staff are killing babies while colleagues down the corridor are dishing out very expensive fertility treatment.


  • Ann

    Be careful Doreen, I’ve expressed that view, and it’s not welcome here. Like me you’ll get called a nutter, and either suffer the abuse and complain when nothing is done about it, or like miss fitz go away. Careful you don’t get called a troll.

    It is simply disgraceful when an anti abortion viewpoint has been aired, that it is called unconstructive and I’m told to shut the fuck up while this is left to stand as an opinion.

    Should NI women have access to abortions?

    Only if they are the offsping of Unionists and Loyalists. Perhaps then we can stop the destruction of the Ulster Province which has taken place in the past century.

    Why is it left to stand? A man made it. And as we all know there are parts of the wold where women cannot even be a witness, and on slugger we cannot be commentators, or contributers like miss fitz unless we get run off one by one by men.

    Boys rule ?

  • Mick,

    If what Ann is saying is true, then it appears that you have removed the ‘sniper’ comments. However, by leaving Ann’s, you make her look a bit odd and paranoid (ranting about men, in the absence of any visible attacks, for example). Maybe you could remove Ann’s replies to the sniping too, or at least leave some sign of the sniper’s messages (plus their names?) so that we know what is going on.

    Oh, and back on topic: Should NI women have NHS access to abortion..?

    Yes, both NHS and private access.

  • Mick Fealty


    Checkov gets his Yellow card. And if he does it one more time, it will turn red. He has no excuses. He’s had one at least once before.

    Now, I understand the passions this debate evokes, but you’ve done your own share of personalising it, and you seem not to care who you pour personal scorn on: woman or man.

    All views are welcome here. Including the obnoxious ones like ‘Kieran’s’, and Doreen’s very reasonably couched and passionately felt statement of principle.

    What I won’t tolerate is deliberate personalisation either from Chekov, or from you. If you cannot play within the bounds of reasonable discussion then I suggest you follow your own advice and leave this thread to people who are prepared to debate the subject.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it


    “are you going go beyond the DUP are wrong because they are wrong line of argument.”

    It is hardly a ‘rant’ to point out that the DUP want to influence policy – on abortion, but are not prepared to take responsibility for it – by agreeing to the transfer of the power to do so.

    You might be better served attacking some of the more offensive posts/posters rather that my reasonable observation of the DUPs ridiculous position.

  • Rory

    For me the matter is quite simple – I recognise that a woman has an inviolable right to her own body and that right supercedes all others and most particularly trumps any right of the assumed social or religious morality of others to be protected from any offence that her exercise of that right might cause.

    So I don’t agonise over the what if’s and the what might have been’s and I don’t pore over the statistics on IVF treatment and adoption since none of that ought impinge upon the woman’s right. And I most certainly do not allow myself to be influenced by photographic depictions of foetuses either aborted or in the womb – none of that frankly is any of my business.

    All that can become my business is if a woman in distress seeks my help and then it is my duty to do the best I can to help. Whether this is to help a woman to achieve a safe delivery or to have a safe termination is beside the point, that is the woman’s job to decide, my job would be to act in a neighbourly fashion.

    I read Graduate, with all the best of intentions, wrestle with the ‘morality’ of this question, motivated no doubt by his concern that he show some compassion for the foetus and the potential of a human life that it may hold and he plumps for a solution that comforts – access to abortion contingent upon acceptance of counselling and consideration of completing the pregnancy and offering the child for adoption (presuming of course that the child is not still-born or too uninvitingly handicapped or simply not pretty enough to be considered for adoption. It might even be…gasp!..of mixed race).

    While this all sounds ever so sweet and caring I am afraid that it is a gross breach of the woman’s right to be left the hell alone by counsellors, do-gooders, the fervently religious and all the carnival of intefering busy-bodies who have not been asked. Go away! Wait until you are bloody well asked before proffering your opinion. Who asked you?

    For me, as I have said, it is simple – if I am asked for advice, I give my advice but don’t take offence if that advice is rejected. If I am asked to help, I help if I can to the best that I can. Nothing other is required and we can all sleep easy.

  • If either women or men express unpopular or ill thought out opinions on Slugger then they are likely to get criticised, Ann. That’s called debate. It doesn’t do any of the few women who comment on Slugger, such as myself, any favours to rant about it.

    The ‘debate’ on abortion has been pretty poor, on this thread and also on others, but I think this is due to the polarisation of views rather than any gender divide – it’s been noticeable that BOTH woman and men have expressed both anti-abortion and pro-choice views.

    My answer to the question? Yes, of course NI women should have access to abortions. But… there will be practical issues to address as any clinic offering abortions in NI will be heavily picketed and women using it will be identified and vilified – photos on the net, anyone? For some women, the right to an abortion on the NHS elsewhere in the UK will be a more valuable gain that the extension of abortion rights here in NI.

  • Ann

    If either women or men express unpopular or ill thought out opinions on Slugger then they are likely to get criticised, Ann.

    Criticism is one thing, being told ones parents ought to have aborted you is another, so is being told to fuck up. I take the comment from mick fealty that things got personal simply because during debates I joined in the pesonalisation rather than complaining about it. Complaining about it brought no joy in the long run anyway.

    However I’m happy enough that chekov got his card, and see this as the end of the matter.

  • Ms Wiz

    In a nutshell, Yes.

    1. Because I believe a woman has the right to decide the manner in which she controls her own body. No man or government can legislate for that.

