Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Newsflash: Abortion Statistics are News.

Today’s headlines in Scotland inform us that WOMEN IN SCOTLAND HAVE ABORTIONS. Ok, they don’t quite say that, but it feels a bit like that. Today, the statistics for the number of abortions performed in Scotland in 2007 were published and, as usual, were headline news. Please note that there is nothing new or particularly exciting about these statistics. They are published every year, but we all love to talk about abortion, so we will. There were 13,703 abortions in Scotland last year, up 540 on the previous year, meaning that around ¼ of all Scottish pregnancies (that were known about) ended in termination. Only 44 (0.3%) abortions occurred after 20 weeks, a reduction from 49 in 2006 and 67 in 2005. Rather unsurprisingly, the usual suspects also came out of the woodwork to pass judgement and equally predictably the same old tropes that we have come to expect passed their lips.

Mary Scanlon MSP, the Scottish Tories' health spokeswoman, noted, on the fact that more than a quarter of women had previously had a termination, that:
There is a general consensus that abortion should not be used as a form of contraception. Sadly, it appears that, for some women, this could be the case.

Ian Murray, from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, commented:
The reality is these statistics refer to human lives – both the babies lost and the women whose lives will be scarred by their decision forever.
Again, we all know that all women that have abortions are irreparably damaged (presumably the women who have repeat abortions are just sadists).

Another interesting statement, this time by The Scotman, was that:
Pro-life groups reacted angrily when it emerged that 372 patients having abortions were under 16 years of age.
This I am extremely puzzled at. Why would pro-life groups feel differently about underage abortion than any other type? I suspect that this is hyperbole on the part of The Scotsman, but, if true, part of me wonders if the logic goes ‘women have choices=bad; girls have choices=worse’, because the lower down the social ladder you are as a woman, the more you are hated.

Most abortions occurred amongst the 16-19 age group, very closely followed by the 20-24 age group, highlighting that women are more fertile when they are younger the follies of youth, it seems. Admittedly, this shows that teen pregnancies are high in Scotland, but also that teen pregnancies are overwhelmingly amongst women who are legally old enough to be having sex. Only 2.7% of abortions were on girls under the age of consent. I find this an interesting paradox. I realise that there is a difference between the legal age women can have children and the age when it is socially acceptable or desirable for them to do so, but it does make you wonder if the fuss about the teen pregnancy rate is really a fuss about legally adult women making decisions about their own bodies.

What has been less commented on, with the exception of the Lib Dem spokesman, is that twice as many abortions occurred in areas of social deprivation as in wealthier areas. If people want to reduce the abortion rate tackling poverty seems the obvious place to go. Yet, it is much easier to make emotive or unhelpful statements. As the spokesman for the Archbishop of Glasgow noted:
These statistics are an ever-present sign that society has failed both Scotland's unborn children and women. [Check out the order of priority.]
Well, if society has failed them, what is society going to do about it? Bemoaning the numbers doesn't seem particularly helpful.

1 comment:

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