lavendersparkle: (Labservative)
Lots of people on my Facebook feed are complaining about Theresa May being made minister for women and equality. Part of this complaint seems quite valid, in that she voted against gay rights legislation in the past. I think part of this problem stems from the fact that women, queers, talking animals etc. are all lumped into one portfolio. As there are more openly women people than there are openly gay people, it would not be politic to fill the role with a gay man. This means that the Conservatives were stuck trying to find a woman they were willing to give another cabinet position to to fill the role. If you restrict that to someone who has a good record on LGBT rights you've got pretty slim pickings. According to a quick skim of The Public Whip, the only female Conservative MPs with vaguely good records on gay rights votes are Theresa Villiers and Eleanor Laing.

The thing which is annoying me, however, is that one of the things being held against Theresa May as Equalities Minister is that she voted to reduce the gestational age at which abortions could be performed upon foetuses who are not disabled and do not pose a serious risk to their mother's health, to 22 weeks. This annoys me for several reasons.

Firstly, abortion has nothing to do with the equalities minister. Changes in the legality of abortion are always free votes and the everyday administration to do with the availability of abortion is the responsibility of the minister for health. So her views on abortion in themselves have nothing to do with how she will execute her role as equalities minister.

Secondly, a couple of people seem to be completely conflating LGBT issues with abortion, which is odd because I'd image queer people tend to have a below average demand for abortions. There seems to be an assumption that if you're in favour of gay rights you must be in favour of liberal laws do with abortion. Same sex marriage is legally recognising the union between to people for purposes of immigration, financial claims, tax status, next of kin rights etc. Abortion is killing humans. Not that similar. There are lots of queer anti-abortion people and we get pissed off when people lump it all together.

Thirdly, voting for the gestational age at which abortions could be performed upon foetuses who are not disabled and do not pose a serious risk to their mother's health, to 22 weeks. Doesn't strike me as that great a shibboleth of someone's feminist credentials. Even if the vote had passed and the limit been lowered to 22 weeks, the UK would have been almost the only country in Europe where it is legal to kill a foetus at 22 weeks on purely social grounds. What is going on in the world when we declare a politician unfit to represent women because she wanted to lower the abortion limit so that it would be only 4 rather than 6 weeks later than it currently is in Sweden?
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
If I had to name the two things which I think are the issues I think of as most important they would be abortion and climate change. That might seem like a slightly odd combination but I think that they are two biggest issues facing our species. Abortion kills more than 46 million unborn humans every year and thousands of women. That's about one in four known pregnancies worldwide. Climate change is already killing people and, depending upon how we act to counter it and how it pans out it is likely to kill a lot more people and cause major irreversible changes to our way of lives.

The case for pro-lifers to be concerned about climate change is clear. Climate change kills people; it will kill more people. I think the kind of people who are concerned about the unborn are likely to also be concerned about the life chances of those people when they grow up.

Being pro-life might seem more antithetical to environmentalism but this doesn't have to be the case. Organisations such as the Optimal Population Trust make out that the best way to combat all environmental problems would be to reduce the human population but as George Monbiot points out that this isn't necessarily so. For the linkphobic the gist of his argument goes as follows. Population growth isn't what's driving increases in emissions of climate change gases. World economic growth far outstrips world population growth indicating that the thing leading to greater exploitation of the Earth's resources is higher per capita consumption, not more capitas. Even food shortages aren't caused by increases in human population, as the supply of food has outstripped the increase in population. Food shortages have been caused by higher per capita demand for meat, which is a much more resource hungry food stuff.

On top of that, global population growth is likely to end in the next century all by itself. As countries get richer they tend to go though an upside down U in terms of population growth. Initially the extra resources contribute towards such terrible things as reduced infant mortality, extermination of contagious diseases etc. which means that many more people survive to have children of their own. Then as the economic need to have children are replaced by financial instruments such as pensions and insurance, as the need to educate children makes a smaller family a better bet, as cultural norms about appropriate family size change, people tend to have fewer children. Already almost all more developed countries, plus a lot of poorer countries, have below replacement levels of fertility. Even the US is only at about replacement level. The UN estimates that the world population isn't going to make it much above 10 billion before it starts falling.

Here, however, is the kicker: where people have access to contraception, abortion doesn't lower fertility rates. This can seem counter-intuitive as surely more babies aborted means fewer babies born but that fails to take into account that pregnancy decisions effect future conception decisions. In developed countries the typical woman having an abortion is in her late teens or early twenties, before she's started family. A baby at this stage may well be compensated for by fewer children later.

