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Abortion: The civilised solution


Abortion: The civilised solution

As abortion hits UK headlines with calls to cut the time limit again, Dr Ellie Lee sets the record straight on what should be a personal choice for women and doctors, not a legal matter, not a matter for science or MP predilections and posturing.  This timely ‘on the sofa’ discussion is a must for everyone concerned with where this debate is heading. In a civilised society Dr Lee explains, we need to make it possible for everyone to act according to their needs and views.  In practice she argues this requires the decriminalisation of abortion and she tells us, the Sarah Catt case provides a cast iron argument for that. Not everyone will agree the stage at which life matters she points out and not everyone on the sofa agrees with Dr Lee. Yet, her compelling insights leave us in no doubt that her approach would make it possible to cater for women’s needs and doctors’ preferences without imposing on anyone.

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Related topics: Civil Liberties, Debates, Science Progress, Social Change

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Pastor David Jeb said:

At every point in life, decisions ought to be taken. The question that deems it a legal or personal matter is whose why are upheld over the others. Is it the mother or the child? In country like UK where standards of judgement are spread across logic and written principle, the legal framework would fail to judge justly on it. I believe this fact qualifies it a personal matter. A person is not a part of a legal system until they get birth certificate, but yet they are as alive as it gets scientifically and according to the holy scriptures. But legally that person cannot be spoken for, even that they aren’t legally named. Based on this, it remaina personl matter anda persnal choice which should be influenced by values, character, faith and yes, education. The vacuum unfilled remains…who should give this education? For it’s question it’s own right. We become who we follow and learn from, not what we are taught.

Abortion is a personal decision, it will always be. The law will never foster real change. When God wanted to save a nation, he sent moses and the law…whe He wqnted to save the world, he sent Jesus with Grace and Faith. And it’s all a personal affair.

Now, just for clarity’ sake, I don’t believe in abortion. But i propose to leave it … As a choice.

With gratitude.

Sean said:

I agree with ‘Dr Kuleena George MRCOG’ comments, it is a most scientific approach and is the moral attitude in my opinion.

Education is the solution. People need to know to expect pregnancy if you have had sex. Expect for ‘the worse’!

WORLDbytes – The School of Citizen TV » Abortion: A medical or moral choice? said:

[…] WORLDbytes Video Abortion: The civilised solution […]

WORLDbytes: Global debate, proven said:

[…] Abortion: The civilised solution was a WORLDbytes filmed sofa debate about the criminalisation of abortion and questions of free speech versus harassment, chaired by Dr Ellie Lee, a senior lecturer in social policy at the University of Kent and Director of Centre for Parenting Culture Studies. At the point of filming, there was much media attention on the case of Sarah Catt, a mother of two living in North Yorkshire, who had been sentenced to eight years in prison for using illegal abortion pills bought over the internet when she was 39 weeks pregnant. Abortion in England, Scotland and Wales is legal up to the 24th week of pregnancy. […]

Ekanem said:

Very interesting programme. Although I do see the argument put forward by Dr Lee, my query is the question when is a baby a baby. Does calling it by any other name other than ‘baby’ make it less of one. A human being is a collection of separating cells and the moment that begins – that is life, that is a baby because it will become nothing else. I always find it interesting how as humans we have a way of using words to release ourselves from the responsibility of terminating a life rather than an inanimate object in whose eyes we have not seen ourselves. I do understand the feelings of a woman if she wants to terminate but I also wonder who is taking into consideration the rights and feelings of the unborn child. Who protects them and speaks for them?

I am also concerned that women may be pressurized into having abortions for spurious reasons like gender. I have to say that I can never feel easy about the killing of another human at any time be it before birth or in war…sadly I understand them all.

August C said:

Why are you all dressed in black. Let me guess, you represent the Culture of Death? Am I right?