    2. Because it’s the law and last time I checked people in Northern Ireland were British citizens. It’s a disgrace that the four main parties here all fall over themselves in order to show their pro-life credentials. The Unionists’ ‘we’re British when it suits us’, and what the hell has happened to SF? From a woman’s right to choose to THIS garbage? Oh deary me.

  • MissFitz

    I havent gone away you know. I have been living about 3 different lives with all sorts of free-lance stuff as well as my proper job, so I havent really being blogging on Slugger as often as I might.

    I conbtributed to an interview with the Irish Times on this subject last week, and I have little time for the kind of aarguments that men are making on this subject.

    In my mind it is clear cut. Men have traditionally exerted control over most aspects of women’s lives. This is one area where emotive and non-scientific arguemts are being used to make women too guitly to control their own reproductive rights.

    In my view, you are either for or against the abortion of a non-viable foetus. None of this rape or incest nonsense. It is either right or wrong, and in my mind it is clearly right that I can choose when or when not to incubate a baby in my womb, which belongs to me.

    But as we live in an androcentric society with male rules, women will never get that last peice of the puzzle, that ultimate piece of control over their own bodies that should not be withheld


  • it shouldn’t be legal anywhere.

    it is killing a child.

    next thing they’ll be killing old people/diasbled people cause it’s inconvenient to look after them…..


    not wanted.


    ever wonder why we throw money at the RSPCA why not just drown all the unwanted dogs and cats? why have we more of a soft spot for some hound than the unborn child?

    as for debate – it’s as easy to type

    i welcome your opinion but disagree

    as it is to type

    i hate your silly old daft views go away and eat rat poison.

  • MissFitz

    You see, that is what the anti-abortinistas come down to! They want to preseve non-viable life, but exhort me to eat rat poison!! So, what a typically lop sided argument they make.

    A foetus is not a child. As a theatre nurse, I assisted at innumerable procedures where the remaining products of conception were removed from the womb. I was a conscientious objector to abortion in those unelightened days!!

    I challenge anyone to try and take home a 6-week old foetus and try and rear it up as a child. It is nothing but a blob of bloody material. OK, maybe some googly eyes, but not viable.

    If we could look after the chidlren we have we would be doing well. Abortion should be a matter of choice for a woman who doesnt want to carry a foetus to term, in order for it then to be classed as a child.

  • You miss my point MissFitz

    i was saying that people don’t need to be nasty when commenting.

    As it is as easy in terms of effort – to type something reasonable as it is to type something unreasonable.

    sorry for any misunderstanding and of course i do not endorse a diet of rat poison.

  • MissFitz

    But as we live in an androcentric society with male rules …

    Quit that old 1960’s nonsense. Women have the vote too, you know, and actually outnumber men in the electorate. If abortion is illegal it is because a significant number of women also disagree with it. You cannot blame everything on ‘men’ as if there is some great big conspiracy. Maybe you didn’t notice that in every single country in which abortion is legal, it was legalised by a majority-male legislature.

    If you want to play gender games (and I think that they are foolish and counter-productive) you could start by trying to persuade women that they should allow each other to control their own bodies.

  • Ann

    Well this is it wile. I don’t see how a comment that I made which said hip hip horray is interpeted as unconstructive,while doreens is a deeply felt principle.

    I have held the principle that getting rid of the unborn was wrong, morally and ethically for the medical profession, and the woman who does it. Is stating that I believe abortion is murder not a deeply felt principle, so this is what I don’t understand. So for believing that, I’m a ridiculous woman, etc etc including a nutter.

    Should women get equal acces NO they shouldn’t. What was said in the commons holds, the four main parties who hold 100 seats rep 98 percent of the population are against it, why should it be imposed via a labour mp who isn’t even NIrish, and who most likely doesn’t even know where NI is on the map.

    If pro life is an unopopular view why are the parties for it, surely it would make no sense electorally.?

    I would like to state my deeply felt opinion that abortion is murder, is that ok? Is it personalising it, orlike kierans is it ok for it to stand.

    But as I said before, is it really worth it over a political opinion. Actually I don’t think it is.

    I’m glad it won’t be imposed via a back door, and I’m glad legal abortion is being kept out.
    Those are my beliefs, like them or not, criticise them civilly and lets debate, instead maybe I’ll get told to shut the fuck up.

    Anyway like I said its not worth it…

  • this is only a home for the anonymous to spout off and try to appear more important than we actually are.

    if slugger folded this evening – there would still be seed time and harvest summer and winter etc…

    enjoy your lunch and don’t get too upset.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Ms Wiz,

    if ever an issue crystallised the difference between Ireland (north and south) and Britian this is it. Secularism has not fully taken root ( for better or worse) as church influence spreads way outside the orbit of what would be expected on the mainland. Unionists, understandably dont ever want to admit this and Nationalist like myself do.

    On the political fron the DUP position of not wanting to have power over something they want to influence is pretty silly loooking and SF fear a visceral reaction amongst Nationalists if they moved to a more secular position.

  • nice to see a nationalist using a phrase like “mainland” – shows your maturity well done. 10 points for reaching out.

  • dorothyday

    basically this all comes down to choice – a woman should have the choice to be a mother or not.

