Wednesday 20 June 2012

Why does it now take stories like this to prick our consciences on abortion?

Few people in Britain now raise an eyebrow over the issue of abortion and I was struck by two casual references to it this week in relation to euthanasia.

BMJ Editor, Fiona Godlee, in her controversial article calling for the BMA and other medical bodies to go neutral on ‘assisted dying’ said that doctors were at the same stage with euthanasia that they were with abortion in the 1960s.

The clear implication was that euthanasia, like abortion, would eventually become acceptable to the medical profession and be legalised.

What she didn’t say was that abortion was legalised on the basis that it would only apply to a few extreme cases. But now the medical profession carries out over 200,000 abortions a year in England, Wales and Scotland.

Then there was Jane Nicklinson, wife of Tony Nicklinson, the man with locked-in syndrome who is this week seeking the permission of the High Court for a doctor to end his life with a lethal injection.

In a Channel Four Dispatches Programme screened on Monday night she said that people now accepted abortion but that there would always be a small minority who objected. Her implication was that euthanasia should be viewed in the same way.

There are 42 million abortions carried out now worldwide, with the largest numbers in India and China as a result both of their large populations and the widespread practice of ‘sex selection’ – selectively aborting female babies. 200,000 abortions a year take place in Britain.

Virtually all these abortions are carried out by doctors, although abortion is against the Hippocratic Oath, against the Declaration of Geneva and against the International Code of Medical Ethics. In fact in 1947 the British Medical Association even called abortion 'the greatest crime'. So why this change in attitude?

Abortion is now so commonplace that few stories about it now have the capacity to shock but there have been some revelations this year, which have made even the hardest pro-choice activists draw breath.

The first involved a photo widely circulated on the internet showing a baby whose mother was forced to have an abortion in China.

Feng Jiamei, from Shaanxi province, was made to undergo the procedure in the seventh month of pregnancy. Ms Feng was forced into the abortion as she could not pay the fine for having a second child, US-based activists said.

Her husband said his wife had been forcibly taken to hospital and restrained before the procedure. The BBC's Jon Sudworth in Shanghai says such allegations are nothing new in China, but what has made this one different is a widely circulated photo of the woman lying next to the baby's corpse.

Chinese officials have now apologised to her and the Ankang city government said it decided to suspend three officials in Zhenping county following initial investigations.

Life Site News this week reports on two abortion practitioners who, it is alleged, fed the bodies of girl babies killed in abortions to dogs to hide the fact that they were carrying out sex-selection abortions.

The husband and wife doctor team have been charged with homicide after a woman died but no charges have been laid about the disposal of the babies’ bodies.

Then there is the report of 17,000 ‘Aphrodisiac’ pills made from dead, aborted babies being seized by police in South Korea.

According to Lifesite News the pills originate in China, where manufacturers reportedly obtain the corpses of aborted or stillborn babies from hospitals and abortion facilities, then dehydrate their bodies before crushing them up.

They are sold as sexual stamina enhancers and as alternative medicine for a variety of ailments.

This story has even been reported by the BBC.

Similar allegations regarding the use of human fetuses in China have emerged in the past, including claims that some restaurants in China have served ‘fetal soup,’ and that Chinese beauty product manufacturers have included fetal materials in their products.

Stories like this get wide coverage understandably. But why does it take abuses this extreme now to prick our consciences on abortion?


  1. ... because most folks find abortion simpliciter morally unproblematic, but find 'abortion & something outrageous' outrageous? Similarly I find gay sex morally unproblematic but would find a case of homosexual sadomasochistic murder outrageous, going to the shops morally unproblematic but going to the shops after a massacre outrageous, etc. etc.

  2. Yes that's what is so interesting about this.

    People see 42 million abortions as unproblematic but ingesting fetal parts in soup or pills as outrageous. Why?

    They see 42 million abortions as they see going to the shops but feeding a female fetus to a dog is 'a massacre'. Again why?

    1. Yes, if we think about it logically, if the fetus isn't human, then what's the problem? Perhaps we could argue that forced abortion is horrific because of the trauma to the mother, but dogs eating fetuses, or fetus soup, what's the problem with that? Surely it's no different from eating a chicken's egg?

