Monday, January 28, 2008

The Other Side of the Abortion Debate

The row over the Science & Technology Committe Report (which LibDem MP Evan Harris amended 147 times!) on abortion continues. Tonight, Conservative MP Nadine Dorries is holding a meeting in the Grand Committee Room (6-8pm) to present evidence to MPs, which she says was withheld to the Committee. She has accused the Committee of refusing to take evidence from both sides of the argument and is seeking to redress the balance. Among the speakers will be Professor Sunny Anand, the world's leading authority on foetal pain. He's flown in from the USA (at his own expense) to speak and was also on TODAY this morning.

I'm going to try to get to the first part of the meeting before I head off to speak at a Tory Reform Group event with Polly Toynbee and Peter Oborne (Macmillan Room, Portcullis House 7-8.30pm) should anyone be interested.

WARNING: Whenever I mention the word 'abortion' on this blog it provokes a tirade of abuse in the comments (Israel or climate change have similar effects). Anyonymous comments hurling abuse will not be allowed through, so don't even bother.


Anonymous said...

Is this the same Nadine Dorries who is supporting the far-left, anti-life, Presidential candidate Hilary Rodham Clinton?

Man in a Shed said...

Polly Tonybee !

Tim said...

Odd that you should mention conduct in the abortion debate, as we all know someone who made false and personal accusations over that same Science & Technology Select Committee Report and then refused to apologise for them (or even discuss them) when they were proved to be false. Can you recall who that person was, Iain?

(Hint: Like you, she claims to be a blogger.)

Kelshall said...

Re: Anonymous 3.40

Reclassifying people who disagree with pro-life views (who are commonly referred to as pro-choice) as anti-life.

Clever. I see what you did there. You fox.

Newmania said...

Iain Dale said :Whenever I mention the word 'abortion' on this blog it provokes a tirade of abuse

Now why is that . Surely we all agree that a sperm of newly fertilised egg is not a person. Equally isn’t it clear that at some point, and before birth, that collection of cells becomes a human being . Its undeveloped attributes are not the point unless we are going to start aborting 2 month infants so its clear we should err on the side of caution.
Nadine was seeking a move to give small leeway between the last legal date and the earliest date of viability and that must be right without there being any emotional content or even any special religious belief. I think she is right and the ability to feel pain does seem to be present early
Women, until recently lived as slaves to childbirth and the taking control of their bodies has reverberations with the feminist movement that are understandable . Others have philosophical views of the sacredness of life that might attack those gains .Extreme pro lifers seem unhinged to me and I am not entirely faithless myself nor do I deny the existence of the soul . It is not the same thing as a few cells I `m clear on that .
If the moral arguments are clearly put then Nadines point of view is strong and she is right to point out the political bias leeched into the discussion. The evidence seems to suggest there is a low end cut off for viability close to where we are so there is no thin end of the wedge if the case is put in the right terms. I don1t think accusations of murder are helpful either , who is to know what life we destroy through inaction of innocent action , it’s a silly emotive way to put it. Can`t we all be sensible and agree Nadine is right,?

Mind you if anyone were to suggest Harriet Harman as a candidate for especially late destruction I would be all for it

Anonymous said...

So a man who has no published research on the subject of preterm foetal pain counts as the world's leading authority?

Newmania said...

Oh Iain would you punch that Polly on the nose for me theres a love !

David Boothroyd said...

Caution should be taken against accepting what Nadine Dorries says about abortion issues without checking. "Professor Sunny Anand" is most certainly not "the world's leading authority on foetal pain", as Unity exposed here. He is also a follower of the very interesting and inexplicably popular Indian guru Sathya Sai Baba, to the extent of apparently accepting Sai Baba's divinity.

PS I note Nadine Dorries has yet to apologise to Ben Goldacre. No doubt she will find the time to do so tonight.

Little Black Sambo said...

Rockfall: I think it is fair to say that Dr Death is anti-life, however. He is straight out of the Addams family.

Anonymous said...

Nadine's intelligence and tenacity are a great credit to her.

Anonymous said...

Looseing the abortion laws may turn out to be one of the few good things Labour does. I wish the pro-lifers (and anti-gay) members of the tory party would sod off (maybe form their own party, the 'Lets all go back to life in 1850 party') and we can have a modern centre-right party in Britain.

Anonymous said...

