Abortion Rights: Where Scotland’s MSP’s Stand

Would a woman’s right to choose be protected in an independent Scotland should the referendum result in us leaving the union?

After the comments from Conservative MP’s in England, namely Jeremy Hunt, Theresa May and Nadine Dorries (who’s since went off to Australia to eat kangaroo bollocks to “further politics in the UK”), I took matters into my own hands and contacted (mostly) female MSP’s to get an idea of where Scotland’s politicians stand on the current time limit.

This issue could really sell me on an independent Scotland, the knowledge that politicians in my home country are not looking to limit the choice I may at some point be forced to take should I fall into this unfortunate (for me) position.

My initial email went as follows:

Dear Ms _____,

As I am sure you will have read about, over the past weeks there have been a number of politicians both here in Scotland and from the Westminster Parliament who have come out in support of reducing the length of time a woman has to decide upon abortion. Obviously this is not an easy choice, although some politicians and religious figures in the media believe this to be so. Any woman who knows what abortion is like (through personal experience or otherwise) would easily be able to inform these people otherwise.

My reason for writing to yourself and the other female MP’s is that I would like some reassurance that in an open vote you would not vote to reduce your gender’s right to choose their own path. The current span of 24 weeks I find to be reasonable, given that women would have enough time to discover their pregnancy, and would be able to make an informed decision (given you can have the tests for possible genetic birth defects, etc) on whether to continue with the pregnancy.
Limiting this choice is not fair to women who do not find out about their pregancy early enough, and are thus forced into keeping a child they do not want and will ultimately resent. The woman who is forced to continue her pregnancy’s other option is to burden the already overladen care system.

I don’t understand why any woman would want to interfere with another woman’s choice. It is after all, a very personal choice. It is not for (mostly) male law makers to decide whether a woman can have that choice.

If I personally were to fall pregnant at this stage in my life, I could not keep the child. I am now in my early twenties, continuing my education and trying to earn a little money. I have never wanted children and do not see any reason for my mind to change at any point in the future. I would opt for an abortion, as it would be the only way to not literally ruin my life. I do not have the means to look after a child if it were forced onto me. I could not give up my child into the care system as I have friends who grew up, being passed around foster homes and never being adopted.

If the vote does come to pass, I ask you and your other female MSP’s that you remember the women of your constituency and beyond are not all in the same situation. Regardless of your own views, you should not use those to discriminate other women.

If this makes it to your desk, thank you for reading this, Hannah _____

I asked women as I do not feel as if a man can have the final say in a woman’s choice to continue or terminate a pregnancy.

I have organised the MSP’s responses by party, so you can get a fair picture of where specific parties stand on this issue.

Scottish National
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Nadine Dorries Has Crawled From Under Her Rock – Again!

Today I bring you the judgemental eyes of Dr T.J. Eckleberg, sorry, I mean the most spiteful MP working in Britain today. Yes, more than George Galloway, Jeremy Hunt and Theresa May. The frankly terrifying image above is of Nadine Dorries, who periodically crawls out from under her rock to garner attention and hatred from anyone who’s brain fires correctly.

Dorries must have been craving some attention. She’s been out of the public eye for a couple of months, so she’s crawled out from under her rock to receive the cheers, I mean, total ire from the public.

Nadine Dorries hates women, make no mistake.  Don’t let the lilac shirt fool you. Look at her eyes – do you think there’s even an ounce of sympathy in her heart for a woman forced to make the decision to abort an inviable foetus immediately after her twenty week scan? For this woman to have to make that decision immediately, if Dorries were to get her own way?

Nadine Dorries will have a 90 minute opportunity to expel the bile she’s built up since her last attack on the women of this country. She will be proposing reducing the time period in which a woman can have a legal abortion from 24 weeks down to 20. If this limit were to be enforced, a woman who found out her pregnancy would be dangerous to both her and the child would be forced to have an abortion immediately. Before this time frame, the foetus would not have developed enough to see serious defects which would affect the chances of a live birth. So Dorries’ proposal is dangerous to both women and their potentially wanted children (let’s face it, at 20 weeks along you either don’t know you’re pregnant or you want the child).

