Hewitt rejects calls for lowering of upper abortion limit

#1
The RC church (UK branch) has called for the 24-week upper limit on abortion to be lowered. In my mind quite rightly so!

Despite this, the Health secretary has unanimously rejected the call, citing that it was not governments place to sanction or alter such limits. Since when have they decided to shy away from making such controversial decisions when it suits them? Maybe Cormac Murphy-O'Connor can appeal to the real power in the government, the ever so devout RC that is the wide-mouthed frog, Cherie Bliar.

A call from the Roman Catholic Church for the 24-week upper limit on abortion to be lowered was turned down by Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary, yesterday.

Miss Hewitt told Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster and the leader of an estimated 4.1 million Roman Catholics in England and Wales, that the Government saw no need to change the law.

She said it was an issue on which the Government was neutral and that it would be up to a backbench MP to introduce a private member's Bill to test Parliament's view in a free vote.

Afterwards the cardinal called on Parliament to set up a joint committee of peers and MPs to review the 1967 Abortion Act, which legalised terminations. He said that in the light of medical advances, which make it possible for some foetuses younger than 24 weeks to survive birth, there had been a "moral awakening" in the country in support of a lower limit.


A Commons motion tabled by Geraldine Smith, the Labour MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, calling for a joint committee of MPs and peers to lead the debate on the issue has been signed by 31 backbenchers from all parties. Phil Willis, the chairman of the Commons science and technology select committee, has also called for a joint committee to examine the 24-week limit.

Meanwhile, Dr Evan Harris, a Lib Dem member of the science and technology select committee, said the Government could not keep "sweeping this issue under the carpet". He predicted that ministers would have to allow a vote, which should be informed by scientific evidence.

The Abortion Act was amended in 1990 to cut the original time limit of 28 weeks to 24 weeks. Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said there was "widespread concern" over the workings of the Act, which was resulting in about 200,000 terminations a year. The Archbishop of Cardiff, the Most Rev Peter Smith, said that pictures of foetuses "walking in the womb", which were published last year, had touched people's hearts and added to pressure for a lowering of time limit.

Department of Health statistics show that in 2004, for women living in England and Wales, the total number of abortions was 185,400, compared with 181,600 in 2003, a rise of 2.1 per cent.

Doctors have voted against calls for a 20-week limit, and Melissa Dear, of FPA, formerly the Family Planning Association, said her organisation was also against a reduction of the time limit.

"Only a small minority of women have abortions after 20 weeks - about one per cent - and for these there are good reasons," she said.

"There may be genetic abnormalities or the women may be just before menopause or in their teens, when periods are irregular, and they may not have realised they were pregnant."
Perhaps not really surprising is that the pro-choice lobby have come out agains this 'draconian' demand. See the last paragraph from Melissa Dear of the FPA. The last part of her argument shows that they really are clutching at straws!

...women may be just before menopause or in their teens, when periods are irregular, and they may not have realised they were pregnant."
To reach 24 weeks pregancy and not realise you are pregnant is in my eyes, almost impossible. That means that you would have missed anywhere upto SIX periods!!! Tell me how any woman could miss that? Their argument is thin and lacking in substance
 
#2
I'm pro-choice, so agree with a woman's right to an abortion BUT I don't agree with the current late limit for abortions. In normal circumstances (i.e. not those situations where a woman continues to menstruate and / or doesn't get a belly), as I've written before, I don't understand how some women don't seen to realise that they're pregnant. There's certainly a consensus amongst my friends that if one's period is more than 2 days late mild concern sets in and anything more than a week late results in a trip to the chemist for a test-kit.

Given man's obsession with cheating death and the medical profession's efforts to save premature babies, I am very uncomfortable with the thought of the legal period for terminations blurring over the line at which life might be viable. Saying that, the NHS's admin needs to be sorted out because it's not uncommon for abortions to be arranged a few months before they're carried out.