If Britain didn't swill 250,000 new lives down the tubes every year, they wouldn't have to import immigrants with beliefs inimicable to democracy to work in the country.

Although I feel strongly emotionally about this issue, I have only addressed the practicalities in this post.

Anonymous said...

When did people I(male and female) stop taking responsibility for their actions?

Everyone today knows how pregnancy starts so if you do not want a child why not prevent it in the first place? Contraception is a lot less punishing to the female body than abortion and does not have after effects
Odd that thousands of babies are murdered and yet the NHS is expected to fork out for abortions and Fertitily treatment.

Apart from any morality it is simply illogical.

Machiavelli's Understudy said...

Polly Tonybee !

Man in a Shed... You forgot to end your sentence with "... is the only argument needed in support of abortion".

It might even have a unifying effect on all sides of the debate...

AloneMan said...

Abortion + Polly Toynbee + Tory Reform Group all in the same post.
I think I'll take cover...

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Abortion is murder. Sadly, a lot of people on the left get more frenzied about protecting foxes and fluffy hamsters than they do unborn people.

It kind of demonstrates where their moral compass is.

Johnny Norfolk said...

I think with modern bith control methods, all these late abortions are sickening. Time has moved on and we should be reducing the time when they are allowed.

Anonymous said...

"The Other Side of the Abortion Debate "

Prolly Toynbee ?

I fort 'is was all about Hain !

Anonymous said...

Simon 9999 - How is 'pro-life' connected to anti-gay?

Why are you presenting two wildly different issues as being part of one package? Because it's part of your personal anti-religious agenda, perhaps? You people are so transparent.

I am anti-abortion and at the same time I am utterly indifferent about whether someone was born gay. The two issues have no connection in any way.

Anonymous said...

Could I just say, Iain, that when it comes hurling abuse abortion, Israel and climate change are one thing (or perhaps they are three things)but Polly Toynbee is quite another.

Paddy Briggs said...

I am a big fan of both Polly Toynbee and Peter Oborne... what does that make me?

Intelligent and non-judgemental I would say! But then I have always suffered for my modesty….

Anonymous said...


I am gay and pro-life. Which party do you think I should join?

Anonymous said...

Banning abortion is fine... long as you have a feasible plan what to do with all the unwanted children who either will be orphaned straight away or grow into unloved feral kids later on. Also, you better have a plan in place to deal with the disabled kids who normally would have been aborted. A lot of them would require 24/7 care, and as stands, we don't have enough resources to look after our existing disabled kids. If you dump those kids onto parents who cannot manage looking after them, be prepared to hear horror stories of neglect later on.

The crime rate in the US dropped as soon as abortion numbers filtered down -- that is because people who want kids don't abort, and those who are forced to be parents, don't care about the kids they didn't want in the first place. The same mechanism also works here -- abortion was legalised because it's not 'quantity' that we need, but quality -- that is, we need kids who are loved and wanted by their parents, not waifs who end up neglected and hated. So, plan for lots of children's home places, and consider the sad fact that 90% of kids that come out of state institutions turn to prostitution and drugs -- so, also plan more rehabs and also, more crime victim support, plus NHS, police and court resources for the unlucky ones who get hurt by them. And this is the very short list of bad consequences!

Why don't you people instead discuss how to make people want to have kids?

Why not ponder and wonder why is it that people like me can't be asked to take part in the insane rat race that parenthood is nowadays? I would make a great mother, but to be frank with you, I like my life too much to get involved into the expensive and stressful mess that parenthood has degenerated to in the UK.

Finally, given that a lot of young people are priced out of the housing market and often already in more debt than they can repay in time to afford a normal family life, where do you suppose all those resulting children live?

So even if there is significant foetal pain, that is nothing against the pain that is inflicted on the kids and everyone else if they are unwanted and unloved by their parents.

And no, you won't get as many good adoptive parents, but you'll have plenty of Fagins making money out of strays again.

If the conservatives had any sense, they would have long ago make parenthood a privilege and not a right that you can inflict on society.

Chris Paul said...

Iain, not abuse. But please stop humouring the phantom fibber of Mid Beds. Particularly on this issue. But also on her heartstrings stuff about being born in a slum next door to Ringo and being impoverished by being an MP and all that nonsense. Oh and being the Princess of the blogs - that was a scam too.

Tim said...

