Yep, another day, another Tory and another half-arsed commentary on the subject of abortion.
Question: How many babies were born in the UK in 2006?
Wrong, even after the efforts of one of two people in the comments boxes to sort out a proper figure.
The number of birth in England and and Wales in 2006 was 669,531 (source: National Statistical Office), to which we must add the figure for Scotland, the provisional figure for which are 55,690 (source: General Register Office for Scotland) and that for Northern Ireland, which are again provisional (if one can safely use that particular word in respect of Ulster) and which give a figure of 23,272 (source: NISRA)
Total number of births for the UK = 748,493
Question: How many abortions were carried out in 2006?
Answer: 194,000 (up 4% since 2005)
Actually its 193,700 – the 200,000 figure quoted by the Daily Mail includes 7-800o women from the Irish Republic who don’t count towards UK statistics.
This means that nearly one in
threefour babies conceived in this country is aborted. Let me repeat that. One in threefour babies conceived in this country is aborted.
Iain is either channeling Foghorn Leghorn or Fred Elliot here, but regardless of repetition and crossings out, the actual figure is tad over 1 in 5 (20.55% to be precise) and natural miscarriages don’t count towards birth/abortion statistics.
This is a statistic which I found profoundly shocking and at first did not believe.
Why? The National Statistical Office publishes abortion stats annually, you just have to go and look them up – their site even has a search facility.
What on earth does it say about our broken society that so many living beings are aborted? Surely even those who are pro-choice are also shocked at these statistics?
No, Iain. Not really, but then I’m not easily shocked and make a point of keeping myself informed on subjects in which I’ve shown an interest (and blogged) – there are considerably more important things to consider than whether people are ‘shocked’ by the UK’s abortion statistics and standing around gawping in horror at a few numbers on a page is fuck all use to anyone.
In an ideal world there would be no abortion, but we do not live in that world and never will.
Well, at last we do agree on something.
Those of us who adopt a pro-life attitude must recognise that we cannot roll back the clock and shouldn’t try to. We have to be pragmatic, but that does not stop us trying to understand why the abortion rate in this country is so much higher than in most others, and then doing something about it. The question is, what.
Actually the ‘higher than most others’ claim is not really true. Britain’s abortion rate is higher than several other European countries, including Norway, Denmark, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Greece, Eire, Finland, Belgium and the Netherlands – although one has to be careful in relying too heavily on comparisons with Catholic countries in that list, which will show a lower rate of abortions because access to abortion is far more restricted that this country.
Britain’s rate is, however, broadly on a par with France, Japan and the Czech Republic, slightly lower than Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the US, Sweden, Hong Kong, Singapore, and substantially lower than large swathes of Eastern Europe. (source: this page for the table of rates be country and this page for access to a good collection of relevant statistics and maps)
That aside, the real problem with Iain’s position is this:
We have to be pragmatic, but that does not stop us trying to understand why the abortion rate in this country is so much higher than in most others, and then doing something about it. The question is, what.
No, the question is still why -what comes later when you understand why these abortions are taking place, based on reliable evidence and valid research data, of which there is a distinct lack in Iain’s post.
The consequences of this cart before the horse approach are all too evident in Ian’s first update:
UPDATE 2.52pm: As I expected, this has provoked a lot of comments, some insightful, others prejudiced. One describes what I have written as inflammatory. I’d like to know how. Some people don’t seem to actually read what I write before venting their spleens. So let’s be clear. All I was doing with this post is asking why we are in this situation and what we can do about it. Read what I actually said rather than what you think I said. I did not say we should ban abortion. I did not even say we should restrict abortion. All I said was that we need to examine why these figures are so high in comparison with other countries and I then questioned what we should do about it. What on earth is there to object to in that?!
What kind of half-wit asks questions like ‘why are there so many abortions?’ and ‘what can we do about it?’ on a blog and then expects rational answers that make sense?
If you want answers try searching for some proper research on the subject, like this paper on reasons why US women have abortions, or this paper, from the University of Southampton, on second trimester abortions in the UK, both of which answer questions about the why of abortion in considerably more depth and detail than anything one might glean from Dale’s usual collection of comment box trolls.
UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that there are 250,000 miscarriages a year. So if you add them to the babies born and babies aborted you get 1.1 million conceptions, so the actual ratio of babies aborted to babies conceived is nearer 1 in 5 or 1 in 6.
Well it is about 1 in 5, but as mentioned earlier, miscarriages don’t count for statistical purposes – you’ll actually find them in the general stats for medical conditions, illness and mortality rates, not in births/abortions.
I don’t think that alters to fundamental point though. This ratio is far, far higher than in comparable countries and we ought to understand why that is.
What’s a comparable country in this case?
Do we go by population. in which case we can choose from France, Ethiopia and Thailand for our comparators.
What about economy? Take GDP per capita and the nearest comparators are Sweden and Germany.
What about something a bit more nebulous like culture – broadly speaking that would put us up against Canada, Australia, New Zealand and, at a pinch, the US, all of which have a higher abortion rate than the UK.
I’m not saying we can’t learn lessons from other countries, especially those like Germany and the Netherlands that have liberal abortion laws and low abortion rates, in fact if you look around, the work in respect to taking teenage pregnancy and abortion has already been done for you:
So, if Dutch, German, and French teens have better sexual health outcomes, have fewer sexual partners, and initiate sexual activity at the same age or even later than U.S. youth, what’s the secret? Is there a ‘silver bullet’ solution for the United States that will reduce the nearly four million new sexually transmitted infections occurring among U.S. teens each year, or the 20,000 new HIV infections among 13- to 24-year-old youth, or the 900,000 teen pregnancies?
Unfortunately, there is not a single, ‘silver bullet’ solution. Yet, the United States can use the experience of the Dutch, Germans, and French to guide its efforts to improve adolescents’ sexual health. Indeed, the United States can overcome obstacles and achieve social and cultural consensus respecting sexuality as a normal and healthy part of being human and of being a teen by using lessons learned from the European study tours.
* Adults in the Netherlands, France, and Germany view young people as assets, not as problems. Adults value and respect adolescents and expect teens to act responsibly. Governments strongly support education and economic self-sufficiency for youth.
* Research is the basis for public policies to reduce unintended pregnancy, abortion, and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Political and religious interest groups have little influence on public health policy.
* A national desire to reduce the number of abortions and to prevent sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, provides the major impetus in each country for unimpeded access to contraception, including condoms, consistent sexuality education, and widespread public education campaigns.
* Governments support massive, consistent, long-term public education campaigns utilizing the Internet, television, films, radio, billboards, discos, pharmacies, and health care providers. Media is a partner, not a problem, in these campaigns. Campaigns are far more direct and humorous than in the U.S. and focus on safety and pleasure.
* Youth have convenient access to free or low-cost contraception through national health insurance.
* Sexuality education is not necessarily a separate curriculum and may be integrated across school subjects and at all grade levels. Educators provide accurate and complete information in response to students’ questions.
* Families have open, honest, consistent discussions with teens about sexuality and support the role of educators and health care providers in making sexual health information and services available for teens.
* Adults see intimate sexual relationships as normal and natural for older adolescents, a positive component of emotionally healthy maturation. At the same time, young people believe it is “stupid and irresponsible ” to have sex without protection and use the maxim, “safer sex or no sex.”
* The morality of sexual behavior is weighed through an individual ethic that includes the values of responsibility, respect, tolerance, and equity.
* France, Germany, and the Netherlands work to address issues around cultural diversity in regard to immigrant populations and their values that differ from those of the majority culture.
Awww, would you look at that – says absolutely fuck all about prohibition, religion, abstinence and outdated notions of sexual morality about from noting that these have virtually no influence of public policy.
In fact one of the first and most effective things that government could do is change the present abortion laws and get rid of the outdated business of justifying abortions on mental health grounds and just except that women have abortions because it their fucking choice. Stop hiding behind medical euphemisms and maybe there’s chance of conducting substantive research in why women choose to have an abortion from which we can then devise public policies to address their needs and not the prejudices of a bunch of fucking god-botherers and armchair moralists who don’t know jack shit about the difficult choices a woman faces in deciding whether or not to have an abortion.
All this takes is a simple understanding on the nature of abortion rights – if you’re pro life then you have the right not to have and abortion…
…now fuck off and keep your morals and beliefs to your fucking self.