Yes, we're still officially on holiday, but we just couldn't resist commenting on the recent 'OpEd' from Tim Montgomerie in the Times. It's behind a paywall here, but we've included quotes from some of the parts which are particularly problematic.
Montgomerie positions himself as being a 'moderate' voice on abortion, arguing that the debate only allows for 'hot and cold'. For starters, this seems to be a dishonest presentation of where he actually stands. Montgomerie is a patron of SPUC Evangelicals. SPUC (Society for the Protection of Unborn Children) is against abortion in ALL circumstances, and even believes that certain forms of contraception cause abortion. Members of SPUC Evangelicals believe that "the widespread abuse and destruction of unborn children [therefore] constitutes a flagrant offence against almighty God." So, although Montgomerie talks about lowering the time limit, or changing the law around termination on grounds of fetal abnormality it would seem his greater desire would in fact be to ban abortion completely (or he should have a re-read of the SPUC manifesto he endorses).
So let's look at some of the arguments he puts forward for 'tighter laws'. First, Montgomerie claims that 2013 "was the year when the reality of foetal “gendercide” within Britain surfaced — the deliberate, discriminatory termination of unborn baby girls". We've written about this before, but the 'reality' of 'gendercide' within Britain did not in fact surface. What surfaced was a 'sting' set up by the Telegraph where no abortions were actually performed. The Department of Health has reported a normal sex ratio for births in the UK.
Then, Montgomerie drags out an old Christopher Hitchens quote (also used by Mehdi Hasan in his anti-abortion piece last year, yawn) to argue that the public is becoming more 'concerned' about abortion:
“In order to terminate a pregnancy,” he said in 1989, “you have to still a heartbeat, switch off a developing brain, and, whatever the method, break some bones and rupture some organs.”
Well, not quite Hitcho. As we know, the majority of abortions in this country are carried out early on in pregnancy, when this simply isn't the case. We liked Edinburgh Eye's take on this:
Yes, that’s sometimes true. Of course, the earlier an abortion takes place, the less likely that it will be: the heart may not have developed, the brain may not yet exist, the bones and organs may still be so undeveloped that there is nothing there to break or rupture. But yes: terminating a pregnancy kills the foetus.
But it’s also true that anywhere girls and women are denied the right to choose abortion, that denial of termination ensures that heartbeats are stilled, a brain is switched off, organs are ruptured: women die. As a woman I know wrote wistfully once, “Do you suppose if we pointed out that we have dear little faces and actual fingernails on our hands, that they’d care that we die?”
With regards to UK law, Montgomerie appears to support a reduction in the legal time limit for abortion:
"Others want a still earlier limit because of research that shows that even if the foetus is not viable outside the womb it can still feel pain."
In fact, the current time limit remains at 24 weeks because experts concluded that this is the limit of viability and that the best medical evidence does not support lowering this limit. The BBC reports on the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist's findings that there is no fetal pain before 24 weeks gestation here.
Montgomerie tweeted "I don't think abortion should ever be 'easy'". In the article he suggests introducing 'fully informed consent' by showing women scans or images of fetuses:
'A Michigan law based on this principle requires pregnant mothers to inspect “depictions, illustrations or photographs of foetal development”. Women are still in charge but are helped to fully understand what they’re choosing'.
Thanks Tim! Women (sorry, 'pregnant mothers' ) should be given picture books to fully understand what abortion is. Because, you see, they don't understand what they're choosing, but Tim does. Tim thinks some women should be allowed to have abortions (someone tell SPUC!) but only if it was made as difficult as possible for them, and it wasn't after 12 weeks, and the decision wasn't made due to a diagnosis of fetal abnormality.
He claims that the 'exception' in the UK law which allows for abortion after 24 weeks due to fetal abnormality "has produced an alliance between anti-abortion and disability rights campaigners". Perhaps we're reading the wrong blogs but we haven't seen evidence of this. In fact, many disability rights campaigners have stated their disgust with groups like SPUC co-opting disability rights campaigns to argue against a woman's right to access abortion.
Either Tim Montgomerie should be more honest about his desire to make abortion completely illegal, or we would suggest that his reconsider his allegiance to SPUC, a group which aims to do just that.