Posts Tagged ‘Abortion’

The red thread of the “progressives”

February 26, 2019

It can be sugar-coated but the reality is that abortion is already established as an acceptable method of contraception. It now seems to be that infanticide, immediately after the birth of a baby that could have been eligible for abortion, is also an acceptable method of contraception for US Democrats.

The “progressives” in the US are now finding that infanticide of the newly born can be ethical. Why not babies upto 12 months old?

I am not sure where the “progressives” (typified by the extreme wings of the Democrats in the US, Social Democrats and Liberals in Europe and Labour and Liberals the in the UK) are headed, but their path seems sanctimoniously suicidal.

It seems to me to be more a question of narcissistic self-indulgence than of ethics.


In Sweden, abortion has become just another form of contraception

February 7, 2019

I am still old-fashioned enough to believe that abortion is a necessary, last-resort procedure to be used only if the life of the mother is at risk or if the fetus is nonviable. But it seems to be becoming just another form of contraception, and in a few cases, the method of preferred contraception.

Just a quirk of the numbers but the proportion being aborted today are about the same proportion as infant mortality claimed some 300 years ago. Globally the number of abortions is about 25-30% of the number of live births. In Sweden it is just over 30%.

  • In the 1700s infant mortality killed about 20% of children under 1 year old.
  • Today the infant mortality rate is less than 0.3%
  • Today around 30/130 = 23% are aborted.

Swedish Radio (Ekot) carried this report today:

Better counseling can reduce repeated abortions

Repeated abortions can be prevented if abortion clinics improve their contraceptive counseling, according to a new study.

Siri, who has gone through several abortions, thinks that counseling in connection with abortion is important. “You feel immediate shame and guilt because your pregnancy is unplanned. Then it is about being treated with empathy and respect in a longer meeting. Perhaps the contraceptive advice should not be just 15 -20 minutes.”The mother of two, Siri, has undergone unplanned pregnancy several times, and has found it difficult to find a suitable contraceptive..

This is a recurring theme in the doctoral thesis that midwife Helena Kilander from the Höglandssjukhuset in Eksjö has completed at Linköping University.

She followed 987 women who had abortions in 2009. A quarter of the women came back to make a new abortion within a couple of years. Many of them had received birth control pills, but did not take the tablets.

…………. Every day, almost 100 women in Sweden have abortions. And it is more common here, than in the other Nordic countries, that women have repeated abortions. “Although there are few negative long-term effects of undergoing abortion, it is common for this to be a stressful event in women’s life”.


By the numbers:

  • SCB: 110 – 115,000 babies are born in Sweden every year. (In 2016 it was higher than usual at about 117,000).
  • Around 36,000 abortions are carried out every year.
  • 25% of those surveyed had repeat abortions.
  • Some women have multiple (4 – 5) abortions.

Paradoxically, what used to be the duty to use abortion as a last resort to preserve the life of the mother has been “liberalized” into a woman’s absolute “right” to kill her own unborn children.


Abortion now a significant demographic parameter

January 15, 2019

During 2018, it is estimated that around 140 million babies were born and that around 60 million people died. The global population had reached 7.7 billion at the end of 2018.

In addition, around 41 million legal abortions were carried out in 2018. There may also be a significant number of illegal or unreported abortions so that the total number may be around 50 million.

Global fertility rates are declining inexorably. The number of babies born will be reducing over the next 100 years (with the biggest declines expected in Africa). The crude death rate is a balance between two trends; first the decline due to improving health care (and longevity) and second the increase due to an increasing population of the aged. By around 2090 deaths will exceed births and by 2100 the world population will be in decline.

Abortions are not recorded in either birth or death statistics. But what is not in doubt is that the actual number of babies born is almost 30% lower because of abortions. If abortions were included in both birth and death statistics the natural population increase (births minus deaths) would remain unchanged (190m-110m instead of 140m-60m). However, abortions would then be the single highest cause of death. The next highest cause of death would then be coronary artery disease (around 10m).

The long term, global, fertility and morbidity trends are not affected by the number of abortions. Even if no abortions took place, world population would still stabilise and then decline but this would be delayed by about 40 years (stabilisation and decline in 2130 instead of about 2090).

That abortion is now a significant demographic parameter is self-evident.

