Cameron ignores medical evidence on abortion

David Cameron's remarks about abortion today have re-ignited the ‘time-limit debate’ as an electoral issue. The anti-choice ball is rolling early in the campaign.

Our guest writer is Darinka Aleksic, Campaign Co-ordinator at Abortion Rights

David Cameron today lit the blue touch paper and re-ignited the ‘time-limit debate’ as an electoral issue. When the last serious attempts to reduce the current 24 week abortion time limit were comprehensively defeated in Parliament in 2008, pro-choice supporters fervently hoped that the subject had been decisively settled.

But the small group of anti-choice MPs who masterminded the 2008 attack have always promised to reopen the issue after a general election – if they have enough Parliamentary support. And today’s comments by David Cameron look as if he is keen set the anti-choice ball rolling early in the campaign. But while he cites developments in “medical science and technology” to support his view that a cut to 20 or 22 weeks would be “sensible”, his comments entirely disregard the scientific evidence.

Foetal viability was rigorously examined by the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology in 2007. The Committee concluded, in a view shared by the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, that:

“While survival rates at 24 weeks and over have improved they have not done so below that gestational point. Put another way, we have seen no good evidence to suggest that foetal viability has improved significantly since the abortion time limit was last set, and seen some good evidence to suggest that it has not.”

Mr Cameron’s view is based on neither sense nor science. His comments highlight the problematic manner in which the abortion debate is increasingly conducted – where emotion and opinion frequently trump not only medical evidence but the reality of women’s experiences of unplanned pregnancy and abortion.

The vast majority of abortions in the UK are carried out before 13 weeks of pregnancy (90% in 2008) and 73% take place below 10 weeks. Only 1.5% of the total are carried out later than 20 weeks. Later abortion is disproportionately likely to involve teenage or vulnerable women. Typically it is requested after delayed recognition of pregnancy, after family or relationship breakdown or the onset of domestic violence. Fear of parents’ or partners’ reactions or the trauma of sexual assault or rape sometimes result in the ‘denial’ of pregnancy. Sometimes a woman simply does not know where to ask for help, her referral is delayed or she receives a late diagnosis of a serious foetal abnormality. In all these circumstances, the right to access an abortion is critical for a woman’s health and well-being.

Comments reported in the Telegraph, suggesting that Mr Cameron’s focus on abortion indicates the growing use by Conservatives of US-style campaigning, in which ‘culture wars’ issues dominate a highly polarised electoral agenda, are cause for alarm. The pro-choice camp in the UK includes MPs of all parties, and the campaign against the 2008 time limit reduction attracted a broad coalition of political and popular support. The vast majority of the British public support a woman’s right to choose, and will not appreciate Mr Cameron’s attempt to exploit this serious personal health issue for political gain in the run up to the general election.

As Fawcett Chief Executive Ceri Goddard today remarked:

“This debate is not purely a matter of conscience; it is about basic human rights. Whilst we recognise that all the parties have different views on how to best protect and progress women’s equality, there are clear links between women’s reproductive rights and our broader equality and any new policies should build on existing rights, not erode them.”

31 Responses to “Cameron ignores medical evidence on abortion”

  1. Lucy Perkins

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cameron ignores medical evidence on abortion http://bit.ly/9lPgNY

  2. Sarah Duff

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cameron ignores medical evidence on abortion http://bit.ly/9lPgNY

  3. MissTJD

    Think the tories are really losing it now RT @ leftfootfwd Cameron ignores medical evidence on abortion http://bit.ly/9lPgNY

  4. The Sliver Party

    RT @leftfootfwd Cameron ignores medical evidence on abortion http://bit.ly/9lPgNY

  5. Gemma Gompertz

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cameron ignores medical evidence on abortion http://bit.ly/9lPgNY

  6. Lucy

    Continuing Americanisation? RT @TheSliverParty: RT @leftfootfwd Cameron ignores medical evidence on abortion http://bit.ly/9lPgNY

  7. Charlotte Stamper

    "Mr Cameron's view is based on neither sense nor science." RT @leftfootfwd Cameron ignores medical evidence on abortion http://bit.ly/9lPgNY

  8. Pete Bowler

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cameron ignores medical evidence on abortion http://bit.ly/9lPgNY

  9. John77

    I don’t have to agree with Cameron to point out that, as is so often the case with LFF, your arguments are “at right angles to reality”.
    “While survival rates at 24 weeks and over have improved they have not done so below that gestational point” – He is not arguing about changes in survival rates within the two groups but changing the boundaries between the two groups.

