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Fetal Abnormality, Abortion in Northern Ireland and more bias at the BBC.
The fact that fetal abnormality is not a ground for abortion under Northern Ireland law has recently caused headlines. Sarah Ewart travelled from Northern Ireland to England for an abortion at 20 weeks having learned that the she was carrying a baby with anencephaly, a severe form of spina bifida, where there is a failure of proper formation of the brain. Those babies who survive to birth almost all die in the first hours or days after birth. There is no curative treatment available.
Another woman, carrying twin girls with anencephaly has recently appealed to Edwin Poots, the Northern Ireland Minister for Health, to allow her to have an abortion in Northern Ireland. At almost 22 weeks pregnant she arranged to travel to England for an abortion.
Peter Saunders writes, “One cannot hear these tragic testimonies without being deeply moved by the emotions expressed. There are few things worse than losing a child and it is a huge thing for a mother to carry a baby to term, knowing that it will be born with a terrible deformity and die shortly afterwards. It is perhaps not surprising therefore that the media coverage of these recent cases, along with the public reaction, has been overwhelmingly supportive of the decision to abort and that there is now growing pressure for a change in the law.”
However, he goes on to argue that parents (and doctors) should think twice about aborting a baby with anencephaly, and that we as a society should be advocating an alternative approach. He lists twenty reasons for this point of view. “Deformity does not define us,” he says, “Our worth as human beings is independent of any disabilities we might have. A baby with anencephaly is a human being. Our humanity is not diminished or degraded by sickness, disability, fragility, intellectual impairment or by what people think of us or how they value us. Babies with severe conditions like anencephaly are human beings worthy, like all human beings, of profound wonder, empathy, respect and protection.”
He also makes the point that, “Abortion for anencephaly exchanges one problem for a whole set of different problems. Abortion may appear to offer a solution but the mother is still left to deal with the guilt, emotional trauma and unresolved grief of loss of what is almost always a wanted baby. These inward scars may take a lifetime to heal. Saying goodbye properly is important for resolving grief and achieving closure.”
Peter Saunders also made the point that we should not allow ourselves to be manipulated by the media or those with an agenda. Such hard cases should not be used by media presenters with a wider political agenda of liberalising abortion laws.
He said, “I was deeply shocked that the BBC would interview a deeply traumatised grieving woman who had just heard the most devastating news of her life in front of a national audience just days before one of the most horrendous experiences a woman can go through – aborting her own baby. This was, I believe, both exploitative and abusive.”
Writing in The Spectator, Melanie McDonagh has also commented that “The BBC’s bias on abortion in Northern Ireland is breathtaking.”