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It's a shame that an amendment that would have extended abortion rights to the Six Counties was withdrawn.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.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for that Wednesday. It is really good to get some positive news at last!!

Stephie said...

You know it pains me to say it Wednesday but the Brits are LIGHT YEARS ahead of us on this issue.

Goddamn them and their rational approach to abortion. I'm very jealous :)

Seriously though - it's true. There's probably more likelihood of me seeing a united Ireland in my lifetime than a woman's right to choose legally enshrined.

Ciarán said...

There's a feeling that the Brits not extending the 1967 Abortion Act to the six counties was part of deal with the DUP, in exchange for their support on 42-day detention.

There's also confusion on who has the power to legislate on this matter, but because policing and justice powers remained reserved, and abortion apparently relating to 'law and order' rather than health, it seems that Westminster has the power to legislate on this, not Stormont. I think. (The sitcheeaschion up here is fecked up.)

Wednesday said...

That's an interesting theory Ciarán but I'm not sure I buy it - wasn't the amendment put forward by the Lib Dems, who oppose the 42-day limit?

I actually think that abortion shouldn't be dealt with as a health issue - but it's not a law and order issue either. It's an issue of women's equality and human rights, first and foremost.

Ciarán said...

Just spotted this in an article on the 42-day detention vote in Westminster:

Labour rebels claimed the DUP had obtained guarantees that the government would block efforts to use the Human Embryology and Fertility Bill, currently going through Parliament, to loosen abortion rules in Northern Ireland. (Source)

It doesn't make it true of course but the theory seems to be fairly widespread.

Wednesday said...

Well, I still think that doesn't make any sense. Surely the Lib Dems would publicise it to embarrass the government, rather than quietly withdrawing their amendment?

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