The morality or rightness of carrying out abortions is a different matter and primarily for women to decide on. The human species is the only one which has the ability to, and does, carry out intentional abortions. That women should be assisted to carry out abortions to preserve their health or for other necessary medical reasons (physical or mental) seems obvious.

I am not so sure that assisting abortions for the convenience of the mother or for covering up carelessness is equally justified. Or that 41 million legal abortions is a number to celebrate or to be particularly proud of.


The New Eugenics

March 11, 2018

Eugenics, because of the way it was practised by the Nazis, has become a bit of a taboo word. But it has been practised in silence and by default for some time now.

ktwop (2013):

The trends I think are fairly clear. The proportion of “artificial births” is increasing and the element of genetic selection by screening for desired charateristics in such cases is on the increase. The number of abortions after conception would seem to be on its way to some “stable” level of perhaps 25% of all conceptions. The genetic content of the decision to abort however is also increasing and it is likely that the frequency of births where genetic disorders exist or where the propensity for debilitating disease is high will decrease sharply as genetic screening techniques develop further.

It is still a long way off to humans breeding for specific charateristics but even what is being practised now is the start of eugenics in all but name. And it is not difficult to imagine that eugenics – without any hint of coercion – but where parents or the mothers-to-be select for certain characteristics or deselect (by abortion) to avoid others in their children-to-be will be de rigueur.

As neonatal screening techniques improve, eugenics is no longer just by default but is increasingly due to an active choice being made. Down syndrome is already well on the way to being eradicated.


Zika fears lead to spike in DIY abortions in Latin America

June 23, 2016

Abortion is still illegal in most of Catholic Latin America and the governments have responded to the Zika virus by suggesting that women not get pregnant. They seem to have the support of the Pope for that approach. As The Guardian reports, “Pope Francis has indicated that women exposed to the Zika virus may be permitted to use contraception to avoid pregnancy, in a departure from Catholic teaching. However he reiterated the church’s staunch opposition to abortion, saying it was a crime and “absolute evil”.

But the reality is that DIY abortions are spiking and interestingly the countries advising women not to get pregnant are seeing the largest increases in abortion. Effectively The Pope’s dispensation on contraception is being taken, it would seem, as a dispensation also for abortion.

BBCFears over the Zika virus have contributed to a “huge” increase in the number of women in Latin America wanting abortions, researchers say. Estimates suggest there has been at least a doubling in requests in Brazil and an increase of a third in other countries. Many governments have advised women not to get pregnant due to the risk of babies being born with tiny brains.

The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

A termination remains illegal in many parts of Latin America, but women simply turn to unofficial providers. Women on Web, which advises women online and then delivers pills to end a pregnancy, is one of the largest. The researchers analysed the thousands of requests received by Women on Web in the five years before the Pan American Health Organization issued its warning on Zika on 17 November 2015. It used this to predict how many abortion requests would have been expected between 17 November 2015 and 1 March 2016.

The analysis of countries that advised against getting pregnant suggested Brazil and Ecuador had had more than twice the expected demand for abortions.

Country Expected Actual Increase
Brazil 582 1210 +108%
Colombia 102 141 +39%
Costa Rica 49 67 +36%
El Salvador 18 24 +36%
Ecuador 34 71 +108%
Honduras 21 36 +76%
Venezuela 45 86 +93%

Analysis from other countries, which did not advise against pregnancy, suggested smaller increases in abortion demand.


In Sweden “abortion rights” come into conflict with “rights to conscience”

April 27, 2015

There are no such things as “absolute” human rights. There are only privileges which various societies variously deem to be the rights of their members (and sometimes of their non-members). “Rights” are nothing more than “privileges” granted by a body which claims the authority to grant such privileges. Very often such “rights” are granted even though the body granting the privilege has not the power or capability to ensure the privilege, even where the body is a State and has introduced legislation about it.

(I note in passing that no Law of God or Man ensures – or can ensure – compliance with the Law. It is only the Laws of Nature which enjoy 100% compliance and where compliance is inherent within the existence of the Law. Which suggests to me that the Laws of Nature rank higher than the Law of any god or of any man).

