23 Aug, 10 | by Iain Brassington
You need to have registered to read the BMA News, and that would seem to require BMA registration – which is a shame, because I heard a rumour of a rantable letter that appeared there in June. A reformed medic friend has been good enough to copy and paste it for me. The rumour’s true. I’m not going to name the writer here, but, if you have access, the original won’t be difficult to find.
Different ways to save lives
Lisa Pritchard informed us that in England and Wales there were 189,100 terminations of pregnancies in 2009 (‘DH reveals dropping abortion rate’, May 29, 2010, page 3).
In the same period there were around 3,000 road deaths in the UK.
The government spends a budget of about £36m per annum on road safety education and a further £135m on road safety schemes via local highway authorities – around £1m per 20 deaths.
I wonder how much is spent by government to reduce the annual abortion carnage in this country that is more than 63 times greater than that from road deaths?
Hmmmm. I wonder.
The thing is, there’s quite a lot of obvious points that the writer seems to have missed. One of these is that – and I’ve made this point before – noone has ever thought abortion to be a good thing. The best one can say about it is that it’s the least bad option in a given situation. The writer seems utterly to have forgotten that an abortion may be carried out because continued pregnancy would damage the mother’s health. In his world – and, surprise surprise, it is a he – it would appear that noone ever got pregnant in her early teens, or got pregnant through rape, or who simply got pregnant accidentally despite taking precautions. Noone in his world, upon discovering a pregnancy, gets scared, or believes that she can’t cope with a child (or another child) right now.
Noone, it would appear, ever thinks seriously about abortion. Rather, just like many road accidents are caused by drivers losing concentration and then losing control of a tonne of fast-moving metal, so most abortions are caused by women who temporarily take their minds off the job of gestation and, before they know it, find that they’ve accidentally had their foetus killed. Silly women, eh?
The subtext of the letter is that a woman is basically a gestation machine: granted, she may walk and talk and learn to think and read and stuff, but that’s basically morally irrelevant fluff. If you think that it might be better not to be pregnant, you’re wrong.
The point about the road safety education budget is also quite interesting: after all, one way to decrease the number of abortions is to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies. And one way to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies is to have more and better sex education. The problem with this is that the most vocal opponents of sex education tend to come from the religious lobby – a lobby that also provides the backbone of abortion opponents. In other words, the group that is most likely to generate opposition to abortion is also most likely to generate opposition to the best way to avoid it.
Here, for example, is an extract from Pro-Life Alliance statement from February 2010:
The current government strategy is clearly not working and the sex education of teenagers is a priority issue that needs to be reviewed. In the Sex Education Act the government wishes to impose on all schools these counterproductive policies of making contraception and abortion evermore widely available without parental control [emphasis mine]. We would encourage the government to include increased support for pregnant teenagers in its renewed strategy, so that those finding themselves in a crisis pregnancy situation at such a young age do not feel the need to turn to abortion.
Subtext: we object to policies aimed at reducing pregnancy almost as much as we object to the termination of pregnancy – which is why they’re lumped together. If you do happen to get pregnant because of a lack of education or contraception: tough.
It’s not just in the UK that we find this sort of attitude: the major opponent of sex education in the Philippines, for example, is the Catholic Church – an organisation not generally known for its forgiving attitude to terminations (on which, see this and this). Nor am I claiming that the attitude unique to Christians: I was going to do a search of the Muslim Council of Britain’s literature on abortion and sex education, but Google and Safari both tell me that their webpage contains malware at the moment, which I find somewhat amusing. However, it would appear that the MCB opposes sex education in schools.
Now, I don’t know whether the writer of the letter has comparable views on sex education. He might be all for it. Maybe he thinks that spending on sex education should be comparable to that on road safety education. I wouldn’t like to speculate…