How can this possibly be fair? The decision to abort a child is not one to be taken lightly. If I were to discover I was pregnant now, I would abort it. I’m ok with this decision, but I am well aware that it’s not something to just waltz into. It’s just doing what I would have to do in order to live the life I want.

So, Nadine Dorries. Do you really hate women enough to endanger their health in order for foetuses who are unlikely to survive until birth? Do you really want to discriminate against women with abnormal menstrual cycles who have no means of discovering their pregnancy, just because you personally do not agree with it?

I really should expect nothing else from yourself of members of your party. It’s taking yet another opportunity to oppress those in weaker positions than yourself. It genuinely sickens me that people like yourself have power over decisions I may have to make should my contraception fail (and seeing as I’m on a pill where I take a break on a quarterly basis, I’d be at least 12 weeks along before I found out). At least I can rest assured that you and your colleagues will not be serving another term in office.

Really, it’s not your place to choose what I or any other woman in the UK does with their body or unborn foetus. Keep your hands off my reproductive rights. If you would shut your mouth about abortion, I could accept the fact that you don’t support it. But your constant belly-aching about the choices others make means I just can’t ignore you and your spiteful actions towards women.

I don’t like Diane Abbott either, but I hope she wipes the fucking floor with you.

I should point out that I am absolutely open to reading anything which proves the viability of 20-24 week births. A female MSP I emailed (post coming later once I have gathered more responses) was a medical librarian and informed me that viability of births in the mentioned time frame have not improved, but survival rates of those born after the current limit have improved dramatically. Leave the limit, and my right to choose the way they are.

Theresa May – The Ex-Equalities Minister Who Doesn’t Believe in Equality for Women

Oh, Theresa May. How you were ever named the equalities minister is beyond me, given you don’t believe in there being equality between men and women. This is shocking for a woman so far ahead in UK politics to do something so anti-feminist. I felt I had to write to her.

Theresa May, the UK home secretary, has come out in support of Jeremy Hunt limiting the time period abortions would be available. In my post from just a few minutes ago, you can see the email I sent which is mentioned fairly often in this email.

Dear Ms. May,

As a fellow woman I find myself rather disconcerted that someone in a position of power such as yours does not appear to stand for women’s rights at all. When you colleague Mr Hunt came out to say he believes the time period in which a woman can have an abortion, you should have come out in defence of your gender. A man who does not have to make the decision about going through with a pregnancy should not be making decisions on behalf of women.
I have already emailed Mr Hunt’s office and the Department of Health this morning about this issue, but frankly, your position in support of him is more worrying than anything. Your personal religious views may make you unable to support abortion – this however does not mean that you should be restricting the rights of the rest of the women in this country. To say otherwise is just wrong, given we’re supposed to now live in a Britain which has thrived due to the separation of church and state.

I outlined in my email to Mr Hunt the time period of twelve weeks is impossibly short, given by the time the most regular woman in the world would be four weeks along by the time she missed her first period (that’s already a third of the window away).
What of the women who don’t have regular menstrual cycles, and assume the missed period is due to it just being another irregularity? If women like this missed the window, it would not be their own fault, there’s simply no way of telling.
Some women have regular menstrual periods throughout the entirety of their pregnancy (including one nursing student I know personally, who didn’t know she was pregnant until she went into labour in her own flat). What of those women?

To come out in support of Mr Hunt is anti-feminist. And I mean feminist in the purest sense in the world. You (despite being inexplicably named the equalities minister) clearly do not believe in equality between men and women. It’s honestly shocking to see someone in your position come out in support of something so restrictive towards your own gender.

I believe it’s my body, so the choices about what to do with it should belong to me. It’s obvious you don’t feel the same.

Hannah Welsh.

Ah, Jeremy Hunt. You Utter, Utter Cunt.