  3. Because their consciences have been seared in one aspect of abortion, but not yet in other aspects.

    Give it a few years and they will happily buy dogfood made of aborted babies (DON'T call them foetuses! - that's part of the strategy to make people accept murdering babies as normal.)

    1. Most people that I know who have suffered miscarriages grieve the loss of their baby - not foetus. When my wife was carrying each of our children the midwife always referred to the baby: "baby is doing well" not "foetus is doing well. But this is just semantics. The crucial point to me is that the baby/embryo/foetus is a human being from the moment of conception. It is a unique person with unique DNA - different from the mother's DNA so, although initially residing in the mother, not part of the mother's body. As a unique human person he/she should be afforded the same human right to life as the rest of us. Arbitrary dividing lines such as viability before birth or self-awareness after birth don't make sense. So, yes, 200,000 aborted babies each year is a terrible indictment on our society.

  4. What she didn’t say was that abortion was legalised on the basis that it would only apply to a few extreme cases.

    On what do you base this suggestion? I ask because, for example, most of the people I know support the pro choice argument in the full knowledge that about 200,000 abortions happen in the UK annually. I do not find the figure shocking in any way whatsoever and if anything it pleases me that so many women take their own health seriously. Let us not forget that childbirth is 14 times more dangerous to a woman's health to be pregnant than to have an abortion (citation: Reuters )

    Next I would like to ask why you feel the need to use horror stories of things that happen in other countries in order to bolster your own position. China does not have the same laws that the UK has and it seems unlikely that a UK government would force a woman to have an abortion, even in the most extreme cases.

    It is even more bizarre when you compare the time scales, UK abortions are limited to 24 weeks, the woman in China was at 28+ weeks - clearly there is no correlation between what happened in China and what happens in the UK - so, why did you try and tie the two things together when the only similarity is that there was a termination?

    Then you go on about a horror story from India with aborted foetuses fed to dogs, again no correlation between there and the UK.

    Next its pills made from aborted foetuses, again the setting is Asia and again there is no correlation between anything happening there and anything happening in the UK or even in Europe.

    One thing that anyone can take away from this article is that the Pro Rape brigade (aka "pro life") will do or say anything in order to make people think that we should make abortion illegal again. No end of scare stories, real or imagined, is good enough for the Pro Rape Lobby.

    1. edit:
      "Let us not forget that childbirth is 14 times more dangerous to a woman's health to be pregnant than to have an abortion..."

      I changed what I was typing half way through, that should say:
      "Let us not forget that childbirth is 14 times more dangerous to a woman's health than to have an abortion "

    2. The point is not what country these things are happening in, but why do they shock us at all? What's the difference between eating a boiled egg and eating fetus soup?

    3. The point is entirely about what country the incidents happened in. The very fact that they didn't happen in the UK, whilst the author is bemoaning the UK laws on abortion, shows that the author is attempting to liken the acts to the UK abortion law.

      As I said in my post, this shows what ludicrous lengths the Pro Rape lobby will go to.

    4. newsengland, read the post again. Peter's point is, why do these things shock us at all? What's the difference between eating a boiled egg and eating fetus soup?

  5. fiddlesticks, I read the post more than once to be sure I was making a correct assessment of it. If you cannot understand why I posted the comments I did then I suggest you reread them.

    "What's the difference between eating a boiled egg and eating fetus soup?"
    That should be fairly obvious as the clue is in the name: one is a fertilised egg, the other is an unfertilised egg.

    Now tell me how that relates to either euthanasia or to abortions in the UK, both of which were mentioned at the start of the article.

  6. I understand why you made those comments, I just don't think they cover the full implications of the post.

    What difference does it make whether the egg is fertilised or not? Don't they eat fertilised eggs in some places? Anyway, we eat dead chickens. Why does it make any difference that the egg is fertilised?

    1. I never said it made a difference if the egg was fertilised, merely that the fertilisation was the difference between the egg and the foetus.

      As for why anyone is shocked - I cannot comment as I don't find it shocking.

      I will ask my question again: How does any of that relate to either euthanasia or to abortions in the UK, both of which were mentioned at the start of the article.

    2. Well, if you don't find it shocking, then you're being consistent - a fetus isn't human, so none of this stuff is a big deal.

      Other people, however, do find it shocking. All Peter is asking is why Peter in Britain find these stories shocking and not abortion itself. Why are other people not as consistent as you?

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