Thursday, June 22, 2006

We probably should review the abortion limits

It's fair to say the Interweb is a pretty americo-centric place. This should hardly be surprising though. ARPAnet, the precursor to the modern day Internet, was a US military network. Even if a Brit did invent http and www, the main backbone is American.

If you've been online for any length of time you'll have probably seen a flame war on the subject of abortion, and I'm willing to bet that it was mostly between americans. The reason for that is because in the US, abortion is a "wedge" issue, and boy does it drive a wedge between people. The Internet is, arguably, a great example of Hobbes' state of nature, and a good abortion flame war shows how man's life is nasty, brutish, and - were it not for the keyboard and screen separating the particpiants - probably very short indeed.

The reason I mention this is because as most will know, the head of the Catholic Chruch in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, called on ministers to review the abortion laws. The Government, via the Health Secretary Patrica Hewitt, has rejected this call.

Now, I'm willing to be corrected on this if I'm wrong, but if I remember rightly, the original settlement that brought about the 24 week limit to abortion was predicated on an acceptance that the line be drawn if the child could not exist independently of the mother. At the time of that review, 24 weeks, was considered to be the earliest that a premature child could be born, and importantly, survive. The problem today is that that no longer appears to be the case. There many examples across the country and the wider world of children born at 23, 22 and 21 weeks that survive. On that basis alone I'm not sure the rejection by the Government to even have a debate on the issue was a wise one.

Personally, I think that Britain has dealt with the issue of abortion over the years in a very calm, and measured manner. The basis of the law was, quite rightly, around the scientific realities of a child's survival chance. It was never, as with Roe vs Wade in the US, about a womans right to privacy and right to choose. Going down that route I think has meant we've avoided mirroring the US wedge nature of abortion that fundamentally divides people. My biggest worry though is that by burying its head in the sand the Government is jeopardising the balanced settlement we currently have on issue.

1 comment:

Croydonian said...

Some years back I read an interesting item somewhere or other that suggested that legal abortion should be predicated on brain life, given that death is defined by brain death. Not sure when that would be judged to start, but it is another way of looking at the topic.

Meanwhile, a resounding 'amen' to your thoughts on the way abortion issue has been dealt with in these parts.