Dr Kuleena George MRCOG said:

Watched the video. Agrees with most of the things Dr Lee said except ` abortion should be provided as late as necessary`. Considering the fact that a fetus is viable after 24 weeks, which means that there is a very high chance of that baby to survive if the baby is born after that gestation. Therefore, in my opinion, feticide after that gestation is equally criminal as performing infanticide by a professional unless there is significant medical risks of mother or fetus. More over, it is a well known fact that late abortion significantly increases the risk of mother. Due to these reasons, in my opinion , late abortions should not be encouraged.

Court decisions, Resources, News, Fellowships and Jobs « reprohealthlaw said:

[…] [abortion UK] “Abortion: The Civilised Solution” – Dr. Ellie Lee advocates decriminalization of abortion in discussion with young people. 44-minute video […]

Second Trimester Abortion: | said:

[…] Internet Citizen TV company, also called WORLDbytes, filmed an interview with women right’s activist Dr. Ellie Lee. Though her talk is long, Dr. Lee […]

Person-hoody said:

Its a shame Ayn Rand did not live long enough to see 4D scans of living embryos in light of which the whole not-yet-living argument becomes embarrassing. Abortion is a moral wrong too.

Karent Pitts said:

I found this discussion most interesting, provocative, and the video well worth watching. I agree with Dr. Lee that it should be solely up to the woman if and when to terminate her pregnancy, even up until birth. The founder of Libertarianism, Ayn Rand said: “An embryo has no rights. Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. A child cannot acquire any rights until it is born. The living take precedence over the not-yet-living (or the unborn). Abortion is a moral right — which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered. Who can conceivably have the right to dictate to her what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body?”

I also agree with Dr. Lee that few women take lightly the decision to have an abortion. No woman, when she has sex, sets out to have an abortion.

I do NOT agree with Dr. Lee when she talks about what is commonly referred to as ‘population control’. She says there are people who target other sectors of people to limit the number of children they should have; that they want to stop poor people from having children, who they think will be a burden on society. She refers to these people as ‘of the Malthusian tradition’ or ‘of the Eugenicist tradition. She says that Marie Stopes, the pioneer of birth control, was a eugenicist.

Malthus lived 1776-1834 and Stopes lived 1880-1958. That was 60-180 years ago – much has improved since then. Both Malthus and Stopes were associated with Eugenics, although how one defines eugenics makes a difference: there are Hitler’s version of eugenics, and then there the kind of eugenics where women have abortions when the fetus has severe birth defects. Nonetheless, both Stopes and Malthus looked down on poor people. But attitudes change, and, again, that was long ago…

Isn’t it better to give these people the means to control their family size than to have them starve or go through life malnourished, unable to do the work it takes to grow enough crops for the family? What mother wants to see her older baby die because the new baby has replaced the older one at the breast?

Believe me, if we can’t get funding for family planning, then how are we going to get funding for growing more food on more land (which we don’t have) or how will we influence policy makers to enforce the switching of crops from biofuels and animal feed to human food – considering how much the rich “1%” profit from these endeavors?

Instead of talking about Malthus and Stopes, we should be talking about the positive example of modern day heroes like Melinda Gates, The Elders, and Hilary Clinton.

NOTE: This comment has been shortened due to length. To read the full comment please visit

Carla said:

Hi Kim, the argument for the decriminalisation of abortion is, as Dr Lee herself put it, a ‘cast iron’ one for it allows people of differing views to live their lives in accordance with their values.

I don’t think it is particularly important to include someone on the sofa who has had an abortion. Besides, what a woman who has undergone an abortion may ‘feel’ about it emotionally is not a given for all women. For as many women as not, having an abortion is simply a medical procedure akin to having your tooth taken out. Also, for many, this is a private affair and not something they want to necessarily divulge in a public discussion. Nor is this a question to be answered simply by women who have had to think about getting an abortion, it is a question which is in the interest of all women and it is a question of a woman’s autonomy over her body. Also, Dr Lee clearly specified in her summary that ‘BIOLOGICAL life begins at conception’ but when that life becomes significant is not something that science can tell us.