Another thing which most people don't pay enough attention to is that the things which reduce average fertility rates tend to also reduce the rate of abortion. Access to contraception reduces both average fertility rates and the abortion rate. So does improving women's autonomy to decide when and how to be sexually active. Decreasing infant mortality eventually reduces fertility rates. By contrast, the draconian Chinese one child policy may have had a relative small effect upon fertility for the huge cost of death, misery and human rights abuse, because fertility rates were already falling b themselves before it was implemented.

On a more personal level, I think that one of the things which put me off engaging with climate change is a general disapproval among environmentalists toward breeding, as I would like to have a above replacement levels of fertility. There seem to be a lot of people about who think that no-one should have more than two children, but I don't think that we need to all have the same number of children. I know quite a lot of people who never want to have children, if we want to keep our average fertility rate below replacement levels, we can do that with childfree people and people with one and two child families and the increasingly rare three, four or more child families.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
Leaving aside the issue of whether some forms of contraception have post-fertilisation effects, there is a debate about whether contraception makes people more or less likely to have abortions.

I think the arguments go something like this. Anti-contraception pro-lifers* claim that contraception encourages people to be in denial about the connection between sex and pregnancy. This means that people are more likely to have sex in situations where they definitely don't want to get pregnant and if they do get pregnant, they're more likely to view it as a 'mistake' which should be 'corrected' by abortion. This may seem far fetched, but there is evidence from other areas of life that sometimes actions to improve the safety are outweighed by an increase in risk taking. I don't wear a cycle helmet, in part because there is some evidence that they don't improve your overall safety as drivers drive more dangerously around cyclists wearing helmets because they aren't viewed as as vulnerable.

The pro-contraceptive argument is that, even if people are more likely to have an abortion if they get pregnant, the decrease in the number of unplanned pregnancies when people use contraception are so high that they reduce the number of abortions overall.

So, I think this needs to be looked at empirically. I think being a social scientists can help one make more sense of the correlation and causation. One thing said by anti-contraception advocates is that a large proportion of the women who have abortions were using contraception whereas very few were practising NFP, FAM or LAM. I don't think that this correlation results in a causation. Most people who practice NFP are devout Roman Catholics and they'd be pretty unlikely to have an abortion. So in this case, rather than the use of contraception causing abortion it's more that the lack of contraceptive use and the lack of abortion are both caused by the Roman Catholicism.

A pro-contraception argument is that among developed countries with legal abortion, the countries with the lowest abortion rates are the ones where contraception is most easily available and sex education is most comprehensive, such as the Netherlands. A contrasting argument is that abortion rates have risen in England and the US, even as contraceptive availability has increased.

Thinking about this I'm drawn toward a tentative conclusion. I think that ceteris paribus, more access to contraception reduces the number of abortions, because it dramatically reduces the number of unplanned pregnancies. However, I wonder whether the availability of convenient contraception has led to changes in cultural attitudes to sex and children, which in turn makes people more likely to have abortion because they have more sex and are less willing to accept unplanned children.

*This ignores other arguments against contraception just that they cause more abortions.
**This ignores wider reproductive justice issues.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
No, it's not a spoof and yes, I'm sad I missed it. I think I have a plan for next year's Pro-Life Soc squash.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
So, I'm now the president of pro-life Soc.

I'm going to arrange a hand over meeting with the old president and I think it will be a good idea to have an exec meeting with all of the old and new committee to work ot a plan of action for the future. I don't think that there's much point trying to get anything organised for this term because there's not much time and generally people don't like going to things during exam term. It might be a good idea to have a social in May Week.

My plan is that we should have the Michealmas term card organised in time to print a term card to give out in the freshers fair. I'd like for us to have at least four events during the term. As a general approach I want us to have more events which present a pro-life position which is different to the usual (conservative Catholic) view. This isn't because there's anything wrong with conservative Catholics but because we should already have them on board. I want to hold events that will reach out to people who don't fit the mould of the 'usual suspects' and offer them arguments which will convince them. I also want to concentrate more on ethics than law, because I think that we're on stronger ground there, and because I think that the most valuable effect we might be capable of having would be to save lives by convincing students to adopt a personal pro-life ethic. I also don't think that abortion can or should be criminalised until demand for it has effectively been abolished due to societal changes.

