Monday, 8 October 2012

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

The Minister for Women Maria Miller has said that she thinks we should bring down the legal time limit when women can have abortions. Currently the latest point you can have an abortion is 24 weeks. Miss Miller wants to bring this down to 20 weeks.

I am thoroughly pro-choice. I think the right to have an abortion if you are unfortunate enough to require one is massively important. If you don't want to have an abortion, no one is going to make you, but for women who have been landed with an unwanted pregnancy, whether through bad luck, a mistake, or in the worst case because they have been raped, then I think they should get it if they want it. It’s hardly an easy option. The medical profession encourages women seeking abortions to get them as early as possible. Late abortions, as I understand it (I’m not a medical professional) are most likely to be in the most desperate cases. And what are the most desperate cases? Young girls, rape victims, foetuses displaying signs of serious medical conditions, and women whose own lives could be at risk if they bring the baby to term.

My problem with Miller in this case (I think I could have quite a few problems with her) is not that she is against abortion, it is that she is against medical science. The decision to allow legal abortion in a society is a moral one. It is exactly the kind of issue that politicians should be able to talk about. Debating these kinds of issues, whether you are for or against them, is how our society, our attitudes and our laws grow and change. The precise medical details of when and how abortions take place is an entirely medical issue and should be for the professionals to decide.

Miss Miller argues that care for premature babies has improved and so the point at which a pregnant mother can have an abortion should go down. The implication is that we are now aborting foetuses that are old enough to be living screaming babies. But a review by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists two years ago said there was no scientific evidence to justify a lower limit. And that, I think should be the end of the story.

Jeremy Hunt has now waded into the debate with his twopence-worth, saying that women shouldn't be able to have abortions after 12 weeks. A lot of women don't even know they're pregnant until then! The Royal College (the professionals) says it better than me. In their statement, about Hunt's helpful interventions, they say that his comments 'do not put women at the centre of their care.' And that, Maria Minister of Women, is why you should be staying well out of this. If we need a Minister for Women, shouldn't she be on our side?

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