Mad Nad 2 – Shooting Marlin with an Uzi.

Mad Nad’s back on the subject of abortion and the Catholic Church and no more coherent than last time around…

To add further to yesterday’s blog, I agree with the majority of what the Cardinal said in his homily.

The Abortion Act of 1967 was based on lies and more lies. It was an appallingly drafted piece of legislation which, under intense pressure from the abortion rights lobby, allowed the present day situation of abortion used as a form of contraception to occur.

And these lies were?

Well according to Cardinal Keith O’Brien:

We were told that backstreet abortions were killing women and had to be decriminalised. We were told abortion would only be used in extreme cases. We were told medical scrutiny would be rigorous. We were told a – lies and misinformation masquerading as compassion and truth.

Pre 1967, women did die as a consequence of backstreet abortion so how exactly has that now become a lie – O’Brien is blithely trying to rewrite history and Mad Nad appears to be agreeing with him having written only 24 hours earlier that:

Illegal abortions were costing lives or leaving women with horrific physical consequences and infections. Something had to be done.

Remember Orwell’s ‘doublethink’ – the ability to believe entirely contradictory statements at the same time? Well there it is, first hand.

As for the rest of O’Brien’s ‘we were told’ litany, yes you were told all that…

…forty years ago.

Forty years ago, we were also told by now that we’d all have domestic robots to do the house work, personal light aircraft to travel around in, that we’d would be living a life of leisure while machines did all our work for us and that its was the dawn of the ‘Age of Aquarius’.

Were those lies or has the world simply not changed in the way that people expected at the time.

It’s pure sophistry to claim that something you were told a long time ago was a lie just because the world didn’t turn out how you expected.

I have made it a commitment that throughout my time in Parliament I will do all that I can to reduce the number of abortions which take place each day. My objection to the Cardinal’s statement was that I believe his threat to withhold the Holy sacrament from MPs may actually have had the opposite effect and that he may have in fact given further ammunition to the pro choice lobby, who will describe his actions as extreme and irrational and use that argument to discredit all attempts to amend abortion legislation.

Nadine’s at the false dichotomies again and putting up the pretence that ‘pro-life’ means fewer abortions therefore ‘pro-choice’ means more. I went through this yesterday but to quickly recap no one who supports women’s right of access to abortion services wants to see more abortions. What they do support is better sex education and access to contraception in order to reduce the number of abortions by reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies.

That’s not on the only deliberate falsehood on display here, however. In citing the Cardinal’s threats to withhold the sacrament from Catholic MPs who fail to fully support the Church’s position on abortion as ‘ammunition’ – another combative metaphor than implies a battle or war between opposing sides – that could be used to ‘discredit all attempts to amend abortion legislation’, Nadine is seeking to draw a line between her own efforts to amendment current abortion laws and the position of the Catholic Church in order to conceal her own religiously-inspired motives.

It’s the same rhetorical strategy adopted by creationists – if we call our beliefs something else (concern over abortion rates/intelligent design) then maybe we can fool enough people to sneak our beliefs into law/schools by the back door.

There will be many commentators who will now use the terminology ‘right wing evangelists’ when describing attempts to limit access to abortion as a result of his comments.

Why when, in this instance its the Catholic Church playing at theological blackmail?

Does it make any difference at all whether we’re talking in terms of the Catholic Church or Evangelical Christians of other denominations or anyone one else for that matter – it all amounts to the same thing, a minority religious group attempting to impose their views on morality on the rest of society, whether that’s what the rest of society want or not.

Whoever is behind such attempts it still amounts to social authoritarianism and an infringement on personal liberty.

This is not a difficult question to resolve from a genuinely libertarian point of view. If, as a Christian, or as a follower of another religion or simply as a matter of conscience, you do not agree with the practice of abortion then you have the perfect and inalienable right not to have one.

So far as your moral views relate to other people who don’t share the same view, you can piss off and keep your morality to yourself.

It’s not difficult.

Despite the effect of cultural change, which is a necessary part of legislative change, the law has to be amended, and that is a political process.

Let’s try and follow this one closely, shall we?

Despite the effect of cultural change (the majority of people in the UK support women’s right of access to abortion services), which is a necessary part of legislative change (we live a democracy in which government should, nominally, serve or reflect the will of the people) the law has to be amended (why ‘has’? This is opinion presented as fact yet again), and that is a political process (fuck the people, I’m a politician and I can do what I like).

The majority of politicians are not Christians. In order to persuade them to vote for a change in legislation, the legislation needs to be reasonable and measured.