    I vote yes

  • Driftwood
  • Driftwood

    Should have added, Abortion IS legal in NI.
    From the above site:
    It is known that abortions are carried out in Northern Ireland and that abortion is lawful in some circumstances. The cases of K and A in 1993 and 1994 respectively confirm this but in the judgment in A the judge stated that:

    “The doctor’s act is lawful where the continuance of the pregnancy would adversely affect the mental or physical health of the mother…The adverse effect must, however, be a real and serious one and it will always be a question of fact and degree whether the perceived effect of non termination is sufficiently grave to warrant terminating the unborn child”.

    This judgment further clarifies the circumstances in which abortion is lawful in Northern Ireland. Doctors in Northern Ireland wishing to discuss particular cases or to seek advice on the law may contact the local BMA office. The BMA has policy supporting the extension of the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland (Annual Representatives Meeting 1985).

  • Ian

    I’ve posted a couple of comments on the subject on this thread (which has moved off the front page of Slugger, so they may have gone unnoticed):

  • Clady Cowboy

    I speak as as someone’s whose conception led to a shotgun wedding (and predictable divorce 10yrs later)of an 18yr old and 21yr old. If my mother had decided to abort i wouldn’t be here. I’m grateful she didn’t but she should have the right to do so. I wouldn’t have been any the wiser if she had.

    What will really bug me is watching the hypocrites lining the streets in Belfast welcoming our gallant murderers home from Afghanistan holding placards like, “They liberated Afghan women from Tyranny” and then paint over the placard for its next anti-abortion usage where they’ll seek to deny women rights in this country.

  • I don’t know where this idea that the 4 main parties represent 98% of NI people comes from. In the 2007 Assembly elections there was a 63% turnout and, on that, 8.2% of the vote went to the ‘other’ parties and a further 5.3% to other unionist parties or independents, meaning that the ‘big 4’ got 86.4% of the vote. 86.4% of 63% is 54.4%.


    And of course not everyone who voted for the big 4 shares their view on abortion – we all vote for a package of policies, or rather in NI the big 4 vote is territorial and ethnic anyway.

  • RepublicanStones

    Mick by using the term ‘McDonaldisation’ i was merely referring to the possibility of women getting abortions no questions asked, quick and easy. That I feel would be best avoided. As to your point about me not knowing anyone who has had the procedure. I happen to know two. One knows I know, and the other doesn’t know I know, because I was told in confidence, as was the person who told me no doubt. To see them interact socially, you would know no different. Thats an awful lot of knows !

  • Pancho’s Horse

    As an old raver once said “Murder is murder is murder”

  • Mick Fealty

    Talking to an academic friend today, he mentioned some handy gadget they have in a session the other day. Asking a visiting group whether they thought the parties had lived up to their promises last year, 83% said no. Asked if they were going to change the way they vote next time, only 60% said yes.

    Representatives don’t always add up to the exact sum of opinion of their constituents. And it is as crass for them to claim that they do, than it is for advocates of direct democracy to claim that any shortfall between public opinion outside and inside means the representatives should be bypassed.

  • Yes, as for me Ms Fitz has said it all, however I am puzzled by this comment,

    That there is choice in the UK at all, comes down, I suspect, to the liberal metropolitan elites in England.

    Posted by Mick Fealty

    It is the nature of the bourgeois democracy that we live under that most legislation in the UK reaches the statute book through liberal [or reactionary] metropolitan elites, the same is probably true in the south. Why single out the abortion act? weird or could your motives be a tad underhanded?

    Or do you really believe it is only metropolitan elites who support a woman’s right to choose, if so you must live in a very narrow world Mick, and as I know you do not why say it.

    I find it hilarious that horseman still believes that denigrating the 1960s to be an insult, it is as if he has not understood a dam thing from the current economic crises.

    If the right wing control freaks who would deny women the right to choose feel there is no support for a change in the abortion act, why not commission some opinion polls or even sin of sin put it to a vote in parliament. Ah I forgot, that was due to have happened this week, and the British government fearful that it would pass, thus upsetting their reactionary allies in the north, pulled the plug on it.

    Legislation of this type, which by-passed the north due to the long war, like it or not will eventually find its way onto the statue book and like the majority in England today, people will come to wonder what all the fuss was about.

    The rest of western Europe debated such matters 40 years ago, why not move forward and join us in the 21st Century and place bigoted, elitist, reactionary, misogynistic, forelock tugging ways into the dustbin of history.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    It’s interesting to note some posters rabbiting? on about being ‘pro choice’ But stop and think. The choice is ‘Shall I choose to get pregnant or shall I not’. It is not – and no weasel words like ‘abort the foetus’ or ‘terminate the pregnancy’ – the choice of ‘Shall I kill the baby or not?”Does it suit me to squash this living creature or not?’ A ‘nurse’ wrote earlier that it was just a bloody blob and if it was taken home, it could not be kept alive. I hope I never have that ‘nurse’ present if I take a heart attack or suffer from dementia.

  • Driftwood

    Pancho-get off your horse.
    The BMA are the experts. Their decision should be final.
    You’ve never killed a wasp then? It has more right to life than a zygote.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    No, Driftwood. The Nazi eugenics team were more expert than the BMA. A little less arrogant perhaps. Is a ‘zygote’ another weasel word for a human baby? For Ford’s sake man, reread your post. If it’s worth your while answering the post, then answer the questions.