I do not look to any body or society to grant me the “right” to have an opinion (or to think or to breathe for that matter). I just have opinions on virtually everything but I claim no “right” that others must listen to or pay any attention to my opinions. And even if every other person disagrees, it remains my opinion. Opinions are neither right or wrong – they exist in a cognitive space which is undisturbed by rightness or wrongness. And so I have opinions also about abortion and infanticide and eugenics. I take “life” as originating from parents and passing from their sperm and eggs to the conception of a new identity and then a birth as all being part of the same continuum. I think a new “identity” is created at the moment of conception and am therefore uncertain as to

…. what is it that makes aborting a foetus and preventing a child from being born much less disturbing than terminating the existence of that same child after birth?

Whether to have an abortion or not is entirely a matter for the woman concerned – in my opinion. Whether others should assist her or not is a matter for them – in my opinion. But in Sweden where the State has determined that abortion is a “privilege” it has granted under certain circumstances, it has also – to try and ensure compliance – made it a duty and obligatory for health care workers to assist in such abortions. And that impinges on the “rights” of those workers in their choice whether to help or not.

Swedish Radio:

The abortion issue can sail up as a conflict area within the conservative Alliance parties. The new Christian Democrat leader Ebba Busch Thor has reiterated the call for a conscience clause. But the proposal was rejected by the Liberal Party leader Jan Björklund. “It is not reasonable. Health care operates under legislation to be able to perform abortions under certain criteria and conditions. Then the staff who are in health care must perform accordingly” says Jan Björklund.

The Christian Democrats have long called for the introduction of a conscience clause which would means that midwives who do not want to perform abortions should be able to avoid it. But the previous party leadership with Göran Hägglund at the top, decided not to pursue the matter.

Ebba Busch Thor, who yesterday was elected as the new Christian Democrats leader, has in several interviews in recent months raised the conscience clause and she now wants to get the party to run with it. This would then be a change of course for the Christian Democrats.

If this is what happens Busch Thor can expect to meet resistance from Alliance colleague Jan Björklund. “For the Liberal Party this is not an issue. We are different parties and of course we have different views on some issues. It’s nothing new. Then if the Christian Democrats intend to pursue this type of question harder, we would of course have discussions in the Alliance” he said.

Anna Starbrink, the Liberal Party’s strong woman in Stockholm and responsible for health care is upset. “The woman’s right to abortion must be that which rules. There can be no doubt about it. If a woman seeks an abortion, she should not be questioned and met by staff who refuse to perform their duties. It nibbles the right to abortion at the edges. If it hampers women from getting an abortion, the law would have been sidelined” says Anna Starbrink.

In Sweden abortion is available “on demand” upto the 18th week of pregnancy. Between the 18th and 22nd week permission is needed from the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen). In very special cases, later abortions are permitted if the foetus is not viable.

Currently around 25% of all known pregnancies in Sweden end in abortion. It is interesting to compare this figure with infant mortality rates (infant deaths in the first year after after birth). In today’s Sweden this figure is at about 0.3%. But todays abortions are comparable to the infant mortality rates of 300 years ago:

High infant mortality rates plagued communities throughout Europe until the beginning of the twentieth century. Even in the middle of the 1800s, a quarter of all babies born in many European countries died before their first birthday. At the start of the nineteenth century in France, less than one half of children lived to be ten years old. In Sweden as a whole, the infant mortality rate in the late 1700s was about twenty percent.

Medical science it would seem has enabled the dramatic reduction in infant mortality and has also enabled an equivalent increase in the number of abortions. After-birth, involuntary termination of life has been replaced by a before-birth, voluntary termination.

While it seems logical that every women decide for herself if she wishes to have an abortion or not, it does not seem logical – to me – that others should be forced – coerced by the threat of losing their jobs – to participate in her decision.

Does the Swedish “right to have an abortion” override the individual’s “right to have a conscience”?