Jeremy Hunt, Weymouth, 11 June 2010

Jeremy Hunt, Weymouth, 11 June 2010 (Photo credit: The Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

For those of you not in the UK and not up to date with the latest cabinet reshuffle. The man pictured above is Jeremy Hunt, who did such an awful job as culture secretary (yes, he’s the man who was more than close with Rupert Murdoch before all the allegations of phone hacking resulted in the Leveson enquiry), that our genius of a prime minister, David Cameron thought there was no-one better to be in charge of one of the most important departments of the UK Government. This man is in charge of our beloved NHS. This man also believes abortion time limits in the UK are too long and wants them to be halved.

Today, he told an interviewer that he believes the time limit placed on NHS abortion to be a miserly twelve weeks. A time period in which a large proportion of women are not aware they are pregnant.

Like I did with Rep. Todd Akin, I have written Mr Hunt an email (and have sent it to his constituency email and through the Department of Health’s website).

Dear Mr Hunt,
I’d like to take just a moment to congratulate you on one thing: the British public thought you couldn’t be any more loathsome. Today, you proved them wrong. Great job! It honestly makes the mind boggle that you gave such an opinion, having clearly avoided actual evidence from scientific studies or having actually talked to the women of your constituency and beyond.
On one hand, after everything you’ve done I’m pretty glad you and the rest of your privately educated brethren are in power because it assures me that you’ll not be voted in again. The entire Conservative/Liberal Democrat government has been an utter shambles.

Anyway, I am writing to you today to discuss your views on the abortion limit being too long at 24 weeks. Are you being serious?
I mean, really.

By the time a woman misses her period she is already technically 4 weeks along, and if a woman is not regular in her menstruation, this can easily be written off as just being a longer cycle. Some women continue to have periods throughout their entire pregnancy – how do you propose those women (who will notice literally no change in their body until the baby reaches a significant size enough to produce a bump) find out about their pregnancy within 3 months?
For one, the strain on the NHS you are in charge of will be increased by an unknown margin. Home pregnancy tests are unreliable and expensive, so where are all the women worried about missing this, frankly ridiculous, margin going to go? To their GP to be given a free pregnancy test!
And what about those women who miss your margin because they haven’t noticed any changes in their body? They have two options, really. To continue their unwanted pregnancy to term, for the unwanted child to either be resented by the mother, or be placed into the care system where it is unlikely to ever be adopted into a family. Think about the cost of these women’s antinatal care, all the extra hospital beds in bigger maternity wards which will be necessary to accommodate all these extra pregnant women giving birth.
Put simply, twelve weeks is far too short a period to give women to discover their pregnancy, then have an abortion if they do not want a family.

You, Mr Hunt will never have to go through pregnancy. You will never have to worry about the possibility of getting pregnant because a man can just walk away with no consequences. So why do you think you should have a say in what women do with their own bodies? Why are the rights of a non-sentient featus (which it is until the 24 weeks limit, by the way) deemed by you to be more important to you and other members of your party than the woman being forced to carry it?

Hannah Welsh.

Theresa May has also come out in support of this frankly ludicrous opinion. Surely a woman wouldn’t want her own reproductive rights legislated against, so why does she support restricting other womens’ right to an abortion after discovering they were pregnant too late for this tiny margin? I sense another email coming.

You Can’t Just Ignore Evidence When it Doesn’t Suit Your Point.

On the whole, I’ve found that a lot of people can’t debate. We try and keep a debate going on the forum, more often than not it goes round in circles or fails completely. Other times, it melts down into complete chaos (usually over abortion and other such inflammatory topics). But today, I’m actually not talking about the forum.

I’ve encountered a new type of person – the person who holds odious views other than one good viewpoint. My last post has quite a lot to do with this. I started following a new person on twitter, who posted a link about debunking an animal rights activists’ unsourced points on facebook. I usually avoid facebook like the plague, but I felt intrigued enough to read. I’m now wishing I didn’t, though not for the reason you may think.