  • Anyone watching South Park? Cartman just called abortion the ultimate form of cheating, cheating nature itself.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    What about the scenario in the spotlessly clean, high technology termination suite?
    “Doctor”. And why do you want to kill this baby which you chose to start?
    Pregnant with child human.
    1. I feel sick
    2. I have a holiday booked
    3. I will lose my boyfriend
    4. My clothes won’t fit
    5. I have three other children
    6. I don’t know how it happened
    7. It’s OK. My family are cool about it.
    8. It’s not really a baby …. is it?
    9. Everybody does it.
    10 Poster on Slugger said it was Ok

  • Driftwood

    We share a common ancestor with wasps Pancho.
    Your post is just a rethread of the “Every sperm is sacred” sketch from Monty Python’s ‘Meaning of life’. There is now a ‘morning after’ pill, soon to be available at Tescos or newsagents. Great. Wish it had been available 20 years ago. Would have saved me 200 quid. This is the 21st century.
    Get used to it.

  • Mick Fealty

    Men start talking, women keep quiet?

  • Ann

    I certainly don’t want to keep quiet, so I’ll venture in the hope that I’m not attacked.

    Mick hall, your post is amazing. How do you know for sure this legislation passed the north due to the long war? NI is a very conservative society. Theres no evidence to suggest that the reason abortion was so restricted here was due to the troubles, none at all. We were ruled by westminister, and westminister could have imposed it if the will had been there. We are simply a place apart, so to argue that abortion legislation, more liberal abortion legislation should be extended here is more complex than it looks.

    I don’t know that its all right wingers trying to keep abortion out? The sdlp and SF are not arguing for it, the only people I see arguing for it are the alliance, mainly anna lo. I was at a meeting which anna lo attended and spoke about abortion. How its necessary, and as a former social worker said she knew all about the horrors of women not being able to get abortion. Rubbish. Another prime example of the alliance punching above their weight.

    The rest of western Europe debated such matters 40 years ago, why not move forward and join us in the 21st Century and place bigoted, elitist, reactionary, misogynistic, forelock tugging ways into the dustbin of history.

    I love the way you characterise us. I don’t tip my forelock to anyone, I’m not reactionary nor any of the other things you mention, and I take exception to my fellow country men being characterised as you describe. Why should we murder our unborn to join the twenty first century? Is abortion progressive? Is it a meaningfull value to society?

    As for the economic crisis, it is a labour govt brought us into this situation. Gordon Brown tells us its a problem that came out of america, thats nonsense, Britain came into the crisis worse off under labour than any other country facing an economic downturn. Britain is the new iceland, sterling is tumbling, business is stagnant and abortion is the last thing on anyones mind. A million people in NI give ortake a few, and they want to pay for abortion on the nhs with two doctors having to decide on each woman, and maybe even new clinics built. The economic crisis will push this back further and if it ever does reach the statute books I’ll wager you it’ll not be in the next decade…..

  • Mick,

    I fail to see why you are encouraging this notion that men are somehow peripheral to this debate, and oppressing the women on Slugger. Abortion is a societal issue. Why shouldn’t men forcefully give their opinion, pro and anti. I find the whole idea that men have no right to talk about this really patronising and illogical.

  • Ann

    And to drive home the economic point I’ve read on one blog this evening that sterling is soon to be on a par with the dollar…

  • Mick Fealty


    But I’m not suggesting that. This whole matter is chicken and egg. Another way of reading it is, why do women unnecessarily cede ground to men, when it is neither asked for, nor desirable. Fair play to Ann, for not giving up.

    I am profoundly cognisant of the relevance of women’s opinions on this matter: from both ends of the argument. I don’t agree with Rory that it is somehow ‘women’s work’ to sort out the societal dilemmas around this issue. But when it comes to hard decisions, it is women who act as the backstop on this issue: either way.

    Some of the men on this thread seem happiest when trying to take the discussion down a more comfortable macro political tangent.

  • Ann

    Fair play to Ann, for not giving up.

    Thank you I needed that.

  • Fair enough Mick. It’s just that there is an element of reverse chauvinism in lots of the commentary on this in the argument that men shouldn’t talk about this, or have less right to do so. Abortion is of concern to me. So is female circumcision, the pay gap between men and women, and the general persistence of patriarchy and inequality. I don’t here people argue men should butt out of those issues. It’s not progressive to say this is an issue for women. It’s an abrogation of responsibility.

  • The catholic church are managing to steer fairly clear waters on this one with their easy simplistic message.
    There not in the real world mantra of being anti-abortion and anti-contraception is too simplistic for these times.
    Unless some new system of controlling the fertility of young people falls from heaven this issue will spell the death of their church.
    I for one will not be very upset especially if they persist with their midievel teaching.
    Talk about not being able to evolve a new position on this just because in their own minds they fear that this would appear to be admiting that their previous belief was wrong and that this one admission of error would bring the whole kabudle crashing around their ears.
    What kind of an institution is so insecure that one admission that everything is not rosy in the garden leads its supposed stalwarts to armageddon.

  • Anne,
    Yes the north is a conservative society, but perhaps not as conservative as some might think. The reason these big societal issues like the right to choose, selective education, homosexuality, race, ‘mainly’ passed the north by, even when direct rule came into being, was because of the war. The last thing the British government and opposition wished to do was provoke their main allies in the north, all of whom opposed any change in the law on all three.

    However once the war ended and a civil society began to emerge that looked beyond the core issues of nationalism and union. These vitally important societal issues were bound to gradually move up the political agenda. If you look at how the DUP and Brit Government dealt with the right to choice issue earlier this week, you will see they are still coming at this problem as if the war was still on. This cannot last.