Immortality of identity

February 26, 2015
The winner spermatazoon - Gabriel Sancho

The winner spermatozoon – Gabriel Sancho

The human reproductive process is remarkably inefficient. A male produces sperm throughout his life from puberty on. The quality and quantity deteriorates with age but he probably produces between 500 billion and 1 trillion sperm during a lifetime. Most get nowhere near where they are supposed to go, are very badly directed and eventually die. Unexpelled sperm are reabsorbed. Some few tens of millions find their way into a female reproductive system but the vast majority of these never meet a mature egg and wander around aimlessly until they die, unrequited and unfulfilled. On average a male fathers between 2 and 3 children. Each such instance requires just one sperm. There is little evidence to suggest that the successful sperm is the “best” of the bunch. It is more a case of which lucky one was at the right place at the right time. The “hit rate” for male sperm is thus – quite pathetically in process terms – around one in 300 billion. Things are much more focused on the female side. The success rate for mature eggs is very much higher than for sperm, but still quite low. A woman has a total of some 400 – 500 mature eggs, released singly during each menstrual cycle over a child-bearing period of 30 – 40 years. Of these, on average, with widespread contraception, between 2 and 3 will be fertilised by a sperm to result in a child. A hit rate of around one child for every 200 eggs. Perhaps twice that without contraception.

The inefficiency of the process is a commentary on evolution but it is still sufficient to produce more births than the replenishment rate needed to keep the total population stable. (Evolution never looks for “excellence” since it is always satisfied with what is “good enough”). In fact the resultant population growth rate has been so high that humankind has had to apply methods to further restrict the already low hit rate. In the last 100 years, globally, fertility rates have declined from over 6 to the current 2.5 per woman. Contraception, sterilisation and abortion are the methods of choice (and infanticide is now very rare but not unknown). Contraception has had the largest impact on this decline in fertility rate.

I was listening to a politician recently spouting politically correct platitudes about abortion and got to wondering how to describe the various human attitudes, in spite of a commonality of purpose (the avoidance of a child), between contraception and abortion and, by extension, infanticide.  It would certainly be incorrect to claim that a sperm or an egg are not “living”. They show in fact that “life” is a continuum from the parents, and then through their eggs and sperm to the fertilised egg, its birth and then its life as an independent individual. So why should it be that preventing an egg being fertilised, which would otherwise go on to become a foetus, causes no moral qualms but aborting that same foetus after it has been conceived is so disturbing to some? Extending that thought, what is it that makes aborting a foetus and preventing a child from being born much less disturbing than terminating the existence of that same child after birth?

I suspect that it is our concept of “identity” rather than “life” which determines.

Contraception and sterilisation prevent conception. Prior to that we cannot attribute any clear identity to one sperm within a swarm of millions. An ovum is much closer to having identity but it still only has the identity of a “component part”. In fact the sperm and eggs live under the umbrella of the identity of their originating individuals. Only one sperm in 300 billion and one egg in 200 succeed in combining and developing into a child. All the rest die unrequited. But when they die or produce a fertilised egg, they do not diminish the identity of the individuals they came from. The component identities cease when the sperm or eggs cease to be. About 70-80% of all foetuses conceived would normally come to term. After about 10-12 weeks of pregnancy this is closer to 90%. (Currently around 20 – 25% of conceptions are aborted globally). The moment of conception is unique in that it is when a new identity is formed. It is a discontinuity in the playing field of identities. It is an additional identity, connected to but separate from the identities of the parents. There is a strong case, I think, for considering the fertilised egg as the start of a new, recognisable, unique human identity even though the life of that identity is not (yet) independently viable. Many societies set a limit of 22 or 24 weeks after conception as being the point when a foetus acquires the “right” to live but this boundary is irrational. This time is based on when a foetus – if born prematurely – is considered to be viable. I don’t find this very useful since the alternative to an abortion is not usually a premature birth. I note also that the probability of a foetus reaching full term changes very little after the first 10-12 weeks of a pregnancy. A 12 week old foetus has almost the same chance of being born as a 30 week old foetus. An abortion at any time after about the first 12 weeks effectively eliminates a birth which – with a 90% probability – would otherwise occur. After birth, infant mortality rates today are generally around 5% (ranging from close to 15% in the poorest parts of Africa to less than 2% in well developed societies).

Looking at probabilities, and based on all the sperm and all the eggs that are produced by humans, contraception halves what is already a very low chance of conception. The probability of an egg being fertilised reduces from about 1:100 (1%)  – of an unidentifiable egg being fertilised by an even less identifiable sperm  – to be about 1:200. Abortion however terminates a 70-80% probability of an independent, identifiable entity coming into being. Infanticide eliminates a 95-98% probability of an independent human life continuing. Could it be that our sense of outrage is related to the probability of an independent entity coming into being? When the probability is very low we see no great harm in reducing it still further but when the probability is high we feel it “unnatural” and “immoral” to intervene?

