What a tragedy

Maybe you’ve read reports – once again in the likes of The Guardian – about a study that claims to demonstrate few women regret their decision to obtain an abortion. Sadly, when you dig a little deeper into the methodology, there are some serious flaws with the research.

As noted elsewhere, obtaining a representative sample for this type of research is very difficult. Of all the woman eligible and invited to participate, less than 38% actually consented to be surveyed. Even worse, only 85% of that cohort completed baseline interviews (that is 956 women). Among those, 93% completed at least one follow-up interview, and 71% completed an interview in the final two years of the study.  The authors record that a mere 667 ultimately completed all the questions.

Now, why do you think there was such a high dropout rates? Well, surely those who initially, and ultimately, experienced the greatest trauma excluded themselves from the sample.  Who would want to discuss such intimate pain with a researcher? Remember, this is someone who is trained not to influence the respondent by offering any sort of feedback to their answer, whether affirming or disapproving.  The fact such a large number of the women involved appear so keen to completely forget their choice is the standout finding of this survey.

Note also that the participants were actually given $50 gift vouchers after each set of phone interview they completed successfully, which would have totalled $550 (not bad for answering what must have been rather brief questions about their emotions and the perceived rightness of their actions). Such an approach is controversial and they managed to violate one best practice guideline, which is to ensure  that participants who choose to withdraw from the research will still receive payments. By offering such an incentive did they end-up capturing those of a more mercenary, utilitarian mindset?

Anyone with any real doubts or qualms about their abortion would not consent to be repeatedly, over the next five years, asked if they regretted their decision or to reflect on how much, if any, guilt they felt.

The researchers claim this was a relatively diverse sample because about “half of participants felt that deciding to have the abortion was very difficult (27%) or somewhat difficult (27%), while almost half felt it was not a difficult decision (46%).” That’s 180 (a rather small selection) who initially found the decision “very difficult” but then we need to probe further and ask why exactly.

The questions only seem to offer “perceived community stigma” as a possibility for “regret” or “guilt”, not their views on what exactly abortion constituted. Did any of these believe the medical procedure, cast so often by the likes of Planned Parenthood as “my body, my health, my choice”, consider that they were killing another human being? Of course, if you can hide behind the fig-leaf rationalisations, there’s very little that these women would regret about apparently freeing themselves up from what is often depicted as an unwanted burden.

In fact, there have been other studies that track actual health outcomes, as opposed to a small selection of those who opt in to phone interviews, which show clear connections between women seeking abortions and longer-term health problems.  You can read 2271 (as 17th January 2020) heart-rending testimonies of US women who regret their abortion at the “Silent No More” website. Whenever are they reported across the major news outlets?  Yet as pro-abortion campaigners become more militant in celebrating the murder of innocent babies, exhorting anyone who will listen to “Shout Your Abortion”, as if it’s some proud boast, of course researchers will find more women who will be happy to report no initial, and definitely no lasting, psychological harm from that little trip to the clinic.

This is the tragedy. That life inside the womb can be dismissed as a possibility (what – even at 38+ weeks, when said baby could exist quite happily on the outside?).  It’s not about prioritsing the baby over the mother but simply affirming that both lives matter. Every human being deserves a fighting chance:

“Every life deserves a voice
Every child deserves a chance
You are more than just a choice
There’s no such thing as unplanned.”

PS – if you read The Guardian report on this survey (as of 10pm 16th January 2020), you will see they manage to conclude with “The new research follows another study, also led by Rocca, published in the academic journal PLOS One in 2015 that surveyed 667 women over a three-year period and had similar results: 95% of women said that having an abortion was right for them.” (emphasis added)

Wow – corroboration.  Only, is 667 the magic number?  Reach that dizzying height of sampling and your results will be bullet-proof?  No, of course not.  It’s the SAME SURVEY GROUP – results collated after THREE and then FIVE years, with (funnily enough a five year gap between their appearance in different journals). The women are from the “Turnaway Study, a longitudinal study examining the health and socioeconomic consequences of receiving or being denied termination of pregnancy in the US.”  The author, Lauren Aratani, spent so little time actually checking the details of these publications, she did not even notice. You could not make this level of bias up!

PPS – further research into this “Turnaway” study led to an excellent article, which makes the point that “over two-thirds of the women approached at the abortion clinics refused to be interviewed, and half of those who agreed dropped out. Refusers and dropouts are known to have more postabortion problems.”  Please read this in full to appreciate the deceptiveness perpetuated by the abortion advocacy group Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health.

