“Like a boil that must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed to the light of human conscience before it can be cured.” – Martin Luther King Jr
It’s been a long time since I posted anything – RealLifeTM and other projects have jostled blogging off the priority list – but events of the past week have left me with many thoughts and a compulsion to express them. That’s good, I think – I’ve been fairly quiet on social media for the past year or so, and though I’d like to say that was just down to focusing on other things, in reality part of me just wanted a controversy-free life for a while.
Staying quiet wasn’t what I was made for, though. So here’s to no hiding.
If you’re reading this from my social media page you’ll have seen I’ve shared a couple of times this week about a highly charged and provocative campaign by the Centre for Bioethical Reform UK (CBR UK) to highlight the push by Labour MP Stella Creasy to remove protections for the unborn child across the UK.
Creasy, who has been successful already in imposing abortion for up to 28 weeks in Northern Ireland (this is due to become effective from 22 October), wants to do the same in the rest of the UK by removing Sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act. She is planning to use the Domestic Abuse Bill (currently going through parliament) to achieve this.
If Creasy is successful the law would no longer offer any protection against not only late-term abortion but also sex-selective abortion, ‘DIY’ or home abortion and coerced abortion.
More can and has been said on the legislation itself so it’s not my intention to go into particulars here. Put simply and bluntly: there are already 200,000 abortions every year in the UK. Abortion is an act of violence that takes an innocent human life. I believe taking innocent life is wrong. Therefore, I believe abortion is wrong.
Before I continue I must make this crystal clear: If you have had an abortion or been involved in some way in an abortion decision I do not judge or condemn you. My intention here, as ever, is not to villify women who find themselves in difficult or desperate situations. If you are or have been in a situation like this and want to talk to someone please consider contacting pregnancycrisishelpline.org.uk
That being said I must repeat: I do believe abortion is wrong – and by extension, I believe what Stella Creasy (and others) are trying to achieve is very, very wrong.
CBR UK’s primary aim is public education about what abortion is. CBR UK has several branches under its umbrella including a facility for post-abortion support and a ministry that equips churches to engage with the subject in their congregations. But CBR UK is most (in)famous for its use of graphic imagery in public spaces to bring what is a hidden and often rather abstract act, to national consciousness. Obviously, the images are unpleasant to look at and provoke strong reactions. No-one running their errands on the high street wants to be confronted with an image of a dead baby. CBR UK’s work has been described as everything from ‘distasteful’ to ‘vile’. CBR UK uses the history of social reform as reasoning for the utilisation of graphic imagery, which I’ve touched on here. Some find the images upsetting. Others have been grateful for their presence. Through them lives have been saved as minds have been changed.
I’ve written about my thoughts on abortion itself previously so I will not waste time laying out my reasoning again. There are also many cogent, logically consistent defences of the pro-life position available online, if you’re new to me or my blog or simply don’t know what to think. Search Scott Klusendorf on Google, he’s one of the best of the best.
I want instead to discuss the media storm stirred up by CBR UK’s #StopStella campaign, which has been created to draw the attention of the public (particularly the residents of her constituency, Walthamstow), to the harsh reality of Creasy’s position.
Firstly, full disclosure:
I have had, and continue to have, some involvement with CBR UK as a volunteer. It is, though some may recoil in horror reading this, my intention to eventually work with them full time.
I was not in any way involved in the devising or running of this campaign.
I have therefore been a spectator this week as events unfolded.
A brief summary for those who haven’t been following this:
On Saturday 28 September CBR UK came to Walthamstow with their display – a photo of MP Stella Creasy beside a photo of an aborted 24-week old baby girl. Above the text: ‘Your MP is working hard to make this a human right’.
Creasy, furious, made her displeasure known all over social media, criticising the Met Police for refusing to stop the display. Creasy said she felt harassed, bullied and intimidated. Stella Creasy is herself pregnant and believed she was being targeted for this reason.
On Monday 30 September CBR UK put up a billboard, which had been approved by the Advertising Standards Agency, in Walthamstow. The billboard depicted a living 9-week-old foetus. (N.B please note CBR UK date foetuses using weeks from fertilisation, not last menstrual period (LMP), as the former is more accurate).
The text on the poster read the age of the foetus, and underneath, cbruk.org/stopstella.
Creasy ordered the billboard to be taken down, which it was, but not before a member of the public had vandalised it by covering it in spray paint.
On Wednesday 2 October Stella Creasy made a number of complaints and allegations against CBR UK in the House of Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions, followed by a sneering denouncement of CBR UK by Speaker John Bercow.