It is possible that we intuitively assess probabilities but I don’t think that we connect “morality” to probability. I suspect that it is primarily identity and the point at which we are prepared to recognise or assign an independent identity that is the key. It is probably the same cognitive process which leads to our lack of engagement when many thousands of people – but without recognisable identities – perish in a tsunami and the close emotional engagement when somebody known suffers harm. And why it is said to be emotionally easier to drop a bomb on an unknown, unidentifiable mass of people than to be a sniper who can see his target in his sights.

A unique identity is recognisable first when an egg is fertilised. That identity cannot be foretold but it may be remembered long after the individual dies. It may in due course be forgotten. But whether or not it is forgotten, the fact of the creation of that identity remains. Forever. It is identity, once created, which remains unique and immortal.


Eugenics by surrogacy – Australian style

August 1, 2014

It was an Australian couple in this case but of course there are many who use surrogacy in Thailand and other poor countries to carry out procedures they cannot in their own countries. In nearly all cases of surrogacy the mother is required to abort if a serious medical problem is detected.

In the Sydney Morning Herald:

Gammy, a six-month-old baby abandoned by his Australian parents, could die because his impoverished Thai surrogate mother cannot pay for medical treatment for his congenital heart condition.

The child will never know his twin sister, who was born healthy with him in a Bangkok hospital and has been taken away by their parents, who are living anonymously in Australia.

The story of how 21-year-old Pattharamon Janbua was cheated by a surrogacy agent in Bangkok and left to try to save the life of her critically unwell baby has emerged as Thai authorities move to crack down on IVF clinics, …… 

Ms Pattharamon says three months after a doctor injected the Australian woman’s fertilised egg into her uterus, she discovered she was having twins. The agent promised her an additional $1673 to have the second baby.

The couple asked the Thai mother to abort the Downs syndrome twin which she was not prepared to do.

Four months into the pregnancy, doctors doing routine checks discovered one of the babies had Down syndrome. They told the Australian parents, who said they did not want to take the boy, according to a source familiar with the case.  

“They told me to have an abortion but I didn’t agree because I am afraid of sin,” Ms Pattharamon says, referring to her Buddhist beliefs. 

This couple probably should be barred from being parents but their genes are being carried forward.

How many surrogate conceptions are aborted is not known but they happen –  it is thought – mainly because a medical defect in the fetus has been detected.  However, it is known that many surrogate clinics do select for the sex of the child and babies of the undesired gender are also aborted. Many of the Thai surrogacies for Australians are for same-sex couples. I don’t believe that any child – if given and capable of an informed choice – would prefer to do without a father or a mother.

Currently around 25-30% of all “normal “human conceptions are aborted. But most of these are abortions for convenience rather than for defects in the fetus. If being a reluctant mother has a genetic component then every abortion is also a genetic deselection of reluctant mothers.

Related: On birth rates, abortions and “eugenics by default”

Modern eugenics in all but name: Sex selection by abortion is legal in the UK

October 7, 2013

Eugenics is here even if nobody wants to acknowledge it for fear of being equated with the Nazis. Artificial selection and deselection rather than natural selection will eventually come to dominate the future evolution of humans. In India the abortion of female foetuses is sometimes an extension of female infanticide caused by the fear of the cost of female children and by the social status accorded by a male child. Sex selection by deselecting foetuses of unwanted genders is not just a feature of the developing world. Even in the UK, sex selection by abortion is legal.

The Telegraph:

Doctors have been informed that they can carry out sex-selective abortions in certain circumstances, the Director of Public Prosecutions has disclosed.

The British Medical Association (BMA) updated its guidance in the wake of an investigation by the Telegraph to advise doctors that “there may be circumstances, in which termination of pregnancy on grounds of fetal sex would be lawful”.

The disclosure is expected to spark fury among dozens of MPs who have criticised the medical establishment for seeking to redefine abortion laws.

Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, today publishes a detailed memorandum explaining the controversial decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute two doctors who agreed to arrange illegal abortions based on the sex of an unborn baby.

Mr Starmer warns that current guidance for doctors needs to be urgently updated amid widespread concern over practices in clinics which do not appear to fall foul of the letter of the law.

The two doctors at the centre of the controversy were exposed by the Telegraph after being secretly filmed offering to abort baby girls, even though this is widely thought to be illegal.

The CPS decided it would not be in “the public interest” to prosecute the two doctors.

It has today emerged that in guidance published after The Daily Telegraph carried out the investigation, the BMA issued guidance for doctors.

It stated: “It is normally unethical to terminate a pregnancy on the grounds of fetal sex alone.”

However, it then continues: “The pregnant woman’s views about the effect of the sex of the fetus on her situation and on her existing children should nevertheless be carefully considered.”

“In some circumstances doctors may come to the conclusion that the effects are so severe as to provide legal and ethical justification for a termination,” concludes the guidance.

Letter from DPP

“…… The law does not, in terms, expressly prohibit gender-specific abortions; rather it prohibits any abortion carried out without two medical practitioners having formed a view, in good faith, that the health risks of continuing with a pregnancy outweigh those of termination. …..

….. The discretion afforded to doctors under the current law in assessing the risk to the mental or physical health of a patient is wide and, having consulted an experienced consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, it appears that there is no generally accepted approach among the medical profession.”

On birth rates, abortions and “eugenics by default”

July 20, 2013

Selective breeding works.

Humans have applied it – and very successfully – for plants and animals since antiquity.

There is nothing “wrong” conceptually with eugenics for the selective breeding of humans. But the Nazis – and not only the Nazis – brought all of eugenics into disrepute by the manner in which they tried to apply the concept.  Because of the Nazis and the coercive treatment of some minorities in Europe and of the Aborigines in Australia where forced sterilisation, forced abortions, genocide, euthanasia and mass murder were used to try and control the traits of future generations, eugenics has come to be inextricably associated with the methods used. Even in more recent times genocide, mass rapes and mass murder have been evident even if not openly for the purpose of controlling the genetic characteristics of the survivors.

I note that evolution by “natural selection” does not intentionally select for any particular traits. Surviving traits are due to the deselection of individuals who have not the wherewithal to survive until reproduction. Natural Selection in that sense is not pro-active and evolution is merely the result of changing environments which causes individuals of a species who cannot cope with the change to perish. Evolution has no direction of its own and is just the result of who survives an environmental change. It is not not some great force which “selects” or  leads a species into a desired future. Species fail when the available spread of traits and characteristics among the existing individuals of that species is not sufficient to generate some individuals who can survive the environmental change. Natural Selection is therefore not an intentional selection process but represents the survivors of change. Of course, not all traits have a direct influence on survival. All “collateral” traits are carried along – coincidentally and unintentionally –  with those traits which do actually help survival in any particular environment. But as conditions change what was once a collateral trait may become one which assists in survival.

As breeding techniques go, “Natural Selection” relies on a wide variation of traits throwing up viable individuals able to cope no matter how the environment changes, while “Artificial Selection” chooses particular traits to promote but runs the risk of unwanted collateral traits showing up (as with some bulldogs unable to breathe or with the development of killer bees). Natural selection is the shot-gun to the rifle of artificial selection. The shot gun usually succeeds to hit the target but may not provide a “kill”. But the rifle usually kills but it could easily miss or even kill the wrong target!

Of all the babies conceived today about 1% are conceived by “artificial” means (IVF or surrogacy) and include a measure of genetic selection. Even the other 99% include a measure of partner selection and – though very indirectly – a small measure of genetic selection. A significant portion (perhaps around 20%?) are through “arranged” marriages where some due diligence accompanies the “arrangement”. Such due diligence tends to focus on economic and social checks but does inherently contain some “genetic selection” (for example by excluding partners with histories of mental or other illnesses in their families). If eugenics was only about deliberate breeding programs seeking particular traits then we would not be very far down the eugenics road. But more importantly around 20-25% of babies conceived are aborted and represent a genetic deselection. As a result, a form of “eugenics by default” is already being applied today.