From the Abortion becomes a general election issue thread:

DozyBint said:
My view is that abortions should be performed as soon after conception as possible and other than in the instance that there is a later-found medical reason why the pregnancy cannot continue, that they should be performed no later than 12 weeks. I know that for this to happen that major changes need to happen in the NHS (a whole bigger topic) as a very good friend of mine knew she was pregnant at 2 weeks, went through the process of arranging an abortion by 4 weeks but didn't have the operation till 13 weeks. The stress of this additional 9 weeks carrying the foetus was awful for her and very painful for me to observe: how do you comfort a woman who is going through all of the physical and emotional changes for a pregnancy which is 'booked in' to be terminated?
 
#3
Fair points DozyB,

</p>there was a report on tele last night that said words to the effect "although younger foetuses have survived, at 24 weeks there is a c. 60% survival rate, although a high proportion of these may be deformed or have other problems - not an exact quote, but that was the gist. ...
but as to Hewitt I reckon she should be sterilized, along with the rest of the Cabinet - preferably by boiling in oil (although autoclaving or being submerged in a vat of isopropyl alcohol for 5 or 10 minutes may well do the trick ;-)
 
#4
The problem with abortion is that many women seem to treat it as an alternative form of contaception. I'd personally go for a 12 week limit unless in exceptional circumstances (Medical, Rape, etc) Late abortions should never be given as a lifestyle choice. With the freedom to choose abortion comes the responsibilty to ensure you are not causing unecessary suffering to the foetus. With the advent of the morning after pill etc, should we not be asking why there are so many late terminations?
 
#5
Being pro-choice myself I concur with DB in reducing to the current limit of 24 weeks. I too don't believe there is any excuse for late terminations (the issue of the discovery of serious defects and/or risks to the woman's life aside). The continual advance of medical science meaning premature babies as young as 24 weeks or earlier surviving adds weight to the ethical and moral issues surrounding the present limit, so unless you're Pentwyn (who's unlikely to find anyone mong enough to get her pregnant anyway! :twisted: ) and incapable of a reasonable level of intelligence then most should be in tune with their bodies and brains enough to know the likelihood of conception having taken place and be able to make informed choices much earlier on in pregnancy.

The statics showing a rise in termination rates is certainly worrying though, with sex no longer being taboo, greater access to information and general public awareness of the value of contraception why are there so many? I'd be interested to know the breakdown of those figures into age groups.

I suspect this complex and very emotive subject would be given greater credence if it was debated and proposed by the medical profession without the opinions of the RC church.
 
#6
Warrior_Poet said:
The problem with abortion is that many women seem to treat it as an alternative form of contaception.
I keep hearing about this phenomenon, not just from men but women too. However, I'm inclined to take it with a grain of salt because, based on the experiences of women I've known throughout my life that have had abortions, it's a horrible, invasive procedure that generally smartenend them up enough to vow never to go through something like that again. I suppose I could go look for "repeat customer" stats if I wasn't so fcuking lazy. :D

I'd personally go for a 12 week limit unless in exceptional circumstances (Medical, Rape, etc)
With many new birth control methods (Depo-Provera, new regular pills, the mini-pill, etc.) periods become irregular or stop all together. It can be virtually impossible to predict. And hormonal birth control works by artificially inducing your body to think it's pregnant, anyway. It may take a woman close to twelve weeks to catch on under those circumstances. That 12-week margin would have to be based on a lot of assumptions.

With the advent of the morning after pill etc, should we not be asking why there are so many late terminations?
That is a good question. If you have no ethical problem with having an abortion, late or otherwise, you should be just fine with going to your chemist and picking up the pills, right?
 
#7
.Dolly said:
Being pro-choice myself I concur with DB in reducing to the current limit of 24 weeks. I too don't believe there is any excuse for late terminations (the issue of the discovery of serious defects and/or risks to the woman's life aside). The continual advance of medical science meaning premature babies as young as 24 weeks or earlier surviving adds weight to the ethical and moral issues surrounding the present limit, so unless you're Pentwyn (who's unlikely to find anyone mong enough to get her pregnant anyway! :twisted: ) and incapable of a reasonable level of intelligence then most should be in tune with their bodies and brains enough to know the likelihood of conception having taken place and be able to make informed choices much earlier on in pregnancy.