    Ann I was not characterizing all people from the north as being forelock tugging, conservative, etc, as I know this not to be true. I was simply pointing out that it is still a very conservative, backward looking place with some of the most reactionary politicians in Western Europe (and you yourself agreed on the conservative nature of the place) and it is time to move on.

    In truth some of the attitudes expressed in the north are like those one heard in 1950s Britain. There is little doubt that the big societal issues that were thrashed out in the late 1960-70s in the rest of western Europe passed most people within the north by, not all and I stress that, but a great many people.

    For example since the 1970s, Gay rights marches would not have raised a hair in England, could the same be said of the north? it is only pretty recently that officialdom have begun to tolerate such things. This is not because people in England are all tolerant and loving towards gays, but because the debate has been had; and the majority accept gay peopler for what they are. The bigots keep their heads down or only speak their minds amongst their own kind. Whether the latter is healthy is for another debate.

    Unless I missed it, there has been no open and honest debate about the right to choose, plenty of nibbling around the edges of late, but that is it. This shows in the type of emotive language people use when debating this subject and which you yourself resort to at times. Although why you, an articulate woman feels the need to do so is beyond me, although I have an inkling, but I feel you are mistaken as the anti choice argument can be made strongly without reverting to calling people murderesses.

    Best regards

    Although the fact that we are debating this on slugger shows we are moving in the right direction.

  • Ann

    Well Mick, I don’t know whether to take that as a compliment or an insult as we say here 🙂 perhaps we should compromise and call it a back handed compliment? As I said before, and will repeat finally, and then we can leave it, I did not call anyone a murderess, which distorts what I actually said. Now we can get caught up here in semantics but I don’t think it will achieve anything. This has happened through out this debate, distortion of language and mud slinging and personalisation, and no matter how articulate there comes a time, when articulation is thrown out the window along with the head and you get down in the mud and fight back, and fight dirty.

    Anyway nuff said…..

    Again I feel that you are confusing two things, a conservative society and the long war. Abortion is not legal in the republic and it wasn’t kept out by a long war, it was kept out by conservativism. It wasn’t only from the north that young men and women went to England in search of abortion and open gay life style. People here are as well travelled as the next person, but we didn’t import liberalisation of certain norms and customs here perhaps because it suited us, rather than being denied a debate due to the long war. I’ll give you that the war focused our concentration else where, but ten years after the GFA we have focused on liberalisation and debate. Gays here despite conservativism are as well funded and protected as anywhere else. Yes there are still problems but aren’t there everywhere, is Europe or Britain gay bashing free?

    Infact those of a conservative disposition had to fight for their rights re the homosexual issue. For example remember if you will the guest house owners applying to courts so that they could not be forced to admit gay couples if the bed and breakfast was their home. The conservativism of the Bed and Breakfast owners didn’t suddenly change after the war.

    Our sex edcuation laws in one or two instances are more liberal than England, so in some areas not only have we caught up but have gone beyond.

    Abortion is an issue apart. There are many openly gay people against it for example. Most people don’t rate homosexuality the same as abortion, which involves the right to life. Different issues different groups. And while you’ve had the debate in England it looks like you need to have another, for are there not women in England being killed due to honour killings? Forced in to arranged marriages and forced consequently to have sex with men who are not of their choosing. Boys whipped due to a religious law, and yet you call us reactionary and behind the times?

    What is wrong with the left mick? Why aren’t they screaming about this abuse. Child abuse being imposed on families because they are so afraid of ostracism within their own communities they will not speak out and risk beatings and death if they do…

    Lets not get on our high horse yet, and point the finger accross the irish sea before you take the log from your own eye.

  • Ann

    Re: the abortion debate, I’ve said before and I’ll say again,lets have the debate and put it before the electoarate, not imposed on us by Ms Abbott via a back door.

  • Miss Fitz

    I want to pick up on Mick Hall’s point about language. I think that some of the most interesting points made in a debate around abortion can and will centre on how language is used, and the nature of that language.

    One of the enduring arguments against abortion is the emotional damage that is done to women. That’s actually a nonsense. If you tell a woman she has done the wrong thing, or impose guilt through the kind of ‘baby killer’ talk that is used, well of course there is going to be guilt. If however, you tell a woman that not taking this particular pregnancy to term as it donest suit at this point in time, and take a much more practical approach, there is not going to be guilt mainly because there is no inherent reason to be guilty.

    Someone else said that my arguments about androcentrism were dated. Actually, I disagree. We have lived in a society where men have made the rules and set the tone of society. Yes it is changing, and yes that is good. But this is not going ot happen overnight, and while we continue to live in a society that is bound in religious superstition and beleifs, we will only ever be able to progress so far. And I dont mean the ‘sisterhood’ when I say ‘we’- I mean society at large.

    But abortion is not a societal problem, it has been convenient to make it one. It is a personal decision, and to be honest if I were now in the position of an unwanted pregnancy I might think twice from a heath perspective before continuing, but the idea of an amoral act or the commission of a sin will no longer be a reason to hesitate.

  • Ann

    Precisely why I said I didn’t call anyone a murderess. However I do see doing away with the unborn as murder. Does the word murder involve morality, and are we not to use it? Where people murdered in bombings and shootings? Or is that language to emotive to use.

    On the wider point, language is a gift of communication, its how we express ourselves. If a person is a moral person, or a conservative person, or even simply and idealogical person then they will use what ever language conveys what they want to say.

    Lets face it Miss Fitz what you are really objecting to is the thought behind the language. Would you consider it a thought crime for anyone to call abortion murder and perhaps bann the word in those circumstances? Theres a lot of word banning and the criminalisation of our thought processes, I simply refuse to enter into the process of not calling a spade a spade, or is the word spade now racist?

    All that you are engaging in is pc correctness, and the distortion of language to suit your own purposes.

  • How exactly is abortion not a societal issue? We can see from this debate that it is. It is an issue a society has to make a judgment on regarding legislation or not, circumstances under which it might be permissible, etc.

    As for the idea that guilt is imposed on people through the language of others. I really do wonder if that is accurate. After all, terrorists/freedom fighters or whatever happily killed thousands of people here without mass guilt among them despite the rhetoric of condemnation that was the norm.

    As for the lack of abortion being dictated by a male dominated society. Usually we have women complaining about men’s irresponsible attitude to sex, child-rearing, taking up their duties. I’d have thought that abortion would be more suited to any male dominated society. Such arguments are plainly silly, ignore the prominence of females in the debate on both sides, and do nobody any credit.

  • Miss Fitz

    This debate will always come back to one crucial point. When is it determined that life begins.

    As I noted in an earlier post, I cannot and will not view a non-viable foetus as a living entity, and the law supports this.

    I would never kill a baby, nor condone the killing of one. However, I support the right of women to terminate a pregnancy that has not yet resulted in a baby. A potential life can mean a lot to people who would like to bring that life to fruition, but to others it is not an option that they want to consider. And they should not be forced to produce a baby because well meaning but ill informed members of wider society are sticking their collective noses into what is a private matter

  • Ann

    and while we continue to live in a society that is bound in religious superstition and beleifs, we will only ever be able to progress so far

    On this point, I’m attending a talk this week chaired by will crawley and the discussion will include malachi o’dochartai’s book ’empty pulpits’. Society imo has lost its moral compas along with its christian heritage, we no longer live in a christian society. Wasn’t there something in Birmingham a few years back where christmas should now be called winterfest?

    NI does not exsist in isolation , we are not immune from the waning and fall of christianity and its influence. And the shopping around for language that does not convey guilt is proof positive that we’ve moved away from christian values. Wider society has hardly benefited by the dumping of religious morality which hasn’t been replaced by anything, there is simply a vaccuum.

    So miss fitz Iwould disagree very strongly that we live in a society that is still bound by religious superstition and beliefs.

  • Ann

    And they should not be forced to produce a baby because well meaning but ill informed members of wider society are sticking their collective noses into what is a private matter

    Who forced them to get pregnant. We are not speaking here of severe handicap to a child as that is already covered and abortion can be given on those grounds AFAIK, what we are speaking of is a woman who has decided to get pregnant through her own behaviour and then decides she wants rid of it for what ever reason.

  • Miss Fitz

    I tire of this, but to answer one point of yours. This has been constructed to be a societal issue, when in fact it is a private one. I can remember in the 70’s when the contraceptive pill was a ‘societal’ issue in the Republic of Ireland, and all forms of contraception were seen to be illegal, immoral and wrong.

    As you can see, time has changed this and contraception is no longer an issue that consumes wider society, and you can get your condoms or your pill without risking jail.

    Hopefully we will see a time when abortion is finally accepted as a private issue and a woman can make the choice to abort an unwanted pregnancy when it suits her, without being made feel she is commiting murder.

  • “when articulation is thrown out the window along with the head and you get down in the mud and fight back, and fight dirty.”

    Indeed, I have been an advocate of such behavior most of my life, and I have a bump on my head to prove it, due to banging it up against a brick wall 😉 However if possible I have also found that if a debate can be kept at a civilized level, I gain more from it, at the very least people learn to disagree and recognize that the other persons holds their views with as much sincerity as I hold mine.

    The reason abortion is still illegal in the south is [Imo] totally down to the dominance of the roman catholic church and the political clout it still has in the south, I’m sure someone will put me right, but from where I sit, it appears that is simply the case.

    Whereas in the north it is more complicated, as you have to factor in the long war, no matter how much you resist doing so;) and of course both a form of christian evangelism and again the catholic church have played their role in keeping abortion off the statute book. Never the less I am absolutely certain the right to choose will be on the statute book long before Ireland is reunited politically.

    On the issue of young women being killed by close members of their families or are being brutalized, yes it is a problem within some muslim communities and it is a sad fact we do not really understand the scale of this problem. It is not really a religious problem but is a cultural problem.

    As with ‘domestics’ it is a very difficult problem for the police; and society to deal with, but deal with it we must. There are groups springing up all over the place that are offering support and refuge to these young women; and some very courageous muslim women work for them.

    The authorities in the past have been to ready to anoint so called community leaders with authority, not only within muslim communities but also in Hindi, Christian and Sikh communities.
    Why should a priest or vicar at the local temple or church, or the imam at the mosque, gain precedence over any other community activist when it comes to access to politicians and governmental funds, but they do.

