Tuesday 27 February 2024

Or Risk Devastating Consequences

Although, as she mentions, Britain has had abortion up to birth since one of the last acts of Margaret Thatcher legalised it on grounds of disability that did not have to be specified, Georgia L. Gilholy writes:

The Conservative Party appears once again poised to throw its weight behind a genre of social liberalism that could make even a few Bolsheviks blush. Speaking to the Telegraph newspaper, Health Secretary Victoria Atkins heavily implied her sympathies with Labour MP Diana Johnson’s attempt to hijack her Government’s Criminal Justice Bill with extreme abortion proposals.

The plans, which are now set to be debated in March, would abolish criminal sanctions for women who procure abortions past the current legal limit of 24 weeks, placing our approach to unborn children on a par with egregious regimes like North Korea and China. Following such a change, women would be able to self-induce terminations at any stage of pregnancy if they were to intentionally or unknowingly mislead abortion providers about their baby’s gestational age.

Johnson claims her plan would liberate women from supposedly outdated laws and afford them greater ownership over their bodies — two things which make huge assumptions about human autonomy, and cloak themselves in the language of good and self-empowerment.

Our legal status quo currently provides a partial deterrent against coerced abortions, helping to shield women from the pernicious influence of partners or family members. Binning laws against self-induced abortions would weaken this safeguard since women could no longer appeal to the risk of prosecution if they are pressured or forced to ingest abortion pills. These safeguards were already grossly impeded by the rollout of pills-by-post under COVID-19 restrictions, a scheme which scrapped the legal obligation for mothers to attend a minimum of one in-person appointment prior to being prescribed abortion drugs.

It was this policy which directly permitted the case of Carla Foster, a woman who told an abortion provider that she was seven weeks pregnant, over the telephone. She then ingested abortion pills at 32-34 weeks gestation, leading to the death of her unborn child and, as appears evident throughout the court proceedings, extensive emotional trauma over her decision.

A recent Government review concluded that complication rates for women who take abortion pills after 20 weeks of pregnancy are 160 times higher than for those who take them between two and nine weeks gestation. These figures only cover medical abortions undergone in clinical settings, given that using abortifacients outside of them is illegal after ten weeks. As Johnson’s plans would eliminate any criminal deterrents against doing so, it is likely that, as we have seen since under Pills by Post, medical abortions outside clinical settings beyond their current ten week limit would surge, along with their related risks.

This move would also represent yet another political tidal change made by MPs against the vast majority of public opinion, which across the UK, firmly opposes abortion up to birth. A mere one per cent of adults in Great Britain back such extreme measures. Recent polling from Whitestone Insight found only 16 per cent of the public wanted women removed from the criminal law on abortion after the 24-week limit. Across the board British voters back a tightening of abortion access, not further liberalisation.

Seventy per cent of British women favour a lowering of the current time limit for abortions on demand, for any reason, from 24 weeks to 20 weeks or below. Abortion is already legal up to the point of birth for any disability.

The UK’s upper abortion limit is already double that of countries we consider culturally similar to ours, the likes of France, Belgium, Denmark, and Ireland. In Europe, only the Netherlands allows abortions as late as here, and a mere handful of countries across the world permit terminations at 24 weeks.

Removing current powers would also open up the UK to huge moral and demographic risks by legally permitting sex-selective abortion up to the point of birth. While there is evidence that the practice already occurs under the radar, surely the state should work to tackle, rather than encourage, this deeply misogynist state of affairs? Sex-selective abortion has become a major global issue since the widespread proliferation of ultrasound technology in the 1980s. A 2019 study concluded that around 23 million baby girls are “missing” from the world population due to the popularity of sex-selective abortion in India and China, with consequent gloomy forecasts for their societies’ future demographic growth, social harmony, and economies. The repeal of Canada’s old abortion laws in 1998 introduced abortion on demand and made the country a “haven” for parents keen to terminate unborn females.

While Johnson and her ilk claim that “decriminalisation does not mean deregulation”, and insist that the current 24-week time limit will remain in place, such claims ignore the inevitable consequences of her amendment. A legal terra incognita would ensue, under which women would be permitted to self-perform their abortions via easily available pills with zero criminal barriers, regardless of any flimsy “regulations” that abortion providers would have to officially sign on to.

Johnson’s clause also explicitly requires that it be implemented within a very short timeframe, even though regulations may not be approved within such a period, particularly if the agreement of both Houses of Parliament is needed to affirm the meaning the law could change without necessary new regulations in place. Any introduced regulations could also be at risk of languishing in secondary legislation, allowing them to be easily removed or amended at any point with the bare minimum of parliamentary scrutiny. Suggestions that a legal change such as this would have minimal impacts are highly dubious, especially given that the abortion lobby has repeatedly expressed its desire for the total elimination of time limits.

In 2016, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), the UK’s largest abortion provider, who already issued a slick press release backing Johnson’s clause, previously launched a “We Trust Women” campaign, explicitly calling for “the abortion time limit would be removed from criminal law”, and also urged for the removal of both doctors and women from the criminal law relating to abortion. MSI Reproductive Choices, the UK’s second-largest abortion provider backing Johnson, has firmly voiced similar proposals and admit that decriminalisation would “remove conditions and restrictions which stipulate acceptable reasons why an individual may end their own pregnancy”.

As with the successful push for pills-by-post, Johnson’s amendment is clearly bent on expanding abortion access regardless of the grim suffering that would likely result.

Those lobbying for Johnson’s plans also argue that our “archaic” abortion laws need modernising because the Offences Against The Person Act was passed in the late-nineteenth century. This landmark Act includes laws against murder, manslaughter, grievous bodily harm, strangulation and poisoning which continue to be applied today, meanwhile the entire history of the English constitution has its roots in medieval and ancient sources, along with Early Modern responses to them. Suggesting that the supposed antiquity of a law ought to make it obsolete is an act of cultural vandalism akin to the Communist and Fascist revolutions of the twentieth century.

It is time that Parliament, at the very least, reinstated in-person medical appointments prior to prescribing abortion pills. Moreover, any MP that seriously claims to “trust the science” ought to back the Conservatives Caroline Ansell MP’s rival amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, which would lower the general abortion time limit from 24 to 22 weeks, the point at which modern medicine now allows a significant number of babies to survive outside the womb. Parliamentarians must put the interest of both mothers and their unborn children before their own progressive pet projects, or risk devastating consequences for our country.