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He is allowing a free vote but gives a suggested answer? Surely if anyone wishes to get on in Conservative politics they will now vote the same way as Cameron. Its not a full free vote due to his intervention. Anything Cameron says is regarded as Tory policy, whether he likes it or not. Anyone who votes differently will be noted down for future reference as a potential rebel.

It is not obligatory for you to oppose EVERYTHING Cameron recommends James!

Indeed it isnt obligatory, and yet I find myself doing it every time because Cameron does silly things like this. Maybe theres a link somewhere...

Perhaps James he should have refused to say anything and made sure he voted last so no one else would know what he thought!
He rightly confirmed it would be a free vote,I do not see what other way he could have acted.

I disagree with Cameron on this - I think the limit should be much lower - but I think allowing a free vote is appropriate given the current state of the debate, and it is also appropriate for him to state his personal opinion.

If he is a good leader then he will not hold disgreement against anyone. Conversely, if he is the sort of person who will, then whether this particular issue is a free vote or not is likely to be the least of the party's problems.

Oh, I don't know. I can think of several good arguments for Euthanasia. The Labour front bench being one.

Good for Dave to realise that abortion is one issue about which a compromise is completely impossible, and therefore being about as uncontroversial as it's possible to get with his policy.

As it happens I agree that the limit for abortion SHOULD be lowered but my gripe is thatr we get little bits of policy trickling out piecemeal - a sort of 'one-a-day; gimmick like Brown does.

There should by now be a party theme into which all policy statements should slot.

There ought to be an outright ban on the act of abortion. No mother should be allowed to kill her child as an act of expediency. The laws on abortion are a prime example of the inverted values that our destroying our society.

@Tony Makara:

But a majority of people disagree with you, and in a democracy, that's a problem. One can try to convince the opposing side of the merits of your arguments and work towards a compromise.

However, since the abortion debate has been polarised by a deluded and irrational pro-life movement, a deluded and irrational pro-choice movement, heavy doses of feminist liberation theology and Christian fundamentalism, the likelihood of compromise is largely non-existent.

Hence a free vote on shortening the window is the only option. Realpolitik at its most ugly necessity.

I'd prefer this kind of announcement to made as part of a broader package of measures rather than a one-off headline grabber, but I certainly agree with Cameron's line of thinking.

Martin Coxall, some things are so fundamental to society as to be above democratic debate. Abortion is the killing of a child. It is not about a womans right to choose. Once a woman becomes pregant she is responsible for the life she carries. Unless the woman's life is in danger she is duty bound to carry that child until birth. The very term 'The right to choose' was invented by an American advertising company on behalf of the pro abortion lobby. I find it curious that those who are opposed to abortion are the same people who are opposed to the death penalty for child murderers.

Typo:

Should read.

I find it curious that those who support abortion are the same people who are opposed to the death penalty for child murderers.

I think this must, sadly, remain a free vote issue for now. Manifestly anti-abortionists aren't going to accept being whipped to vote for what they would regard as the slaying of infants. Similarly, pro-abortionists are unlikely to accept being whipped to force mothers to bear the children of incest or rape.

But just because it is a free vote does not mean it is not a political issue. To believe that is to confuse politics with party politics. For example, all three main political parties are committed to staying in the EU, but few would contend that the question of whether we stay in the EU is not a political issue, despite its not currently being a party political issue.

In the US, anti-abortionists mobilised much more than has so far been done in the UK. But if the US reverses Roe vs Wade, as presumably will be the case soon - perhaps even in the next four years if there is a McCain presidency - then I believe there will be a much more vigorous effort in the UK. Abortion is likely to become a much more political issue in the UK over the next decade.

Well the reverse could be said of you Tony.
You sound as though you should live in America...there is a middle ground on some of these things - not just some liberal elite and your view.

For what it's worth, I'm opposed to capital punishment, and
dislike abortion aswell - there should be a limit on it, but opposing it completely is going too far I think. There are cases where a woman is unable to have a child that is handicapped, for example, but that should be decided early on.

If we improved education, strengthened families and the work ethic, we wouldn't have so many of these abortions anyway.


@Andrew Lilico:

You might be right, but I hope you're wrong. I see it as an issue over which people will fundamentally be unable to come to any kind of agreement or compromise, because they're starting from a fundamentally different set of axioms, and it could get ugly. Effectively starting an internecine culture war with no hope of ending. Dave's smart enough not to do that.

I can see where the reasoning of Tony Makara (with whom I broadly agree) is likely to lead us, and that's not a place I want this country go.

[email protected]:41

Hmm... But if you agree with Tony, doesn't that mean you think that in the current situation we have mass state-sponsored slaying of infants? Why isn't a concerted attempt to end that "a place I want this country to go"?

Joe James Broughton, if a child is handicapped it should still have the right to life and not be aborted for what are, in effect, cosmetic reasons. When I worked in a voluntary capacity with people who suffered under severe disability I was reminded by a member of the professional staff that mental and physical life can occur at any stage of life. A person who is disabled has as much right to life as anyone else. Any person who would abort their child purely on the grounds that it will labour under a handicap should feel disguested with themselves. Such cosmetic abortions say much about the moral decline in our society.

Martin Coxall, sometimes in life its necessary to fight, with passion, with militancy, for what is right. The anti-abortion movement in America has to fight hard because it is denied a fair hearing in the liberal smart-set media. Although many of the anti-abortionists in America stem from the religious right, I do not believe this is a religious issue. For example I am opposed to abortion but I'm not opposed to contraception, which I believe has been a good thing in controlling population growth in the developing world. However once a woman has conceived the situation changes and the process of life is set in play. Once a woman is carrying human life she should respect that life and bring it into the world. If she feels she cannot raise the child she should give it up for adoption.

