Abortion Rights

Version Two:

"Individuals have the right to bodily integrity and shall have the right to terminate their own pregnancies in the first trimester at least. People and institutions who are opposed to abortion should not be forced, through taxation or regulation, to support financially or by association, any abortion services."

 

Given the controversy that abortion rights have caused in countries such as the U.S. and Ireland, I don't feel it is too specific to mention in the Constitution.

Women should have the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy for any reason during the first trimester at least.

Later months is up for debate but the relationship between a woman and her medical team should have the presumption of being in the best interests of the woman and her rights.

There is a good discussion of the issues involved here:

http://www.tracinskiletter.com/2013/04/philosophy-gosnell/

People and institutions who are opposed to abortion should not be forced, through taxation or regulation, to support financially or by association, any abortion services.

edited on Apr 18, 2015 by Imogen Galilee

John Z Apr 8, 2015

How would you write this actual provision in the Constitution?  Would you make the "right" absolute, or would you limit it to a certain trimester?    

Claire Finn Apr 8, 2015

I say the first trimester at least but I think up to 20 weeks is uncontroversial.

Users tagged:

Bob Stammers Apr 8, 2015

20 weeks is not uncontroversial in Texas where they outlawed it a couple of years ago because of "fetal pain".

This clause needs to tackle head on whether or not a foetus is considered to be a person. If it is then it follows that it has rights, if not then the mother should have absolute authority over her body right up until birth.

Alastair Bruton Apr 8, 2015

Nothing is black and white in the abortion debate. Offering that sort of either/or challenge isn't helpful. Somehow the woman's right to choose has to be balanced against the developing viablity of the foetus. I'd suggest that to most people, abortion the day after conception is not the same as abortion the day before birth. The constitution should give the mother the right in principle to choose to have an abortion and leave Parliament to decide on the how to legislate for this right .

John Z Apr 8, 2015

But how would you phrase it in the Constitution?  Today we use the word "trimester", but what if in the future medical science comes up with different terminology.  How can we come up with a provision that is timeless?

Imogen Galilee Apr 9, 2015

"This clause needs to tackle head on whether or not a foetus is considered to be a person. " With respect, I don't see how that is relevant. We are here defining precisely what rights individuals have. It doesn't "follow" from anything that a fetus should or should not have constitutional rights at any given point, even if one did take the view that a fetus was a "person".

And Bob: the initial proposal was - at least the first trimester. The idea was voted up on that basis, and we are now in the refinement stage.

Bob Stammers Apr 10, 2015

I'm not disagreeing with anything Imogen.

I'm pointing out the obvious controversy that goes with this issue. There are plenty of people who will object to the idea of abortion even in the first trimester, I'm not one of them, and the solution needs to be a principled one to avoid that very controversy.

Users tagged:

Imogen Galilee Apr 10, 2015

The solution is precisely this: explicit constitutional protection is limited to pregnancy within the 'first trimester'.

View all replies (6)

Bob Stammers Apr 8, 2015

Any time-based dividing line will always produce controversy.

What's needed is some reasoned, scientific, basis for the distinction between person and non-person. The constitution is only concerned with the rights of persons and the ways in which those persons treat others. In some cases development will be faster than others, the dividing line must reflect the developmental point at a new person exists.

It's probably safe to assume that no person exists at five weeks but what about 15 weeks, 20 weeks, 30 weeks? Only science will provide the answer and the answer will be relevant to the individual not "all foetuses".

 

Alastair Bruton Apr 8, 2015

The sole right which the constitution should address is the right of the mother to choose to abort a pregnancy. It should be left up to Parliament to decide how to balance that constitutional right against whatever right MP's may recognise as belonging to the foetus. Science cannot produce a clear cut answer to what in the end is a matter of moral judgement.

John Z Apr 8, 2015

So should the provision expressly provide that this "right" is subject to limitations of Parliament?  If it does, can that be interpreted as Parliament restricting that "right"?  What if a rogue Parliament restricts it to an unreasonable short amount of time?  I'm asking this because I am unsure as to how this should be written.

Imogen Galilee Apr 9, 2015

"Science" cannot provide an answer to the question of defining a legal or moral category. In any case, the substantive debate on this provision has already concluded (in the 'Hacking' phase). If the constitution grants a right to a pregnant woman over whether or not to terminate the pregnancy, the question of the fetus's "personhood" is redundant.

Claire Finn Apr 9, 2015

Do you have any suggestions as to how it should be worded/refined, Imogen?

Imogen Galilee Apr 9, 2015

I would personally simply say this: "Women should have the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy for any reason during the first trimester at least." - but that's just me!

(including "at least" is important, I think)

View all replies (5)

Ian Smith Apr 8, 2015

How about enshrining the right as we currently have it in UK statute and future generations can then amend the constitution if they want change.  

What I find intriguing and disturbing in equal measure is that one day science may provoke a greater debate in Europr than currently exists concerning a right to life of an unborn Individual and therefore a head-on collision between 2 constitutional rights. But, again I recommend that we leave that to the future. 

Moan

Ian Smith Apr 8, 2015

i didn't mean "moan" but of course meant "Ian"! (Usual typo/ predictive text problem!)

Claire Finn Apr 11, 2015

V.2:

"Individuals have the right to bodily integrity and shall have the right to terminate their own pregnancies in the first trimester at least. People and institutions who are opposed to abortion should not be forced, through taxation or regulation, to support financially or by association, any abortion services."

The second sentence was in the original proposal and nobody objected to it. I think it's important to have a conscience clause. It might go some way towards reducing surrounding controversy.

Malcolm Ramsay Apr 11, 2015

... "should not be forced, through taxation or regulation, to support financially ..."