I have some ideas for events from brain storming:
Invite Angela Kennedy, a Pro-life Socialist Feminist, to speak to us and advertise it through the socialist groups and the Labour club.
Contact the party political societies about having a joint event with one of their pro-life MPs.
Have some kind of speaker event which focuses on the ablism in mainstream attitudes to start and end of life attitudes.
Invite women who had babies whilst at university to come and speak about their experience, associated with that I'd like to produce a leaflet about how to deal with being pregnant as a Cambridge student (procedures etc)
We could have some kind of foetal development stall on the Sidgewick site
So kind of fundraiser for a pregnancy support charity such as the Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative

So, do you have any ideas of events and speakers which we could have?
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
OK, maybe not quite evilitude, if I'm being fair I'd say more things that make me have an involuntary physical reaction at someone saying something which I think is so wrong. This morning, on Radio 4, Polly Toynbee said that it was a good thing that more teenagers were having abortions. She said it in the context of the news that the rate of teenage pregnancies has gone up slightly from last year. I think her words were something like "on the plus side the rate of teenage births has gone down because more teenagers are catching their pregnancies early enough to choose to have a termination."

Polly Toynbee perplexes me because, on the surface we're both leftie feminists yet we don't seem to agree on anything. I guess it's because our approaches a based on really different bases. My politics are based upon the idea that all humans are of value and should be enabled to have the best lives they can lead. Polly Toynbee doesn't extend her concern to unborn humans and generally feels that it would be better if some types of humans (those with prenatally diagnosable disabilities) should not exist. Which sort of brings us onto another difference between us. I value difference. I want a world in which people are allowed to be really different. This is partly self-serving because I am quite different and want to be allowed to continue my life this way. It is also because I think that diversity, of opinions and lifestyles as well as race and sexuality, adds to the richness of life and our understanding of the world. I get the impression that Polly Toynbee wants everyone to be like her. She seems to think that anyone who isn't like her just needs to be educated, usually through spending three years at university, and they will become good members of the chattering classes like her. It doesn't seem to occur to her that maybe some people don't want to go to university because they don't value that kind of education and it doesn't feature in their chosen life plan, and that that decision might be just as valid as the ones made by nice middle class teenagers going off to study English for three years.

From that perspective, I can see why she wouldn't share my sadness at more teenagers killing their children to better conform to the ideals of the ruling classes.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
Another thing that gets me down at pro-life events is that they are dominated by conservative Catholics. I've nothing against conservative Catholics, but spending a whole evening as a minority of one is tiring. Sometimes I get the urge to just leave them to it and let pro-life soc become a subgroup of Fisher House where people can preach to the choir about the evils of contraception and gay adoption. Over dinner there was an animated discussion about This case of some grandparents who were refused custody because they were 'too old' and whose grandchildren were instead adopted by a gay couple. Now, I think that, if the details of the story are correct, it shows the great problem of social services not taking into account that keeping children within their extended family or with friends of their family, is usually better than adoption by strangers. This story would be just as much a travesty if the kids had been adopted by the Brady Bunch. However, my comrades in the cause of life concentrated on the gay aspect and the 'PC gone mad' aspect of allowing two men to adopt.

I know queer pro-lifers. I know people who were raised by queer parents. I want them in our pro-life soc tent. We're not going to change any minds if pro-life soc is the place you go to let off steam agreeing with the homophobic story you read in the Daily Mail. Why don't they just start a homophobic soc and let me get on with winning people around to pro-life feminism.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
Last night CU Pro-Life Soc had our first proper event pretty much in living memory. We had the education officer from SPUC come to speak to us and a formal after. I don't think the speaker was very good. She normally speaks in schools and if she had been speaking to a crowd which wasn't already convinced she would have been ripped to shreds.

Among the errors in her talk were:
- She said that preventing implantation was an abortificient effect.
- She claimed that all non-barrier methods of contraception act in the same way.
- She said that chemical contraception and IVF was not pro-life because some embryos don't implant without mentioning that some embryos don't implant even when a fertile woman is trying to conceive. By the logic she was using to condemn IVF, it would also be immoral to try to conceive in any way.
- She referred to Planned Parenthood gift vouchers as if they were just for abortions.
- She claimed that Russia had had a 'no abortion day'. I fact Ulyanovsk province had a 'conceive a patriot' day, which was timed to be nine months before Day of Russia, and was part of an effort to encourage white Russians to breed as part of the demographic panic. This article in Slate shows some of the decidedly anti-life side of the initiative.

I resisted contradicting her until she mentioned the 'conceive a patriot' day as if it were a pro-life initiative. She'd come a long way to speak to us and was just not well prepared for the audience.

One of the best things in the talk was a video from the Silent No More campaign. I showed women speaking about why they had abortions and went on to regret them. One of the stories which really struck me was a woman who had an abortion even though she would have liked to have had a baby, because she was at Sandhurst and the British army at the time had an illegal policy of automatically dismissing pregnant servicewomen so she would have been left unemployed and homeless if they even found out about the pregnancy.

