Saturday, May 05, 2007

Religion and Politics - Making A Bed To Tell Lies In.

Up here in Scotland we have just been receiving the latest news about our local elections, the missing votes, the recounts, the gains and losses. When my parents were readying themselves to vote on May 3rd, my mother an I sat in the living room looking through the various leaflets we'd received from all the hopeful candidates. There was the SNP, giving us a simplified version of their manifesto, and there was Labour, telling us not to vote for the SNP. The Conservatives echoed Labour's actions in the past few years in their own policies, then told us to make a difference by voting for them. Even the BNP tried their hand, with a big red-white-and-blue leaflet telling us that they were just like Labour but without the ethnic tolerance. But hang on, there are more parties than that. Where were the Greens? The SSP? Come, on, there are some gaps to fill in here.
A quick Google search yielded odd results. The Scottish Christian Party called the extra-liberal Greens 'eco-fascists' due to their plan to stop giving government funding to religious schools, and to merge them with non-denominational schools. The SCP says this will remove parental choice. Alright then, let's see what those lovely Christians have to say to convince us that a fully religious education (not just R.E.) is still a good thing. Off I trot to their website. Being an atheist, I have no intention of voting Christian when my chance comes. However, aside from that, the SCP gave me plenty to dislike.

I followed the sound of some cheesy music to a television spot that they had in Inverness, styled like a news broadcast. I was immediately faced with at least two reasons to oppose them:

According to research, teenagers who have an abortion are up to 800% more likely to develop breast cancer in later life, with abortions among under-16s reaching record levels. This spells a cancer crisis for Scotland in the coming decades...

Huh? What study was this? Last time I looked, the overwhelming evidence was that there is no link between having a safe, legal abortion and breast cancer. Look here (emphasis my own):

In February 2003, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) convened a workshop of over 100 of the world’s leading experts who study pregnancy and breast cancer risk. Workshop participants reviewed existing population-based, clinical, and animal studies on the relationship between pregnancy and breast cancer risk, including studies of induced and spontaneous abortions. They concluded that having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman’s subsequent risk of developing breast cancer.

But wait, there's more! Cut to Dr. Murdo Murchison, former Director of Health for Grampian Health Board:

...There are other problems, much more immediate; there's the immediate psychological problem for the woman concerned, there's [sic] possible fertility problems, and these are all areas of considerable concern.

Where to begin?! Fertility problems are extremely rare - in fact, they're more a problem with unsafe abortions of the kind practised in back-alley terminations, and if abortion is legal and easy to obatain, if doctors are trained to perform them correctly... well. Suffering infertility from an abortion in such circumstances would be almost unheard of. Not to say that women shouldn't know the risks, but it's a risk that is far smaller than the report would have you believe here. There is a risk to every medical procedure out there, including getting tetanus jabs - and early abortions carry a smaller risk than later, surgical ones. The majority of abortions occur early on (I'll link when I find that). As for psychological problems, Feministing covered this one a while back. It links to a ten-page NY Times article that shows a lot of evidence that abortion itself doesn't have psychological implications, and is, in fact, no worse than carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term:

Academic experts continue to stress that the psychological risks posed by abortion are no greater than the risks of carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term. A study of 13,000 women, conducted in Britain over 11 years, compared those who chose to end an unwanted pregnancy with those who chose to give birth, controlling for psychological history, age, marital status and education level. In 1995, the researchers reported their results: equivalent rates of psychological disorders among the two groups.

Studies have also found that harmful psychological effects can actually be created by so-called 'abortion counselling' that basically tells the woman that she has killed a human being and must live with and atone for that for the rest of her life. If I can find the relevant links for that, I'll update this post later. On a related note, if they want to cut abortion rates, they might want to consider educating adolescents about safer sex and the like - from the insider accounts I get, the sex-ed currently on offer in some of the Catholic schools is beyond the pail. However, I doubt that's on the SCP's 'to-do' list.
...It isn't! Here's what their manifesto says on the matter:

The Scottish Christian Party will call for sex education classes to be given only to children on a parental opt-in basis. The Scottish Christian Party will fight for the promotion in school of chastity before marriage, and faithfulness in marriage, as the safest sexual practice, as and when sex education is taught.

What? They abhor abortion, but also don't want mandatory sex education? Does anyone else see a problem here?

So far, so bad... but we ain't finished, oh no. You can't have a party preaching the gospel truth without a hearty dose of sexual intolerance, can we? When telling us to vote for the SCP, the party's leader, Englishman Rev. George Hargreaves invokes Godwin's Law:

In 1933 Adolf Hitler passed a law saying that Kosher food should be banned. Within 10 years he was murdering millions of Jews. Next week on the 30th April, regulations come in that affect Christians. The Sexual Orientation Regulations come into force. We must stop this. Go out and vote for the SCP on May 3rd, it is the only way we can stop the Sexual Orientation Regulations from becoming law, which is the first stage of persecution of Christians in this land.

What, exactly, are the SORs? Well, another site, Christian Concern for Our Nation bemoans them and gives us an outline:

What are the Sexual Orientation Regulations (SOR)?
Using power they gave to themselves through the Equality Act 2006, the government are pushing through a new law (the SOR) which will make it illegal for providers of goods, services, facilities, premises, education or public functions to discriminate against the recipients on the grounds of their sexual orientation i.e. whether they are homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual.

Oh dear, Christian, Muslim or indeed any religious schools will not be allowed to say that gay children will go straight to hell, and are abominations. B&B owners won't be allowed to turn away gay couples. What is the world coming to, when we can't tell people to be heterosexual or die? Check the manifesto again...

The Scottish Christian Party will also call for the re-instatement of Section 2A, thus calling for the end of the promotion and “the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship."

In essence, this party wants to turn the clock back on women's reproductive rights and to reserve their 'right' to treat 'undesirable' or 'unGodly' types such as homosexuals as second-class citizens. Then they have the audacity to say that others are persecuting them.

I sincerely hope these people didn't make any major gains this year.


  1. As you may know by now, even in the constituency where the SCP got the most votes, they still got less than the SBP. That is, the Spoiled Ballot Party. :p

  2. Good post.

    There is a risk to every medical procedure out there, including getting tetanus jabs - and early abortions carry a smaller risk than later, surgical ones.

    Also, I actually think it's the case that going through a pregnancy and birth is more dangerous than having an abortion.

    Fundamentalist, pro-life arguments are always riddled with holes, and never fail to dismiss the woman's right to life, effectively making them anything but 'pro-life.'

  3. As a medical student, I know, as a fact, that the link between abortion and breast cancer isn't the first(and nor will it be the last) of debates in the medical profession. Google "In Defense of Smokers" and the first hit tells you of how anti-smoking propoganda spreads. Even the common advice :"Drink 8 glasses of water a day" is absolutely nonsensical. Excess water is as harmful to the body as a lack of it.
    Western medicine, though scientific, still has loopholes.

  4. Yeah, I know all that (aspiring to become a medical student!). The water myth comes from a war-time study where the 8 glasses a day included water from your food, and the smoking comes from reading statistics wrong and stems from an initial study which found a link between smoking and various problems but no definitive evidence. However, I still think that when there is such a large consensus to the contrary, it would be wrong to state as fact that abortion causes cancer, using even LESS stable evidence.