“Oh… what a dis-a-star”

Well, we won’t be hearing much more of those “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn” chants. However, what strikes me most – living in Scotland and reacting to the exit poll predictions of a SNP landslide – is how little scrutiny there has been by the media of the SNP’s push for indyref2.

There has been hardly any mention of how many people, north of the border, were being persuaded to “lend” their vote to the SNP as the clear anti-Brexit voice in this neck of the woods with the best chance of actually denying the Tories seats. For example, I live in Moray – an SNP-Conservative battleground with all others parties at least 14,000 votes behind these top two. Multiple tactical voting sites and emails urged me to vote SNP, purely to stop Brexit, disregarding the fact I am more concerned about the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland than the fact I voted Remain (and, yes, would again, without hesitation). Yet how many people up here assumed this election was all about Brexit and voted accordingly. The SNP must be challenged on this point: they cannot interpret their apparent landslide in Scotland as support for indyref2.

They must repeatedly be questioned by the BBC on this point of interpretation. They said different things throughout the campaign to different groups in terms of their priorities and whatever happened to the 2014 referendum being “once in a generation”.

More significantly, how on earth can they successfully pull-off a bid for Scottish independence if Brexit is proving to be so complicated and divisive? Surely dissolving 300 years of history is much trickier than a mere 40-odd? Do they really want to saddle Scotland with more vitriol, anger and uncertainty? Will they promise to hold themselves to the standards of truth and honesty they castigated Boris Johnson and Vote Leave for flagrantly violating? What is their plan for persuading Spain (and other nations with bothersome secessionist minorities) to agree to Scotland joining the EU when this would surely be setting a disastrous precedent for the likes of Catalonia? Why should they be trusted to rule in Scotland when they have such a disastrous record on education and health, so obsessed are they with plotting independence they don’t focus on the day job.

The SNP must be asked the tough questions and not allowed to enjoy any longer the generally easy-going coverage they are receiving.  They must not be allowed to fudge these points and promise “sunlit uplands” without be forcefully reminded of what is actually happening in the wider world.

Then, there’s the ridiculous “revoke Article 50” and aim for the majority Liberal Democrats. A few days ago I listened to Jo Swinson say on national radio that her party were not putting any resources into the hundreds of unwinnable seats across the country and focusing their efforts on the areas where they stood a chance. A voter would know if a Lib Dem was NOT wasted because they would be receiving campaign leaflets emblazoned with the burning flame logo.

That same day, I received one of those very leaflets from a party that polled barely 1000 votes in Moray at the 2017 elections (compared to about 24,000 for the Tories).  They used one of those dodgy graphs – look at how we received a 7% increase in our vote share at the last EU elections!  Vote for us – we can win!  What utter nonsense.  There was no strategy or street smarts from the Liberal Democrats.  They wasted their admittedly limited air time touting a policy to revoke Article 50 and completely ignore the 2016 referendum, which so clearly violated all normal principles of democracy.  What a wasted opportunity.

The pro-Union parties in Scotland need to sort out their priorities and focus on the realities facing us.  We cannot let our beloved nation sleepwalk into secessionist purgatory.  Please don’t think the SNP rule this land.

Those who fail to try

Once again, The Guardian new juggernaut manages to misrepresent and demonise genuine pro-life efforts.  One of their journalist, Jessica Glenza, recently an article titled “Ohio bill orders doctors to ‘reimplant ectopic pregnancy’ or face ‘abortion murder’ charges.”  She states directly that the legislation “requires doctors to ‘reimplant an ectopic pregnancy” into a woman’s uterus”. However, nowhere in the print of her diatribe does she disclose that lines 5375 to 5378 of the bill explicitly state physicians should “take all possible steps”, which “include, if applicable, attempting…” (emphasis added).
Those words are crucial caveats that make clear a doctor’s responsibility is that they should to seek to preserve life.  If they fail in that noble quest whilst trying then fair enough but if they fail to try because they believe life in the womb has no value, then that is clearly a different matter the law seeks to address.
Ms. Glenza does include the tweet Dr Hackney that includes those details but in very small text and she seems content to push a narrative from pro-abortion activists without examining the facts.  Once more, I ask, how can a news outlet with the tagline that “facts are sacred” permit such egregious examples of inaccuracy?
Consider also the numerous medical breakthroughs made through the centuries that were once thought “impossible”, whether blood transfusions or triple heart bypass surgery.  How does such progress happen?  Because doctors refuse to write-off human life and seek to provide the best possible care for their patients.
All of which reminds me of a favourite quote: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” (Theodore Roosevelt).
May doctors be encouraged to commit to seeking save every life, especially those at the beginning of their adventures, who have no voice to speak in their defence but surely deserve a fighting chance.

