We’re all the losers now


For those of you overseas, you may not have realised that British MPs have just voted against lowering the abortion limit to 20 weeks (it’s currently 24). Several feminist groups are claiming this as a victory for women and for choice.

As has been well documented here, I am a feminist. I also believe in choice. I don’t think abortion is a desirable thing to have, but I don’t think it is an easy thing to go through, and I wouldn’t say I am anti-abortion. Were I in the position of having an unexpected and unwanted pregnancy, it is no doubt something I would have to consider.

But I think the people claiming a victory for women are simply wrong. Some are demonising their MPs for voting to lower the limit, especially the woman MPs. Why? Are MPs not allowed to vote according to their conscience and their judgement of the evidence supplied?

24 weeks is a very long time. Surely by that stage, you would know if you wanted a child or not. I don’t see why extending the ‘deadline’ benefits women in any way, and certainly not children – by 24 weeks they aren’t foetuses any more, they are babies. A friend of mine and his wife recently had a baby at 24 weeks. It is still touch and go over her health, especially as they are in Australia, which hass less provision for prem babies, but so far she is proving a fighter. I know of other children born at this stage who are now healthy and happy.

Is a victory for the parent(s) over the child really a victory for feminism?

There may be exceptional circumstances when a 24 week abortion is appropriate, and in that case, I wouldn’t want the parents denied that choice, but the law could, and should, surely make provision for a different limit under certain circumstances anyway, as it currently does with the 28-week limit.

I don’t blame MPs who voted either way, and the law remains. Perhaps it is right that it does so – I am no medic or expert on these things.

But regardless, I don’t see how this decision is a victory for women, and if that makes me a bad feminist, then fine.

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2 thoughts on “We’re all the losers now

  1. Hello Ruthie, I think the thing to remember is that if the limit is cut down once, then it’ll be cut down again. If, say, at some time in the future foetuses would be viable at 18 weeks, should the limit be lowered to that? 16 weeks? 10? Where does it end?

    The other point is that though it is BRILLIANT that prem 24-weekers can survive, that’s very rare indeed. Very, very, very rare. If 24 weeks was a true “baby” stage, babies would be induced then, and they’re not – eg pre-eclampsic mothers try to keep the foetus cooking in there for as long as possible, preferably full-term, 38 weeks would be good, and 34 weeks at a very minimum.

    At the end of the day, 24-week abortions are extremely unusual, less than 2% of terminations, but I think it’s the principle of the thing that leads to it being hailed as a win for feminism.

    If it matters, my opinion on the whole issue is that I think society is too sexualised and not contraception-focused enough, I wish abortion wasn’t necessary, I don’t think I would have one (although obviously medical reasons might override that), but it needs to be kept available and legal – just because the alternative is much worse.

  2. I don’t think we’re ever going to get to a stage where it’s viable at 16 weeks because foetuses are much less developed at that stage than at 24 weeks, but if that ever became the case, there’d need to be a debate about it and probably another vote, with lots more medical advice. I wouldn’t want to be one of the people making a call on it at that stage. It would be much, much harder.

    I totally agree with you about contraception being a huge key here and the fact that we need to be better at it, and better at saying no to sex, and I also agree that abortion needs to be kept legal and available.

    I do wonder if a 22-week limit may be something for the future (because of the importance of the 20 week scan to the issue – making the abortion cut-off earlier than 20 weeks is obviously currently very problematic), although as babies are still unlikely to survive at 22 or 23 weeks right now, maybe that is something for further down the line, if medicine advances.

    It’s a tricky debate because I am pro-choice AND pro-life (I don’t like the way those terms have been set up to mean opposing things). I believe abortion is neccessary (unfortunately – in an ideal world there’d be no unwanted preganancies, and all wanted ones would go smoothly. I don’t envy anyone choosing an abortion and totally uphold their right to do so), but I also believe in the child’s right to life.

    The debate is when an unborn foetus becomes a ‘baby’ and has that right – and that’s why viability is a key issue.

    I think the problem I am having with some of the feminist blogs etc at the moment is this whole ‘it’s MY body’ thing and prioritising the rights and needs of the mother (or parents) over the child.

    Because it’s NOT just a woman’s body, it’s a whole other person’s body, too. And whilst at an early stage, the foetus is not developed enough to be a ‘real person’, by the time it gets to the stage where the unborn IS developed, it becomes about so much more than just the woman (or couple).

    I think feminism can, and should, include a number of viewpoints. I am not anti-abortion, but I don’t think people who are ant-abortion are automatically NOT feminist, they may just believe life starts at conception and prioritise children over adults. Of course, many anti-abortion people ARE anti-women and anti-feminist, but the point is feminism can encompass many persepctives, and I’m uncomfortable with a dictat that puts us first at all costs.

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