Sanity prevails

After all the controversy of the past few months, in the end it wasn't even close. British MPs voted 304 to 233 against lowering the abortion limit to 24 weeks. Immediately prior to that they'd voted not to reduce it to 20 weeks, 16 weeks or 12, the last two of these not even mustering 100 ayes.

There were a number of reasons for this strong pro-choice showing. Because of recent evidence that medicine is making no progress in improving survival rates for babies born before 24 weeks. Because less than 1.5% of all abortions in Britain are carried out after 20 weeks - and when they are, the reason for the delay is nearly always more serious than abortion opponents like to suggest. And, of course, because the absence of an authoritarian religious tradition means that most British people are not brainwashed from an early age into thinking of the foetus as a fully independent little person with all the rights of the woman whose body it is wholly dependent on. Sometimes I think we're not only on a different island over here, but on another planet.

It's a shame that an amendment that would have extended abortion rights to the Six Counties was withdrawn. By the looks of things it might have had a chance of passing, over the disgraceful opposition of all four of the major parties in the Six, including my own. (Chris Gaskin has astutely if ungrammatically pointed out the hypocrisy of the unionist parties in objecting to this aspect of British rule, but the truth is that all of them are simply calling for the problem to be exported.) So last night's vote wasn't the opportunity it could have been to take a step forward, but at least it wasn't a step back - and with all the anti-choice hysteria we've heard lately that in itself feels like a small victory.

Well done to Louise and other women in Britain who put so much effort into this.

I know, I know...

I've been terrible for updating this year. Apologies. Hopefully the normal order will be restored later in the summer, when life calms down a bit.

A quick thought for the moment. One of this blog's top bugbears, the Offences Against the State Act, is up for renewal next month. Previously the Green Party could always be counted on to oppose it (although they couldn't always be counted on to get all their TDs in for the vote). It was an admirable principled stance on an issue that had nothing to offer them electorally, and I was happy to give them credit for it.

Obviously this year will be different. They've lined up behind FF on every other issue, and there's no way they'll be let off the hook for this one. While I have some sympathy for the argument that compromise is necessary in a coalition - at least I've had to tell myself that every time I look to what's happening (or not) up north - it's notable that the Greens haven't really tended to make that argument, at least not in the Dáil chamber. Instead of acknowledging that they've had to do u-turns for the sake of their Cabinet seats, or even staying out of debates entirely and just showing up to hold their noses and vote on the Government side, they send their TDs in to argue why the Opposition is actually wrong to be taking this or that position at the present time. So I have to assume that when OASA comes up again they'll do the same. The only question is how they'll justify their reversal - gangland activity, I suppose, since it's hardly arguable that republicans or Islamic militants or anyone else with a political agenda poses any real threat at the moment. But we shall see.

If any Greens reading this have any ideas, I'd love to hear them.
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