hospital drawings

Last week Donald Trump caused outrage by suggesting that women who had illegal abortions should be punished; so much outrage, in fact, that he was forced to backtrack. This week a Belfast woman was convicted under the 1861 Offences Against the Persons Act after she took pills to induce an abortion. Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland (the province is exempted from the provisions of the 1967 Abortion Act, which applies to the rest of the UK). Northern Irish women who want an abortion have to travel to a clinic in England, Wales or Scotland. The  woman convicted this week could not afford the cost, so had to induce her own abortion.

More than twenty years ago, I wrote an article about the plight of women in Northern Ireland seeking abortion (I republished it Pandaemonium last year at the time of a judicial challenge to the law in Northern Ireland). Twenty years on, little has changed.

But the issue is not simply that of an archaic law in Northern Ireland. As ‘We Trust Women’, a new campaign to decriminalize abortion, observes, even under the 1967 Abortion Act

a woman cannot choose for herself to have an abortion. Two doctors must decide whether she meets the criteria laid out in the 1967 Abortion Act. Women should be trusted to make their own decisions about their own pregnancies. To compel a woman to endure pregnancy and childbirth unless doctors give her legal authorisation to have an abortion is to deny her the right to control her own body, plan her own family and determine her own life course.

The 1967 Abortion did not replace the 1861 Offences Against the Persons Act but rather ‘carved out therapeutic exemptions to the OAPA (and equivalent common law in Scotland) and allowed abortion where women and doctors met certain requirements.’ In other words, it provided a legal defence for those carrying out the operation in certain circumstances. The 1967 Act

placed decision-making about abortion in the hands of doctors, not women. Abortion is still not a woman’s choice and no woman has the right to end a pregnancy. Instead, two doctors must decide whether they think she should be allowed to end the pregnancy. No other routine medical procedure demands legal authorisation by doctors in addition to the normal requirements of obtaining informed consent.

It is unacceptable, the campaign argues

that women’s bodies remain governed by Victorian legislation that fossilises values well out of step with those cherished in Britain today. The criminalisation of abortion makes a mockery of the equal status that is accorded to women in any other area of life, represents discrimination against women, and stigmatises the one in three women who will have an abortion.

The campaign, a coalition of groups led by the BPAS, wants to ‘take abortion out of the criminal law and regulate it like other women’s healthcare procedures’:

We believe abortion should be governed by the same robust regulatory and ethical frameworks which govern all other medical procedures in the UK. In the 21st century we should be trusting women to make their own decisions about their own pregnancies, and removing the threat of prosecution from those healthcare professionals providing women with the services and support they need.

Abortion should be decriminalized. Support the campaign.


The image is one of Barbara Hepworth’s Hospital drawings.


  1. Sheena

    The funny thing is that I know people who are against women’s right to abortion, but who don’t have donor cards because they think it’s a bit ‘icky’. So, you know, life is so precious you can deny a living person bodily autonomy, but not quite so precious you should donate your organs when you’re dead. As Vincent Browne put it, “Just think of the reaction there would be were the Oireachtas to pass a law requiring healthy males to donate a kidney to another person, urgently in need of a transplant, even though a healthy male could easily live a healthy and full life thereafter with the remaining kidney.”

    • Noor

      The difference, to a pro-lifer, would be that the healthy male did nothing at all to cause the sick person’s kidney failure, whereas a woman had sex, which isn’t a necessity, causing a fetus to be dependent on her.

  2. As science – particularly intra-womb scanning – advances, it is increasingly clear that a foetus is a new body, a new life, within the mother’s body, but not part of it.

    And thus, that a woman has no right whatever to kill the foetus – because it’s not a part of her body to dispose of !

    Thus, as all the world’s great religions say, that an abortion is a murder (unless the mother’s life is directly threatened by the foetus).

    Science now proves the great religions right; and it is depressing to read a scientist taking the opposing point of view.

    There can of course be no peace in a world where millions of abortions are taking place.

    As for “Progress”, the decision of Progressives to support a “woman’s right” to have an abortion (i.e. the right of young women to be as sexually promiscuous as men) has created the current, dreary domination of the world by the Right.

    If you doubt this, look around you – Where is the Left ? Nowhere, and in view of their struggle for women’s “reproductive rights” (i.e. for mass-murder), rightly so.