No answer, I see. Would you like some help, Iain?

OK, the same person claimed that they were suddenly refusing all comments on their website not because they were avoiding specific questions, but because they didn't have time for *any* feedback. They then later claimed that comments were stopped because of 'a torrent of abuse'. This, BTW, was months ago. Comments have yet to be reinstated, so the mystery person is either really busy or has to put up with a lot of abuse.

Any guesses yet, Iain?

Anonymous said...

Iain, you write:

"WARNING: Whenever I mention the word 'abortion' on this blog it provokes a tirade of abuse in the comments (Israel or climate change have similar effects)."

I'm wondering if there might be a common denominator. I can't see one but somebody else might be able to.

Are there any other topics that stir up similar intense emotion?

Geezer said...

"I am a big fan of both Polly Toynbee and Peter Oborne... what does that make me?"

Liking those two, doesn't necessarily make you one, but liking Ken Livingslime does, I'll give you a clue, it begins with C...

Unsworth said...

@ Paddy Briggs

"But then I have always suffered for my modesty…."

Indeed, and so have we...

Anonymous said...

What are the recommendations going to be? Is the time limit coming down to 20 weeks?

Anonymous said...

Surely the debate is between those of an authoritarian disposition and those who are more libertarian? I can't see how it has anything to do with pro-life or pro-choice as I'm both!

I find the idea of abortion barbaric and would never get one myself but I don't seek to impose my views on other people who may wish to get an abortion, because I'm not some authoritarian Stalin-wannabe.

It's also interesting to note that those who classify themselves as pro-life tend to forget that label when it comes to the death penalty and suddenly come over all pro-death.

Anonymous said...

Last time I checked, Ms Dorries hadn't apologised to (or even addressed the criticism) of the Guardian's Dr Ben Goldacre (see for example).

I am not entirely without sympathy for Nadine's views here, but her scientific credibility is virtually zero, as far as I am concerned.

Anonymous said...

Because it's part of your personal anti-religious agenda, perhaps? You people are so transparent.

what if you're transparent about your anti-religious agenda? I mean, it's philosophically equivalent to being anti-socialist.

Newmania said...

I`m rather fascinated that someone should equate a pro life stance with being anti gay. I am also somewhat pro life but also against any sort of prejudice or victimisation of gays

I wonder what other views go into the regressive box

Anonymous said...

The problem with abortion - as I see it - is that nobody has the faintest understanding what consciousness is and can't therefore make a truthful statement about when pain is felt. I've read every book published on the subject in the past 20 years and am in a good position to make this statement.

The latest termination date should be somewhere between the structural and behavioral sufficiency. That is between the date the nervous system is structurally (i.e nervous system) capable of feeling pain and behaviorally exhibits pain (i.e. pain reaction).

I spent a few hours reading the medical literature recently and understood this range to between 12 and 16 weeks. The current limit of 20 weeks is based on wildly optimism assumptions that the baby does not feel pain.

I personally don't really care about the issue, but find the psychology of "optimistic assumption" very curious.

Nich Starling said...

I am always wary of someone who claims to be an expert in something they can have no expertise in.

For example, I cannot lecture on the pain of childbirth because it is something I cannot experience, likewise a woman doe snot know just how painful taking a freekick full on in the testicles actually is. So when someone says they are the "worlds leading expert on foetal pain", I ask how does he know ?

Anonymous said...

The so called "world's leading expert on foetal pain" has not one (i'll repeat that, just so we are all clear - NOT ONE) peer-reviewed published article on foetal pain. How, exactly, does this make him the world's leading expert.

Dorries, if she had anything about her, would be making a public apology to Dr Ben Goldacre for the way she behaved over the SciTech committee report.

I note today, Iain, no mention of the difficulties over Conway! I'd say he committed a major fraud (allegedly), but that's just my reading of it.

Anonymous said...

So nothing yet on Conway, Guido isn't shy, PB and Conhome lively, and as for abortion Boris must support it!

C'mon Iain lets have your views.
Do you think someone who opposes abortion a Catholic say, can vote for Boris?

Bet you won't have the guts to put up this post.

Anonymous said...

Abortions are a sad affair, I speak from experience.

But I think the loss of human life in Kenya and other parts of Africa is a real tragedy, and one that we should all be exercising ourselves about far more than abortion/contraception/homosexuality.