Back to Cameron. James Maskell must be wrong - voting a different way to Cameron on a free vote cannot be a career-limiting act.
I know the Party has Borg tendencies, but if it's gone that far we might as well all give up.

I welcome David Cameron's initiative and he is right to make the issue a free vote. As a staunch opponent of abortion, I recognise that progress can only be made gradually.

I used to oppose the death penalty but would now favour its reintroduction for premeditated serial killers like Fred West and David Shipman. Capital punishment is, however, outlawed by the EU.

For the record, I agree with some of the points made

and

was definitely NOT saying all handicapped babies should be aborted....but thinking of examples because I'm sure there are various reasons where an abortion is justified,
but they shouldn't be given at the drop of a hat.

I can't see a single thing wrong with what Cameron has said. And I'm 'pro' [sic - obviously] abortion, inasmuch as I don't think that it's, early on, infanticide.

I wish this issue would not be politicised by the right.

Everyday this country's political debate sounds more like America's.

In America I don't have a party I can support.

It's (of course) a difficult one. Abortion, rightly, makes me rather uncomfortable because it becomes -- at some point -- state-sanctioned infanticide.

However, a fertilized zygote is not a human being, and it doesn't matter how much you scream the contrary doesn't make it true.

What makes abortion such a touchy topic is that there is no single *point* at which a zygote->embryo->fetus becomes a human being, so there's no single point at which it becomes wrong. And that's what makes it such a political nightmare.

that there is no single *point* at which a zygote->embryo->fetus becomes a human being, so there's no single point at which it becomes wrong.

I disagree. Once the nervous system starts functioning, you have a person.

We accept that the definition of death is when the brain stops working; why is it so difficult to accept that, logically, the start of life must be when the brain starts?

@Chris - Are you in America? If not, what on earth does it matter whether or not there's a party there you can support? And Cameron *isn't* politicising abortion, any more or any less than it already is inevitably 'political'. He was merely stating his opinion. Far better Dave doing that than behaving as he has on countless other issues and either fudging or cloaking his actual views. Weird.

Inter alia, one of the curious things about people like Tim (cf. the CH polling 'data' he links to) is how he frames questions. It would have been instructive, not least for Tim, if he had had the courage to simply ask respondents: 'do you think abortion should be legal in Britain?' Most of us do: most of us don't think it's babies being murdered by the state. Yet oddly enough Tim didn't care to establish that perfectly easy to establish fact.

It would have been instructive, not least for Tim, if he had had the courage to simply ask respondents: 'do you think abortion should be legal in Britain?'

No it wouldn't - the question, read properly, effectively forces people into a corner. Very few people are simply against all abortion regardless of circumstances or length of pregnancy, but that is what anybody saying "no" would be committing to.

Alex, you say that because you're a 'shades of grey' man. The on principle anti-abortionists aren't. They're the blackest (or whitest) of black and white men and women. And it's precisely because it would be so usefully instructive for self-styled 'Conservative' all-out anti-abortionists that they're painfully unrepresentative of British right wing thinking, that it's such a shame the question in this form hasn't been posed. But then as we know, Tim's not exactly hot to trot when it comes to telling us CH poll findings he doesn't like or considers unhelpful.

I am going to say something very controversial, that will enrage some. But it is my view that men like Tony M have no right to say a woman cannot ever have an abortion - because he will never suffer the consequences of his opinion.

If abortion becomes illegal then we will go back to the situation of back street abortions, with not only dead babies but dead women as well. There is nothing more certain than that.

There are a number of situations where abortion is appropriate; and the emotional trauma for the mother means that many do not take their decision lightly.

If you really care about this situation, then work on the social causes of unwanted pregnancy - there is nothing you can or should do about a defective foetus. This should be an area of objectivity, not uncompromising stances - especially by those who do not fully understand the consequences for the life already here - the womans.

Stating his own position in this fashion is unhelpful, particularly in reference to viability. The tiny number of women who have late abortions have them for very, very good reasons, and changing this is the thin end of the wedge. However, he supports a free vote, which is the most important thing.

Fair enough, [email protected]:27, and you're entitled to your view. But so is Tony, and so are other men.

The reason you think not, I suggest, is that you think that the issue is about what happens to a woman - does she have an abortion or not. But Tony and others take the view that the key issue is not what happens to the woman (though presumably everyone concedes that that is an issue of importance), but, rather, what happens to another person - the unborn child. And Tony has every bit as much right to have an opinion about what happens to unborn children as do their mothers - we don't live in a society in which children are the property of their parents, to be treated purely as the parents see fit without anyone else being entitled to have a view.

[email protected]:18

But there must be almost no-one that thinks abortion should not be permitted in *any* circumstances. Even the most strict Catholics don't believe *that*. Even those that would take the view that it is *wrong* to choose between the life of a mother and the life of a child (e.g. if both cannot be saved) or to choose between killing one and letting both die (if neither can be saved) do not typically believe that it should be *illegal* so to choose.

The only instance I am aware of of its being illegal to abort under any circumstances is, if memory serves me right, Columbia (if Amnesty International's campaign on this point was not misleading). The more standard strict anti-abortionist view is that abortion is always-and-everywhere the killing of a person, but that in some circumstances, when killing one person is necessary to have the chance to save another, killing an unborn infant might be the lesser evil - and if not, then at least the view that it would be the lesser evil is not so obviously wrong that doing so should be illegal.

Thus virtually no-one could answer "No", simpliciter, to "do you think abortion should be legal in Britain?".

Alex, you say that because you're a 'shades of grey' man.

Hmm, I've been accused of lots of things over the years, but that's a new one!

I would vote to bring it down to the European average, which is around 12 weeks. Of course, many of us would like to make it totally illegal but we need to be realistic.

Hard as it is to send strength to my fingers to type a reponse to anyone who can with a seemingly straight face employ 'simpliciter' anywhere on the world wide web, here goes.

It's low casuistry to define 'anti-abortion' as you just have done: as some kind of absurdist, absolutist ideal. Far more reasonable - Tory even - would be to define 'being anti-abortion' precisely as being whatever it is anti-abortionists actually argue when making their case. And this, of course, is habitually, by them, hedged with all the qualifications cited above. Thus asking people, "are you for abortion-being-legal, or, are you for abortion-being-illegal (with all the qualifications that normally entails, but don't, surely to God, have to be spelt out in every sodding rhetorical instance the debate is alluded to)?" remains a simple question to ask. And the answer remains as telling as ever, for those of us who are right wing but are not convinced by the invariably disgenuous arguments of the 'pro life' side.

"Disingenuous: I remain immodestly convinced by my own argument; I stand convicted, however, of the shoddiness of my own spelling. And I accept that for many, polled or otherwise, this is a grave moral error.

[email protected]:06

Not sure what is wrong with the term "simpliciter", but anyway...

I think you gloss over all kinds of subtleties that many in this debate consider vital. For example, many that would call themselves "anti-abortion" would believe there should be exceptions for rape and incest (indeed, I think some countries have such exceptions in their laws). How should such a person answer your question? Some people believe that abortion should only be for cases of extreme handicap, in which the infant would survive only for hours or days after birth. How should such a person answer your question?

At the other end of the spectrum might be someone like myself, who believes that there should be no abortion law at all. I believe that we have a perfectly good murder law, and I see no reason not to apply the usual qualifications and caveats that surround homocide (which do permit killing under some circumstances), just because the homocide in question is that of an unborn infant. Thus, in a sense, I don't think that "abortion should be illegal", since I don't think it should be a separate crime.

For those of us that are opposed to abortion, it is very important to emphasize that we do not (typically) insist that mothers die rather than an abortion be performed - an allegation often levelled against us.

Andrew, if people aren't 'subtle' enough to answer your question with the answer you'd like, I'd suggest that it's neither the people nor even really the question that's at fault.

When a large and persistent body of opinion is stated - in this instance, majority British support for 'abortion being legal' - could we not affect to believe that those stating it, ugly, wretched and hideously prone to unsubtly as so many of us are, know what we mean and mean what we've repeatedly said? Call it a conceit of democratic politics, but it's one I'm happy to live with.

It's low casuistry to define 'anti-abortion' as you just have done: as some kind of absurdist, absolutist ideal.

No, it's not, it's English.

Far more reasonable - Tory even - would be to define 'being anti-abortion' precisely as being whatever it is anti-abortionists actually argue when making their case.

But different people argue different things; how is the choice to be made?

If you ask a question, people are entitled to assume you mean what you say. You posed an absolutist question. If you did not mean it that way, you should have phrased yourself differently.

Perhaps we'd take your views more seriously Andrew Lilico if you knew:

(a) how to spell 'homicide'; and

(b) that a US President can't overturn a decision of the Supreme Court.

Alex - see what I've said above. A large and tediously consistent majority constitutes British opinion on 'abortion', however you want to parse it: we're in favour of it being legal. It may well, to some tastes, be 'too' legal, but unless you have insights into that popular approval of legal abortion I don't, it's not going to get substantially less legal any time soon.

[email protected]:35

a) "Homicide" - indeed, good spot. Killing of a man, rather than man-killing. I'll try to get it right in future.

b) Wasn't aware I'd suggested that a US president can overturn a decision of the Supreme Court. But your correct that president's can't, at least not directly. Obviously they can support constitutional amendments or select Supreme Court justices that would take a different view (which is what is likely to happen in the case of Roe vs Wade), but you are quite right that they can't overturn decisions directly.

"men like Tony M have no right to say a woman cannot ever have an abortion"

Miranda, abortion is about the baby's life, both father and mother have an equal stake in that life. A baby isn't wholly a woman's responsibility because she happens to carry it biologically. So many women adopt a 'my body-my baby' attitude and then wonder why fathers don't want to pay for the upkeep of the child. This is a question of responsibility, people bring life into the world without serious due consideration of the level of commitment needed.

You are wrong Miranda to say that Tony has no right to speak on this issue.

Abortion isn't a woman's issue but a human rights issue.

For me the foetus is a human life and worthy of defending. Men and women both have a stake in defending human life.

unless you have insights into that popular approval of legal abortion I don't

It's not a question of insights into popular opinion, it's simply the use of the English language. You seem to believe that there can only be one definition of "anti-abortion" which everybody understands and agrees with, and that just isn't true.

You said anti-abortion without qualification. If you said that, then anybody reading it is entitled to assume - and should assume - that that is what you meant. If you didn't mean that, then you should have phrased yourself differently.

Call me cynical, but you seem to me to be engaged (perhaps subconsciously) in verbal sleight-of-hand. You want to use language in a way which miraculously means that most people agree with you, regardless of what they actually think. I can't stop you trying this, but I can object to the intellectual dishonesty involved.

As far as cynicism goes, I'm a babe in arms compared to the basic tenor of far too many of the arguments employed by self-described 'anti-abortionists'. As an instance of which, we have the startling determination of the antis present on this thread to run away from the brutal fact that a large and consistent majority of their fellow countrymen disagree with them. Abuse them for that, or even, God knows, pitch arguments to them to shake them out of their wrongheadedness, but don't for pity's sake keep at this silly habit of implying that they either *don't* mean precisely what they do when they keep saying, 'abortion should remain legal', or, worse still, that they don't actually know what they mean when they say that.

As far as the 'being against abortion means being against all abortion otherwise it means nothing' charge goes - a total red herring, and cynically raised as such. Were abortion ever to be criminalised in the country again as it once was, it would obviously be just as it was - hedged round with all sorts of qualifications. Not least, we can safely assume, that the life of the mother, as a matter of centuries long common law prescription, trumps the rights of the unborn child. That's the sense in which abortion *was* illegal and naturally it's the way in which you lot who are in favour of recriminalising it would once again do so. And as I keep saying to you - the British public keep telling you that they don't want abortion to be illegal again. And - where all this began - I suggest that if CH readers were polled with the perfectly intelligble question, 'should abortion be legal or illegal?', they'd give an answer some of you ought to consider listening to.

[email protected]:55

We are, of course, in a debate, rather than a counting exercise. I've no doubt that most people believe that there should be abortion in some cases. I rather doubt that they believe there should be abortion in anything like as many cases as is currently permitted. But that is by-the-by. For I want to argue my case, to try to persuade others that I am right, not merely that I have (or do not have) the majority.

Further, it is not even true that I need at some point to *convince* the majority in order to have my preferred policy enacted. In the 1980s some polls suggested as many as 80% of people favoured capital punishment being reinstated for some forms of murder, but it was not (and rightly so).

So I don't accept that the fact that most people currently disagree with me is the end of the matter; I don't agree that I couldn't persuade some people to change their minds and come round to my point of view; and I don't accept that even if most people never agree with me that that means I can't achieve the law changing.

I hope that's got that cleared up.

And no one was suggesting that you can't (change opinions, and after them, laws). You are, however, being urged to reflect upon the fact that you haven't.

@Andrew Lilico:

You have to admit though that changing the law with a large majority opposed to it is always a dangerous exercise. It's the kind of thing that mortally wounds Prime Ministers. Look at Thatcher and the Poll Tax, or Blair and Iraq.

The political perfect shitstorm that attempting to override the popular will on abortion would cause would make those brouhahas seem like a brisk breeze.

I agree that asking people to give a straight yes/no answer to the question "should abortion be legal or illegal" is pointless when most people would say "it depends on the circumstances".

Insofar as one can determine public opinion on this subject, it would seem that most people would like a law that was somewhat more restrictive than the current one, but certainly not an outright ban. Of course, if the 1967 Act really were enforced, according to the letter of the law, then that would be pretty restrictive. David Steel didn't intend that abortion should be available as a form of contraception, after all.

Well, as long as you are all consistent and don't whinge and whine when a woman who would otherwise have had an abortion turns to the state to fund its upbringing.

I fully support keeping the limit at 24 weeks and would strongly oppose any attempts to lower it. As a conservative, I support individual responsibility and do not think that the state should interfere excessively in what is a very personal decision for the mother.

Nonetheless, I'm pleased Cameron has offered a free vote.

Tony Makara, once again you've proven yourself to be the most extreme member of ConHome and once again, you've proven that you really are a perfect example of a Christian-Socialist.

Chad Noble, whatever people feel about welfare dependency I'm sure everyone agrees that it is never the fault of the child. That is why the hostility towards single mothers shocks me so much because there is a child or children at the heart of the debate. Its such a tragedy that the CSA didn't work out as planned, because a single mother should be part-supported by the father of the child, even if she has no contact with him. The CSA wasn't a bad idea, it was just not well planned out.

"Tony Makara, once again you've proven yourself to be the most extreme member of ConHome"

Michael Davidson, I'd say killing children is the real extreme here.

How can politicians pass moral judgment about genocide in Rwanda or the gassing of Kurds when those very same politicians support the killing of unborn children? By their fruits ye shall know them!

[email protected]:36
>And no one was suggesting that you can't (change opinions, and after them, laws). You are, however, being urged to reflect upon the fact that you haven't.<

Haven't what? Changed anyone's opinion on this issue in the past forty years? Surely many people's opinions have been changed (I know mine have). Also, last time I checked the time limit was reduced, and it is likely to be reduced further. Indeed, it seems to me that the logic of mainstream public opinion is that abortion will be gradually phased out in the UK as technology allows younger and younger foetuses to survive. Perhaps this process has a limit - maybe there will be a serious debate, for example, at the point at which technology would allow a foetus to survive outside the womb that was so young that it had no significant brain function yet. It's hard to say. But that seems to be the way the debate is going.

I would say, rather, that there is increasingly less purchase amongst the public for the idea (popular among aficionados and specialist ethicists) that it is a privacy issue or about the "right" of the mother to dispose of "her bodily tissue" as she sees fit. The logic of the public debate seems to me to be something as follows: We can't stop people from having abortions, so if the mother really wants one and we couldn't keep the infant alive without her assistance, then she must have one. But as soon as we might have a chance of keeping the infant alive without her, it's ours - it then has the protection of the law.

This isn't my opinion at all, and I shall continue to agitate against allowing infants to be killed with (or indeed without) my taxes. But I think it's plainly at variance with the facts to suggest that anti-abortionists are making no headway at all. And if Roe vs Wade is reversed soon, the UK debate will be transformed. For then it will be seen to be possible, in an advanced country, to reverse pro-abortion laws, and the current sense of inevitability about abortion (which your comments here exhibit) will depart.

Well my question for David Cameron, is will he agree to financially support these women who are forced to have children against their will to bring up the child from birth to adulthood?

These "rights" are a zero sum game, the more the Cameron tips them in favour of the child, the more it removes them from the mother.

Just who is Cameron to decide which one of the two has more right to a life than the other?

