Call me an old-fashioned feminist but isn’t that the real point of accepting the limit for what it is; a date that simply allows women time to make up their own minds about something deeply personal.
Your support or otherwise for abortion limits should simply be a matter of personal choice. Friends, colleagues and acquaintances can all agree to differ on term limits, just please don’t become “minister for women” and act immediately to control the bodies of over half the population.
Err, no. For the legal position is really rather different. And it should be rather different.
Sorry, usual clause here about how I know that I disagree with almost everyone on this subject. Get that over with.
At some point from before conception to the 18 th birthday party 18 years and 9 months later what was quite obviously not a human being has turned into something that quite obviously is, along with all of the rights (and yes, even duties) that that exalted status implies.
18 because you’re not allowed to be photographed with your baps out until that age. That’s pretty much the latest that anyone in the UK accrues any more rights. Plus the vote of course.
OK. OK, now where that magic line is crossed, where not human becomes human is a bit of a difficult argument. A Sorites problem in fact. And as it happens we say that different rights accrue at different times. By the time you’re one year out of the womb the right not to be killed is pretty much entirely established. Those who try it will be prosecuted for murder (or attempted) if they tried to kill you and manslaughter if they managed it while not quite meaning to and so on. Your rights against being killed are a little less between birth and 12 months as there is still infanticide to consider (mother of disturbed mind as a result of having given birth). The months leading up to birth are covered by the procuring of an illicit abortion.
Strangely, these rights seem not to accrue to those with a club foot but that’s they way it is.
At the other end, the meeting of the gametes to cause conception is not just recognised as being an entirely lawful act to perform it is actively subsidised by the government. As is the prevention of the conceptus from attaching itself to the uterine wall (“morning after” pill).
And then to the subject of debate. While it is supposed to require two doctors to say that something terrible will happen if the foetus is not scooped out in reality we’ve abortion on demand up to 14, 16 weeks. The rights of the mother most definitely trump those of that potential human being. Legally from 16 to 24 weeks the situation is the same. It does become slightly more difficult in practice to get an abortion here as there are fewer places that do them.
All of that is what the situation is. But we still have this Sorites problem. When is a human being a human being that has the right not to be killed? Yes, I know what many people say is the solution.
But it isn’t particularly a feminist argument, nor an anti-feminist one, to say that as medical skill and practice advances then this distinguishing point changes. As, in fact, it has done in the past, from 28 weeks to 24 weeks.
We are, as ever, trying to achieve the correct balance of rights. Yes, many disagree on what that correct balance is. But the abortion time limit isn’t about allowing women time to make up their minds. It’s about what is a human being that has a right not to be killed and what is not a human being that someone can decide to kill.