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Speaker: Abortion: morality and health

145 Responses

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  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    Not if there is some minimum level you pick as significant.

    Nope I strongly disagree. There is no point in brain development that is consistent from individual to individual. Any marker you place will have individuals who achieve that marker early late or never.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to George Darroch,

    But if you don’t define your terms, you create an absence.

    But this for me is the problem with defining terms about this. Every single term you define simple states that at some point you value the life of the fetus more than the freedom of the mother.

    I recognise that my view is extreme but personally I think absent of any reasonable other marker then until birth the mother has the rights.

    I hate the survival markers because they are always going to creep back towards fertalisation and make the mothers rights ever more subservient to the fetus.

    I strongly doubt that there will be many late term abortions for anything other than medical reasons, but frankly for me the law should accept that will happen because the alternative is forcing the mother to take a risk with her life and health. I strongly doubt that any clinic would carry out a late term abortion without serious counseling before and after.

    For me, the law should accept that the mother has the dominant right to make the choice. Limiting that right should be the exception not the current arse-about-kite rule.

    And yet again I insist that my opinion is irrelevant. This law should be made by women.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    at some point you value the life of the fetus more than the freedom of the mother.

    Yes.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Because at that point the fetus has sufficient character to be considered human.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to George Darroch,

    Because at that point the fetus has sufficient character to be considered human.

    Which leads you down the path of finding a marker for "human".

    Even if you decide that at some point a fetus is "human" you are asking, no forcing, another human to risk their life and health for that fetus.

    I don't think there is any other law that forces someone to risk their life for another person. For some reason we think it's OK to send a mother into a burning building when we don't even force firemen into burning buildings.

    There are plenty of laws that make inaction a crime providing that action does not place undue risk. But lets be serious childbirth is not the sweetness, light, roses and cuddly animals that we portray it as, while a burning building might not be an entirely fair comparison it is closer to the mark than the current law.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Even if you decide that at some point a fetus is “human” you are asking, no forcing, another human to risk their life and health for that fetus.

    Yes.

    Childbirth is not easy, and nor is it completely safe. In every 100,000 live births, 15 women die.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    Bart, I understand your concern about placing the limit at “viability”, given ongoing medical advances. What about viability without medical intervention? Or possibly without some particular type of intervention – respirator, perhaps? I realise that will include some full-term babies, so we’d be talking averages here.

    If a reallly late-term “abortion” were induced, and the baby were born alive and continued to live after birth, I don’t think it would be right to expect any doctor or nurse or other person to end that baby’s life, or even to deny it the basic necessities of life (food) when it’s clearly alive. So there is a point where the rights of the woman/mother start to impact on the rights of others. I don’t think that’s so much thinking that the life of the fetus is more important that the freedom of the mother, as that at some point the life of the fetus, and the rights of others, are as important as the freedom of the mother.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 580 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    But really, how many women are gonna be all "fuck it, there's no abnormality, but let's kill an 8 months gestation foetus"? It's such an edge case it seems almost irrelevant. It's like Deborah and Bart said: anything other than the woman deciding is treating her like a moral infant (or worse: like a murderer-in-waiting).

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    Not many, certainly, but there’s always the chance there might be some. Maybe some of those women who don’t find out they’re pregnant until very late in the pregnancy, for example (or until they’re giving birth…).
    But maybe it’s a different question then. Maybe it’s a question of if a woman chooses to abort, but the foetus survives, how much medical assistance/intervention do we give it? For me that’s the primary difficulty – even if we decide that women have the right to terminate at any stage, how much assistance do we expect others to provide towards that termination.
    If [ETA for clarity: late-stage] abortion was simply a matter of taking a pill, and *poof*, the baby disappears, it would be a different proposition. But abortion requires more than one other person to perform, and very late stage abortion could put a heavy emotional burden on those who perform it. I think again of my friend the ex-abortion nurse, and her occasional distress over the 16 week foetuses.
    Maybe there would be some equivalent of a Dr & Nurse Nitschke of abortion, but maybe there wouldn’t. The alternative would be expecting the mother to “terminate” the life of the foetus herself after it was born, and I think that would be expecting too much as well.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 580 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    For heaven's sake Ben, you utterly missed my point which was about the difference between something's that is human and something with the status of personhood.

    A dead body is human. Is it a person? No. Your left kidney is human. Is it a person? No. Artificially inseminated eggs are human. Are they people? No.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    Early abortions *are* just a matter of taking a pill.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    Yes, well aware of that Lilith, I have edited the text to make it clear I was talking about late-stage abortion at that point.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 580 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    I have never had an abortion, but I've been the "buddy" twice. If you could have seen the sadness and the awfulness of the position my friends found themselves in, and the awfulness of the process. Nobody has an abortion for fun.

    But women must not be forced to bear children, that is my fervent belief.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    This is what valuing the life of the fetus over the life of the mother can look like: Pregnant and no civil rights.

    Women have died because other people insisted on making that choice for them and got it wrong. In most cases where there are serious health issues with continuing with a pregnancy past whatever official viability is these days, the pregnancy is ended via caesarian and the baby looked after in NICU until it's fully cooked. Sometimes that won't work and our laws need to be flexible about that.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    I'm not suggesting that people have an abortion "for fun", or even lightly. Nor am I suggesting women be forced to carry on a pregnancy to the detriment of their own health.

