Media’s views on the abortion vote

May 20, 2008

embryo1.jpgAs MPs prepare to vote on cutting the time limit for abortions, the Daily Mail says the current system “shames our nation”.

Foetuses are being aborted at a late stage in their development when they would have had a good chance of survival outside the womb, the Mail says in an editorial.

“An attack on women? Utter nonsense. The campaign to cut the time-limit is an attack on an everyday practice that shames our nation,” it says.

Rubbish, says Times columnist David Aaronovitch.

There is no significant evidence to support the claim that the foetus is more viable at up to 24 weeks than in 1967 or 1990 when the law was last changed.

“If viability isn’t the test – as it was claimed to be back in 1990 when the limit was reduced from 28 weeks – then the judgment must be that some folk simply don’t like abortions and wish to restrict them as much as possible,” he writes.

There is little doubt that the “temperature of the debate about abortion” has changed in recent times, says the Independent.

“The introduction of 4-D ultrasound techniques, showing foetuses of just 12 weeks with apparent facial expressions, has dramatised the debate,” it says in an editorial. “So have couples coming back from hospital and proudly showing off photos of their baby at its 12-week scan.”

But there is an even more pressing matter than the upper time limit for abortions, according to a Daily Telegraph editorial.

It says that only a small number of terminations take place at more than 22 weeks. However, there are 200,000 abortions in Britain each year at 12 weeks or less.

“Governments routinely launch campaigns telling us not to drink, smoke, take drugs or eat to excess; yet there is no sense of a similar effort being expended on advising women about the medical and psychological trauma of abortion,” the paper says.

Guardian columnist Jackie Ashley says the debates over abortion and research on embryos highlight a wider divide between the two main political parties.

She argues that there is a real difference between a progressive, pro-science Labour government and a backward-looking, “finger-wagging” Conservative opposition.

“If the reactionary arguments are successful, throwing out vital medical advances and criminalising frightened, often young, women, then it will mark a real turning point,” she writes.

“Whatever you think of the New Labour years, it has been a decade of social liberalism, when racism, homophobia and anti-science voodoo became steadily less respectable.”

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