Reasonable and measured compared to what, exactly? Such terms are meaningless unless you’re clear about the reference points you’re using to define what constitutes ‘reasonable’.

What Nadine is trying to do is put over the suggestion that a cut in the upper time limit for abortions to 20 weeks is ‘reasonable’ because its doesn’t amount the the complete prohibition demanded by the Catholic Church, which is patently unreasonable. By the logic of such arguments one could also legitimately suggest that the Jacobins were moderates by comparison to Pol Pot because they only executed a few thousand people rather than a couple of million.

Terms like ‘reasonable’, ‘moderate’ and ‘measured’ only have meaning in a socio-political context when one is clear as to what the benchmarks are against which that which being described in such a fashion are being measured.

In reality, its immaterial whether Nadine’s preferred amendments are ‘reasonable’ and ‘measured’ because neither alters the fact that there is currently no substantive evidence to support her opinion that changes in the existing law, restricting access to abortions, are required or even that such changes would have any significant impact on the number of abortions taking place each year. Of the 185,000 or so abortions that do currently take place each year, a mere 1-2% take place at or above 20 weeks gestation and half of those are on strictly medical grounds, the greatest proportion of which stem from the discovery of serious foetal abnormality at 18-20 weeks gestation, the earliest such abnormalities can be identified by ultrasound scans.

It is unlikely that MPs will vote for a piece of legislation they think may have been coloured or hi-jacked by the church.

Is should hope, or rather expect, that MPs would not vote for legislation of this kind because it is entirely unsupported by valid evidence, irrespective of whether its also been ‘hijacked’ by any special interest group or not. Not, of course, that this is the case anyway – the suggestion that religious groups might hijack legislation that tries to place restrictions on access to abortion is just more the same window-dressing to create the impression that the motives of those introducing such legislation not one the same thing.

You’ll notice, throughout, that she consistently presents the idea that the ‘opposing’ poles in this debate are the anti-abortion views of the Church (Catholic or Evangelical) and the ‘pro-choice’ views of those who support legal access to abortions.

Not only is she trying to convey the false impression that her own position, in trying to effect further restrictions on access to abortion, is the ‘middle-way’ or a compromise position (which it isn’t) but she’s also seeking to imply that differences of opinion on both sides are rooted primarily in attitudes to religious belief, which is also a false premise and one that both implies that those who support legal abortions are also ‘unreasonable’ – by setting them up as being in polar opposition to an unreasonable religious viewpoint – and that this is solely a ‘contest’ of beliefs about abortion rights, when in fact many if not most of the arguments advanced in favour retaining the exist legal position, if not liberalising some aspects of it, are founded in and supported by evidence.

I also do not believe that the Holy Sacrament should be withheld from anyone for any reason. God is, above all things, loving and forgiving.

Well, at least she’s now being honest about her religious views. Banal but honest.

I know that many of my fellow Christians despair at my inability to condemn all abortion at any stage. To them, abortion is the taking of innocent life, based on the argument that if left uninterrupted a foetus at any stage would grow into full life.

These same friends however, all use various forms of contraception, and in an attempt not to be indelicate, some of which allow an egg to be fertilised and wasted.

It is a logical position that if you condemn all abortion, you must condemn various forms of contraception, if you truly believe that life begins at conception – I cannot do that. So I stay as true to my belief as I can, without hypocrisy or slight of word.

Hang on a second – let’s follow the ‘logic’ of this last argument.

If you believe that life begins at the point of conception – i.e. when sperm meets egg – them you must condemn not only all abortion but all forms of contraception which prevent a fertilised egg from implanting in the womb and developing into a foetus. That’s basically how IUD’s (‘the coil’) and some contraceptive pills work, they don’t prevent conception they prevent implantation, which means that fertilised eggs, which some believe are already ‘life’ and therefore deserving of their full rights to exist and develop, are ‘wasted’.

But, on average only around 1 in 5 fertilised eggs actually implant successfully in the womb where contraception is NOT used. 80% of fertilised eggs, which some believe already constitute ‘life’, do not implant in the womb and do not, therefore, result in a pregnancy and all without any external intervention whatsoever?

Why does that happen?

Some Christians have a tendency to ascribe anything that doesn’t go quite as expected, especially if it goes badly pear-shaped, as being down to ‘god’s will’ – so if do you believe that then, logically, the fact that 80% of fertilised eggs fail to implant in the womb is also a matter of ‘god’s will’ – god has, somewhere along the line, decided for reasons known only to himself/herself/itself that 80% of all human life will be ‘wasted’ within a matter of a few days of conception via the process of menstruation.