The statics showing a rise in termination rates is certainly worrying though, with sex no longer being taboo, greater access to information and general public awareness of the value of contraception why are there so many? I'd be interested to know the breakdown of those figures into age groups.

I suspect this complex and very emotive subject would be given greater credence if it was debated and proposed by the medical profession without the opinions of the RC church.
I agree with Dozy and Dolly - BUT if the limit is lowered the NHS needs to provide teminations much more quickly. And I think the question needs to be looked at seriously as to why so many men are obviously failing to use condoms? Have people become complacent abouts HIV/AIDS?
 
#8
TankiesYank said:
Warrior_Poet said:
I keep hearing about this phenomenon, not just from men but women too. However, I'm inclined to take it with a grain of salt because, based on the experiences of women I've known throughout my life that have had abortions, it's a horrible, invasive procedure that generally smartenend them up enough to vow never to go through something like that again. I suppose I could go look for "repeat customer" stats if I wasn't so fcuking lazy. :D
It does happen. Apparently Roe of Roe v. Wade fame turned pro-life in part as a result of a woman who came up to her and said "I want to thank you for what you did, I've had seven abortions since the law was overturned". This was maybe ten years after Roe v. Wade
 
#9
Firstly, I agree that anything you do is going to be abused by one or two misfits, However

I believe in the right to choose: We are all getting on our soapboxes with the examples that are at broader ends of the spectrum!
IMHO I would liek to see couples think before bringing a life into the world. Abortion is not necessarily a bad thing, even as a lifestyle choice (though i do have more problems with this).

If you have a young mother, aged 16+ who, through supidity, miguided belief finds herself pregnant. She is basically forced by public opinion to have the baby which is then resented, not only in th eshort term, but for years to come when mother can't go out and do what her friends are doing etc etc.

I get the point of a right to life for the baby, but what about the mother? What is the point of bringing a baby up for it to just suffer with emotional abuse and poverty! At the end of the day (and in a very simplistic way) the fetus is viable at 24 weeks, but only just. I do agree that reducing it isn't a bad idea, but not too far, and i do believe abortions can be a good thing in the long run!
 
#10
DozyBint said:
I'm pro-choice, so agree with a woman's right to an abortion BUT I don't agree with the current late limit for abortions. In normal circumstances (i.e. not those situations where a woman continues to menstruate and / or doesn't get a belly), as I've written before, I don't understand how some women don't seen to realise that they're pregnant. There's certainly a consensus amongst my friends that if one's period is more than 2 days late mild concern sets in and anything more than a week late results in a trip to the chemist for a test-kit.

My view is that abortions should be performed as soon after conception as possible and other than in the instance that there is a later-found medical reason why the pregnancy cannot continue, that they should be performed no later than 12 weeks.?
I have a friend who didn't know she was pregnant until five months gone - she was on the pill throughout, and continued to have some (light) bleeding each month. She and her (then boyfriend, and now husband) had been going out for a month or two at the time, they'd both just graduated, and it was certainly unplanned.

As for "medical reasons" that you mention, there are some tests that can't be carried out until later than 12 weeks; amniocentesis for instance is done at 15 weeks.
 
#11
Gravelbelly said:
As for "medical reasons" that you mention, there are some tests that can't be carried out until later than 12 weeks; amniocentesis for instance is done at 15 weeks.
There will always be exceptions, such as your friends, as I said. As for amniocentesis, that's generally only done if the nuchal fold scan (done at 12 weeks) doesn't give a conclusive result, thus again these cases are exceptions. Obviously this issue is emotive and subjective and I am only writing from my view point, which I'm not arrogant enough to presume is correct.
 
#12
I was under the impression that amniocentesis was done after 14 weeks when there is enough Amniotic fluid. Its usually done between 15 and 18 weeks!

And its done if the pregnancy is considered high risk ie mother is Over 35 years old, has diabetes, has other children with genetic problems and so on..abnormal triple screen test...list is endless
 
#13
mereminx said:
I was under the impression that amniocentesis was done after 14 weeks when there is enough Amniotic fluid. Its usually done between 15 and 18 weeks!

And its done if the pregnancy is considered high risk ie mother is Over 35 years old, has diabetes, has other children with genetic problems and so on..abnormal triple screen test...list is endless
Aye, and if there is a genetic flag within the parents families, a Downs sibling or such.

