Not Saussure

June 6, 2007

Nadine Dorries MP on abortion

Filed under: Abortion, UK — notsaussure @ 10:33 pm

Nadine Dorries MP has written a couple of posts about abortion (she’s agin it) and has had the shit deservedly ripped out of her by Trixie at Is There More To Life Than Shoes?, DK and Unity at Ministry of Truth.   Nevertheless, I will add a few words to the debate.

As I’ve said elsewhere, to my mind objections to abortion such as those raised by Ms Dorries are, essentially, theological ones; they depend on beliefs about the soul and when life begins and, quite simply, these are beliefs that a great number of people, rightly or wrongly, do not share with Ms Dorries. It is, quite simply, wrong for MPs to legislate on primarily theological grounds. The reason we have laws against murder and theft are not, as I keep on saying, because God forbids such activities (though I believe He does) but because you can’t have any sort of complex society in which people can go around murdering and robbing people with impunity. Society can, however, knock along reasonably well despite some of its members committing adultery and worshipping graven images, which is why we don’t ban those activities despite the fact that we have it on equally good authority that The Almighty disapproves of them, too.

My views on abortion are very much coloured by personal experience. Some twenty years ago, my then girlfriend found herself pregnant as a result of a condom bursting (baby oil and condoms do not mix, experto crede). What to do? This is two intelligent professionals in their 30s we’re talking about, remember, and it wasn’t an easy decision for either of us. One thing we were both completely clear about, though, was that, ultimately, it had to be her decision and — this was what was foremost in my mind — was that whatever my views on the matter, ultimately the only honourable thing I could do was support her in whatever decision she took.

Unfortunately, at least from my point of view, she decided — unwillingly — that an abortion was the least bad option. I didn’t agree, but I could see it from her point of view and, as I said, all I could honourably do was give her all the love and support I could in what was, I know, a very difficult decision for her.

Now, as far as I’m concerned, if anyone had the right to interfere with her decision, it was me. And I certainly didn’t think, and still don’t think, I had that right.

That being the case, I’m bloody sure no MP, nor any Cardinal of a church to which she did not belong, has any say in the matter. She asked me to drop her off at the end of the road where the clinic was, so she could walk in by herself (and, if she chose, turn round by herself). While I am not by nature a violent man, unless circumstances demand it, there is no law of God nor man that would have saved anyone who tried either to stop her or force her through those gates at the end of what I know was a very difficult walk for her, no matter what were my views on her decision.


March 16, 2007

Gillick competence

Filed under: Abortion, civil liberties, Law, Politics — notsaussure @ 8:31 pm

Some belated thoughts on the unsurprising, but nonetheless welcome, news that a Private Member’s bill, introduced by Angela Watkinson MP in a attempt

to force doctors offering abortion or contraception advice to under-16s to inform the child’s parents has been rejected by MPs.

First, it seems a dreadful bid to gain plaudits from certain newspapers by having MPs micro-manage professions because the man and woman from Westminster know best. As I understand it, the present situation (pdf) is that medical professionals are supposed to encourage under-age girls to discuss such matters with their parents — not, I would think, that medical professionals need much encouraging so to do; they are, after all, themselves reasonably responsible adults, many of whom have themselves (or hope to have, or have had) teenage children, some of whom may be girls — but, if the girl refuses to tell her parents, then they must respect her confidence. (more…)

March 4, 2007

BNP seeks alliance with radical anti-abortion campaigners

Filed under: Abortion, Catholicism, Politics, Wingnuts — notsaussure @ 2:05 pm

Politics certainly makes strange bedfellows; I see from The Observer that

The British National Party is building an alliance with radical anti-abortion activists in an attempt to reach out to Catholics and secure their votes in future elections.Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, and one of his close deputies confirmed yesterday that they held private talks last week with the UK co-ordinator of Life League, an anti-abortion lobby group. Griffin and Mark Collet spent two days with James Dowson, an Ulster-based businessman and the main force behind Life League. […]

Griffin claimed that amplifying the party’s ‘pro-life’ policies would win it new votes among Catholics. ‘There used to be a perception in Northern Ireland and Scotland that we were an Orange party. This is not so,’ he said. The BNP, like Dowson, wanted to reach across the sectarian divide.

Don’t know how well this is going to go down with all the Poles, on whom I understand the BNP is none too keen (at least not if they come here to work), who’ve so greatly increased attendance at Catholic churches, in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK, over the last couple of years.


October 4, 2006

But we don’t do that sort of thing here. We’re British.

Filed under: Abortion, Blogroll, civil liberties, EU, Foreigners, UK, usa — notsaussure @ 1:58 pm

Via Chicken Yoghurt, a discussion by Donald, of The Jarndyce Blog, a piece in The Sharpener called Talk amongst yourselves, we couldn’t possibly comment about why abortion’s a non-issue in British politics.

One word absolutely not on the lips of political hacks, not even Tory political hacks, is… Abortion. Not this week, not any week. It’s impolite conversation inside the beltway.

But a post here last year (picked apart here) attracted over 250 comments. Just publishing the word is pure Google-juice. Everyone in the real world has an opinion, so why does nobody in political Britain want to discuss abortion in public? It can’t be that 186,274 (2001 data; pdf) annual terminations don’t warrant justification or inquiry.

Donald’s got various explanations, but I prefer mine. It’s partly, to my mind, that we have the horrible example of America before us; I’m willing to bet good money that an inordinate number of the 250 comments came from the USA, even allowing for the fact most comments to a British blog will have come from Anglophone countries rather than the rest of the world. We’ve seen what happens when people start politicising abortion and we don’t want that sort of thing here, thank you very much.

Donald says,

You could play the God card; but there’s no debating with faith, and polite society considers the faithful ever so slightly simple.

but I don’t think it’s that. I’d hesitate to call, for example, my late wife’s mother ‘simple’ because of her at times ferociously devout Catholicism, and I wouldn’t advise anyone else so to do; one of the few times, however, I’ve seen her really angry was back in the general election of 2001 when, it may be recalled, the ProLife Alliance wanted to show pictures of aborted foetuses as part of its election broadcasts. Kit’s attitude was that, much as she disapproves of abortion, she accepted that other people don’t necessarily share her religious views and no one’s got any business, as far as she’s concerned, trying to force what are ultimately religious views on someone else, particularly when they’re trying to make what must always be a very difficult decision.

And, as she said, she was going to vote Conservative come what may, and in the unlikely event that the Labour candidate in her constituency said he wanted to ban abortion, that wouldn’t make any difference to her vote. Even if she’d lived in neighbouring Hull North, she wouldn’t have voted for Kevin McNamara, despite the fact he was a family friend and my wife’s godfather. And, I take it, far more people voted my wife’s ‘uncle Kevin’ despite, rather than because of, his views on abortion and gay marriage.

That, I think, is a pretty common attitude here, as opposed to the States. We tend, possibly incoherently, to regard some matters as being people’s private rather than public business. The way I see it is that once a girlfriend of mine found she was pregnant (health note: condoms and baby-oil are a potentially disastrous combination — trust me on this); obviously I had a view on whether she should have an abortion or not, but both us knew it was, ultimately, her decision and, ultimately, I could do was love and support her as best I could, whatever she decided.

That’s not political, for heaven’s sake — it’s decent, gentlemanly behaviour, at least as far as I’m concerned. There’s no way on God’s earth I’d have tried either to force her to have an abortion against her will or to use the law to stop her from so doing, because I’m not a complete shit. And if I, who had more right to a say in the matter than did most people, wouldn’t try to impose my views on her, then I’m buggered if I’d have let anyone else stick their nose into what was really her and my business.

I once discussed this, in general terms, with a wise old American judge. We were talking about why Americans are so litigious and religious as compared with most other folks, and why they get so worked up about what’re now called ‘culture wars’.

His theory, which quite impressed me, was that America is a national of comparatively recent immigrants. Consequently, people arrived there knowing how things were done back home — and possibly they’d left because they didn’t like that at all — but with no real way of knowing how things were done in their new country. And neither did anyone else, since they were in — if not just arrived on — pretty much the same boat. It’s all very well for folks to talk about how they did things back in England, but what’s that to folks who’ve come, or whose parents came, from Ireland or Poland or Italy or Germany or Mexico or wherever?

Consequently, reckoned the judge, people naturally turned both to their religious groups, as a way of meeting like-minded people — who spoke their language, for one thing — who’d already established themselves in the new country for guidance on how things were done in the US and, if necessary, to the courts and laws for mediation. In old countries, he said, people know — because they’ve been born and brought up there — what’s the done thing (or the somewhat different things that comme il faut, if you happen to have been born and brought up in France) even if they don’t like it and have common ground from which to start negotiating and arguing.

In America you never had that and kept on having to try to start from scratch, frequently mediated by politicians who, of course, needed to keep particular local groups happy in order to further their political and personal ambitions. Consequently people were, and are, frequently at loggerheads over both first principles and the boundaries of debate that are taken for granted in most other places.

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September 23, 2006

Proud to be British, relieved not to be American

Filed under: Abortion, Blogroll, Bloody Yanks, UK — notsaussure @ 1:12 am

Inspired by Mr Worstall’s revelation that we have a blog about queues — which he came by via another great British institution, Councillor Bob Piper — and more particularly by this truly wonderful link from A Big Stick and A Small Carrot, I’ve been looking for my own contribution .

I quite liked the wonderful knitted English garden made from contributions from all over the country (via Boing Boing), which apparently

has been painstakingly completed by more than 300 contributors, including a group of gay men knitting in Brighton, and a 12-year-old boy in Sussex, who spent six months making the pond and waterfall.

Then, again looking through Boing Boing ,I came across this account of the complete crap an American woman got from her doctor, pharmacist and local hospitals when she wanted emergency contraception — the ‘morning after pill’ —

“No.” I state plainly. “I am not married. I’ve been in a relationship for several years and I have three children, I don’t want a fourth.” I respond tersely.

“Oh, I see.” He says and then he hurries on, “Well, see. *I* understand. I want you to know that I understand what you’re saying. But see, the problem is that we have 4 doctors here right now but only one of them ever writes EC prescriptions. But see, the thing is that he’ll interview you and see if you meet his criteria. Now, I called the pharmacy but I also talked to him and well….*clears throat*….you can come down and try to get it. You know, if you meet his criteria he’ll give you a prescription, I mean, there’s really no harm in trying.” the nurse trails off, his voice falters as I realize what I’m being told.

More, much more at Biting Beaver

What is it with the Americans? Over here you can buy it without a prescription from just about any pharmacist, and while they apparently

Under the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s Code of Ethics and Standards which all pharmacists are expected to follow, a pharmacist is allowed to refuse to sell or dispense drugs because of their religious beliefs or personal convictions

it’s a a news story when they do. Meanwhile, over in the States, this sort of nonsense seems not to be particularly uncommon.

The Americans seem to interpret freedom of conscience in a very particular way; I’ve always been impressed by the attitude of a GP friend of mine who, while he could ask other doctors in his practice to deal with requests for abortions — to which he’s got strong religious objections — doesn’t because he doesn’t see it’s consistent with his role as doctor to force his religious beliefs on patients who don’t share them. Seems a far more mature attitude.

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