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The campaign to ban women from terminating pregnancies after 20 weeks is only the beginning, says Kit Roskelly

pro-choice protestorIn a matter of days, the House of Commons will vote on whether to slash the current time limit on abortions from 24 weeks into a pregnancy to 20. A movement spearheaded by Nadine Dorries MP, and The 20 Weeks Campaign, and supported by The Daily Mail, is putting pressure on MPs to vote in favour of this restriction on women’s rights.

A four-week gap may seem like a small issue, but this is what might be call ‘salami tactics’ – the reduction of reproductive rights by thin slices. This is an issue with huge repercussions, because the agenda of this campaign is not limited to that four-week gap.

You need only look at this list to see that the campaign is wholly anti-abortion. The reasons given are either heavily emotive, or rely on some pretty dubious scientific claims. (Liberal Conspiracy counters these claims here).

While the campaign claims to be founded largely on scientific advances that they claim make foetuses viable earlier on, the core concerns of the campaign do not stop at the 20-week threshold. One of the 20 ‘reasons’ given in Dorries’ campaign is: “Lowering the limit to 20 weeks for normal babies will save almost 2,300 young lives per year.” It is clearly based on emotional appeal rather than reasoned debate and, of course, the implication is ever more “babies” would be saved if the time limit was lowered even more, or abortion done away with altogether. The campaign completely ignores the fact that these foetuses are not babies, and do not exist in isolation; each is reliant on the body of a woman to survive and that woman is an autonomous person with the capacity and right to make choices about her own body. Women, if they are mentioned at all in these arguments for the rights of foetuses, are ignored or blamed, and this is in itself an act of misogyny.

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Photo by Steve Rhodes, shared under a Creative Commons license