CBR UK’s Ruth Rawlins has responded to some of the accusations here.
On Thursday 3 October CBR UK returned to Walthamstow with their display. Walthamstow council arrived and confiscated the display, in full view of the police, stating CBR UK had breached some sort of by-law.
It is yet to be seen whether the council acted lawfully in removing the display, though it certainly raises some serious questions as to freedom of speech.
CBR UK has just issued a full statement responding to all of the questions and allegations put to them this week.
The above are the facts laid out as briefly as possible.
I don’t want to focus too much on Stella Creasy herself. The whole saga this week has largely been centred on her claims of victim status, and if that’s your biggest concern in all of this, please feel free to search for further coverage yourself online. (While you’re at it, do also watch the video of Stella Creasy amidst a pro-choice crowd yelling at pro-lifers during March for Life last year). Make up your mind as to whether you side with Stella on her claims of bullying, harassment and intimidation. Form your own view as to whether Stella was right to get the images taken down. Decide for yourself if you think CBR UK crossed the line and indeed make up your own mind about CBR UK more generally.
That’s not the primary issue here, though, and this is where I come to the crux of the matter. The issue is not so much whether CBR UK was right or wrong to target Stella Creasy, but whether it is right or wrong to kill unborn children, in the name of ‘rights’ and ‘choice’, up to 28 weeks old, or indeed at any age at all.
The issue is not so much whether the images used by CBR are offensive/distasteful/harassing/(insert other damning adjective here), but whether they are true. This one is easy enough to answer: The images CBR UK use are verified by abortionists. I once considered the use of images ‘a bit much’. But after some internal struggle I had to admit that they were real. Truth is uncomfortable but it matters.
There’s been enough discussion already around Stella Creasy. There’s been plenty of discussion about the rights of women. We talk constantly of their ‘freedom’, their ‘choice’ and ‘autonomy’. Framing the abortion issue in this way is quite deeply ingrained into our society.
And so, in all of these public conversations, particularly as they pertain to changing abortion legislation, the rights of the child are totally dismissed; their humanity, denied. In the eyes of British society the unborn child has no worth unless their mother decides they do.
And yet, images of these apparently worthless, sub-human ‘clumps of cells’ cause extraordinary outrage.
To listen to Creasy and Bercow baying like hounds in the Commons was slightly surreal. If abortion is just a choice between a woman and her doctor; a ‘human right’, as Creasy so fervently claims, then why must it be hidden from public view? If there’s nothing morally wrong with abortion, how has the backlash surrounding its exposure made it all the way to the House of Commons?
We are a nation obsessed with trying to protect from offence. Following the events of this week Creasy has called for laws to better ‘protect women’ from the kind of ‘harassment and intimidation’ that CBR UK has allegedly employed.
CBR UK’s display in Walthamstow was removed by the council because it allegedly had a ‘detrimental effect on the quality of life’ of its residents. The irony in this is extraordinary. While we wrap our citizens in cotton wool, around 1 in 4 unborn children will be granted no life at all.
What kind of society do we live in when the feelings of MPs and the general public are considered of greater significance than the very lives of the unborn, merely because they are smaller, younger and live inside their mother’s wombs?
I must admit, I have felt somewhat shaken this week by what has transpired – and I was merely an observer. But perhaps that is not so bad. History demonstrates that social reform tends to play out this way and I have every hope that in 50 years’ time we may look back at abortion the same way we look back at other instances where we dehumanised entire people groups based on some arbitrary characteristic.
I along with my brave friends at CBR UK pray for Stella Creasy, that her eyes and the eyes of the British public would be opened to the humanity of the unborn and the intrinsic worth of every human being, solely by virtue of what they are: human.
I pray the plans of Creasy and others to remove Sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act will not be successful.
I pray to live in a society one day that truly values, protects and cares for all life – from the moment of conception to natural death.
Image credit to cbruk.org
How can you justify that the life of an unborn embryo or foetus is more important than the mental and/or physical health and wellbeing of the woman carrying it?
By saying that abortion should not be allowed under any circumstance, you are showing complete disregard to the person carrying/growing/nourishing that embryo or foetus.
Would you rather we went back to a tone like the 1960s where women would go to jail for having an abortion? And where women would go to back alley abortionists, using dirty instruments, and due to this they world regularly fall severely ill, or lose the ability to have children in the future, or even die. Is that what you want to happen again? Because if abortion becomes illegal, that will happen again and how will that weigh on your conscious mind? Or will you think those women deserve it for trying to rid themselves of a child of rape or sexual abuse – which is forced to keep would probably lead them to suicide anyway -?