I think I'll try to organise some speakers who'll be better at coping with a Cambridge audience. It would be great to bring a speaker i who might have a hope of changing some minds.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
I've noticed a technique used both by campaigners against abortion and campaigners for greater abortion choice. I think it might best be described as the crowbar method, although I've never used a crowbar so I may have picked the wrong metaphor. Basically how it works is you find a crack in the person you're addressing, stick your argument into it and them try to lever the person into your position. The crack is an example which the audience is likely to agree with them about.

If the speaker is anti-abortion the example will be something like a feckless rich women whose on her twelfth third trimester abortion because she's just got an invite to a fun party and the bump won't go with the dress she wants to wear. If the speaker is pro-abortion-choice the example will be something like a 10 year old whose been raped by her father and the pregnancy will kill her and the embryo has a terrible disorder which will lead to it having a short painful life and she's going to try to perform a DIY abortion with a rusty can opener if she can't get one.

Most people will agree with the speaker about the ethics of each abortion. Then comes the slight of hand disguised as logic. Once you've gained their agreement on your hypothetical/mythical example you then claim that they must apply the same judgement to all abortions otherwise they're a hypocrite. If the speaker is anti-abortion they will ask why you think the life of a foetus should depend upon the circumstances into which she is conceived. Why should a life be less valued because her mother is ill or poor or a rape survivor? If the the speaker is pro-abortion-choice they will accuse you of being sanctimonious for judging which women are worthy of having abortion. They will accuse you of being a misogynist for dividing women into those deserving of an abortion and those to be punished with a pregnancy. If you agree with rape exceptions then you're only punishing women for having sex and if you don't agree with rape exceptions you're a monster.

Of course, this argument doesn't work. Well it might beat some people into submission but it doesn't work logically. Life is complicated and unfair. I generally think that the best we can do is muddle through trying to make the best of it. Few ethical issues are a matter of absolutes. Different ethical aims conflict and compete in many circumstances and this means that the same action may be ethical in some circumstances and not in others. I think that it is generally wrong to steal but in some circumstances it is justifiable, for example I don't see much wrong with someone caught up in hurricane Katrina nabbing some essentials from a flooded shop. I think that killing is wrong but I accept that there are circumstances where its better to kill someone if it's the only way to stop them killing others. It's not hypocrisy to think that the abortion is justifiable sometimes and not other times, it's nuance and it's almost impossible to navigate life without it.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
Four things which I have read or heard recently have been swirling around in my mind and crystallising as a bold representation about how our society views disability.

The first was this post on Dave Hingsburger's blog. It's about a woman who spoke to him about her daughter who had recently died.

Extract )

The second is another post on Dave Hingsburger's blog about a conversation he had with a soldier about what it's like to be disabled.

Extract )

The third was the news story about Daniel James, a 23 year old who went to Switzerland to end his life after becoming paralysed from a rugby accident.

The forth was waking up to hear Professor David Jones arguing that foetuses with disabilities should receive the same legal protection as foetuses who haven't been diagnosed with disabilities, on the Today program.

All of these stories strike me as examples of the lack of value we place upon the lives of people with disabilities. The death of a child with Down's Syndrome is treated as less of a tragedy than her birth. Soldiers fear disability more than death. A young man actually chooses death over living with disability. UK law allows the killing of viable foetuses with disabilities. The message is repeated: compared to life with a disability, it's better to have no life at all.

I've noticed that this idea is particularly strong in coverage of the case of Daniel James. Most discussion has centred upon the rights of wrongs of assisted suicide and whether it should be legal. Everyone seems to assume that being suicidal is a natural, normal and sane response to being disabled. If you're able bodied, being suicidal is generally seen as indicating that you have a mental illness, but the same doesn't seem to apply to people with disabilities. I can't imagine a doctor telling someone who was stuck in a dead end job and been left by their partner that their wish to end their own life is entirely reasonable; why is it reasonable when the cause of suffering is a disability? I can't help but wonder whether psychiatric care, counselling and the advocacy of people who don't view their disability as a fate worse than death would have made him see his life as worth living. Suicidal urges are a symptom of post traumatic stress disorder. Was he treated for it? Could that have been a factor in his suicide? He died a year and a half after his accident. That's not a very long time to adjust to such a big change. It took me about that long to recover from a serious relationship break up. I can't help but think that maybe if he had lived in a society which valued the lives of people with disabilities he might have been alive today and been glad of it.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
As I am now occupying an official position as an evil anti-choicer in the university establishment I decided to take a look at the NUS position on this issue.

