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2 November 2010

AR update, 2 November 2010

Debating conscience, control, and choice; 'Achieving Excellence in Abortion Care', and more ...

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- 1. DEBATING CONSCIENCE, CONTROL, AND CHOICE

BPAS hosted four public debates engaging with key ethical issues: the value of life, conscientious objection, selective reproduction, and population control. 

Introducing the debates, organised as part of the London Battle of Ideas festival on 30 October 2010, BPAS chief executive Ann Furedi noted the assumption that those involved in the care of women with unwanted pregnancies are not concerned about the ethics of abortion, and the questions of when life begins and what gives it value. In fact these issues are a major preoccupation for women who have abortions and the doctors and other staff who care for them. This is why public engagement and research form an important part of BPAS’s charitable remit…

Read a summary of the debates here.

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- 2. THE GREAT POPULATION DEBATE: TOO MANY CARBON FOOTPRINTS?

Speech by Brendan O’Neill:

‘The main Malthusian idea I want to challenge is the idea that resources are finite. The idea that the Earth itself is finite. The idea that we live on a finite planet and therefore we can only have a certain number of people, living in a certain number of homes, eating a certain amount of food.

‘Because it seems to me that the population-control lobby’s obsession with finiteness reveals the historical illiteracy and the social pessimism that underpin the pseudo-scientific movement of Malthusianism. The Malthusian focus on finiteness explains firstly, why they are always wrong about everything; secondly, why they are so misanthropic; and thirdly, why they put forward such illiberal proposals, dressed up, of course, in the language of “female empowerment”...’

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- 3. WHAT MAKES LIFE VALUABLE?

Speech by Professor John Harris:

‘To have a view about the ethics of abortion, indeed to have a view about most issues in healthcare, is to have an answer to the question of what it is that makes life valuable. By “valuable” I don’t mean anything very special, simply what it is that makes it right to save a life if we can, wrong to end a life if we can, what makes a life worth saving, worth preserving, worth prolonging ...’

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- 4. WHAT MAKES LIFE SACRED?

Speech by Dr Stuart Derbyshire:

‘If it is not the brain that turns physics into experience and if it is not god then what is it? I’m not sure… But I am sure we need “something more” than physics - there must be something that allows the activity in nervous tissue to deliver feeling. And the nature of that something must be beyond physical-physical interactions because physical-physical interactions can only produce more physics.

‘Thus I am drawn towards the idea that the something must involve activity between the physical and the mental. This is an idea that I think can work, at least a bit, and essentially reduces to stating that feeling, experience and knowledge arise as a consequence of a developmental process that is both physical (biological) and social (mental)...’

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- 5. ‘ACHIEVING EXCELLENCE IN ABORTION CARE’

Jennie Bristow reports on the recent conference of the International Federation of Abortion and Contraception Associates in Seville:

‘The ninth Congress of FIAPAC brought together almost 600 participants from 53 countries to discuss the legal, clinical and provision issues involved in providing abortion care.

‘A full and varied programme contained plenary sessions on global trends and practice in abortion and contraception; late abortion; medical abortion; and legal aspects of the international abortion debate. Workshops included papers on pre-abortion examinations; training and education of abortion providers; the role of NGOs in ensuring safe abortion care; young people; repeat abortion; and conscientious objection…’ 

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