    But I fear you are diverting me Ann. 😉

  • Ann

    mick I feel we shall have to differ on what component parts make up the lack of debate surrounding abortion. I fully agree with you that there has been none, and then again I fear debates for the sake of them without the issue going before the electorate. I remember the last debate we had as a community, when SF went round to ask its support base in its heartlands certain questions surrounding republicanism before the last election. I witnessed one such debate, where the microphone was controlled bya SF supporter and it was actively passed to supporters and certain faces got left out. Hence now we have some problems within republicanism…

    So debate with no purpose is only so much talk, and I simply don’t know if it will serve any purpose. Put the issue before the electorate and at least that way society will get a better reading.

    As for this not being an issue for society but a personal issue. I think that is wrong. There are always consequences for society from personal decisions made on a mass scale. 40 women a week adds up to quite a lot over many years, there is certainly cost involved either way, and its the tax payer they want to fund it, that makes it a problem for society rather than a personal decision paid for by the private individual.

    Mick you are an interesting diversion 🙂

    The bump on my head is healing and I hope yours is too and your points are well taken .

  • IMO, everyone should be permitted to do with one’s body whatever one sees fit, whether it be bringing another human being into the world or taking one’s self out of it – provided that it is not against the law or against the wishes and interests of those immediately concerned.

    These are moral concerns which should not be dictated by others, especially states and institutions which do not have to deal with the consequences of unwanted living.

    As women should be allowed a free choice about what to do with a pregnancy, provided the father does not oppose it, old folks should be allowed to vacate the place if it does not place hardship on others.

    While one does not choose to enter this world, one should be allowed to leave it when one wants. And along the way, a woman should be allowed to treat the products of her body, whether they be fetuses or tumors as they see fit.

    Pro-life proponents are too committed to creating problems for others – ones in the case of unwanted children often just create more difficulties for societies.

    If these choices are not the fedrock of individual freedom, there is no such thing.

  • Driftwood

    Panchos Horse referring to the British Medical Association as Nazis really takes the rich tea.

  • Rory

    Mick miscontrues my argument when he says, “I don’t agree with Rory that it is somehow ‘women’s work’ to sort out the societal dilemmas around this issue.”

    While I am absolutely on Miss Fitz’s side when she argues, “But abortion is not a societal problem, it has been convenient to make it one. It is a personal decision…” and reject Garibaldy’s line, ” How exactly is abortion not a societal issue? We can see from this debate that it is.” I do think that there is a societal issue, but not the one Garibaldy considers and not one that should be left to women to work out but rather one that needs to be urgently addressed by men.

    That issue is whether or not men (and indeed all of society) can at last begin to treat women as free and equal human beings in society and allow them unfettered control over their own bodies or whether they may not be permitted that freedom becuse it conflicts with the religious sensibilities of others. Until women enjoy this basic freedom the rest of society will remain unfree as the locked-in mindset of those who would deny that freedom amply illustrates.

  • GH

    If women do not have the right to control our own bodies, then what rights do we have? Unlike most of those posting here, I have been on the streets talking to people about their views on abortion and find that most people are pro-choice. This does not mean that they agree with abortion or would have an abortion themselves, but they do recognise that it’s only when ‘it comes to your own door’ that you really can say you are genuinely anti-abortion. Also, there is a real awareness of the class element of the issue and the fact that many working class women have to go into debt to pay for abortions that should be free on the NHS. So, most people ended up saying they agreed with the extension of the 1967 Act in the interests of equality.

    That’s why most pro-choice activists would be happy to see a referendum here. We are fairly sure we would win it.

    As for Jenny’s point earlier that “But… there will be practical issues to address as any clinic offering abortions in NI will be heavily picketed and women using it will be identified and vilified – photos on the net, anyone?”, this is nonsense. The fundamentalists find it hard to get a handful of people together to picket the FPA or the Brook Centre. They’ve given up entirely on civil partnerships and even when they gather all their forces for the Belfast Pride march, it’s not all that many.

    Last Sat (18th Oct), they had this ‘Rally for Life’ at Stormont. They promised ‘tens of thousands’ would turn out and the publicity campaign included billboards and newspaper adverts…yet, according to the BBC, they turned out only ‘hundreds of protestors’. They are a dwindling minority of society in NI.

  • Rory,

    The question is whether it is a personal issue of control of a body or not. Society at large must decide that issue, is the point I’m making. It is not just an issue for women.

  • Rory

    The point is, Garibaldy, that in all areas of the UK it is recognised as the right of a woman’s exercise over the control of her own body, except for this aberration (abortion?) that is Northern Ireland.

  • Miss Fitz

    And that is the nub of the issue.

    As a woman, I should have the absolute right to control my body. I am not an incubator for society at large and the choice to bear or abort is mine and mine alone.

    The test of viability may be one for others to decide, but once I know that what I am aborting is not viable, and that it is not a ‘baby’, then I must be allowed to proceed with whatever I choose to do.

  • Ah. Cause society recognised it as such. I have no problem with people making that argument, but it is the confusion of arguments where lots of often contradictory arguments are thrown into the mix and people are told they have no right to discuss the issue that annoys me.

    See GH’s post above for an example. She makes fun of the poor turnout of the anti-choice rally, but ingores the fact that there were more there than at the pro-choice rallies held across NI. Nevermind the I’ve been talking to people about this attitude.