According to it's website, "this year we'll be focusing on NUS' pro-choice stance as well as helping student parents" (don't you just love the way that in the mind of the NUS' women's officer improving the position of student parents is separate from being pro-choice).

We look further, apparently, 'pro-choice' has been a priority of the Women's campaign for the past three years. They mention 'reproductive rights' but all of these phrases actually mean abortion. Remember, the situation of parenting students (they don't mention pregnant students) is separate in their mind from 'reproductive rights' or 'pro-choice'. When you click on Women's Campaigns you get through to a page about how NUS Women's campaign is campaigning on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. As far as I can tell, that's the only NUS Women's Campaign at the moment, and judging from the pictures it seems that the entire of NUS Women's Campaign have simply become foot soldiers for the organisation Abortion Rights.

There's also a wonderfully misleading line: "Anti-abortion MPs are set to restrict women’s abortion rights when the Bill is voted on at its decisive Report Stage, despite eighty-three per cent of people supporting a woman’s right to choose." Firstly, it's not very accurate to describe all of the MPs who supported amendments to restrict abortion as 'anti-abortion'. Many MPs supported some measures but not others, many MPs who supported the reduction to 22 or 20 weeks would not describe themselves as anti-abortion. Fr example, David Steel supported a reduction to 22 weeks and amendments to reduce the limit to 20 weeks had much more support than the ones reducing the limit to 12 weeks. The more misleading aspect of the sentence is the statistic "eighty-three per cent of people support a woman's right to choose". Both anti-abortion and pro-abortion-choice campaigners can have a lot of fun with public opinion polls because most people think that abortion should be legal in some circumstances and illegal in others. This means that the same people appear to be anti-abortion or pro-abortion-choice, depending on what you ask them. There was even a poll in the US which found that it made a significant difference whether people were asked whether abortion should be a choice between "a woman and her doctor' or between "a woman, her doctor and her G@d". Anyway, I would think that when using statistics to support your position on a specific law change it's more honest to quote statistics for support to that law change. NUS Women's Campaign don't site where they got their 83% from so I can't dissect that particular poll, but a YouGov poll found that only 35% of people supported the current limit, 48% supported reducing the limit to 20 weeks and 8% supported a total ban. Assuming the total ban supporters would be willing to pragmatically support a limit reduction, that would result in a majority in favour of the legal change Abortion Rights NUS Women's Campaign oppose.

Oh, I nearly forgot, the Women's Campaign did something about student parents, didn't they. They say "The second part of the year will be spent focussing on student parents. NUS’ Women’s Campaign, along with our colleagues in the Welfare Campaign, is researching the subject to provide evidence and case studies on how student parents are treated and whether post-16 education is parent-friendly." So, after three and a half years on abortion they're going to spend a bit of time finding out "whether post-16 education is parent-friendly". They don't say that they're going to actually do anything about it. *headdesk*

It's a common enough story. A student representation organisation appropriated by an organisation which doesn't represent the views of the majority of its members. It's just a shame that all the resources which could be used to improve the live of female students is being used on this.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
I've realised some big problems which get in the way of trying to explain an anti-abortion stance in a mainstream feminist space.

I first is that most mainstream feminists have completely dehumanised foetuses* to the extent that many of them actually cannot comprehend the idea that anyone could not dehumanise foetuses. Sometimes this isn't immediately apparent because they'll say that their argument doesn't hinge on the 'personhood'** of the foetus because no-one should be forced to use their physical resources to support someone else. However, when you try to discuss the dehumanising of foetuses with reference of other groups of humans who are dehumanised you get called racist/sexist/ablist because the only way a severely disabled person could have the same inherent worth as a foetus would be by the severely disabled person being subhuman. It's a pity, because I think that feminist environments might be really good places to discuss the intersectionality which not only means that black/female/disabled foetuses are more likely to be aborted, but that the legal protection of those foetuses depends upon their disabilities.

This also comes up if you try to explain why "Don't like abortion, don't have one" is a stupid argument. If one excepts a sort of liberal 'live and let live' attitude, then the only excuse for trying to change other people's behaviour is to stop them harming third parties. If you can't comprehend foetuses being third persons then people's objections to abortion are reduced to 'squeamishness' and dismissed. And again, if you try to explain with reference to other situations in which people advocate for dehumanised groups you're accused of being sexist/racist/ablist because the only way you could possibly see those struggles as in any way equivalent would be to minimise the importance of those struggles.