Does that not make god an abortionist? In fact does it not follow that, by that ‘logic’, god is an abortionist (and to some, therefore, a murderer) on a scale unimagined by even the most bloodthirsty and murderous despot?

And another thing that’s just occurred to me. If you’re the kind of Christian who takes the Bible literally, including the whole creation in seven days and Garden of Eden business, then you’d also believe that menstruation is what god cursed Eve with for her part on the whole eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge episode that got her and Adam expelled from paradise.

Which means that all along you’ve probably been thinking that as curses go, menstruation and everything that goes with it, the stomach cramps and PMS stuff, is maybe not such a bad curse compared to some of the other things he could of stuck women with…

…except that now, of course, you’ll have just found out that god neglected to mention one piece of vital information about this curse, the bit about it killing 80% of your children without you even realising it.

Got a bit of a thing about killing kids has this god of yours, hasn’t he? You piss the celestial skyfairy off and he whacks your kids big time – and you though Herod was a bit of fucker for snuffing first-borns.

It is interesting that the Cardinal didn’t mention the Catholic Church’s position on contraception in his homily. Maybe because to do so would have been so obviously counterproductive?

The Catholic Church will never be able to alter its position with regard to contraception and nor should it. It has every right to uphold its beliefs also without hypocrisy. I admire the Church for the brave position it takes.

Why shouldn’t it alter its position on contraception? It’s altered its position on plenty of other things in the Bible – I don’t see many Catholics going in for burning witches, stoning adulteresses and executing people who work on Sundays these days, nor can I recall ever reading the bit that said ‘thou shalt not use condoms’, all it does is tell Christians to ‘be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth’.

The Bible doesn’t actually specify exactly how much multiplying Christians are expected to do in order to replenish the earth either. Replenish, itself, means to make full or complete again or supply what is lacking, which does suggest that there’s some sort of finite limit on the amount of multiplying Christians are supposed to get up to as the definition of the word itself incorporates the idea of something being ‘full’. That would mean that one could reasonably expect that it will be perfectly fine by god if people stop multiplying at some point, as long as the earth doesn’t need a top up.

Who is to say that we’ve not already hit the point in terms of the fullness of the earth’s population? Maybe all that’s needed now is a direct one for one replacement, or is god’s expectation, instead, that Christians should keep on multiplying until its standing room only?

In fact if we get back to the whole ‘god’s will’ thing then maybe this explains why he’s killing off so many kids in terms of fertilised eggs that don’t implant, miscarriages, etc. Maybe we actually multiplied, as a species, past god’s idea of ‘full’ quite a while back and he’s now bumping off kids left, right and centre to keep the numbers down and muttering to himself about how those bastard humans could never be arsed to listen to him properly when he was giving out his instructions.

In which case, by using contraception you might well be doing the guy a favour and make him feel a bit better about himself by not making quite so many kids who need culling – it is a bit of shitty job to have to do, after all – even if you are god.

Unfortunately, this in itself compromises the abortion message of the church, as without the massive world wide use of various forms of contraception, the abortion rate would, undoubtedly, be much higher.

Ermm, bit of faulty logic there, Nadine.

The Catholic Church’s stance on contraception will impact only on abortion rates if its followers are both minded to follow its precepts on contraception but not on abortion and, of course, if abortions are accessible (legal or otherwise) in places where the Catholic view on contraception holds sway.

It a non-sequiteur – access to contraception will reduce abortion rates be preventing preganancies, but a lack of absence to contraception will not increase abortion rates because countries that restrict or prohibit access to contraception on religious grounds with also tend to prohibit abortion on the same basis.

Don’t you have family in Ireland, Nadine? In which case you should know that perfectly well, because 6-7,000 of the abortions carried out in the UK each year stem from Irish citizens coming to the UK for the procedure, which they cannot get at home.

Of course, it is right that the Cardinal preaches the gospel in and out of season, as one of my bloggers commented. However, at this point in time, in this British society, the message is out of beat with the modern values of today.

I do not advocate changing the message but in educating society in order to bring it to the point whereby the message is heard. I simply believe that is best achieved via methods other than threats issued from a pulpit.

What, methods like propaganda, misrepresentation and using your position in parliament to try to restrict access to abortion, Nadine?