Hi there Vicky, thanks for stopping by.
Hm a lot of different points here so I’ll try and go through them one by one.
This isn’t about pitting woman against child – caring for both has to be the best possible outcome.
But I believe the right to life is the most fundamental of all human rights. Let’s imagine a hypothetical situation: A woman is the mother of a two-year-old boy. The woman is struggling financially and emotionally to cope with raising this child. She’s had to put her career on hold and she’s finding her social life is not what it used to be. We could argue that her mental health is suffering. In this instance, would it be morally ok to kill her two-year-old child? Arguably, her mental health would improve by having the source of her negative mental state removed. But I think we can probably agree that it would be wrong to kill her two-year-old boy, even if doing so improved her mental health. Science tells us an embryo or a foetus is equally human to the two-year-old, even if it is less developed. So, why would it be ok to kill an unborn child for the same reasons?
Abortion is a permanent violation to the right to life (and the procedure can be horrifically brutal). A woman’s state of health, physical or mental, is changeable, and therefore temporary. Surely the permanent violation of the right to life is morally worse than the temporary violation to what some would call a woman’s bodily autonomy. (Important to note too that there are very few cases where abortion is needed to actually save the mother’s life). A woman may find it mentally difficult to carry a child to term, but that doesn’t mean it will ruin her life forever. Even if she’d struggle to raise the child, she has the option to place it for adoption. There’s also evidence to suggest that abortion causes adverse physical and mental health risks.
Most pro-lifers don’t want to see women go to jail for abortion but think the culpability should lie with those performing the abortion. Re. back alley abortions, it would be fair to say first that some of the stats regarding deaths from illegal abortion were grossly inflated. I will have to try and find the source. Anyway, we’ve come a long way since the 60s. Of course we don’t want women dying in back alley abortions. But even if some women did still seek these, it doesn’t justify keeping abortion legal. Children in the womb are being killed in the UK at a rate of 200,000 a year. I can state with pretty much 100% certainty that if abortion were made illegal, 200,000 women would not die trying to procure illegal abortions.
I hope you weren’t serious regarding your question about whether I think women ‘deserve it’. And let’s not use the tragic cases of rape, which account for less than 1% of all abortions, to attempt to justify the other 99%. But since you raised it, let’s acknowledge the tragedy of rape, but let’s also ask whether an innocent life should be taken for the crime? Does abortion remove the trauma or does it instead add more trauma and loss? There are so many stories out there of women who kept their children conceived in rape and have no regrets. Instead, it brought them healing.
Ultimately, none of the objections you’ve made answer the primary issue. Your concerns about women are valid but they are taking the extreme cases without addressing the crucial moral question, which is what is the unborn, and what is abortion?
Hope this makes sense, been a long day 🙂 Take care.
Absolutely, it’s not about pitting the embroy/foetus against the woman carrying it, however everything you say suggests that you consider the unborn life more important than the woman’s suffering.
Life should, of course be a basic human right, however I do not believe you could compare a 2 year old to an embryo/foetus. The most commonly regarded view from scientists is that a foetus is not viable outside of the womb before 22 weeks, and even if born this early a foetus will still need considerable medical intervention to survive in the world. It will need help with the simple things we take for granted like breathing, whereas a healthy 2 year old child will be able to live with no medical intervention. And a mother struggling with life with a young child can receive many forms of help, yet a mother carrying a child can only receive limited help – the embryo/foetus cannot be passed between people to take away the hormone changes she will go through that could make her very sick or make her severely depressed, the back ache, weight gain, the pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes. So no, I do not class this as a valid example, a living child and an embryo or foetus do not provide equal struggles. From this I can tell you have not had a child.
Yes, mental and physical health is changeable and thus COULD be a temporary, however it could be permanent. The changes a woman’s body go through can affect women for the rest of their life, many women struggle with depression for years and years after having a child. The trauma of child birth alone has been known to cause symptoms similar to ptsd, which again can be life long. Pregnancy itself can cause prolapses of the female organs, which can cause major problems that are not always easy fixes and can cause problems for the rest of a woman’s life. What if it is a younger girl that is to go through all this because she made a mistake and had sexual intercourse too young? It could traumatise her for the rest of her life. Counselling and mental support cannot solve everything, in fact many people do not find it helps. Women do not want to go through extra surgeries to fix their bodies, or be on medication for years to come, when they took precautions or a man removed a condom during sex. So, yes pregnancy could ruin her life forever and you could not possibly know whether it will or not.
