Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Professor Campbell's emotional manipulation

Andrew Lansley, the Tory shadow health secretary (see my post above), seems to have read the recent article by Professor Stuart Campbell about abortion law. It is a clever work that uses emotional manipulation combined with obfuscation to argue for changes to abortion law that provide even easier access to abortion. Easier access, contrary to Campbell’s claims, will not serve women well and is likely to increase the numbers of abortions. It will also neatly serve the purposes of those who want to establish abortion as a human right.

Campbell first creates an image that is emotionally powerful. Using the 3D imaging technique he developed, we immediately identify with the unborn child behaving in very human ways, like smiling, yawning, crying and sucking its thumb. We even hear of doctors who do not want to abort this child, and that to do so would be “almost barbaric”. This part of the article is clear and easy to follow, even though its most obvious failing is to apply this only to the child of 20 weeks or more. The arbitrariness in choosing this time leaps from the print.

But the reader has been primed. Primed for the real intent of the article, which is to make abortions easier prior to 12 weeks, and in doing so creep closer to accepting that abortion is just like any other medical procedure. When that is accepted it is a simple step to claim that, like the right to health care, abortion is likewise a right.

This is where the obfuscation begins.

Campbell wants the existing rule that two doctors must sign for an abortion to be abolished. It is true, as Campbell notes, that the ‘two-doctor rule’ was “introduced to avoid frivolous…abortion”, but why use the fact that “99 percent of abortions are carried out for social reasons” to support abolishing the two-doctor rule? Does Campbell think that thousands of abortions for social reasons are frivolous abortions? And does he think that abortions for frivolous reasons are okay? It is unclear.

Campbell also says the two-doctor rule has become “something of a farce”, and that “it is almost routine”. Yet this routine farce apparently involves “the laborious formalities of seeking independent signatures”, causing delays of 2 to 3 weeks. Which is it? We must presume the latter, because what immediately follows is emotional blackmail; the message being that women must have an abortion quickly, because the longer the decision is left the more chance they will be guilty of aborting a ‘real’ child. Given that there is sound evidence that a significant proportion of women remain ambivalent about their decision to abort, pressure to abort earlier rather than later on the grounds that their child is ever more human as time goes by, is cruelly manipulative.

The reader of Campbell’s article is being asked to support a legislative trade-off. Change the law on late-term abortions from 24 weeks to 20 weeks, but remove the two-doctor rule for earlier abortions. The outcome will be unfair pressure on the decision-making process in favour of abortion and an increase in the overall number of abortions. It may also support the clamour by some for ‘reproductive rights’. That some 21-24 week old unborn children will be aborted a few weeks earlier is cold comfort.