    • Science now proves the great religions right

      It is striking how the phrases ‘science tells us X’ or ‘science proves Y’ have become means of closing down debate, of attempts to settle an argument by an appeal to ‘facts’ that themselves beg the question. It is also striking that many religious believers now use the ‘science proves that’ trope, knowing that traditional religious arguments are insufficient to convince people.

      Does science prove that a single fertilized egg is a human being? If so, how? If not, at what point does science prove that a clump of eggs has become a human being, and by criteria does it prove it? You, being a Christian, presumably believe that as humans we all possess souls. When does the soul enter the clump of eggs, or fetus, and how does science prove that?

      The point is that the criteria we use to define what it is to be human are not, and cannot be, merely scientific. There are certainly physical, biological, genetic markers and boundaries that define us as human. But we are not simply defined by our physical being; what it is to be human, and to be a ‘person’, is bounded by social and philosophical as well as physical criteria. It seems extraordinary, and telling of the times in which we live, that one has to make such a point to a religious believer.

      As it happens, there are many religious believers who support the right to abortion, including those that support the campaign to decriminalize abortion.

      the decision of Progressives to support a “woman’s right” to have an abortion (i.e. the right of young women to be as sexually promiscuous as men) has created the current, dreary domination of the world by the Right.

      There are many reasons for the decline of the left (an issue I have written much about). The idea that supporting abortion rights is one of them is, frankly, bizarre. The right to abortion is about the right of women to have control over their own bodies. But even if it was about ‘the right of young women to be as sexually promiscuous as men’ – what of it? Why should women not be as ‘promiscuous as men’? Or did God create only men to enjoy sex?

      • Scientific arguments have to be used to convince non-religious (indeed, anti-religious) people that abortion is wrong.

        The Christian position is quite clear – from the moment of conception, a fertilised egg is a human being. That is a matter of scientific debate – but in general it isn’t newly-fertilised eggs that are being aborted, but foetuses.

        A new life is a new life; hence your third paragraph is waffle; or rather, obfuscation.

        Neither men nor women should be sexually promiscuous; being so is catastrophic for them as individuals, even more so for their society – look at Broken Britain if you doubt this. (Or at the history of the Soviet Union, which was a liberal sexual adventure-playground from 1917-26, then had to become more puritanical simply to survive).

        There is thus no “right” to be sexually promiscuous and extending that “right” to women – however justifiable on hedonistic grounds – is disastrous for all, women especially. Also, wrong. And a sexually-immoral society soon becomes immoral in ALL respects; hence tax havens etc !

        Regarding the Left – you cannot conduct a Holy War on behalf of the vulnerable (the poor, the disadvantaged, and so on) while simultaneously conducting a Holy War AGAINST the most vulnerable of all – the unborn. The Left has been engulfed by its resultant hypocrisy and double-mindedness.

        • Noor

          Being promiscuous is only a problem when people aren’t informed about birth control and STDs (thanks to abstinence-only sex ed), and/or decide to be single mothers at large.

    • El_Mocho

      It depends upon on which moment the fetus can be regarded as a human being. As long as it is only a heap of cells without any perception or conscience it is definitely not a human being and destroying it is not murder.

  3. The RC church in particular has no moral right to dictate what women can or cannot do with their bodies, especially in the dark light of a mother of several living on a rubbish dump having her pleading for permission to use contraception denied by the RC authorities. Then going on about world resources being exploited by the pressures of human population …. rapid is the approach of a collective global responsibility becoming irrefutable, and turning the tables on these religions promoting mindless multiplication of the faithful: stop popping them out for your religion, for God’s sake!

  4. The West is on course for population implosion – always nowhere are Western people (migrants aside) reproducing sufficiently to maintain their levels. They are ageing and will soon be gone – and good riddance.

    This will lead to a world dominated – not by some sort of pro-Western “collective global responsibility” (!) – but by Islam (it’s Muslim, not Catholic countries, that have the high birth rates).

    On Noor’s point – sexual promiscuity is always a problem, pregnancy / STD’s or not. It destroys marriage (or any other stable sexual relationship); and without marriage, society collapses. The almost awe-inspiring collapse of western societies from c.1965 has resulted partly from de-industrialisation, but much more from the collapse of marriage.

    • Noor

      Except that access to sex isn’t the only incentive to marriage or serious relationships. The reason why things are the way they are today, is that other incentives have been removed as well.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: