Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

24 reasons for 24 weeks

MP Nadine Dorries unveiled 20 'reasons' for lowering the abortion limit to 20 weeks. Here Laurie Penny gives 24 reasons why it should remain at 24 weeks

May 8, 2008
5 min read


Laurie PennyLaurie Penny is a freelance journalist who blogs regularly for the New Statesman.


  share     tweet  

1) There has been no improvement in the survival rates of infants born before the 24-week time limit during the past decade, according to the British Medical Association.

2) Last autumn, the Commons Science and Technology Committee of MPs found no medical basis for a change in the law.

3) Research shows that lowering the time limit does nothing to lower the number of abortions taking place.

4) There are many far better ways to reduce the number of late-term abortions. People who object to late-term abortions should be fighting to make early abortions easier to access and to increase the availability of proper sex education, and access to contraceptives.

5) No contraception is foolproof, and anyone can find themselves pregnant against their will; until foolproof contraception is available, legal pregnancy termination up to 24 weeks will remain necessary.

6) Some vulnerable women need late-term abortions because severe abnormalities in pregnancy, such as Edwards syndrome, are rarely identified until 20-21 weeks. Reducing the time limit would force some women to carry severely impaired or dying fetuses to term – a horrific experience.

7) Some vulnerable women need late-term abortions because an abrupt change in personal circumstances – such as domestic violence, which often escalates in pregnancy – leaves them unable to continue with the pregnancy.

8) Some vulnerable women do not realise that they are pregnant until later in the pregnancy, because they are taking contraceptives, because they are menopausal, or because their periods do not stop. Young women in particular may also go into denial, a serious psychological phenomenon, before they find the courage to approach their GP.

9) Even taking these cases into account, only a tiny proportion of terminations take place after 20 weeks, and 90 per cent of all abortions in the UK are carried out before 12 weeks.

10) Accessing an abortion is already difficult and traumatic enough. The UK does not have abortion on demand, unlike many European countries – it can take months for a woman to have a termination, and hostile doctors can make the process more difficult or delay women in the system until beyond 20 weeks, especially for Irish women who have crossed the sea to access abortion services in the UK.

11) Only 15 per cent of fetuses born before 23-weeks survive to leave their neo-natal units and most will suffer severe health and/or physical problems. Babies born as prematurely as 21-22 weeks are nearly always born brain damaged and severely disabled – meaning that they may have very little quality of life to look forward to.

12) There is no option for ‘viable’ fetuses to be removed from the womb early, so women who carry unwanted pregnancies to term after 20-weeks are forced to carry the growing fetus in their body for months more and then undergo labour, causing permanent physical scars, pain and trauma.

13) When women have to carry unwanted pregnancies to term they risk losing their jobs and damaging their long-term mental and physical health.

14) Fetuses cannot feel pain until much later in the pregnancy, according to experts. ‘The idea of fetal pain is an absurd and cruel one’, said Dr Stuart Derbyshire PhD, a researcher at Birmingham University.

15) Fetuses are never ‘alive’ after abortions, because their brains are not developed enough to sense, think or feel pain.

16) Lowering the time limit to 20-weeks will create a black market trade in unsafe late-term abortions, endangering thousands of women’s lives. Globally some 68,000 women die every year from complications following backstreet abortions. We don’t want that to start happening in the UK.

17) Fetuses are not viable at 20-weeks: they cannot survive alone, and keeping them alive outside the womb requires complicated and expensive medical technology. Even with that technology few survive for long, causing incredible heartbreak to all involved. The idea that fetuses usually survive alone before 24-weeks is ‘a cruel deception for prospective parents with premature babies’, according to Dr Evan Harris MP.

18) Safe, legal abortions at 20-24 weeks rarely have negative psychological effects – but the mental trauma of undergoing an unwanted pregnancy can last a lifetime.

19) In this country, we do not legislate over moral questions such as adultery, and abortion laws should not be the exception to that proud tradition. It is unacceptable to make laws on a moral question where there is any doubt. Pro-life campaigners are already free to make their views heard and to influence individual decisions.

20) The right of a woman to decide what happens to her own body should not be subject to the whims of changing public opinion.

21) Keeping late-term abortion legal will mean that abortions which are going to happen anyway will be carried out safely and hygienically. Many thousands of abortions up to and beyond 24-weeks happened annually before abortion was legalised in the UK in 1967. Those abortions were unsafe and many women died as a result. ‘We used to see women from the local community bleeding to death in accident and emergency after backstreet abortions,’ said retired nurse Iris Fudge.

22) Seventy-six percent of the United Kingdom is pro-choice. The majority of women in the UK want their rights to safe, legal termination to be protected.

23) Those who are campaigning to reduce the time limit want to end legal abortion entirely – a dangerous and arcane concept. Reducing the time limit will bring them one step closer to their goals.

24) If faced with an unintended pregnancy, a woman in consultation with her doctor is the best person to decide on how to proceed.

Laurie Penny (Feminist Fightback), in consultation with Jess McCabe (The F Word), Abortion Rights, The Fawcett Society and the London Feminist Network.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Laurie PennyLaurie Penny is a freelance journalist who blogs regularly for the New Statesman.


Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power

What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains

The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme

Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it

The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going

A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism

Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase

Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields

Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton

Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi

A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain

Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank

Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded

West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens

Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age

Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today

The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics

Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.

Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making

Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi

Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun


65