Beebs x
 
#14
I've just educated myself from this site about pain processing by foetuses:

The brain and nerve fibres must be functioning for anyone to feel pain.

Brain cells which are essential for consciousness in the adult are known to be present in the foetus by 10 weeks. Nerve fibres which transmit pain impulses are known to be present before fibres inhibiting pain are completed.

According to a scholarly study of the available evidence, this "implies that the first trimester foetus may be more susceptible to pain than slightly older subjects."

In other words, if the baby can experience pain before the body's mechanisms to suppress pain have developed, this means that the baby may be able to feel pain at a much earlier stage than was previously thought, and perhaps even more keenly in the first three months of pregnancy than later.

The same study concludes that there is a likelihood that the

"foetus has started to acquire a sentient capacity perhaps as early as six weeks, certainly by nine to ten weeks of gestation. Anatomical examination of such foetuses indicates the probability that differentiation sufficient for reception, transmission and perception of primitive pain sensation has already occurred."
My previous (general) reading about this subject had indicated that the pain senses of a first trimester foetus were very limited, but given this information, it's possible that an abortion in the 4th month would be less painful for the foetus; though with its cognitive development further along, would it be more traumatic?
 
#15
DozyBint said:
I've just educated myself from this site about pain processing by foetuses:

The brain and nerve fibres must be functioning for anyone to feel pain.

Brain cells which are essential for consciousness in the adult are known to be present in the foetus by 10 weeks. Nerve fibres which transmit pain impulses are known to be present before fibres inhibiting pain are completed.

According to a scholarly study of the available evidence, this "implies that the first trimester foetus may be more susceptible to pain than slightly older subjects."

In other words, if the baby can experience pain before the body's mechanisms to suppress pain have developed, this means that the baby may be able to feel pain at a much earlier stage than was previously thought, and perhaps even more keenly in the first three months of pregnancy than later.

The same study concludes that there is a likelihood that the

"foetus has started to acquire a sentient capacity perhaps as early as six weeks, certainly by nine to ten weeks of gestation. Anatomical examination of such foetuses indicates the probability that differentiation sufficient for reception, transmission and perception of primitive pain sensation has already occurred."
My previous (general) reading about this subject had indicated that the pain senses of a first trimester foetus were very limited, but given this information, it's possible that an abortion in the 4th month would be less painful for the foetus; though with its cognitive development further along, would it be more traumatic?
I reckon that the majorityof abortions are carried out because of the effect a child would have on the parents. There will be some carried out on medical grounds, but most are due to selfish toads worrying about their careers. My son was born and found to be disabled. I'm glad the scans didn't show anything abnormal as I would have had the dilema of abortion.
 
#16
Perhaps the reasons for abortion should be addressed. If they are medical, then they should be allowed, but social abortion? I'm a little uncomfortable with women having abortions to fit a life style.

Beebs x

PS just to clarify, medical, physical and mental. NOT emotional which I feel is a catch all heading for the women I mention above.
 
#17
I don't disagree with anyone having an abortion for whatever reason. I'm not keen on late abortions I know how they are achieved and it makes me very uncomfortable.

ONE is a mistake TWO is contraception and there is NO excuse!!
 
#18
Call me Mr cynical but did not Tony Blair announce some six months ago that he wanted to become a Roman Catholic?

Has he done a deal with the Pope when he last sought an audience with him?

The abortion debate begins after a decent interval when no-one would probably make the connection?
 
#19
I have difficulty believing that there are people out there who either use or view abortion as a form of contraception... but then I may be being a little niave....? The whole experience appears traumatic and emotionally draining, surely that would be enough to make people think?
 
#20
LittleMissSunshine said:
The whole experience appears traumatic and emotionally draining, surely that would be enough to make people think?
One would think that, but believe me when I say that I went to school with some girls for whom having an abortion was a rite of passage. There is no accounting for a mind-set that refuses to believe that it's possible to become pregnant if you "do it standing up"; if it's your first time (with that particular bloke) or if there's a "Y" in the day... :roll:
 

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