To a large extent I agree with Tony Makara. I beleive abortion is wrong, except in certain cases (for example if the baby is the result of a rape, or the woman's life is in danger).
However, there is one point where I disagree with Tony Makara. If abortion were to become illegal again, it would have to be the result of a democratic process, otherwise it would not have the legitimacy.

@Andrew Lilico:

Roe Vs Wade has no relevance to the abortion debate in the UK. It barely has relevance to it in the US, since it's really a constitutional question of whether the SCOTUS overstepped its powers. A reversal of Roe vs Wade would merely return power to the states; It would make no statement about abortion's being wrong.

@Chad Noble:

Well, as Prime Minister he would have that right. That's why we elect people to high office- so they can make the bad decisions for us, and we can scream at them when it all goes wrong.

Well said, Chad.

Tony Makara, you are welcome to live your life on the basis that a fertilized egg = a child. However you do not have the right to subject my daughters to your irrational beliefs.

"That's why we elect people to high office-"

LOL! No, that is why authoritarians like Conservatives elect people Martin.

Many of us really want a tiny government that keeps out of interfering in our lives with their tiresome moralising, and, on this issue, think there is no place for the government in making the decision whether or not to abort.

Do-gooders! All they do is interfere and make things worse.

[email protected]:34

What a reversal of Roe vs Wade will mean is that the laws in more than 40 US states that considerably restrict abortion will return into force, showing people that it is simply not true that abortion is "historically inevitable" or "the sort of thing that advanced states do" - as if abortion were like respect for members of other races, or something like that.

[email protected]:38

Other that by assertion, do you have any basis for suggesting that the belief that "a fertilized egg = a child" is "irrational"? What more do you take there to be in being a child than being a young working instance of the human animal (which is what a fertilized human egg is)?

Mark Fulford, interesting to see that you would have no objections to your grandchildren being butchered in abortion clinics. Thank goodness most people don't share your sense of pragmatic morality. The pro-abortionalists can try to rationalize this away as much as they like, but they know, just as we know, that abortion is about ending a life.

this is a good policy but we need more like this

I’m quite happy to concede arguments when I’m persuaded that I’m wrong. To get me to concede you’ve got to persuade me why an egg = a child. That it has the potential to grow is not enough.

In my book the joining of an egg and a sperm is an amazing process and the biological beginning of a human, but not the point at which a human acquires rights. Inviolable life starts somewhere between that single cell and the roughly 10 trillion cells that make a newborn child (childhood being a postnatal state).

Tony Makara - most people in this country certainly do not think a 'fertilised egg' constitutes a life.

Life doesn't begin until birth - that is why we call the process 'giving birth'. As long as the foetus is physically attached to the mother, it is not 'alive' in any true sense of the word.

"Life doesn't begin until birth"

Michael Davidson, so if your girlfriend was heavily pregnant and some manic kicked her violently and she lost the baby it wouldn't matter about the life lost because the baby wasn't born yet? Ot gaist du!

You've got to wonder about Cameron's leadership though if he thinks something is right enough to make a public statement of his view, but does not have the backbone, as party leader, to make it official policy.

Why can't MP's follow their conscience on other policies that may be central in importance to them in terms of how they think it will improve the lives of children in their constituencies etc (like Graham Brady on Grammar Schools etc, frontbenchers supporting BetterOffOut)?

Because this is about life? Well there are loads of decisions that politicians make that directly impact life and quality of life. The BOO's could just as easily argue that their conscience cannot let them support an organisation that creates trade barriers with Africa leading to deaths etc.

Or are these decisions about the sanctity of life only relevant for British babies?

What Cameron is really saying is that this issue is a real toughie that has no easy, populist answer,and he does not have the strength to lead the party and make it policy.

Very weak indeed.

Tony, that's a silly comparison.

Whilst a foetus is not 'alive', you may want it to become a life. If you are planning on having a baby then presumably you want the pregnancy to go ahead as planned.

Tony Makara, religion could make you hold such a ridiculous and untenable position. Am I right?

I you can't tell the difference between a chicken and an egg, an acorn and an oak tree, then you must really have difficulty living day-to-day life.

If a (hypothetical) girlfriend of yours has a late period after unprotected sex, do you have a baptism? A funeral? Or is there something just a teeny bit different about a a blastocyst and baby? Could it be that there is a spectrum of arguable postitions from conception through to birth and you are at an untenable extreme?

Referring to David Cameron’s pledge to vote to lower the abortion limit, this is good news. However I thought most abortions happen earlier in a pregnancy than the 20-21 weeks that he prefers as the limit. The reason he gives for wanting to lower the limit is that medical advance means that babies can survive at 24 weeks - but is this the most suitable way of determining the value of a child in the womb?

While it is apparent that the Conservative Party is not yet ready to become officially a pro-life party, Mr Cameron’s stance, and his opposition to euthanasia, is very welcome, and is an advance on the pro-death stance of Labour and Lib Dems.

Many of us really want a tiny government that keeps out of interfering in our lives with their tiresome moralising, and, on this issue, think there is no place for the government in making the decision whether or not to abort. Chad noble (1940). So the Government and the state has no right to interfere in the decision whether to murder or not? Chad Noble’s assertion is a typical example of taking the small Government libertarian principal too far. Real freedom is the freedom to do right, and the state has a role in restraining evil for the sake of all, especially the vulnerable, of which the child in the womb must be the prime example.

As for Gordon Brown being guided by the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists view there is no a case for changing the time limits for abortion, so much for his “moral compass”.

Tony Makara (1831) you exactly right that killing children is the real extreme here. Thank you for your excellent comments.

