Iain Dale: every sperm is sacred?

Iain Dale was clearly deliberately trying to cause a stink today with his post about abortions. The first question one must put to him is, what does it have to do with the country? How is it in any way our business to label these women as shameful? I would have thought that as a gay man, Iain would be a little more wary about moral pontification. He does appreciate that a large number of his allies in this debate want him to burn in Hell, doesn’t he?

Who are we to judge if the potential life of one foetus outweighs the quality of life of one woman? We could set up some kind of Orwellian evaluation procedure to calculate it scientifically, at great cost to the taxpayer and fraught with problems, or we could just leave it to her to make the decision. It does seem to me that the latter option is not just more liberal, but more pragmatic, unless we wish to see the return of the coat-hanger in modern gynecological standard practice.

At the heart of this debate is whether one considers a foetus to be a baby, and specifically at what point one considers a foetus to be a baby. This is important because, as Iain deliberately obscures but even the Daily Mail doesn’t, just one in twelve of these terminations was carried out after 13 weeks (less than 17,000) and just 136 were carried out after 24 weeks. Use the 13 weeks statistic and, even if you ignore the miscarriages (I don’t have the stats to hand for what point in pregnancy these took place – most I suspect were early in the cycle), that makes Iain’s scare statistic of 1-in-4 closer to 1-in-38. Use the 24 weeks statistic and it becomes around 1-in-4,700.

Should we consider a 12 week old foetus to be a baby? Where do you draw the line? At best it can be described as a potential human, but you could say the same about every sperm or ovum. It is not just infantile to call to every ball of cells that looks vaguely anthropomorphic human, it is degrading.

Those nice people at the CIA calculate the UK infant mortality rate to be 5.01 or every 1,000 live births (in 1911 the UK average was over 100). What is the greater tragedy? The 3,000+ infants who die each year, or the 136 abortions that take place after 24 weeks? Why is one shrugged aside as “just life”, while the other one “shameful”?

Of course it would be nice if there were fewer abortions, but how would we achieve that? Reduce poverty would have an impact, as would compulsory sex education and a far greater use of condoms and other forms of contraception. George Bush has considerately provided us with clear – and very expensive – evidence that abstinence education does not work. These would have a whole host of other knock on effects such as greater sexual health generally and reduced teenage pregnancies. If you are serious about reducing the abortion rate, really serious, then all of these would be at the top of your priority list. Otherwise, it is just so much moralistic posturing.

2 thoughts on “Iain Dale: every sperm is sacred?

  1. Totally agree James. It’s an odd one. Iain’s not a religious man, but I guess he’s just been spending too much time with some of his American Christian Right mates.

    All this talk about “when does it become a baby?” is pretty silly. Life doesn’t begin at conception; it begins before conception; the egg and sperm are living things. (And therefore sacred!) It’s just a steady continuum between a single cell, and a fully grown adult.

    The proof of this, if proof were needed, is that even the most Catholic couple in the world feels infinitely more pain at the loss of a small child than they would do for an early miscarriage, which they might not even know about.

    The only sensible thing to say about abortion is that they should be performed as early as possible. To this end, early abortion should be made much easier than it is at present. Of course the “pro-life” movement will never have that, so the result will be late abortions and unwanted children.

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