Fixing Facebook (& the Internet)

I’ve been mulling over the problems on social media platforms and I believe it’s important Facebook (shorthand here for all social media sites) does not restrict or diminish the experience for legitimate users.  For example, limiting display of likes or the reach of shares, which might help cauterise the spread of fake news but also restricts the possibilities for genuine debate and grassroots movements.
Instead, if Facebook would just properly ID users, so they can be effectively banned from the network and even pursued in the real world if they do damage online, then pretty much every single problem people keep complaining about would be fixed.
Properly screening every user, asking for and checking their ID (note not necessarily displaying this to others), is the silver bullet that slays the vampires sucking the life out of social media. 99% of the bad behaviour on social media is because there are no real consequences of trolling or spreading fake news.  Plus, such a move immediately ensures that Facebook can properly enforce restrictions against children pretending to be 13 or over.  In UK we were very close to reach a “porn blocker” that would have required pornagraphic websites to verify users are over 18 before they view explicit content.  Sadly this was scuppered at the last minute but much of the infrastructure/planning would surely be applicable to unmasking the bad actors who hide behind the cloak of anonymity. 
I first proposed this at least two years ago and, whilst it seems to be generating more interest in certain quarters, it needs leadership from MK and Facebook to make this happen and would surely not be that difficult to implement. Let’s make all profiles “verified”!
Author’s note – my “Revamping Cyberspace” article of May 2018 was originally written in response to a competition looking for ideas to “fix” the internet, which I worked on in autumn 2017.

“Facts are sacred” but only when it suits

Yet again “The Guardian” seems content to ignore their own insistent by-line that “Facts are sacred” and fails to actually check the wild claims of their columnists.

The latest example is an article by Malaika Jabali taking aim at Barack Obama for critiquing the “call-out culture” and the “circular firing squads” of leftwing activism. In order to buttress her arguments from the annals of history, Jabali misrepresents black history. She claims “When Parks was forced to Detroit to retreat from the backlash against her bus boycott activism, she became a proponent of the Panthers’ self-defense demands”.  She links to a Washington Post article, which is behind a paywall and conveniently inaccessible to the vast majority of her reader. However, other sources set out to correct these inaccuracies and note that Parks was a “lifelong believer in self-defence“, citing several examples from her time in Alabama.

In terms of the Panthers, their approach really does deserve to be properly understood: “The Panthers decided to take up their constitutional right to carry arms… by patrolling the police. They did this at a time when severe police brutality was common – the police would beat down and kill Blacks at random”. The confronted violent, racist officers with a gun in one hand and a law book in the other. When their “brothers” tried to join them, purely for the prestige of carrying a gun, they explained that the Black struggle was about much more, highlighting the importance of educating yourself and then others, about organizing the community programs, selling the newspaper and serving the people. New recruits would work in the nursery for a while, looking after the children while other members went out on party business. What a remarkably restrained, proportional policy given the horrendous circumstances, which seems different from the current “more radical politics” Jabali talks-up.

Why are the Guardian’s editors not more careful to check the “evidence” cited and ensure it actually does fairly reflect the historical record, rather than misrepresent the civil rights movement?  I have written my complaint to The Guardian and I sincerely hope they will set the record straight.

Examining Extinction Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion claim to use the non-violent, civil disobedience tactics of Martin Luther King Jr to impel governments around the world to take action against the climate crisis.  They have shut down roads, chained themselves to strategic buildings and even stood on an all-electric tube train in an effort to garner attention to their cause and be arrested in numbers that they think will overwhelm the UK’s policing and criminal justice system.  Whilst the urgency of their message about looking after our environment is undeniable, their tactics seem to miss the mark.

Listen to how MLK actually defined his struggle: “An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law”

This implies that civil disobedience should be specifically targeted at egregious laws – thus, for example, the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  Note also the “Freedom March”, which took place in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963 and was attended by over 250,000 protestors, demonstrating the movement’s mass support.

