Tuesday, October 23, 2007

More musings on attitudes to abortion in the UK

This just in from the BBC:

Public 'backs easier abortions'

Women should not have to gain the permission of two doctors to obtain an abortion in Britain, a slim majority of respondents to a survey have said.

Some 35% said one doctor was enough and 17% said permission should not needed at all, an independent poll carried out for the group Abortion Rights found.

A total of 83% of the 1,000 people polled saw abortion as a woman's right.

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the introduction of the 1967 Abortion Act.

Under the terms of the law, a woman must obtain the permission of two doctors before she is allowed a termination, which can be carried out up until 24 weeks.

The poll, which was carried out over the telephone by the market research group GfK NOP, is said to be the first to ask the public their thoughts on the "two doctor" rule.

The findings mirror those of a Marie Stopes International poll of GPs published earlier this month.

Over half of family doctors questioned said they thought the agreement of just one professional should be enough for an abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

Both surveys follow a resolution at last summer's British Medical Association conference calling for abortions to be approved by just one doctor.

"The public clearly feels that the legislation is now out of date," said Anne Quesney, director of Abortion Rights.

"It is time for a law that trusts women to make the abortion decision and remove the need for two doctors' permission to access the procedure - a process that can lead to delays for women at a difficult time."


Broken down into age groups, the figures suggested that the youngest and the oldest have the most reservations about abortion, with 18% of 16 to 24-year-olds and 16% of the those aged 65 and over rejecting the right to a termination.

However, the majority in both groups supported abortion access.

Anti-abortion campaigner Josephine Quintavalle said the figures reflected the public's lack of understanding of what an abortion entailed.

"If there was more information and more discussion of the issues - a greater engagement with abortion - we would see attitudes change and numbers go down.

"The two doctors rule is frequently just a rubber-stamping exercise which no-one should support.

"We need to see doctors taking the time to talk through matters with the woman, not just signing off piles of forms before a patient's name is even written on the top."

This research may or may not be an accurate reflection of British public opinion on the subject of abortion. We are not told who the 1,000 persons interviewed are, or how they were selected. Neither are we given the details of the questions put to them, save for the question on the ‘two-doctor rule’. A skilled interviewer can extract the desired answers from any number of neutral subjects, simply by asking the right questions — or by asking certain questions in a particularly leading way.

But let us suppose that this research is accurate, and that 83% of a representative sample of the British public view abortion as a woman’s right. What does that tell us? Nothing, except that most Britons approve of the provision of abortion services. Of course in contemporary society, if the majority approve of a given premise, that premise is viewed as being ipso facto true. This fact — that 83% of the British public view abortion as a woman’s right — does not in itself make abortion morally licit. The notion that majority approbation renders any particular act morally good is completely erroneous, since what is false does not become true by virtue of popular consensus. Nor is the majority necessarily infallible. It simply reveals what we already know — that in the decadent and spiritually bankrupt climate of the modern west, most people are quite prepared to accept and even advocate barbarities such as abortion on demand.

If nothing else, this story proves the truth of the aphorism that if a lie is repeated often enough, most people will eventually believe it.

It is interesting, though not particularly surprising, that opposition to abortion should be concentrated among the elderly and among young adults. The elderly have had the benefit of living in a traditional, or at least a normal, society, in which basic attitudes to life and death issues had not yet been skewed by the leftism which has been so pervasive in social thinking since the 1960s. At the other end of the scale, the younger generation is beginning to react against the unrestrained permissiveness and social nihilism of their baby-boomer forebears. This reflects trends emerging in the United States, whereby the youth of today are more likely to be pro-life and pro-family in their outlook than their parents who grew up in the dislocation of the 1960s.

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