  10. uberVU - social comments

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by leftfootfwd: Cameron ignores medical evidence on abortion http://bit.ly/9lPgNY

  11. Shona Elliott

    In this article you have complained that “emotion and opinion” often trump facts and evidence. Therefore why have you specifically chosen, when trying to have a rational debate around the issues of abortion, to call those on the opposite side of the debate anti-choice. That is a loaded term just as much pro-abortion would be.

  12. Kerry Abel

    Cameron ignores medical evidence on abortion: http://bit.ly/baG94B

  13. Andy Sutherland

    RT @kerryabel: Cameron ignores medical evidence on abortion: http://bit.ly/baG94B

  14. carrie sherlock

    RT @kerryabel: Cameron ignores medical evidence on abortion: http://bit.ly/baG94B

  15. vb

    RT @kerryabel: Cameron ignores medical evidence on abortion: http://bit.ly/baG94B

  16. Hannah McFaull

    RT @kerryabel: Cameron ignores medical evidence on abortion: http://bit.ly/baG94B

  17. cim

    Sticking the abortion time limit at “when would a premature baby born after the same amount of gestation have a decent chance of survival” is a bad idea anyway, though.

    At some point there will be an advance in science that allows a completely artifical uterus to be constructed, allowing premature babies to survive at any developmental stage – or even to grow there from the embryo stage. This advance – welcome as it will be to many – under this logic would be grounds for abolishing abortion entirely.

    The legality of abortion should not depend on scientific progress in a related field. While Cameron is wrong about the scientific evidence around premature birth and wrong about reducing the time limit, accepting that there is a connection between those two facts in the first place is not a sensible thing for pro-choice people to be doing.

  18. Ben Folley

    RT @kerryabel: Cameron ignores medical evidence on abortion: http://bit.ly/baG94B

  19. Andrew Tindall

    RT @kerryabel: Cameron ignores medical evidence on abortion: http://bit.ly/baG94B

  20. Graeme Stirling

    RT @kerryabel: Cameron ignores medical evidence on abortion: http://bit.ly/baG94B

  21. Sinead G

    RT @kerryabel: Cameron ignores medical evidence on abortion: http://bit.ly/baG94B

  22. Doublemadforit

    A poorly written piece spiked with emotive tones about Cameron’s personal view not a party mandate. His comments took up 2 lines in the original Catholic Herald interview which hardly constitutes “keen to “set the anti-choice ball rolling”.
    Chucking in links to select committee findings that were based on figures from 6 years ago can barely constitute Cameron flying in the face of modern science. My personal view is that there is no need to bring it down to 22 weeks for some of the reasons you have outlined but as we are actually talking about less than 0.5% of abortions carried out after 22 weeks is it really worth trying to make this sound like an important election issue?

  23. Gail Cartmail

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cameron ignores medical evidence on abortion http://bit.ly/9lPgNY

  24. Feminist UK

    Cameron Ignores Medical Evidence on Abortion http://bit.ly/baG94B

  25. Kate Lockhart

    RT @FeministUK: Cameron Ignores Medical Evidence on Abortion http://bit.ly/baG94B

  26. Rachel Stewart

    support pro-choice candidates please RT @leftfootfwd: Cameron ignores medical evidence on abortion http://bit.ly/9lPgNY

  27. patricia coulson-wood

    I AGREE TO A REDUCTION IN THE NUMBER OF WEEKS OF ELIGABILITY FOR TERMINATION. BASED PURELY ON EYE WITNESS ACCOUNT TERMINATIONS
    AT THE LATER STAGE. I AM A RETIRED NURSING SISTER AND I REALISE I AM SUPPOSED TO BE INDIFFERENT BUT THE DISTRESS OF THE BABY AND ITS REAL FIGHT FOR LIFE WHEN TERMINATED IS HORRENDOUS.

  28. Daniel Evans

    I am always against abortion because it is a sin to kill an innocent child.`:*

  29. Kai Collins

    we should ban all forms of abortion because it is not right to kill an unborn child.:,

  30. What the fox does Cameron agree with Widdecombe on? | Left Foot Forward

    […] Cameron ignores medical evidence on abortion – Darinka Aleksic, April 8th 2010 Share | Permalink | Leave a comment […]

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