When I say "X is unethical" there are usually caveats. As I see it there are three main caveats. The first is that X is the lesser of two evils in some circumstances. If we're talking about murder of born humans, I think it's justifiable in self defence and in the defence of others. Similarly, there are some circumstances in which I don't think that X is the lesser of two evils, but I also think you can't really blame someone for deciding to do X in the circumstances. People in abusive relationships who kill their abuser in his sleep because they genuinely think it's the only way to escape. Mothers who kill their babies due to post-natal oppression. In these cases the perpetrator seems to be more of a victim and it is our job to work out how we let it happen and how we can stop it happening again. The third caveat is that we are all capable of doing horrific terrible things and that does not make us bad, worthless people. I get the impression that religious people are a bit better at this, probably because recite liturgy with sentiments to the effect of "I know that there is no excuse for what we have done, we are all evil sinners, we all deserve to be smooshed and it is only by your ridiculous mercy that we are not smooshed." Once you see yourself as a horrible sinner you gain a bit more compassion for the people society singles out as horrible sinners.

So when I say that I think abortion is unethical, no, that doesn't include ectopic pregnancies, no, that doesn't mean I blame women who have abortions under threat of poverty and violence, no, it doesn't mean I feel morally superior to women who have abortions in circumstances I think don't justify them. It means that I think we should work to reduce the number of abortions and whilst, just as with anti-rape campaigns, not doing the Bad Thing yourself should be a central part of that, it also requires challenging the circumstances and attitudes which lead to abortions.

*I'm just going to foetus as shorthand for humans between conception and birth. I'm too lazy to write foetus/embryo/zygote and I will not become magically enlightened into the pro-abortion-choice fold if you patronisingly point out to me the proper medical words.

**That term is such a fucking vacuous quasi-scientific excuse for discrimination.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
There's a quotation which pro-abortion choice types like repeating. It's "If men could get pregnant abortion would be a sacrament." It's such a horrible statement when you actually look at what it means. Within Christian theology a sacrament is a religious outward sign of G@d's grace. In Protestant churches it's baptism and the eucharist. In the Roman Catholic Church it also includes confirmation, penance, anointing the sick, ordination and marriage. None of those things seem that comparable to killing your baby.

The other thing which annoys me about it is that if men could get pregnant, there'd be fewer abortions. There'd be easily available contraception that worked with no side effects. There'd be emphasis placed on forms of sex which didn't risk pregnancy. Pregnant men wouldn't get sacked or excluded from education. Men who were pregnant in difficult circumstances would be praised as heroes rather than vilified. Gestating fetuses would be valued as a serious contribution to society and paternity leave and pay would reflect this. In short, all of the patriarchal forces which push women into finding they have no choice better than abortion wouldn't be pushing men in that direction.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
I'm getting rather annoyed at the way the media is talking about debates about abortion in the run up to the Human Tissue and Embryology Bill. I have not heard a single non-religious pro-lifer invited to speak about the issue and all of them have been introduced as a member of their religion (the BBC doesn't feel the need to include their religious beliefs in the introductions for all of the pro-lifers). In fact, I have only heard one non-Christian person non-pro-choice person interviewed and that was a Muslim scholar on a feature on Sunday about the view of abortion in different religions. Both pro-choice interviewees and interviewers quite happily refer to being anti-abortion as a religious position. So, a very brief rant.

Not all pro-lifers are Catholic.
Not all pro-lifers are religious.
You don't have to believe in G@d to think that killing humans is wrong.

I'm also annoyed by the way they keep letting pro-choicers talk bollocks unchallenged. The last surviving maker of the contraceptive pill was interviewed on Broadcasting House this morning. He happily was allowed to claim that before his invention people had a baby every time they had sex. Now, just think about that statement. Even the most fecund families rarely reach 20 children. Are we supposed to believe that before he graciously saved womankind with his miraculous invention, no one had sex more than 20 times? Should we pity modern Catholics with smaller families for only having experienced coitus twice? I think anyone who based their views on reality rather than Monty Python's The Meaning of Life would realise that even without the contraceptive pill people have never had a baby every time they have sex. The contraceptive pill may be more convenient and effective but FAM, LAM and (horror of horrors) having non penis in vagina sex have been used by women to control their fertility for hundreds of years thank you very much.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
Someone on [ profile] prolife posted a link to this very cool lecture by Serrin Forster, the president of Feminists for Life.

Her approach to abortion chimes a lot with the way I view it. Whilst in many ways the situation in the UK is better than in the US, we have maternity leave, universal health care and a better benefit safety net, the issues she raised are still pertinent. Thus it has inspired me to actually get proactive and do something. I wish there were feminist or left wing pro-life organisations in the UK.