Fantastic programme and discussion.

Person-hoody said:

This all seems ethically loose! – If you were ‘not yet’ a human being before ‘x’ time then what were you? Ellie Lee got it right in saying that ‘life starts at conception / fertilisation.” her logic for me then fell apart.

What a weird format – Why was there not another “expert” present able to put forward a view that took into account the dignity of the unborn?
Aren’t societies judged by how they treat the most vulnerable among them, the ill, the dying and of course the unborn?

Have I missed something? What is the ‘civilised solution’?

It wasn’t mentioned that abortion undermines the dignity of many born children . . . (“You weren’t wanted anyway”) and what about reproductive technologies, surrogacy, saviour siblings, widespread embryo destruction, what about the abortion act’s two tier component which directly discriminates disabled people? This could have been such a great discussion but was limited once again to the rhetoric of ‘choice’

Yes you are right abortion should not be used for eugenics! Did you know that 96% of babies found to have downs syndrome in the womb are aborted. What message does that send out regarding a civil society?

In what way is it civilised to offer abortion as a consumer choice governed entirely by what mum thinks. I have been looking for the “right” to choose all over the place, does anyone know where I might find it? It is not in any declaration of rights that I can find. What is the history of the “right” to choose?

Haha – Ellie Lee disagrees with ‘prevention’ – smh! I just don’t know what to say about that – do you really think that we are all just sex robots, we are happy to model healthy behaviour when it comes to lifestyle and diet but what we can’t do that for sexual behaviour? – Is that coz we is English!

So people subjectively decide on when life ‘matters’ d’you know how that sounds? . . . it sounds like some life matters and some does not.

I think that all human life has intrinsic value and should be protected, it is not what we can do that makes us ‘matter’

I have a different view to Ms Lee but will agree that we are in a right mess when it comes to whether, as a society, we value respect and treat life with dignity . . . or not.

Abortion logic does justify infanticide.

For an interesting study about other countries with greater protection for unborn and the effect this has on Womens health see

If you do this again please invite someone capable of challenging the assumptions made this time, some of which are far off the mark. (e.g the majority of 15 year olds are in fact NOT having sex)

Please someone get back to me on this “right” to choose question, I have scanned a few hundred years of British and European law and I cannot find anything at all.


Russell Crawford said:

This program is on the leading edge of what soon will be an international movement to establish abortion rights. It is a fact that the pro life movement is collapsing under the weight of scientific law. There are 6 scientific laws that show the impact abortion has on society:
These laws prove that it is impossible for one to claim there is life at conception simply because until the DNA of the genotype expresses the correct phenotype one cannot tell if the zygote/embryo/fetus is alive or human.
The laws include the “Law of Charity” that leads to the fact that 1.8 born babies, children and adults are dying each second and that one therefore has a choice to save born babies or let them die and force the birth of an unwanted fetus.
Pro lifers claim that choice lead to the death of a great number of future babies. However, in the U.S. the number of births increased in the 10 years after Roe v Wade compared to the 10 years before. So abortion has lead to an increase in life, not a decrease. And the reason life increased is shown by the scientific laws outlined in the Natural Abortion Laws.

The scientific fact is that pro lifers cause death, they do not save life.

Rasika said:

This is a sensitive matter, which was dealt well by the worldwrite volunteers on the sofa and Dr Ellie Lee’s command of the subject. Different views on the topic were interesting to see.

Hopefully this will sow the seeds for change, empowering s females right to choose.

Kim Ketola said:

I wish you had included a woman who has had an abortion–or who would be willing to admit to it–in this discussion. I am among those who did and realized too late that there are consequences with moving the moral line about when we should begin “valuing” or arbitrarily deciding “when it matters” how we should treat what the MD here clearly declares is a human life! She said in her summary life begins at conception.