Passing [email protected]:40 (and others)

No-one is suggesting that an egg (an unfertilized ovum) is a human being. But, as [email protected]:46 and probably many others that favour abortion's being legal would concede, human life begins at conception. (Actually, that way of putting it isn't very good. It's really just a *fact* that human life begins at conception - it's not a matter of anybody's opinion.) So there's nothing remotely delusional or "irrational" about believing (with Tony) that a fertilized egg is a human infant. It just is.

However, as Mark points out, there is a much more contentious issue here that lies at the heart of the matter: Is being a human infant *enough* to mean that one should be regarded as a legal person? Alex thinks not - he believes you need to have a functioning brain; Michael thinks not - he believes that the absence of an intact umbilical chord is required; the current law thinks not - it believes you must be old enough to be potentially viable outside the womb.

I, on the other hand, believe that all there is to being a human being is being a working instance of the human animal. And I believe that all human animals are morally equivalent in terms of commanding duties of care. Now of course it is not the case that all humans are morally equivalent in every regard - I have more duties to my son than I do to an adult in Australia (imagine if I did not feed my son but instead sent the food to someone in Australia, and you will see that this is so). Similarly, some people might forfeit certain of their entitlements to protection (e.g. they might commit crimes that could be punished by caning). But these qualifications and caveats are not necessary when discussing an abortion, for there we simply have an infant human, and our standard duties of care (which are not unlimited - sometimes we let even born children die; and sometimes we kill them deliberately) do apply.

"If a (hypothetical) girlfriend of yours has a late period after unprotected sex, do you have a baptism? A funeral? Or is there something just a teeny bit different about a a blastocyst and baby?"


Passing Leftie, under such circumstances the thing to do is accept the responsibility of parenthood. Either stay with the girl who has become pregnant, or support the child financially. The thing not to do is for the parents to kill the child for a mistake of their making. Accidental pregancies sometimes occur, when they do it is down to both parents to accept their reponsiblity for the life that they are bringing into the world. My views on this matter are governed by a moral sense of duty, something that is sadly lacking in this age 'me-materialism' People should do right by a child if they set the process of life in motion. I feel act of abortion demeans and debases women and the concept of motherhood. One wonders how these women feel in the autumn of their lives as perspective sets in and they reflect on the life they denied, all in the name of expediency.

Absolute rubbish as always Chad 21.20. Abortion has been an issue of conscience for MPs since 1967.Cameron is doing nothing that has not been done by party leaders in 40 years. If you don't agree with his personal view then argue against it but don't say that he has no view because he's just expressed it.

So there's nothing remotely delusional or "irrational" about believing (with Tony) that a fertilized egg is a human infant.

It very specifically isn't a human infant. It is a cell that has the potential to grow through various phases into a human adult. One of those phases is infancy.

You would give an egg full human rights the moment a lucky (or errant) sperm gets its way. I wouldn't.

For you, is this a substantially religious issue?

[email protected]:12

>For you, is this a substantially religious issue?<

It is, in the sense that I don't subscribe to what I consider the rather wacky religious beliefs I tend to find among pro-abortionists. Many (perhaps most) of the pro-abortionists with whom I have discussed the matter argue something like that to be really a person a human must have a soul, and that souls only attach themselves (or are only attached by God) to the human animal once it reaches a sufficient stage of development (something like having a sufficiently complex brain). This tends to be a common idea among relatively unsophisticated people and among pro-abortion Christians.

I don't believe in souls, understood in this way, and hence reject the religious underpinnings many people provide for their pro-abortion view.

Indeed, it seems to me that some quasi-religious idea like this lies behind almost all pro-abortion views. For the most natural materialist (or indeed orthodoxly Christian) position is that a human being is simply a working instance of a particular animal with a particular DNA structure. You don't need any extra supernatural apparatus such as "souls" or "minds" in order to be a person. It may be that one needs some kind of religious doctrine to get an idea of moral equality going - it's not really clear why a materialist would object to racism (favouring of one's own tribe/DNA over the other), for example, but perhaps it could be done through some kind of game theoretic reciprocal altruism scheme (like David Willetts' vampire bats). Anyway, once one has the idea that all humans are people, and that all people should be regarded as morally equal (at least originally), then it follows pretty straightforwardly that moral injunctions such as "Do not murder" will apply to small people that don't look much like us just as much as they apply to large people that do look like us.

So there's probably some religion in there (the belief in moral equality), but not, I think, in the way that you mean (except in the negative sense that I reject the religious beliefs used to defend abortion).

Mark Fulford, one does not have to be religious to believe that life begins at conception. It does, it is a scientific fact. Just because a child is in the process of formation does not mean that it is not alive. It may not be recognizably human in an anatomical sense, but it is nontheless a living entity. Abortion apologists like argue about what constitutes life, they should look to science, is a fertilized egg engaged in the creative process of life? Of course it is. It is a manifestation of life, no matter how small and simple it may seem. Many people reading this forum today are young enough to have been aborted if their mothers had been so inclined. Many others are not around to read these forums today because they ended up in a broken pulp in abortion clinics. Be grateful for life when it comes, cherish it and nurture it. As my grandma often used to remind me, it takes less than a second to pass from life and into death. Life is precious, the lives of unborn children are precious, why deny them the right to life?

Thank you again, Tony Makara. Better said than I could! To add something about scientific evidence, I have read that some researchers believe that a child has some awareness even from the moment of conception.


I'm off to bed now, but before I go I'd like to add one last thing. The *only* reason I believe that human life begins at conception is that this is the teaching of science. I've never even heard of a Christian argument (other than the scientific one) for conception as the start of life, let alone it being a Christian argument that I agree with. I have not heard of a Muslim argument for why conception is the start of human life. My *only* ground for that is the scientific ground. If you can convince me that the scientific account is incorrect, and that that the physical life of animals begins at some other time (perhaps before conception, perhaps afterwards), then I shall shift my view to believing that *then* is when the law should offer protection - once the human infant is present.