Rather than a context where democracy is being ignored and a specific group of people excluded from the decision-making process and treated as second-class citizens, the United Kingdom in 2019 accords every citizen 18 or over a vote and a voice.  Where, then, are the mass petitions – stalls in shopping centres and high streets across the country that sign-up supporters?  Where are the volunteers going door-to-door explaining the urgency of this crisis to real people and setting-out practical steps we can all take to reduce our individual carbon footprint, whilst influencing our elected representatives.

If this is a “life or death situation“, why is there no single-issue political party that focuses solely on averting this predicted catastrophe?  Why, if I voted and campaigned for the Green Party in Scotland, would I also be endorsing the promotion of LGBTI+ ideology on children in schools or abortion-on-demand?  Why does the Green Party not broaden its appeal by narrowing the issues and concentrating on what they claim is the defining choice before us as a species?

Extinction Rebellion seem to have skipped a few vital steps.  They have lost legitimacy and support by neglecting the importance of working through the existing political channels.  There is clearly a sense of satisfaction for those engaged in this uprising, “sticking it to the man”, but they should study how civil disobedience really works and focus on the ballot box.

A plea to the SNP

Following the recent confirmation of SNP plans to push for indyref2 in 2020, I would urge you to reconsider this stance. Surely, your party – working with others – is in a brilliant position at the moment to campaign for and achieve reform of our democracy across the board from the inside. Whether with the EU or the House of Lords, shaping a federally-structured UK or ensuring no-one’s vote is wasted by a move away from first-past-the-post to PR, there is a real groundswell for change across the British Isles. You can be part of a much wider and more satisfying revolution. To insist on leaving now means you miss being part of meaningful, far-reaching reform that strengthens democracy and fosters good government.

This is the time for statesmanship, not short-term opportunism. Maybe you could narrowly win an independence vote but look where that has left Brexiteers, clinging to a compromise fudge that pleases nobody and with the supposed benefits of freedom from Brussels receding ever-further into the distance whilst the downsides of rupturing our closest international relationships become increasingly clear. Whatever happened to waiting for the opinion polls to consistently show 55% supporting independence? Note also how one or two snapshots of what people think can be downright misleading – 53% were in favour of breaking-up Britain around abouts September 2015 but that didn’t last.

If you seek to throw-off the shackles of Westminster now, your campaign will be defined by comparisons to the Brexiteers and their shoddy tactics and bare-faced lies. If unravelling 40-odd years of history with the EU is complicated, how much more over 300 years of the Union?

Some say that if Parliament allows a second vote on Brexit, then this sets a precedent for the SNP. However, there is a fundamental difference when confirming a decision to Leave, with a precise knowledge of exactly what the exit deal actually looks like, and knowing that following through with what the 52% wanted back in 2016 will bring major disruption to the status quo. Don’t forget also the brazen deceit of Vote Leave, from £350 million per week for the NHS to claiming Britain was about to be swamped by Turkish immigrants. In those circumstances, one is entitled to ask the people, “are you really sure?”

Scotland, on the other hand, doesn’t need another divisive debate and vote on an issue that was settled “for a generation” (at least!) in 2014. Besides, winning a majority of seats in our first-past-the-post system cannot be seen as an endorsement for one particular cause when the calculations each individual must make in the polling booth are much more complex. Wasting more energy and money on debating another border just seems appalling when there are so many more important issues that need sorting out in our society.

I call on the SNP to take a break from campaigning incessantly for more division and instead lead the charge for reforming and renewing our democracy, starting with helping the UK to remain in the EU and make government more accountable to the people, whom they should be serving.

Violating the rights of those yet to be born

That’s the premise of a recent “long read” from The Guardian Online, which posits: “what if climate breakdown is a violation of the rights of those yet to be born? Finally, this urgent question seems to be getting the attention it deserves.”

Tragically, Astra Taylor and The Guardian who happily printed this article seem to have completely forgotten the rights of those conceived, carried for a number of months in the womb but never given the chance to breathe any sort of air.  This blind spot is ludicrous and deeply appalling.

How can so many on one hand accept a woman’s right to choose whether or not to murder an innocent baby in the womb (notice how the father is completely missed-out), whilst at the same time protesting on the streets that we must respect the rights of future generations when it comes to bequeathing a functioning planet?

To be clear, I believe that we must both fight for the future of terra firma, as much as we strive to protect those yet to be born from abortion.  My point is you cannot embrace one issue and shun the other.  There is simply no logical explanation, moral argument or acceptable excuse for this double standard.   How can you prioritise the well-being of some over the rights of all those who cannot even muster one word of protest, let alone wave a placard.