    The problem is the translation of theory and philosophical viewpoint into reality. If there were a *baby disappears* pill, I'd feel quite differently about late term abortions. But as there's not, who do we expect to carry them out?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 580 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard, in reply to Lilith __,

    Lilith, you’ve raised another relevant point here, indirectly. There’s a difficulty in that those who have had abortions may not wish to disclose that fact on a public message board, if only because of all the crazies out there. An abstract of a study from the Christchurch Health and Developmental Study shows 41% of women “had become pregnant on at least one occasion prior to age 25, with 14.6% having an abortion”, but as I’m at home I can’t check whether that’s 14.6% of 41%, or 14.6% total. Either way, with the additional fact that well over half of abortions now are for women over the age of 25 (http://abortion.org.nz/abortion-statistics), there’s a strong chance that at least some of the women who post here have had an abortion, whether or not they wish to say so.

    Given the above, personally I think it would be helpful to treat all women’s comments here on the basis that they may have had an abortion - whether they say, don't say, or deny they have - because I’m not comfortable with ascribing the additional validity of experience only to comments from women prepared to disclose.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 580 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    Well, in the USA Dr Tiller carried out late term abortions until he was assassinated. (I think the vast majority of them were for medical reasons.) I dunno, Lucy, I think it’s strange to focus on the possibility that at some time in the future, under a law that we haven’t got a hope of getting passed because hardly anyone else thinks like us, some unlikely woman might make a couple of medical professionals feel morally icky. It’s like, sure, that might indeed end up being kinda shit. If it ever happened in a million years. :)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    I don’t think it’s strange. Our inadequate law now (sort of) allows abortion up to 20 weeks, and even after 20 weeks to save the life of the mother or to prevent serious permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the mother.

    I would like the law up to 20 weeks to be removed/altered/whatever is necessary so that women don’t have to jump through all the hoops currently required to access abortion. But maybe it’s because I think the current hoops are so obviously stupid and wrong that I’m jumping straight to considering the post-20 weeks realities.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 580 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac, in reply to Lilith __,

    If you could have seen the sadness and the awfulness of the position my friends found themselves in, and the awfulness of the process. Nobody has an abortion for fun.

    Sticking my hand up to say that I HAVE had an abortion and it absolutely was not fun. I’ve always been vehemently pro-choice, but when it came down to it, it was the most difficult thing I’ve had to do in my adult life.

    And this was in London, where, other than running the gauntlet of the Catholic bitches outside the clinic, the process was simple, professional and supportive. Two weeks total from first test to the actual (surgical) appointment. Just around the corner from work. No problem taking a couple of days off for “leave”.

    It was horrible. Horrible. Painful, physically and emotionally. Never again, if I can possibly avoid it.

    I am still vehemently pro-choice, and the likelihood of getting pregnant again is almost non-existent – I’m 47, and pretty damn queer.

    But still, it’s something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Except for the alternative: being responsible for a life that you do not currently feel capable of supporting.

    That’s actually all there is to it.

    So when people have abstract conversations about ridiculously unlikely scenarios – that women will demand non-medical-reason abortions at awful intervals like 20 weeks, it makes my blood boil. No, if women have access to simple and fast abortion services, I can almost guarantee they will NOT.

    For the very very very few who might, I can only assume that they would be so fucked-up (drugs, mental health, abusive relationship, who knows?), they shouldn’t be having kids (then) anyway. Apologies for the confrontational remark, but really, that’s all I can think of.

    So can we please stop pissing around with 1 in a million (or whatever) extreme scenarios and simply consider that we should just let women control their own bodies?

    I do think counseling should remain mandatory – in the UK, it was handled in the clinic (Marie Stopes). I also think that mandating psychological (rather than social worker) counseling if an abortion is requested after, say, 16 weeks, should be mandated. This, of course, should be free and quickly accessible. The entire process (for any abortion request) should take no more than 2 weeks. Access to pharmaceutical abortion (which has a stringent early time limit) should be pretty much a same-day process. Or perhaps 2-3 days between counseling and treatment.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    I should say that the reason that the process itself was relatively quick and simple was because Marie Stopes is a private service in the UK (it’s a registered charity), and I paid 300 quid because I could afford it (well, I could pay it off on my credit card). I was terrified of any potential delays if I’d done it via the NHS.

    So in this instance, I’m actually in favour of there being an income threshold where you have to pay. I’m sure the 300 pounds was not the full cost, so such a service would require some govt funding, and obviously full-funding for those women who don’t meet the income threshold. Maybe if the NZ public health system becomes Swedish-quality, you could rely solely on that.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to TracyMac,

    I paid 300 quid

    Wholly sheet! That's a lot of money. Not compared to giving birth, obviously.

    On this one I'm kind simpleminded - abortion should be entirely state-funded, and if a woman wants one the only veto should come from the doctor saying "you might survive the birth, but you'll almost certainly die if we abort". But that's possibly driven by my more general preference for state-funded medical care and progressive taxation rather than my distaste for having to pay for abortions.

    I do have some sympathy for the "pro-life"/MRA position that if the woman is willing to carry a baby to term and hand it over for adoption, anyone who wants to should be able to offer inducements to her. But strictly intermediated by the government, and anonymised unless/until the mother decides otherwise. I see that as a way to allow the "pro-life"/MRA people to demonstrate their sincerity. I don't know what would actually happen, but I suspect that if a woman wanting an abortion was offered money to bring the baby to term and hand it over for adoption, she might be willing to do that. It might take a lot of money, but I'd be willing to see someone else provide it and see what happens.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1198 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to TracyMac,

    Tracy, thanks so much for sharing your experience. Because of the stigma, so few women talk openly about their abortion experiences. And I think this is why conversations about the subject get so theoretical. Somewhat comparable to LGBTIA closeting. If people realised that half the women they know have had abortions, the conversation would change.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    For those interested in knowing more about adoption, the system is very different now. Open adoption, where the birth mother/parents choose the adoptive family and remain in contact with them, is normal. Link .

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac, in reply to Lilith __,

    Thank you.

    If people realised that half the women they know have had abortions, the conversation would change.

    And yes, it absolutely would.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

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