A man debating the pro-testing corner began insulting anti-vivisectionists, calling them “P.C. do-gooders”. Why it had to result into petty name-calling, I really don’t know. Perhaps it struck a nerve with him, but we’ll see. This genius then ventured the point

Don’t get me wrong, if I had my way, we wouldn’t test on animals we’d test on pedophiles etc

You’re kidding me on, right? To take a person’s human rights away purely for the fact they committed a crime is ridiculous. A person who winds up in prison is not suddenly sub-human. And to make things worse – anti-vivisectionists started agreeing with him! So these people are now arguing the point that criminals are worth less than animals. The mind truly boggles. People who want to be tested on, that’s great, but you can’t force that onto prisoners. The only thing they should be losing is their right to liberty (given that’s what prison is for).

This genius then came back to me, proclaiming

Since when have convicted pedophiles earned the right to be called a human being? A person should forfeit their human rights when they fail to recognise some 1 else’s human rights. Especially that of a defenceless young kid. U r the kinda PC waster that I was referring to. Let’s all hug a criminal!!!!!

I don’t respond well to being called a waster, let’s say from this point my back is up. People like this are the reason the death penalty still exists in the US. Western justice has failed, it’s easy to see and source facts for. Look at Scandinavian countries, who see the person, not the crime and do not see them as sub-human. Their focus on rehabilitation has been proven to work. Their recidivism rates are among the lowest in the world, and why? Because their prison does not build the criminal culture which exists in prisons in other countries in the Western world. You can’t just lock people up at the state’s expense and leave them. That’s no good for anyone.

This man believes in animal testing. He quotes facts from the Speaking of Research page, quotes sources and then conveniently forgets his love of evidence when it came to discussing rehabilitation of offenders. He then took to trying to utterly insult me, which truly, I laughed and fumed at in equal measure.

I’m not talking about rehabilitation… I wouldn’t waste time and tax payers money trying to! Pedophiles and murderers convicted beyond reasonable doubt deserve only to be put out of their misery!!! It really is twats like u that would wana send a “rehabilitated” pedophile back out into society to destroy another persons life all over again. Would u have a “rehabilitated” pedophile as ur neighbour? Would u have 1 teaching YOUR young family members? Would u be cool with 1 running a sweet shop? No u wouldn’t! This is where I disprove ur faith in “Rehabilitation” and show u for just another P.C hypocrite do-gooder…. And if ur answer to my above questions are YES, then I truly hope u never have the responsibility of any minor in ur hands. Would u trust a convicted rehabilitated pedophile alone with ur child???

Bad spelling and grammar aside, I wanted to facepalm on his behalf. It’s easy to see that rehabilitation is not a waste of money or time. People (aside from those who’re fighting to be euthanised) do not deserve to be “put out of their misery”. Committing a crime does not take away a person’s right to a life. Then, the truth becomes a figment of his memory, forgetting fact altogether! Anyone convicted of a sexual offence against a minor would not be given a job in a school (surely that would just be common sense). So, because I believe in rehabilitation of offenders of any sort, I’m not safe to have children?

For the record, if someone convicted of a sexual offence with a child involved has been proven to be rehabilitated – why should they be treated with distrust for the rest of their lives? Marginalising people isn’t going to keep them from re-offending.

For a bit of shameless promotion, the latest post on diaryofafailedhuman basically backs up my point. If you’re going to debate facts and then forget them, you’re really not worth bothering with. I’m tolerant to a fault, but if you insult me, prepare to feel the wrath of my tongue.

Animal Testing – Cruel, Corrupt or just Current Testing Procedure?

This is an inflammatory subject. If you don’t agree with what I’ve said here, that’s just fine. Just don’t get in my face about it. Reasoned debate doesn’t come from flinging insults. Be civil, inform others of how you feel, and take on board what they have to say too.

