(The facts are that the outcome of the Roe v Wade lawsuit in 1973 led to the liberalisation of abortion law throughout the USA, such that women could legally have their pregnancies terminated up to the 24th week of gestation; and that doctors could legally carry out terminations up to that date. Beyond 24 weeks there were legal limitations, but in practice abortions could be and have been carried out throughout the gestational period. This has now been overturned, so abortion law has once again become a matter for the individual States).
The writer of this article https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-61967728 for BBC Wales does not directly express the view that abortion law should be as liberal as possible, thus perhaps aiming to avoid the charge of BBC bias, but instead quotes selected cases, including the words of selected women, which take this as an underlying assumption. The views quoted are strongly supportive of women’s “rights” to abortion on request – apparently for any reason – over all other considerations.
The article focuses on two women who seem content to have their names and photographs displayed on BBC Wales’s website, and who claim to have had abortions and not to be ashamed of the fact. One of these women, Bronwen, now in her early 70s, says that she had three abortions when she was in her 20s and 30s. When she was first pregnant, at the age of 26, she had (she says) a “steady boyfriend” but she was “not ready to settle down… It wasn’t the right time for me to become pregnant”. She asked for a termination, but the doctor replied “You’re a perfectly healthy young woman, just go away and have your baby”. Bronwen found a more co-operative doctor who agreed to the abortion; the first doctor, however, was implementing the law correctly, since grounds for abortion then did not include “I’m not ready, it’s not the right time” but the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman (quote from Google’s summary of the ‘67 Abortion Act).
Bronwen says she doesn’t want to be judged for her three abortions. She says she was advised on medical grounds against taking the contraceptive pill. Presumably she says this in case anyone is inclined to judge her, not on moral grounds, but for inefficiency or disorganisation in becoming pregnant not just once but three times when she didn’t want to be. I wonder why the doctor described her as “a perfectly healthy young woman” if she had a medical condition which made it inadvisable for her to take the pill, at a time (1977-ish) when there was a variety of hormonal contraceptives available, including the progestogen-only mini-pill?
Bronwen says it “wouldn’t be doing any favours to the child to have a child at that point”. But on the other hand, killing the child is doing it a favour? She now has two adult children. I can’t help wondering how they feel about their mother’s having opted to abort their three half-siblings because she “wasn’t ready”. Do they think “I’ve had a narrow escape”? Does it make them wonder about the nature of their mother’s parental love for them?
I also wonder about the “steady boyfriend”. Did he put pressure on Bronwen to abort? Did he offer to take responsibility for the child? Was he even asked? Was it he who was the father of the other two aborted children? No, he doesn’t get a look-in at all. The BBC seems to accept without question that pregnancy (continuation or termination thereof) is entirely for the woman to decide, with the man completely excluded.
The State, as an entity, is also completely excluded, although it is reasonable to suppose that it does have an interest. In some countries, and among some ethnic groups, preference is given to sons over daughters. If women abort female foetuses, in hopes of conceiving a boy next time, a marked gender imbalance in the population develops. Though abortion is readily available in India, abortion on grounds of gender is illegal, though of course difficult to police. A lot of “spare” young men, with no hopes of finding wives, has long-term implications for law and order.
The other woman in BBC Wales’s report, Natasha, is younger – mid-30s – and declares that she “never wanted kids” and sought an abortion when in her 20s. She expresses dismay that the doctor at first assumed she wanted to continue with the pregnancy; and horror when she learned it would be six weeks before she could see the second doctor (consent of two doctors is necessary under the ‘67 Act before an abortion can take place). I have frequently read testimonies from women who have been upset when medical staff persist in assuming that they want an abortion (the pregnancy being in some way problematic) when they do not; and there are cases on record https://www.bmj.com/content/345/bmj.e4784 of abortion clinics having stacks of forms pre-signed by a “second doctor” so that their clients never actually get to see that “second doctor”. But the BBC doesn’t consider those cases, oh no. Nor does it consider the problem of medical staff who are unwilling to be involved in abortions – all abortions, or certain types, e.g. late abortions, “social” abortions. Are their consciences to be respected, or are they to be compelled to refer their patients for abortions at the patients’ request? - and if compulsion is involved, will trainee doctors not simply avoid the field of obstetrics and gynaecology in favour of some other branch of medicine; while older doctors opt for early retirement?
In a 25th June BBC World News item https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-61788929 opinions on the Roe v Wade case from a variety of countries are quoted, mainly pro-abortion; where pro-life views are mentioned, it is in negative terms. (The BBC never uses the term “pro-life”; I have read that its reporters are directed not to use the term, but to say “anti-abortion” or “anti-choice” instead, regardless of the fact that “choice” can include the choice to continue a pregnancy, a choice that women do not always feel they have). In this piece, comments from Ireland include a reference to “the story of Savita Halappanavar, who died of sepsis in Ireland in 2012, because she was not allowed a termination”. No, BBC, that is not why she died, although the pro-abortion lobby frequently says it is. If you will look at any of the official reports, for example https://thelifeinstitute.net/images/patient-safety-investigation-uhg.pdf and even at your own news report of the case in October 2013, you will see that Savita was already miscarrying when she arrived at the hospital, and that her death was due to sepsis which hospital staff failed to recognise and treat.
Why, one might wonder, is the BBC so concerned about changes in abortion law in another country? Why do they quote Natasha saying that her heart “just genuinely breaks for the women who overnight have had access to what is a quite fundamental healthcare ripped away from them”, and "Even though we're not in America, I think it's so important that there's a strong message from all around the world that this has been condemned in the strongest possible terms." While the USA’s influence is not world-wide, the countries of Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and to some extent those of Central and South America, are likely to react, one way or another, to this change in USA law.
Is Auntie worried about losing her influence?
By Prayer Crusader St Theresa of Avila