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A final attempt to stop abortion law changes in Northern Ireland has failed, with the law changing at midnight on Monday. It marks a radical shift from NI's previous near ban on abortion. Sarah Phillips fears the change in the law is further conformation that its no longer socially acceptable to hold a pro-life position
I felt angry this week as I listened to a lengthy discussion on BBC Radio 5 Live about the changes to abortion laws in Northern Ireland. Despite the BBC’s claims that its coverage is ‘fair and impartial’, the presenter delivered a profoundly biased segment during which she did two contrasting interviews.
In the first, she offered a sympathetic listening ear to a long, emotional account of a pro-choice campaigner who had endured a pregnancy in which she was told her baby would not survive outside the womb. The presenter was affirming throughout, didn’t interrupt once and the interview lasted 18 minutes. In the second, the same presenter grilled a pro-life charity representative with confronting and manipulative questioning, interrupted her 19 times and spoke for almost half of the twelve minutes allotted to the interview. It was clear she had a personal agenda to discredit the pro-life campaigner, and no real interest in hearing her point of view.
Listening to it all led me to conclude that, tragically, it is no longer socially acceptable in the UK to hold a pro-life position.
Being pro-life has become synonymous with being old-fashioned, ignorant and even worse, bigoted. It’s been put on a par with racism and homophobia. Protecting the lives of the unborn is now considered a ‘breach of human rights’, and, much worse, women’s rights. What that 5 Live segment told me, and the nation, is that a pro-life view is simply unacceptable, and that anyone who dares hold one, and tries to express it, will be publicly shamed for doing so.
As the discussion reopens with new abortion laws passed in Northern Ireland, I’m taking this opportunity to say, I am pro-life and proud. And, Christian or not, I believe it’s more important than ever for those who are pro-life to fight for the right to hold a pro-life view, and for this to be respected by those who are not.
For this to happen, pro-lifers must be prepared to speak out boldly about why we are pro-life. The more informed we are, the more confident and prepared we will be to give good, sound reasons for protecting the unborn, whether its speaking to a colleague, writing to our MP or even supporting a friend considering abortion. So here’s why I’m pro-life and proud.
1. I am pro-life and proud because I don’t think abortion is a good outcome for either baby or mother
The pro-life view is often tarnished as one that heartlessly disregards the needs of vulnerable women. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Many pro-life charities across the globe are directly involved in projects that take an active role in supporting women in these situations.
There is solid evidence to suggest that abortion has a deeply negative impact on women who undergo them. One study, published in The British Journal of Psychiatry, and based on data from 877,181 participants, found that "women who had undergone an abortion experienced an 81% increased risk of mental health problems", and that "there is a strong indication that abortion is associated with a moderate to highly increased risk of mental health problems".
There is substantial evidence of a link between abortion and consequent preterm births, and one study in Finland showed a significant drop in the mortality rate of women who went to term compared to women who terminated their pregnancies. Even in cases of fetal abnormalities (which make up only 2 per cent of abortions according to the government’s abortion statistics of England and Wales 2018) evidence suggests that women are left with a deeper sense of loss and grief after a termination than in cases where the baby died naturally. I am pro-life because I am not convinced that an abortion is ever a good outcome for a woman.
2. I am pro-life and proud because I believe women should be offered a better choice than an abortion
Most women who decide to have an abortion do so because they feel they have no other choice, due to economic difficulty, an unsupportive or abusive partner, no partner and/or no support network. (81% abortions are carried out on single women).
I don’t believe its right that the best option for women in these situations is that they end the life of their unborn child. As a society, we must do more to offer support to these women, as charities like ‘Life’ are already doing, by providing free pregnancy tests, counseling, housing, training in parenting skills and baby equipment to pregnant women who find themselves alone and overwhelmed.
3. I am pro-life and proud because I believe that an unborn baby is a human life
This is the heart of the issue. This makes any other argument for being pro-life rather incidental in comparison, because, however positive the outcome of an abortion might seem for a woman, the outcome for the unborn child is the worst possible – death. A chance to live, taken from the most vulnerable, before it has even begun. A chance, I might add, that you were given and continue to enjoy as you read.
How do we usually identify signs of life? Medical pronouncement of death involves looking for a heartbeat. A baby’s heart starts beating just 22 days after conception. Diagnosing death also involves looking for a response to light in the eyes. A baby begins to see light from outside the womb between 11 and 14 weeks. Diagnosing death may also involve testing for pain. We know that an unborn baby can feel pain at 20 weeks as all their pain receptors are fully developed, although they may experience pain earlier than this which is why doctors use anesthesia when they perform fetal in-utero surgeries.
Speaking of in-utero surgeries, there must be moments in which, simultaneously in one ward of a hospital, a surgeon is operating on a baby in the womb, fighting for its life (and using that very language!) while in another, a baby of the same gestation is being administered a drug to stop their heart beating, before its body is vacuumed out and incinerated. Surely, there is something wrong here. What is it that makes us alive? How can any being have a beating heart, have functioning organs, see light, feel pain and still not be alive?
Sarah Phillips lives in Oxford with her husband and is a stay-at-home Mum to two young boys. In her spare time she blogs on christian living. Follow her on Instagram @thoughtsonhowhelovesus
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