The obstructive hypocrisy of the Evangelical Alliance

Public attention has focused on abortion in Northern Ireland again this last week, as a three month suspended sentence was handed down to an unnamed woman for inducing her own abortion using pills, resulting in a protest against the current legislation held outside the Public Prosecution Service in Belfast on 7th April, 2016. Meanwhile, Dawn McAvoy, a researcher of the Evangelical Alliance attempts to lecture us on the moral evil of abortion in the Belfast News Letter.

Except that she has not exactly done her research, and where she has, she omits relevant information and reports selectively on facts. She offers an extremely narrow view of the actual law, conflates moral and legal terms, and ignores all the real effects on women due to criminalisation while pretending to take a compassionate view by calling for a lenient sentence. On top of this, the EA ignores voices of Christians who do not agree with them, and of course has no truck with the rights of other religions/humanists/atheists.

Three protesters promoting the #TrustWomen and #NotACriminal hashtags
Three protesters promoting the #TrustWomen and #NotACriminal hashtags – photo by Colin Morrison, all rights reserved

Let us investigate what the EA actually believes:

“We believe in the sanctity of life, that God is the creator of life from conception and it is never to be ended at our convenience.”

But it seems, neither is it to be sustained at the EA’s inconvenience. I’ve yet to see any lobbying by the EA for it to be made compulsory to adopt a child, if one has the mental and financial facilities to be a parent. This would be, of course, a violation of freedoms. [1]

Dawn argues the following points:

 

“The suppliers of abortion pills or those who advocate their use should face tough sanctions”

It’s simplistic to suggest that people who advocate breaking any law are automatically immoral. Justice and legality do not always dovetail.

Poor people are put in the situation where the only way out is to take pills. Don’t believe me? Look up the reports on the Abortion Support Network website. [2]

The medication that is sold by groups such as Women on Web is on the World Health’s Organization’s list of essential medication and is used in Northern Ireland. Who are you going to sanction for supply in a globalised world where the trade in such medication is legal and the medication ITSELF is legal for other use? [4]

 

“No matter what side of the debate one falls on, we can perhaps agree that there is nothing civilised or humane about this case.”

I agree: Nobody should have to go through an abortion surrounded by people that feel conflicted about it. Both the woman and her housemates would have been better served if abortion were a legal medical procedure here.

This would have avoided the trauma for the housemates, would have ensured aftercare for the woman and prevented the rather disgraceful media circus that now surrounds this case where the woman cannot defend herself, the housemates are a media cashcow and everyone and their dog has an opinion on something that ought to have stayed private.

The real fault lies with parties that want to keep abortion criminalised, such as the Evangelical Alliance.

 

"If abortion is murder, then blowjobs are cannibalism"
“If abortion is murder, then blowjobs are cannibalism” – photo by Colin Morrison, all rights reserved

“The law plays an important regulatory role in society, and it is in the public interest for it to be respected and upheld.”

And again I agree here: I find it baffling that the women who signed a letter in which they claimed they helped with procuring abortion pills didn’t even get a call from the PSNI, and neither did Goretti Horgan, a well known pro-choice advocate. Yet, the PPS decides it’s in the public interest to go after two isolated woman so poor they didn’t have funds to go to England.

 

“In seeking to balance the rights of the mother and the unborn child, Northern Ireland simply sets a higher bar for abortion.”

Except that an unborn child aka a embryo/fetus has no personhood rights that take away the legal decision making of the pregnant women, nor does it have a right to life under UK law. [5] Nor are fetuses granted additional rights in NI. [6]

The NI government does nothing to address the imbalance caused by explicitly forbidding to induce an abortion. Any miscarriage in hospital gets treated as a standard medical issue, and there are no additional healthcare rights or any other provisions for women/fetuses under NI law.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has shown concern about the position women are put in by this law. [7]

 

“On the other hand, there are those who are calling for tougher sentences. That is not the answer either and disregards the various steps in the legal process that have brought us to this point.”

There is a rich irony in calling for a lenient sentence while the EA wishes to keep criminalisation on the books. This smacks of wanting to be seen as compassionate, as after all the PPS is, literally, being the bad cop here. The EA can stand by the sideline and pretend it’s nothing to do with them.

 

“Campaigns to decriminalise abortion through cases like this are cynical.”

But, of course, there is nothing cynical about keeping laws on the books that lead exactly to such cases. So is having a woman sentenced who as a result cannot work certain jobs anymore as she’ll fail her background check.

 

“Our first response must be compassion and support for every woman in these circumstances and for those who have made this decision.”

And how exactly compassion is compatible with criminalisation and public shaming is beyond me. Again in this article the full onus is put on the woman in the case, with terms such as “bloody mess” with absolutely zero thoughts for the situation she found herself in.

I call in doubt the compassion rhetoric that is repeated again, and again, and again. The support offered is only valid for those who are seen to be making the “right” choice: Repenting abortion, or not having one. Any other choice is condemned.

 

"My Body, My Choice, My Rights"
“My Body, My Choice, My Rights” – photo by Colin Morrison, all rights reserved.

“But our compassion must not lead us to endorse the decriminalisation of abortion and the upending of a law which protects the value of human life for everyone.”

And again I find myself agreeing human life has value. But I find myself strongly disagreeing with the solution proposed by the EA. Criminalization of abortion does not lead to a reduction in rates, makes it unsafe, and leads to direct discrimination based on income. [8][9]

We now see how little the moral value of a woman is in these circumstances. Any woman that finds herself disagreeing with the set morality of the EA is criminalised, shamed, forced to take out a loan, take abortions pills or carry a pregnancy to term. Her agency is ignored. The writer of this article uses the words “bloody mess dumped in a bin” – an argument from disgust, and disgusting in the context of the current conviction.

All while those who do not wish to end a pregnancy, which is their full moral right, are free to do as they wish. They are free to ignore actual needs of actual people, they are free to not adopt, they are free to not end up with grinding poverty, permanent health issues, they are free to do all this.

What they are not free to do is to claim a moral highground on the back of others based on a narrow interpretation of the Bible or interfere in the lives of others based in this.

The EA’s stance has little to do with the compassion , but more with the priests during Jesus’ lifetime who demanded their religious tax on already poor citizens who also had to pay a tax to Rome. Perhaps they also excused their behaviour by referring to state law, quietly condoning the status quo. [3]

 

References

[1] The EA, in fairness has a charity to promote fostering children namely “home for good”

[2] https://www.abortionsupport.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/ASN_2014_Annual_Report.pdf

[3] http://www.thorncrownjournal.com/timeofchrist/religiousleaders.html

[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23433680

[5] http://embryo-ethics.smd.qmul.ac.uk/tutorials/embryo-and-the-law/english-law-foetus/

[6] http://nathanemmerich.org.uk/blog/legal-personhood-and-the.html

[7] https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/news/campaigns-and-opinions/human-fertilisation-and-embryology-bill/qa-extending-the-abortion-act-to-northern-ireland/

[8] http://www.fpa.org.uk/sites/default/files/northern-ireland-abortion.pdf

[9] https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/facts-induced-abortion-worldwide

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