Who says that as a society we don’t hear the Cardinal’s message perfectly well in any case? Is it beyond the bounds of reason to suggest that, perhaps, that the problem here is not that we cannot hear what he has to say but rather that we think its all a load of self-serving bollocks?

You talk about ‘educating society’ so it hears this ‘message’ – educating it in what exactly? Superstition? Ignorance?

Education opens the mind, It fosters and encourages inquiry, questioning and scepticism, qualities that are like Kryptonite to religion.

‘God’ is not an answer to anything.

To ascribe anything to the actions or will of a ‘god’ is a failure to give an answer arising out of a refusal to consider a question. God is a way of saying ‘I’m fucked if I know’ without actually admitting your own ignorance, a way of covering your arse if you’re too dumb or too lazy to figure things out for yourself.

To talk in terms of ‘educating’ society to hear the Catholic Church’s ‘message’ on abortion is, of course, yet another exercise in semantic legerdemain. If society needs to be educated merely to ‘hear’ what the Catholic Church has to say then by implication it is society that is held to ignorant and uneducated, and moreover such ignorance is wilful in character – after all, according to Nadine we need to be educated simply to listen before we can then understand.

Maybe life begins with the first beat of the human heart in the way that it ends with the last?

As we now have 4D scanning and medical science advancing at the rate it is, maybe one day we will know for sure when life begins.

When we truly know that, there will be no argument as to when and what limit abortion law is set, whether suspended in a safe dark womb or lying in a hospital crib, life is life.

You really don’t get any of this do you, Nadine?

When does life begin? In purely biological terms, at the point at which the processes of life start, when the DNA in egg and sperm cells combine, merge and that first cell gears up to divide and replicate itself.

There is no argument about when the biological process of life begins.

What is in dispute here is the question of how one can best balance two incommensurable rights, the right of a woman to self-determination and sovereignty over her own body and the right to a foetus to life, to be be permitted to develop, grow and be born into the world as a baby.

These are philosophical questions for which there is no definitive answer. Questions of ethics and morality and of what it means to be human and to have rights. Questions that cannot be answered in purely deterministic and empirical terms.

These are questions that cannot be answered by advances in medical technology, not unless that technology progresses to a point where it possible to separate those two conflicting sets of rights in a such a way that they cannot come into conflict, which is possible only if medical technology makes it possible to effect a complete bodily separation between the two. If you’re looking to science and to medical technology to provide you with a definitive answer then what you’re looking for is the means to carry out foetal transplantation or conduct the entire gestational process in vitro and in an artificial womb. Anything but that, as the conflict remains and the central questions raised by abortion remain firmly in the moral/ethical domain.

Transplantation of foetuses from one host to another or in-vitro gestation to birth in an artificial womb are the only solutions that provide a definitive answer to the moral and ethical questions raised by abortion, and each option raises its own no less complex set of moral and ethical issues. The only other alternative is a perfect world, a parental utopia in which there are no accidental or unwanted pregnancies.

This is not about life. Its about two (or more) lives bound together by biology for (potentially) up to nine months and about whether and how the rights accorded to those individuals operate in concert or conflict during that period. If you cannot understand that, then quite frankly this a matter in which you have no business involving yourself because you have absolutely nothing of value to contribute to the debate.

  • Sam

    I think your RSS thingy isn’t working, which is quite annoying as it takes quite a while to scroll between posts.

    Back to the topic: Hear Hear

  • “When does life begin? In purely biological terms, at the point at which the processes of life start, when the DNA in egg and sperm cells combine, merge and that first cell gears up to divide and replicate itself.”

    Surely you need all your life processes before you can be considered alive?

  • Passionate, powerful and well put. Can’t add much so have linked instead.

  • Powerful stuff, I like it.

    I have just lost my best friend of a decade to the abortion debate. Apparently, it will make her a better christian if we are no longer friends. My career & her beliefs are at odds.

    Forgiving God indeed….

  • Liz

    Not sure if this still applies, but in my day it was amniocentisis that led to late abortions, not ultrasound, which is a very blunt instrument. It can’t be done until quite late (18 weeks I think) and it used to take three weeks to get the results. I had to agree to abortion in advance (it was only done if there was high risk anyway). Fortunately, I wasn’t faced with that horrible choice.

    Very pro-choice, as I can remember the illegal abortion days, I do find myself uneasy about late abortion now that the date of viability has been pushed back, but no-one would choose a late abortion (appalling choice of ways of delivering a dead baby) if they were not absolutely desperate. The pro-life focus on the horrors of late abortion is simply one more dishonest tactic.