At CU pro-life society's freshers meet one of the things that was raised was the idea of producing a leaflet telling students what resources there are in Cambridge for pregnant and parenting students and what to do if they want to carry a crisis pregnancy to term whilst studying here. I think that this is the single most effective thing pro-life soc can do. Women aged 18-21 have the highest rate of abortions as a proportion of population. It's not as if pro-life soc is going to be able to bring about great law reforms but we can provide information that pregnant students need to be able to exercise choices other than abortion. In addition, doing anything that helps students to view a crisis pregnancy as something that doesn't have to destroy your education may help some people get over the cognitive dissonance that prevents them from being open to accepting an anti-abortion ethic.

Now, I have no idea what the procedures for pregnant students currently are. I've already had a poke about the CUSU website and can't really find much info. I figure the most obvious first ports of call would be CUSU's Welfare and Women's sabs and my college nurse. I have this terrible feeling that CUSU might become unhelpful if they know what I want this info for. There's no logical reason why they should be. They should be in favour of providing women with more information about their choices. If I'm just being pessimistic and they are cooperative we could even do something like make this information available on CUSU's website and publications. I'm not bothered if it's alongside information on how to access abortion because I think information on how to carry a pregnancy to term is more useful. It's relatively obvious how to get an abortion: go to doctor and make appointment or check whether you have a few hundred pounds in the bank and call BPAS. On the other hand keeping the baby is more complex: talk to tutor about how pregnancy will affect work, try to move into student parent accommodation, find out about university funds and state benefits for student parents etc.

Now they mentioned producing a leaflet like this last year and sweet FA happened so I may well have to badger people and do a lot of the leg work myself. Five Catholics sitting in a pub telling to each other about how abortion is bad isn't going to save any lives.


Oct. 4th, 2007 11:33 pm
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)

Well, I thought I should update as I haven't in ages. First of all, a huge thank you to [ profile] james_r for being a star and helping me move after my plea for help.

Last week was mainly taken up with moving and other getting settled faff. I also got a PhD supervisor who is very nice and has given me some reading to do to help me narrow down what my PhD is actually going to be on.

This week:
On Monday I went to a meeting for new Economics PhD students to find out what I'm supposed to do this year to not get kicked out.

On Tuesday I went to the first ontology group seminar of term. This group is the baby of my supervisor and we were mainly discussing what money is and the work of John Searle.

I spent an awful lot of Tuesday and Wednesday mooching around the societies fair. Mark was manning the Lib Dem stall all Tuesday so I worked the last two hours on Tuesday with him and then we went to dinner with Alec. As Mark went to 'batties @ Life' on Tuesday night and was supposed (supposed being the appropriate word as opposed to actually did) to be going to Southampton Wednesday morning, I took the cashbox to the societies' fair on Wednesday morning and pootled about the societies fair for an hour or so. Most people tend to be rather frantic when going around the societies fair but being an old hand and not having much else to do I wondered around looking at each stall and seeing who I bumped into. I happily chatted to stall holders of societies I wasn't interested in joining. I found it fun to wonder up to the stalls of societies that a knew a member of seeing whether the people manning the stall knew them. I found out from the council stall where to recycle my old socks and happily wandered about with both a "A woman's place is in her union" and a "Pro-woman. Pro-child. Pro-life." sticker.

On that subject I chatted to the people manning the pro-life soc stall (in fact I even sort of chatted to a punter on their behalf about UK abortion law). To be honest they seemed a bit lack luster. When I asked them what they were up to this term they said they might have a speaker near the end of term. At one point I saw them just playing hangman on their stall. I'm still trying to resist the urge to just take over the society and turn it around. I think that doing this would be a bad idea because:
I am a grown up grad student and should be working rather than pissing about with societies.
I am not 'pro-life' enough for them because I think that abortion and euthanasia should be legal in some situations.
I may want to move into feminist economics and don't want potential collaborators to see me as an even anti-choice pariah.
I'm not very like the the rest of the membership because I am a big feminist leftie and they seem to be mainly conservative nice Catholic girls.

One thing that I think is that their approach is all wrong. They concentrate on campaigning about legislation whereas I think the most effective thing they could do would be to work on convincing students not to have abortions by providing information on alternatives and discussion of the ethics of abortion. On that topic I bumped into one of my med student friends whilst I was at the pro-life stall and he said something about thinking he shouldn't be at the stall because he's doing the ob gyn stuff this year. I suggest maybe he could just not do the baby killing and only do the saving baby stuff instead but he said that he was going to study the baby killing. I now have the urge to lend him a book I have exploring the moral philosophy of abortion. It's not a propaganda book. It goes through the main moral philosophy arguments made about abortion and their strengths and weaknesses. I think the author comes down on the side of 'It's OK sometimes'.