I’m an animal lover. When I was little, that love was for horses, although I was brutally allergic to them and would sneeze whenever one was close, I’d always take any offer to go up to the stables and look after a family friends’ horse. Now, I’m a dog lover. I can’t wait to have one of my own. I love nature documentaries, seeing monkeys happily swinging from tree to tree, and the animals on the forest floor foraging.

Reading that, you’d think someone like me would be completely against animal testing. I’m not, I’m actually pretty supportive of animal testing for medical purposes. Testing cosmetics on animals is plain wrong, it’s not necessary.

Animal testing has been something discussed at length in so many ways. The debate thread on the forum has come back to some semblance of activity, and I feel as if I’m the only one debating from the medical advancement viewpoint instead of “oh, those poor animals!”.

Animal,Porkey Pig, Lobund-Wistar

Animal,Porkey Pig, Lobund-Wistar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I will make my apologies now, this post will be far longer than most of my usual posts, and it will be dry. If you stick with me from this point, I thank you. You’ll get a little phrase near the end to comment me with, and I’ll jump around with glee that someone’s finished my blog!

I’m a biological sciences student at a university in Scotland. In my first and second years, we did some experiments involving animals – the first experiment we did was a live dissection of a mussel, so we could see how its breathing apparatus works. Prior to starting the experiment, the director gave the option for anyone opposed to this sort of experiment to leave (with no detriment to their grade) and then proceded to give us a lecture about how to treat this animal with respect, and that we absolutely must avoid hurting it more than was necessary for this lesson. Prior to beginning any courses which contain working with animals at the university, you must sign a welfare form, saying that you will adhere to all rules laid out by the university. All demonstrators (postgrad students who knew what they were doing) watched over us like hawks, making sure we did not insert the scalpel far enough to touch the mussel when opening the shell gave us their time to show what proper practice when dealing with any animal is.

Worldwide, animal testing is broadly participated in, simply because in-vitro testing is not financially viable for underfunded scientific facilities to practice. Scientists who use animals in their testing though, adhere to the “Three R’s”:

The three Rs are a set of principles that scientists are encouraged to follow in order to reduce the impact of research on animals. The three Rs are: Reduction, Refinement, Replacement.

The three Rs are a set of principles that scientists are encouraged to follow in order to reduce the impact of research on animals.

The three Rs are: Reduction, Refinement, Replacement.

Reducing the number of animals used in experiments by:
Improving experimental techniques
Improving techniques of data analysis
Sharing information with other researchers
Refining the experiment or the way the animals are cared for so as to reduce their suffering by:
Using less invasive techniques
Better medical care
Better living conditions
Replacing experiments on animals with alternative techniques such as:
Experimenting on cell cultures instead of whole animals
Using computer models
Studying human volunteers
Using epidemiological studies

The 3 R’s are posted here to show that research using animals is only conducted when necessary, and minimises suffering in all ways possible. Scientists don’t just randomly think to themselves that they’re going to use and hurt as many animals as possible.

In the USA, the IACUC gives very clear guidelines as to how experiments should be carried out, such as linked here at Cornell university, here at Harvard, and here at Penn State university.

In Canada, the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) is setup to act in the interests of the people of Canada to ensure through programs of education, assessment and guidelines development that the use of animals, where necessary, for research, teaching and testing employs optimal physical and psychological care according to acceptable scientific standards, and to promote an increased level of knowledge, awareness and sensitivity to relevant ethical principles. At the inaugural meeting on January 30, 1968, the CCAC adopted the following statement of objective: “to develop guiding principles for the care of experimental animals in Canada, and to work for their effective application”.
The provinces have jurisdiction concerning that area. The federal government, however, is involved in three areas: the criminal law power, the health power, and the spending power.

The Criminal Code of Canada Section 446 and 447 of the Criminal Code protect animals from cruelty, abuse and neglect. This section of the Criminal Code has been under review for several years.

The Health of Animals Act (1990) and its regulations are aimed primarily at protecting Canadian livestock from a variety of infectious diseases that would threaten both the health of the animals and people, and Canadian trade in livestock with other countries. This act is used both to deal with named disease outbreaks in Canada, and to prevent the entry of unacceptable diseases that do not exist in Canada.

