Friday, 6 February 2015

The Northern Ireland abortion consultation

There is a letter in today's Belfast Telegraph arguing for human rights for the unborn, in light of the Northern Ireland Department of Justice looking at extending the right to abortion to fatal foetal abnormalities and victims of rape.

Here's the thing there already is the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine which includes two very clear articles that address issues:

Article 14 – Non-selection of sex 
The use of techniques of medically assisted procreation shall not be allowed for the purpose of choosing a future child's sex, except where serious hereditary sex-related disease is to be avoided.

Article 18 – Research on embryos in vitro 

  1. Where the law allows research on embryos in vitro, it shall ensure adequate protection of the embryo. 
  2. The creation of human embryos for research purposes is prohibited.
Another document to consult is the UN Declaration on Human Rights. In Article 1 there is lays out what a human being actually is:

Article 1.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Keys words are born, reason and conscience. Surely that implies that our human existance only begins at the point of our birth.

But having said that the embryo articles in the biomedicine convention do give some protections even before then. Indeed Article 14 would seem to allow by extension to allow for the three parent medical assistance for overcoming mitochondrial diseases. It is not choosing gender specific related disease but still allowing avoidance of serious disease.

Someone in the comments used a very good analogy in relation to fatal foetal abnormalities, comparing it to life support machines. We allow families to turn off the life support of those whose brain is no longer conscious and able to support their life with the system. The same applies to fatal foetal abnormalities, their life support machine is the mother's womb and the tubes they are linked up to are the umbilical chord. We don't make families wait up to 9 months to turn off the life support machine, so why should this be different for fatal foetal abnormalities?

As for victims of rape turn again to the UN Declaration on Human Right

Article 5.

 No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

If you have been raped and are made to carry your pregnancy full term is that not cruel? Is that not degrading treatment? Think of all the times once the bump starts to show that a mother is asked "will the father be looking after you both" or "who's the father?". Aren't these also parts of a cruel punishment for a woman whose body has been invaded not just in the brief minutes of the assault but for the 9 months that cruel, often male, objectors insist she must live with the evidence of a low point in here existence.

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