I agree abortion could cause adverse affects, I myself was told to have an abortion but I knew that I couldn’t cope with that mentally so did not even think about it. But that is a decision that a woman should be allowed to make herself – what will be more traumatic for her, pregnancy and birth or abortion.
I agree, you would not see 200,000 women die or go to back alley abortionists, but some still would and surely it is better for them to be able to go to someone trained and safe? Would the better solution not just be to make getting an abortion harder? So people couldn’t get an abortion due to the gender of the child or beung diagnosed with issues like downs syndrome where they could still lead a long happy life, but the few who were raped or sexually abused could still access the services they need – if they decide it is the right course of action.
Rape may only count for 1% but that doesn’t make it any less important, and they should not be denied something because others are being allowed to use the services as they please, as I said it should be made harder for people to get an abortion to make sure it is for valid reasons. You state of stories where babies of rape have not caused any issues, but you choose not mention the cases where women have killed or tried to kill themselves through having to carry their rapists child, or the mental illnesses some suffer with for many years after giving birth to a child of rape, or what that fact can do to a person if they find out they were born from rape.
The extreme cases are no less of a case just because they are few and far between and that should be remembered. You state all of the good outcomes from not having abortions and they help that people have received, but you never state the bad sides of it. And maybe you don’t understand because you have not had a child or gone through a traumatic birth or (in the extreme) been sexually abused – that does not mean you should choose to overlook them in your debates.
In answer to your question the unborn is an embryo or from 9 weeks a foetus, but as I say scientists generally regard that a foetus is not viable outside of the womb before 22 weeks and even then it would need considerable medical intervention to even have a hope of survival – in many cases even that proves futile. Abortion in many cases is considered a mercy killing, to protect the mother.
Hi Vicky, thanks for these thoughts. I’ll try and keep my response fairly brief as I know we could probably go back and forth forever on this issue.
In short, yes, you are correct that I consider the life of the unborn to be of greater importance than the suffering of the mother. This is not because I believe one life is more valuable than another, but simply because I do not believe that suffering justifies taking the life of an innocent, defenceless human being.
Interesting to hear that you don’t think an unborn child is not comparable to a two-year-old. It is true that an unborn child is generally not viable before 22 weeks. I don’t believe that lack of viability is a justification for abortion though because viability (or, if you like, degree of dependency) does not determine humanity. Neither does size, level of development or environment. The only difference between the two-year-old and the unborn child is time. This is what I wanted to illustrate by making this comparison. Both are equally human, but as a society we tend to view the unborn as somehow less worthy of life and therefore protection than the two-year-old.
You’re correct, I’m not a mother yet. The point is that though I do not want to downplay or dismiss a woman’s potential suffering, it doesn’t change the basic premise that taking innocent life is wrong. So far, I have never heard a pro-choice argument that overrides this fundamental principle.
Re. temporary vs. permanent outcomes, I’m not disputing that women CAN experience permanent adverse effects from pregnancy, but the point is that abortion is ALWAYS a permanent, terminal solution.
I’m sorry to hear that you were told to have an abortion. I don’t know you personally or your story but I’m truly grateful you chose not to go ahead with that. That was courageous of you.
Re. back alley abortions, I would agree with the safe and legal argument EXCEPT that what we’re talking about here is being able to ‘safely’ and ‘legally’ kill innocent human beings, by various brutal methods including starving, asphyxiation, dismembering and poisoning. Yes, these are graphic words for sure, but this is the reality of abortion procedures in their respective stages. See here for animated guides on each: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFZDhM5Gwhk
We have some common ground on believing it is wrong to have abortions for Down’s and sex-selective abortions. We may not agree on the rape issue but I’m glad to see you can see the inhumanity in abortion for such reasons.
I don’t want to overlook the rape issue, by the way – it’s a very sensitive issue that does deserve proper treatment. It’s just that in my experience this one issue tends to be used to try and justify all abortion. Sorry if that’s not what you were getting at, and in future if you want to discuss that issue specifically then sure, we can do that.
Finally – I cannot agree with the idea of ‘mercy killing’. I believe human beings have inherent worth by virtue of being human. I believe it is wrong to decide on behalf of a voiceless human that death is their best outcome; that it is somehow merciful to deny them the chance to live.
I’ll stop there. Thanks for being willing to engage with me even though you’re coming from a different perspective. Take care.