Anonymous said...

[9:26] Granted. But conflating two totally different issues - abortion-on-demand and people born gay - and pretending to believe that someone who is against one is necessarily against the other is awfully childish and just doesn't stand up as an argument.

As Newmania notes: "I wonder what other views go into the regressive box."


[10:47] - should all be exercising ourselves about far more than abortion/contraception/homosexuality.

I don't like this confusion of two utterly separate issues. In fact, I do not see that some people being born gay is an issue at all. There is no choice involved. There is a choice in destroying a human life after it does, indeed, become human.

Anonymous said...

{10:47} - I also disagree with this trite statement: I think the loss of human life in Kenya and other parts of Africa is a real tragedy, and one that we should all be exercising ourselves about far more.

Why? Are we the parents of Africa? Are they too stupid to police themselves? Don't you think your comment was rather patronising? In any event, their problems have absolutely nothing to do with us. Perhaps they should ask for help from the soft-hearted and cuddly Chinese who are buying up their continent little by little. Leave us alone!

Anonymous said...

I went to the meeting. It was excellent. Interesting to note that Sunny Anand was not pro-life or pro-choice. He simply said that as a fetus can feel pain, it should be given pain killers before the abortion takes place(if you are squirmish do not read on) as crushing limbs would be painful.
Nadine was something else, she really is a very special person. She doesn't give a toss what negative comments are thrown at her. If only all MPs had her guts and tenacity. She looked tired though. she should be pleased, it was an excellent evening.

Tim said...

OK, Iain, let me help you out here... it was Nadine Dorries who made false accusations surrounding this same Science & Technology Committee Report, and - as has been noted by others - she still hasn't admitted her mistake and/or apologised to the main victim of her smears, Dr Ben Goldacre.

Instead, she chose to close the debate and play the victim!

But for some strange reason, you think this behaviour is acceptable and you continue to peddle her nonsense.

Tim said...

Norfolk blogger said: "I am always wary of someone who claims to be an expert in something they can have no expertise in."

How about someone who gives lectures on something they claim* to have no expertise in?

(*Though not to people requesting the lecture, obviously.)

Tristan said...

Abortion really is a tricky question.

Personally I think that a woman should have the right to have an abortion but it should be incumbent upon her to seek somebody willing to keep the foetus/child alive.

That way, if a foetus is viable, the abortion can still go ahead, but anyone wishing to care for the foetus can adopt it and care for it. As medical technology advances, the age at which this will be possible will decrease, leading to less loss of life and suffering.

It also removes this issue from the political realm and lets abortion critics put their money and effort where their mouth is rather than seeking to use the coercive political means.

Anonymous said...

Sunny Anand was great last night. And the claims above that he has no peer-reviewed papers are just ludicrous.

How about 'Fetal Pain?' in Pain Clinical Updates from the International Association for the Study of Pain 2006; 14(2)? This was a handout at the meeting last night.

Just go to and type in 'Anand KJS pain' and it will make your head spin - there are dozens of peer-reviewed papers there by him.

Sure, even if fetuses feel pain you can give anaesthetic before an abortion, but surely the point of Anand's research (and the incredible 3D realtime ultrasounds shown also by Stuart Campbell last night) is that fetuses at 20-24 weeks and before are not just blobs of cells - they are little people that are starting to do many of the things that bigger people do - and this needs to be heard amongst the tirade of 'a woman's right to choose', which is very important, but not all-important, women's rights have to be weighed against the rights of the little person inside.

David Boothroyd said...

"Pain: Clinical Updates" is a newsletter aimed at clinicials. It is not a clinically reviewed journal of research.

David Boothroyd said...

'Clinicials' should read 'clinicians'.

Anonymous said...

You Know it's funny, Jack Straw Onc said 'the British are not worth saving as a race'.

We have been 'allowed' to Abort 6 Million British Babies, yet we are told we need More People, these Babies, who whould have by now been having children of their Own.
are being replaced by Mass Mass Immigration which we have no say in.
If I were a Conspiracist I'd say that this was deliberate Genocide of the British People by Our Own Pro EU Socialist Comunist Govt. No. 1

Anonymous said...

Whether or not we can decide if Feoetus can feel pain (and what if we are wrong) Abortion is Barbaric, 6 Million to date, is this really happening in Great Britain.

Caution Graphic Images,