But I think that you will struggle to overturn the scientific consensus of some centuries on this point.

Thanks Philip, what that abortionists don't realise is that life is manifest in many ways and does not begin at birth. However they dress it up with semantics, abortion is the killing of unborn children, it is a bloody stain on the conscience of those who support it.

Do you have a job Tony pro life Capital Punishment Makara?

7 or 8 posts today, spread out across the whole day.

Andrew Lilico, it is interesting reading your non-religious arguments - thanks. Rather too late to say much more (such as about sacrificing children in heathen worship of the sex ‘gods’ condemned in the Old Testament). I think the Christian conviction that life begins at conception mainly comes from Psalm 139v13 where David says God knitted him together in his mother’s womb. (If the Bible says little about abortion, maybe that would be because the practice wasn’t thought of in those days?). But on your point that it is fact that life begins at conception, if some religions believe this to be a fact too doesn’t mean it ceases to be a fact!

Books on embryology speak of life beginning at fertilisation

see http://www.abort73.com/HTML/I-A-1-medical.html

I don't understand how some people can claim that a foetus is not alive. A foetus fits the basic definition of a living organism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life#Definitions

A foetus is certainly human.

Therefore, if people want to justify killing it they have to invent religious or philosophical ideas about "personhood". Princetown University "ethicist" Peter Singer takes such views to their logical conclusion and argues for the acceptance of infanticide, because newborn babies do not have the same level of consciousness and self-awareness of fully developed humans.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Singer#Abortion.2C_euthanasia_and_infanticide

West London Tory, judging by your acrid anger it looks like you realise that you have lost the debate, both scientifically and morally. Anyhow I must dash I've got a document to translate, if I were you I'd do something about that bitter attitude of yours, it sounds like it is all consuming. Bitte, sei nicht so beißend und spießig. There you go, you can look that one up.

"Cameron is doing nothing that has not been done by party leaders in 40 years."

Um, exactly my point Malcolm dear. So much for Cameron's 'change'.

Just for once Malc, put away your hair dye, engage your brain, sit back and ask 'why' something is so, rather than defend it because that is the way it has always been.

'Change' is not maintaining the 40 year old status quo!

Great to hear about David Cameron's support to lower the abortion limit. However, 20 weeks is still far too late. I would like David Cameron to be a lot more courageous and principled and to go for a much more dramatic cut in the abortion time limit - it could be easily argued to be 16 or 12 weeks on the basis of the development of the child at that stage and normal European time limits.

I am opposed to all abortion, but I think that 16 or 12 weeks would be what most people would support, examining the evidence of the baby's development and recognising that women need support and that abortion is not the only answer. People are shocked when they see how developed the baby is. Professor Campbell and David Steele have talked about a 12 week time limit. Tony Blair was front page of the Times in 2004 saying he woulid support a reduction, and Michael Howard supported a 20 week reduction in 2005.

We need politicians who are real champions for social justice and human rights and protect the most defenceless. That is real leadership.

I don't understand how some people can claim that a foetus is not alive.

Ben, who made that claim?

West London Tory, judging by your acrid anger it looks like you realise that you have lost the debate, both scientifically and morally.

Personally, Tony, I think you conceded the debate when you said that some issues are above democracy. I bet you get to decide which issues are above democracy.

As for anger! Throughout this debate you’ve used the most emotive language that you can: “child” (for single cell), “kill”, “butcher”, “murder”. You would be prepared to force a 13 year old girl to have a child against her will on the basis that a single cell has equal rights to her. I’d say that would be tantamount to child abuse, something about which I could get very angry, but I don’t think that calling you a child abuser would be accurate or add to the debate.

[email protected]:26

You are certainly correct that the Bible speaks of God knowing us whilst in the womb, but the most that would suggest is that our status as people pre-dates birth. It does not imply that God "knows" us from conception.

It seems to me that the key religious components to the abortion debate are the views that all humans are equally of moral worth, that the killing of innocent humans is wrong, and that children are not at the disposal of their parents (e.g through child sacrifice). All of these ideas are non-obvious and quite radical in their way. But they are not at longer contentious, as such.

More contentious is the doctrine of orthodox Christians that to be a human animal is a sufficient condition for being a person - that there can be no such thing as a human non-person (as, for example, a Nazi might have regarded a Jew). Though the Christian position on this matter is shared with modern materialists, most other people dispute it. Most people believe that to be a person one must have a soul or a mind or a face or a set of appropriate behaviours.

When paired with the scientific fact that human life begins at conception, the Christian views of moral worth of persons, opposition to killing, the limited rights of parents over children, and the Christian idea of the universal personhood of human animals, the package commits the Christian to oppose abortion from conception.

The key point of dispute, it seems to me, is this issue of personhood. For the other matters are not at issue. Are all humans people? as I once asked in a column...

I said: "I don't understand how some people can claim that a foetus is not alive."

Mark Fulford: "Ben, who made that claim?"

Michael Davidson on this thread said:

"Life doesn't begin until birth - that is why we call the process 'giving birth'. As long as the foetus is physically attached to the mother, it is not 'alive' in any true sense of the word."

"Whilst a foetus is not 'alive', you may want it to become a life."

When people talk about the definition of life apart from the abortion debate, the most common definition would clearly include embryos and foetuses.

http://everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1353612

http://www.wellingtonzoo.com/learn/teacher/groups.html#living

Thanks, Ben, I hadn't noticed that comment and certainly don't agree with it.

I find it curious that those who support abortion are the same people who are opposed to the death penalty for child murderers.

Posted by: Tony Makara | February 25, 2008 at 11:23

Or to put it another way, those who oppose abortion are the most strongly in favour of the death penalty. there are inconsistencies in the pro-life movement too.