Greta Thunberg passionately proclaims: “The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: we will never forgive you.”  How can we demand climate justice and rage against “Big Oil” without also pleading for the lives of every baby in the womb and praying for “abortion mills” to be shut down?  Who exactly are the “bad ancestors”?

 

From zero to hero

When Ben Stokes led England to an extraordinary victory over Austrailia in the Ashes test at Headingley, 25th August 2019, not one news outlet mentioned the fact he was only cleared of affray just over one year ago after an infamous fight near a Bristol nightclub. It’s worth looking back at that news report from 14th August 2018 and some of the comments:

 

  • Arthur Davis, 30: “He’s a great player although not in form and maybe this will change that.”
  • Javen Rahiman, 26: “I’m pretty pleased but it’s not the best example he’s setting, especially as the evening of the fight was after such a good victory. I hope it’s a kick up the backside for him and he can focus more on the game now with no distractions.” (emphasis added)

What a transformation.  Now he is lauded for his “brilliance” and credited with one of the best batting displays in the history of the game.  A great example of why we should give second chance and how someone can turn their life around.

 

What really motivates pro-lifers?

According to the latest hatchet job undertaken against opponents of abortion, what really motivates us is “controlling women” and it’s all “fundamentally about misogyny”.  There’s just a few problems with the central assumptions regarding the “Guardian” article.

Firstly, the survey that is cited proves a correlation but not causation. Yes, pro-lifers might be generally socially conservative, more likely to agree with the statement that men make better political leaders than women or express dislike towards the #MeToo movement.  However, the opinion poll does not seem to be asking why exactly these individuals oppose the termination of innocent babies in the womb, so painting a picture of a “bunch of deplorables” is grossly unfair.  Nowhere does it bother to ask: “Do you oppose abortion because you believe the lives of women matter less than men?” Just because pro-life advocates hold a number of other beliefs and opinions does not mean that these are their primary drivers. To assume so is a sign of the commentator’s own bias.

Moreover, the author repeats a common insinuation that pro-lifers don’t care about life beyond the womb, what happens after the baby is born.  Yet take a look at the outpouring of support for little Charlie Gard or the fact that all of the top seventeen most charitable states in the USA voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. Check out this thread which lists many of the ways pro-lifers help new parents, such as pregnancy centres that lined-up donors to supply a year of free nappies. Why did the survey not ask pro-lifers how they think those struggling with childcare responsibilities should best be helped? Was it just designed to blacken their reputation by creating a distorted caricature of their beliefs?

Interestingly, The Guardian once upon a time did publish articles that delved more into the motives and backgrounds of pro-lifers.  I was moved to read “The price of being pro-life: meet the woman who pays $3,000 to prevent abortions” (November 2015).  This story of one woman, who lost her job because she refused to perform abortions and now puts most of her time, energy and money into helping those struggling with a pregnancy is truly inspirational.  Rather than demonising those with deeply-held convictions, we see that these human beings will go to great lengths to do what they believe is right and uphold the sanctity of all human life.

The author also links to a different article that argues the Catholic Church viewed abortion as permissible up until 150 years ago. That contribution ignores the fact that long-standing positions can be overturned with sufficient, evidence and reason especially where past dogmas were tied to specific cultural realities.  The fact is over 150 years ago, there were no abortion mills or propaganda campaigns inciting women to terminate pregnancies. If a life in the womb was lost that usually resulted from a miscarriage and setting a marker of 24-weeks for the time of “quickening” doubtless helped the Church offer consolation to those grieving a loss.  Only in the last century have Christians been required by changes in society to speak out robustly against abortions because in the UK that is now the fate of one in four pregnancies.

Another error in their reasoning is to claim that arguing for the “potential/process” of fertilised ovums is ridiculous and scurrilously asking why “every sperm and every ovum ought to be preserved due to its potential personhood given the right circumstances?”  The fact is that during sexual intercourse, the man and woman are making a deliberate decision to potentially procreate – that is part of what gives this moment such significance and weight. They should not just be able to discard the consequences of their actions as unwanted or unplanned. Society has attempted to divorce sexual intercourse from procreation, saturating itself in all the fleeting pleasures of the former whilst seeking to dismiss all the responsibilities of the latter. How can such a soulless pursuit be considered healthy for us as individuals or communities? 

Even if (and when, because we are all imperfect human being) the motives and actions of those who oppose abortion fall short of the great and just cause they espouse that does not lessen the truth: killing innocent human beings is wrong and we must keep reminding society that all life is precious.