I'm surprised that more people aren't anti-abortion or that people think it's so odd that I am against abortion. Then again I saw a few approving looks at my pro-life sticker so maybe we're just all in the closet.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
"about 400 unborn children without Down's Syndrome die each year as a result of amniocentisis carried out to identify 100 unborn children with the condition."

Surely there's something very wrong with being so determined to avoid having a disabled child that you're willing to take the four times greater risk of killing an able bodied feotus than it has of diagnosing a feotus with Down's syndrome.


Edit: The Times moved the link so I've fixed it but as they may move it again in the future I've copied and pasted the text under here )
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
I'm pondering whether I should attempt to take over CU Pro Life Soc.

The thing is it doesn't seem to do anything at the moment. I think I'm still on their mailing list and I haven't heard anything from them in months. Last time I heard from them (last term) they seemed keen on putting out a leaflet giving students information on what support was available for students who wanted to carry to term an unplanned pregnancy. Whilst I don't go to the p'lodge that often and I tend not to get pigeon holed as I'm a boring grad I haven't seen any evidence of it actually happening.

I think it would be cool if they had speaker events, particularly with other societies so that more than the 4 people I met when I went to a meeting went. An obvious candidate would be some kind of joint event with Fisher House involving a Catholic pro life activist. If we could get along an MP we might be able to have something jointly with a political society although I can imagine the party political societies wanted to stir clear. One of the college political societies might well be willing though. If we went for a joint event with one of the political societies we could also try and get a cool left wing/feminist/atheist pro life speaker (not that Catholics aren't cool) who could challenge preconceptions about what kind of people are pro-life.

I also think it's important to raise profile of the issue of pregnant students and student parents and get information out to students about what they can do if they become pregnant.

Pro life society currently seems rather inept. There was the whole 'Abortion Rights' debacle where they threatened to sue CUSU for affiliating with them. Given how uncontested student elections tend to be it would have been far more effective to simply get their own members and supporters onto the exec of the Women's Union and disaffiliated through the democratic process.

The thing is don't really fit into the society's definition of pro-life. I don't think that abortion should be illegal and I want euthanasia to be legalised in Britain. I do think that abortion is unethical and would like to work to change people's attitudes toward feotuses. I suppose one solution would be to go to the exec and say 'I want to organise some events, can I do it in the name of the society you don't have to put me on the exec.'
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
I just spent about two hours making curry sauce. By the time I'd finished it I couldn't be bothered to make the curry so instead I'm eating pitta bread with hot aubergine dip. Yum! Hopefully it will be enough sauce to make enough curry for half a week so the time won't have been badly spent. What with fasting, eating out and several rushed pasta dinners I've hardly eaten any of my veg box and the next one arrives tomorrow.

I've got rather a few people looking at my pro-life feminist rant. To be honest it's a bit more polemical than my actual views but I originally wrote it to reply to someone asking how one could be both pro-life and a feminist and then found that I couldn't post it on the community the discussion was on because I'm not a member. On that topic, having pissed about pro-life soc, CUSU is now openly admitting that it is affiliated with 'Abortion Rights'. I'd rather that CUSU wasn't affiliated with them as I don't agree with the aims of the organisation. I'm not sure whether trying to change this through putting forward a motion to change it would make we out as a misogynistic right wing reactionary enemy of the Women's Union. On a logical level there shouldn't be anything wrong with me going 'I'm a member of Women's Union and I don't like one of it's policies so I'll put forward a motion and see whether the majority of members of the union agree with me and if they do let's change it democratically.' However, when did logic ever come into student politics? I might go along to Pro-life socs squash. They won't like me because I wasn't pro-life enough for them four years ago and I've become less pro-life since then. Also judging by facebook, the committee seems to be made up of right wing conservative Catholics rather than left wing queer radical feminists. Alec didn't seem surprised by this and told me I really shouldn't assume that [ profile] the_alchemist and [ profile] elise are representative pro-lifers in general.

Things to do tomorrow:
Return library book out on reserve loan from the Marshall. (It's due back at 10:30am and I think they fine 50p oer half hour late.)
Two hours lectures.
Go and see if my bicycle is fixed.
Pop into Societies fair.
Buy things to finish off tea set.
I might look in the Sally Army shop to see if they have any furniture I might like. (I'd quite like a coffee table and another cupboard for my room.)
Bake cake and flapjacks.
At some point I should do some work.