An embryo is human life. So is a liver cell. The difference is that an embryo has the POTENTIAL to grow into a human being. It's quite possible that science will allow us to tweak liver cells into cells with the potential to grow into an embryo. Are we then going to give every single cell the rights of a full human being?

There is a gradient of potential from separate zygotes, through blastocyst to embyro to foetus at different stages finally through to child. Personhood is an abitrary line, and it's patently a grey area. Only religion will allow you to believe otherwise (it's one of a set of silly beliefs which require mental gymnastics to support). A cluster of cells is patently not a human being, and born child patently is.

Tony, you misunderstood my proposition (it wasn't very clear in retrospect). Many fertilised cells are ejected from the body very early in their development - a very early miscarriage. Is there any particular reason why you think very early miscarriages shouldn't have funerals and baptisms?

Those who advocate abortion haven't got a case, either morally or scientifically. They try to equate what they see as the valueless life of an unborn child with that of a worthless murderer facing the death penalty. I oppose abortion because I believe it is taking the life of an unborn child.

I support the death penalty because I believe murderers deserve to die, as an act of punishment, of social retribution. They kill one of our number and collectively as a society we should respond by putting them to death. That is justice. It seems though to me that 40 years of liberal consensus has dulled the wits of many people and they do not understand what justice is anymore. I challenge anyone to stand up here and say that Ian Brady or Ian huntly didn't deserve to die for their crimes. Capital punishment is about justice and meeting out punishment commensurate with the act.

Those who advocate abortion haven't got a case, either morally or scientifically.

Repeating it doesn't make it true.

You would put the wellbeing of a single cell above the wellbeing of a mother. I find that a ridiculous set of priorities. Are you incapable of distinguishing between a single cell – that does not have any consciousness, feeling or self-awareness – and a child?

I challenge anyone to stand up here and say that Ian Brady or Ian huntly didn't deserve to die for their crimes.

Killing them would do more harm than good. I was appalled that Saddam Hussein was put to death and that our government said so little against it.

A civilised society can tell the difference between violable and inviolable life. Once a life has become inviolable, that's how it remains.

Mark Fulford, I do agree that the Saddam trial was a political show-trial. It was always obvious that he would be found guilty because the Americans couldn't afford to keep such a figurehead alive. Even the nature of Saddam's execution with the baying crowd of political opponents as spectators, made a mockery of justice. On the subject of Huntly and Brady, there crimes were so calculated as to warrant nothing less than capital punishment. On the subject of conception and a cell, we seem to be going around in a loop here, but one more time I will repeat that a cell is a living entity, though not outwardly human in composition in its early stages, it will nontheless take human form. Consequently it has to be accepted that from the moment of conception, life has begun.

Tony, yes we are going in circles but, IMO, that's because you are totally missing the point. I'll try to rephrase:

Why does a fertilised egg (a single cell) have a right to life?

Mark Fulford, I don't like cul-de-sac's either. So I will answer your point with one sentence.

Why does a fertilised egg (a single cell) have a right to life?

Because it is the nucleus of life.

Passing Leftie,
You said: "Personhood is an abitrary line, and it's patently a grey area. Only religion will allow you to believe otherwise (it's one of a set of silly beliefs which require mental gymnastics to support). A cluster of cells is patently not a human being, and born child patently is."

So even though you cannot say when a foetus acquires human dignity, you think it is "mental gymnastics" to think that a human being with 100 cells is its body should be treated with the same amount of respect as a human being with 100,000,000 cells.

What morally relevant characteristics does the human with more cells have that the human with fewer cells does not?

An adult is nothing but a cluster of cells. It is just a much bigger cluster than a foetus is.


Passing Leftie: "Is there any particular reason why you think very early miscarriages shouldn't have funerals and baptisms?"

Funerals - What is the function of a funeral? To help with the grieving process. Can a mother who knew she was pregnant grieve for a foetus lost early in pregnancy. Of course she can. Many hospitals offer some form of funeral after a late miscarriage, why not after an early one?

Baptisms - No. I am a baptist, so I don't believe in baptising babies.

So even though you cannot say when a foetus acquires human dignity, you think it is "mental gymnastics" to think that a human being with 100 cells is its body should be treated with the same amount of respect as a human being with 100,000,000 cells

It does not "aquire human dignity" through some magical process; its personhood is entirely a legal and moral issue not determined by reference to some absolute authority.

I think two cells in a petri dish has significantly less human value than a legal person. Or do you disagree with that? If you had a choice between saving a petri dish with a blastocyst in it and a child standing next to it, which would you go for and why? Personally, I'd ignore a whole freezer full of blastocysts and go for the child.

Passing leftie: "If you had a choice between saving a petri dish with a blastocyst in it and a child standing next to it, which would you go for and why?"

Often I don't think these artificial choices are that informative.

If I really, really had to choose I would choose the child as it has a better long term survival chance.

This is the same criteria I would use if I had one organ for life-saving transplantation and two people who needed it. I would choose the one with the best chances of benefitting from it.

If I choose one person over another for organ transplant I would of course not be saying that the person I reject is not a human being. They are, and every possible effort should be made to save their life. Likewise every effort should be made to help embryos in petri dishes.

Personally I would like to see abortion, IVF, and embryonic stem cell research made illegal. They are share the same problem of casually discarding human life.

At the end of the day it's a freedom of choice issue. As conservatives i would imagine that (the majority of) you all support the notion of freedom of choice.

Those who are against abortion have absolutely no right at all to stop someone from having one.
They have the right to make their feelings known (often in a condecending manner), but that's as far as it goes.

There are many people here who hold strong views, on both sides of the spectrum.

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