  • graduate

    Rory, Really sorry to disappoint you but I’m a married woman in my thirties with kids. Sorry took so long but been away a few days so didn’t catch tis earlier. obviously you’ve never thought you’ve been unexpectedly pregnant and the first palce a woman goes for counselling is her riends. Women talk ‘cos that’s the way we’re hard-wired. Counselling is a vital part of hte abortion process, we’re making a hell of hard decision, mainly without the help of a partner, often because he’s buggered off into the distance or else, in one case I know of, because he said “here’s the money get rid of it”. this was absolutley devestaitng for the woman involved as they were in a stable relationship. So please don’t lecture me on morality and the naffness of counselling. No, I haven’t had an abortion, but like most women, I would imagine, I know women who have and it’s not easy. Even less easy is the question “I’m pregnant, should I abort or keep the baby?” What do you say???

  • RepublicanStones

    “But medical arguments were trumped by political ones. Squashing the amendment repaid a debt allegedly incurred to unionists in May, when votes from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) saved the British government from defeat on proposals to allow detention of terrorist suspects for 42 days without charge.”
    (From The Economist)

    So the Shinners benefit from the DUP’s support of and success in getting mini-internment pushed through as well…who’d a thought?

  • Rory


    I have no objection whatsoever to any woman seeking the counsel of friends or professionals at any time she feels the need. Indeed it is something that I would encourage. Isolation is not good for any person particularly when they are in situations of stress.

    What I objected to in your proposal was the idea that a woman must be obliged to receive counselling and adoption advice as a condition of exercising her right over her own body. Too often what is envisaged is that she be subject to a barrage of guilt-inducing moralising from complete strangers whose only concern is the priggish self-satisfaction of feeling morally superior to those they ‘counsel’.

    It all harks rather too much to me of the niggardly philosophy of the ‘deserving poor’ which informed such practices as that of the Salvation Army’s in keeping homelees indigents locked in for prayer sessions long after the opportunity for finding any paid work had passed, thus obliging them to return to the miserable piety of the same shelters again and again, all so starkly recounted in Jack London’s The People of the Abyss (1903.)

    In any case, as I have said repeatedly before, the decision must be left to the woman and she ought to be supported in that decision, certainly in the first instance by the putative father, but, failing his willingness or ability to do the right thing, by responsible society – that’s you and me!

  • Ann

    Rory, explain to me why I have a responsibility to this woman? Explain to me why I should be forced to pay via my taxes to clear up a personal mess that this particular individual has gotten her self into when it goes against my principles to do so. Explain to me why its wrong for the salvation army to keep men at prayer instead of letting them go off to work is wrong, but its ok if its big government nannying irresponsible women and men, helping them in the long run to make stupid decisions. Why should the tax payer pick up the tab and say there there everything will be ok. Why should big government via my taxes enable anyone to make stupid choices in their personal lives.

    If these women want legality over their decision what is wrong with them paying for it from their own pocket, or those of the fleeing and irresponsible partner.

    That is not the role of government, to save people from their own mistakes, the government is not a parent, its role should be minimal. As govt money shouldn’t be used to bail out banks, neither should it be used to bail out woman who has made a bad decision and now want to change their minds.

    It’s time to grow up ladies, no money from devolved governmet to sort out your mess, it isn’t there next time buy a box of condoms. Save us all the grief, themselves included.

  • graduate

    Rory, I’m not saying counselling should be compulsory and I’m sorry if you got that impression. I’m saying that the counselling offered should be much more realistic and holistic than the rubbish presently offered which too often says abortion is the only option. Grief counselling and marriage counselling are acceptable, why not considered abortion counselling. I can be a sounding board but I’m not trained to deal with these issues and it’s unfair to expect women to make life-changing decisions without discussing them. Too often we give advice based on our own prejudices nad experience. a trained cousellor doesn’t (or shouldn’t) do that.
    Ann, if a woman is the victim of rape is it still her fault if she gets pregnant? Your basic assumptions are skewed and quite frankly your rhetoric is becoming repetitive and does more to drive me to the pro-choice side of the argument than persuade me that pro-life is the option to take. Or have you never made any sort of mistake? Do oyu also believe that gays should be ostracised too? Sad life really

  • Yvette Doll

    “I challenge anyone to try and take home a 6-week old foetus and try and rear it up as a child. It is nothing but a blob of bloody material. OK, maybe some googly eyes, but not viable.”

    I’ve seen villages, regions, Ethiopia, and it is the same idea.

    That could also be just the inside of a tank after a wire guided hollow charge, one has value ideas, about it,

    Maybe the googly eyes staring out of the pit of a T72, if he could, he’d say non-violable.

    absent God, we can really do anything or nothing, or whatever, was Pol Pot wrong? Or was he right until it went wrong?

    A value system can be time limited, Budapest, Soviets, do you use you troops to save the garrison, make a corridor,

    but maybe somebody has missed some Jews, what to do? forget escape route, a solution that isn’t final, isn’t a solution,

    Without God, one tends to, have differing ideas of who or what is violable, etc.

  • Ann


    When I make a mistake I’m not asking the tax payer to bail me out.

    Homosexuality is not abortion.

    My argument shouldn’t be driving you anywhere, big girls make their own minds up.

    Sad life really

    I hope you feel better soon.

  • abucs

    “You have the right to do whatever you want – unless or until it affects me”.

    This only works if you see existance as materially seperate.

    Some people see existance as spiritually inclusive.

    Who is correct ?

    It seems on a whole range of issues, both sets of believers want to set themselves up legally as the civil default.

    I would just add that i was also once unviable – needing the help of others.

    I’m pretty sure i still do actually.