Spending power – the other mechanism through which the federal government has lent its support to the humane treatment of animals is not strictly speaking legislative in nature, but in many respects it is one of the most powerful instruments available to the federal government for setting national standards. The federal government’s power to provide for grants subject to conditions imposed on the recipients, be they provincial governments or individual or corporate recipients, may take a variety of different forms. One form is that of the conditional federal grant or contract. This manifestation of the federal power is what currently underpins the imposition of CCAC standards on facilities receiving funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. Where the government itself awards a contract on an academic or non-academic institution, clause A9015C of Public Works Standard Acquisition Clauses and Conditions Manual imposes conditions related to the care and use of experimental animals in public works and government services. All of the provinces in Canada have created and passed laws that pertain to animal welfare, but only certain provinces have made their own laws. Universities in Canada also follow strict guidelines, as shown here from the University of Toronto.

Arguably the UK has the most strict laws and guidelines concerning animal testing. As all testing is governed by the Home Office, they publish data as well as the institutions involved (statistics from 2004 here).

Here’s a section of a piece written by Jess Smith and Aisling Spain who both perform animal testing at the University of Edinburgh:
The pressure on researchers to use alternatives is not adequately understood among the public and this is exploited by animal rights groups in their arguments. In condemning the use of animals in research, they make the point that animals are too dissimilar to humans for meaningful comparisons to be made. However, when making points about animal use for food PETA are quick to draw specious parallels between humans and animals. Despite high-profile failures in drug safety, there still exists a vast number of drugs on the market which have had their safety established in animals. Public perception of animal rights issues is further distorted by celebrity endorsements of certain issues, such as protests against the fur trade.

In common with other emotive science issues the most problematic issue for those defending animal research is public ignorance of the research itself and how it is controlled. This ignorance is compounded by some animal rights websites which inaccurately represent scientists as unwilling to use alternatives to animals in their research. It is time to end the silence on the part of researchers, to explain to the public what is done and why, and to open up laboratories and animal facilities so that their level of care can be clearly seen.

The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 link here requires experiments to be regulated by three licenses: a project license for the scientist in charge of the project, which details the numbers and types of animals to be used, the experiments to be performed, and the purpose of them; a certificate for the institution to ensure it has adequate facilities and staff; and a personal license for each scientist or technician who carries out any procedure. In deciding whether to grant a license, the Home Office refers to the Act’s cost-benefit analysis, which is defined as “the likely adverse effects on the animals concerned against the benefit likely to accrue as a result of the programme to be specified in the license” (Section 5(4)). A license should not be granted if there is a “reasonably practicable method not entailing the use of protected animals” (Section 5(5) (a)). The experiments must use “the minimum number of animals, involve animals with the lowest degree of neurophysiological sensitivity, cause the least pain, suffering, distress, or lasting harm, and [be the] most likely to produce satisfactory results” (Section 5(5) (b)). source here

During a 2002 House of Lords select committee inquiry into animal testing in the UK, witnesses stated that the UK has the tightest regulatory system in the world, and is the only country to require a cost-benefit assessment of every license application (source) There are 29 qualified inspectors covering 230 establishments, which are visited on average 11–12 times a year.source here

If you’ve made it to here – post “parsimonious” so I know you made it to here and I can squee that I haven’t killed everyone with boredom. Animal testing has brought about so much advancement in medicine, it’s truly been amazing. People have called it an archaeic practice, but how else are you supposed to test medicines? How many human test subjects are really going to volunteer? How reliable do you think the results would be from a very tiny sample size?

Until in-vitro testing is more affordable, animal testing will continue. It’s a sad fact, but there you have it. From my experience of both helping out in an animal shelter and being around animals who are being tested on – people outside of labs are far worse than the people who are trying to keep you, your friends and your family healthy.

A short list of things animal testing has helped provide treatment and cures for