In the absence of hypothecated taxes, that clause might be taken as ruling out any NHS provision of abortion services. Unless that's what you intend, I think you probably need to find some other phrasing.

Claire Finn Apr 11, 2015

That is what I intend. I don't believe taxpayers should have to pay for it against their conscience. And as Bob points out it does point to a wider principle but I feel it's especially important on an issue that people feel so strongly about.

Bob Stammers Apr 11, 2015

I think that what you're suggesting is essentially bribing people to agree with something they'd otherwise disagree with.

I think firstly that that wouldn't comply with existing jurisprudence (it's been ruled unlawful to pay higher wages to workers declining to join a trade union), secondly it won't work, they'll object anyway, thirdly I can't imagine how such a clause would be enforced and fourthly how such a get out clause could be justified for abortion but not, say, for nuclear weapons or wealth redistribution.

but otherwise it might be worth a try

View all replies (3)

Bob Stammers Apr 11, 2015

Oh what a slippery slope is opened by that second sentence - "Dear HMRC, I object to my taxes being used for purpose X, please rebate that amount of cash"

Scott Wilson Apr 11, 2015

I have read through this thread, and having initially voted this down, I have decided to support the provision that would grant termination as an unconditional right in the first trimester, which neither confirms nor denies any rights beyond that, but leaving it up to Parliament.  

I also agree with Claire on the provision regarding taxpayer funding.  If ever there was an issue of an action undertaken by the state that is a matter of deep personal conscience, it is this one.  It isn't just religious, it is a profound moral belief as to the definition of life.  The simplest provision is to prohibit the state funding abortion services.  If we are to respect the rights of individuals to be ethically opposed to abortion, it seems only right that money collected from taxpayers is not used to support it.  Of course, none of this would prevent anyone, including charities, medical professionals and others to set up a fund to support it. 

Bob Stammers Apr 12, 2015

What's being discussed here is an individual right being protected by the constitution.

If it's a right then it's a right, belonging to an individual, guaranteed by the state. If some people would find it so morally unacceptable that the state must compensate those people, then the state should not be guaranteeing such a right.

Many people find it morally unacceptable that homosexuals are now able to marry one another. The registrars who provide that service are funded out of general taxation paid even by those objectors.

Many people find it morally unacceptable that we own and maintain nuclear weapons. Those are paid for out of general taxation paid even by those objectors.

Abortions are currently available on the NHS. Those are paid for out of general taxation paid even by those objectors.

In any event, no one is suggesting (are they?) that the right guaranteed by the constitution is to be provided by the state free of charge, the right as I understand it is merely the right to have an abortion without state interference.

If a constitution resulting from this process is to be taken seriously outside of this small group it must, IMHO, properly resolve woolly issues like this instead of creating yet another politician's fudge.

Claire Finn Apr 18, 2015

Am I supposed to put my version two in the opening post? I don't see how I can edit it?

Users tagged:

John Z Apr 18, 2015

To the right of the thumbs up/thumbs down, click on the word "edit".

Imogen Galilee Apr 18, 2015

Done - sorry for the delay

View all replies (2)

John Z Apr 18, 2015

When you say " People...who are opposed to abortion should not be forced, through taxation...to support financially...any abortion services", are you stating that those who do favor abortion can support it through taxation? Or, is it an outright ban on public funds from being used on abortion?  If it is the former, how would that be implemented as people cannot choose specifically how their own tax money is spent.  If it is the latter, then the way it is written can be misleading;  I would just say "taxpayer funds shall not be used for abortion services". 

Scott Wilson Apr 18, 2015

Since taxation is not the only way anything can be funded, that element of the proposal would not prevent anyone from donating regularly or occasionally to charities to pay for abortions.  The final sentence of that comment would address this clearly.

John Z Apr 18, 2015

So should it say that it shall not be funded through taxpayer money?

Scott Wilson Apr 18, 2015

Yes

View all replies (3)

JimF Apr 18, 2015

I strongly support the basic proposal here, but I would prefer to see the reference to funding simply omitted. Taxation cannot be voluntary (despite Claire's desire for it to be so) and hypothecation of taxes is not practical, which is why it has always been rejected. The funding should be a matter for legislation, not the constitution.

John Z Apr 18, 2015

If it is omitted, the inference is that taxpayer money will cover it as it is a medical procedure.  It's a matter of clarity.

Alastair Bruton Apr 18, 2015

So much better to omit all references to funding. 

John Z Apr 18, 2015

But this will just create one more battle in Parliament and possibly in the Courts.

Ian Smith Apr 18, 2015

My concern is that the linking of funding abstention to the main right in this clause may cause people to vote it down.  My preference would be to see the 2 things separated out and for this idea to concentrate on women's rights

Alastair Bruton Apr 18, 2015

I don't agree. Abortion isn't a huge issue in the UK. Put a right for a woman to have an abortion into the constitution, and let Parliament decide on the details. And on no account say anything about taxpayers having a choice about how their taxes are spent. That approach leads to chaos. Democracy means accepting the majority opinion, not having everything just the way that you want it - as Bob Stammers argued so effectively 6 days ago.

John Z Apr 18, 2015

Perhaps Claire should delete the 2nd sentence in her proposal so the money issue is silent.

John Z Apr 18, 2015

Also, as far as you know, does the NHS cover ALL medical procedures, or only those specific medical procedures approved by legislation or regulation?

Alastair Bruton Apr 18, 2015

As I understand it the NHS funds any treatment or procedure which is legal and that its clinical committee considers effective. I don't recall there ever being a dispute over NHS funding of abortion.

View all replies (3)
Share