(The rights and wrongs of abortion is another discussion which – in my opinion – is both needless and tainted. Abortion, I think, is entirely a matter for the pregnant female and her medical advisors. I cannot see how anybody else – male or female – can presume to impose the having or not having of an abortion on any pregnant person. Even the male sperm donor does not, I think,  warrant any decisive role in what another person should or should not do. No society requires that a female should get its approval for conceiving or having a child (with the exception of China’s one-child policy). Why then should not having a child require such approval? While society may justifiably seek to impose rules about infanticide, abortion – by any definition – is not the same as infanticide. Until the umbilical is severed, a foetus is essentially parasitic, totally dependent upon its host- mother and not – in my way of thinking – an independent entity. I cannot and do not have much respect for the Pope or other religious mullahs who would determine if I should shave or not or if a woman may or may not have an abortion).

Consider our species as we breed today.

In general the parents of children being conceived today share a geographical habitat. Apart from the necessity – so far – of the parents having to meet physically, it is geographical proximity which I think has dominated throughout history. Victors of war, conquerors, immigrants, emigres and wanderers have all succumbed to the lures of the local population within a few generations. In consequence, partners often share similar social and religious and ethnic backgrounds. But the geographical proximity takes precedence. Apart from isolated instances (Ancient Greece, the Egypt of the Pharaohs, the persecution of the Roma, European Royalty, Nazi Germany and the caste-system on the Indian sub-continent), selective breeding solely for promoting or destroying specific genetic traits has never been the primary goal of child-bearing. Even restrictive tribes where marrying outside the “community” (some Jews and Parsis for example) is discouraged have been and still are more concerned about not diluting inherited wealth than any desire to promote specific genetic traits.

But it is my contention that we are in fact – directly and indirectly –  exercising an increasing amount of genetic control in the selection and deselection of our offspring . So much so that we already have “eugenics by default” being applied to a significant degree in the children being born today.

Currently the global birth rate is around 20 per 1000 of population (2%), having been around 37 in 1950 and projected to reduce to around 14 (1.4%) by 2050.

Crude birth rate actual and forecast UN data

Crude birth rate actual and forecast: UN data

Of these the number conceived by artificial means (IVF and surrogacy) is probably around 1% (around 0.2 births per 1000 of population). For example for around 2% of live births in the UK in 2010 , conception was by IVF. In Europe this is probably around 1.5% and worldwide it is still less than 1%. But this number is increasing and could more than double by 2050 as IVF spreads into Asia and Africa. By 2050 it could well be that for around 3% of all live births, conception has been by “artificial” means and that there will be a much greater degree of genetic screening applied.

Abortion rates increased sharply after the 1950’s as the medical procedures developed to make this a routine procedure. Done properly it is a relatively risk-free procedure though there are still many “unsafe” abortions in the developing and religiously repressive countries. Since 1995 abortion rates worldwide have actually decreased from about 35 per 1000 women of child-bearing age to about 28 today.  These numbers would indicate that the number of abortions taking place today is around 20-25% of the number of live births.

Global abortion rates: graphic Economist

Global abortion rates: graphic Economist

So of every 100 babies conceived around 25% are deselected by abortion and 75 proceed to birth. Only 1 of these 75 would have been conceived by “artificial” means. The genetic deselection by abortion is both direct and indirect. The detection of genetic defects in the foetus often leads to abortion and this proportion can be expected to increase as techniques for the early identification of defects or the propensity for developing a debilitating disease are perfected. In many cases abortion is to safeguard the health of the mother and does not – at least directly – involve any deselection for genetic reasons. In many countries – especially India – abortions are often carried out to avoid a girl child and this is a direct genetic deselection. It seems to apply particularly for a first child. The majority of abortions today are probably for convenience. But if the “maternal instinct” is in any way a genetic charateristic, then even such abortions would tend to be deselection in favour of those who do have the instinct.

The trends I think are fairly clear. The proportion of “artificial births” is increasing and the element of genetic selection by screening for desired charateristics in such cases is on the increase. The number of abortions after conception would seem to be on its way to some “stable” level of perhaps 25% of all conceptions. The genetic content of the decision to abort however is also increasing and it is likely that the frequency of births where genetic disorders exist or where the propensity for debilitating disease is high will decrease sharply as genetic screening techniques develop further.

It is still a long way off to humans breeding for specific charateristics but even what is being practised now is the start of eugenics in all but name. And it is not difficult to imagine that eugenics – without any hint of coercion – but where parents or the mothers-to-be select for certain characteristics or deselect (by abortion) to avoid others in their children-to-be will be de rigueur.


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