The young people gathered round cannot imagine a world where abortion was unthinkable a generation or two ago. But it surely was and surely should be again. It really is this simple: if this is a life–a human being–how are we going to treat it? We create some special class of life to justify mistreating through dismemberment and chemical poisoning all we like. But if we were to routinely engage in those practices against life at any other stage our hearts would condemn us as well they should in this case too.

The moderator who imagines a utopia where women face equal consequences to men to sexual activity betrays a naive and impossible worldview.

And the MD cutting men out of the deal–with nary a peep from the gentlemen on the sofas was truly chilling. It’s absurd to think society has no stake in fatherhood!!! Is there no state provision for child support in the UK? What about his ideas of wantedness or valuing a child? The state will compel him to pay for 18 years if his opinion happens to differ from the woman who bore the child.

Abortion is no spic-and-span solution to the messiness of life. It always creates a bigger mess. Return to moral absolutes–equality for women, men and children–and you will reject abortion as I have.

Ed said:

Many thanks to Dr Lee. Really well thought out arguments very compelling and straightforward. The argument about abortion in a liberal society was well made indeed. Excellent stuff

Faith Namaja said:

Thanks Dr. Lee and every one participating in this discussion.

Yes i would agree that let it be some one’s decision not a mandatory policy in our constitution! that would make the devil loose, every dick and hurry who loves to joke around with life would go in for sex with out being responsible; yes sex is good and created by God Almighty for procreation and true love, it is spiritual it makes two people become one, there blood and water fusses together and form a new person; divine God’s science…….

Our generation needs to be responsible, we need to learn from early years say 12years that sex is good and people have to have a responsibility for it…. it comes with a responsibility and it should not be done with out some one evaluating or having a feasibility study. yes some time one is either raped or defiled, but that is different and it does not necessary calls for abortion, we can have other alternatives… young people lets value life in our generation, lets be responsible human beings, God created us in His own image, He loves human beings and He has given him authority over the earth, to create, to protect and increase every thing He created, this is not about my faith, its about life which life is precious every human being is precious even a mad man or woman, we need to protect life and life nurtured into beautiful beings for an excellent future, abortion comes with regret, pain and complication

Life comes with joy, even when it is painful, at the end of the tunnel it turns out to be beautiful, imagine if you were aborted we would miss your contribution on this discussion and we would miss your great life around.

Thanks Dr. Lee
Thanks Ceri and Viv, you are great ladies that inspired me to love what i do and to always look out for excellence

God bless worldwrite and increase your finances to reach more young people in the world

love you all

faith in Uganda

Zoe said:

Before the pro-life (for fetuses not women) get their rocks of here, I’d just like to say this woman should lead a debate in parliament to end it being anyone else’s business once and for all. I do agree doctor’s should have the choice wether to perform abortions too.

T. P said:

At last a thoroughly pro woman view point, it is true as Dr Lee explains, things change at different times in people’s live, I am a catholic but i still had an abortion when i was a teenager thank goodness, these new time limit ideas would mean I’d have been stuck. Well considered thank you. I will pass this on.

Francesca said:

This is a really good discussion, why don’t we get anything as thoughtful as this on TV. Even on Newsnight it was posed as opposing sides and no way forward. Ellie Lee puts forward the most sensible and intelligent way forward I have heard.

Jo G said:

I wasn’t happy about Sarah Catt going to prison but then I read something about in abortion the foetus gets killed before the abortion but the pills she used wouldn’t do that so now i am in a quandry….

Arenet said:

What has happened to women’s rights i want to know i thought we now lived in a more equal society but all the stuff on abortion in the news suggests we are going backwards. I don’t think scientific advances and so on are any excuse either.

Jeremy A said:

Well I’m one of those unsure people but I think Dr Lee has a point I wouldn’t make it my business to prevent a women doing what she has to although I wouldn’t do it I don’t think if i was woman.

Janet Spicer said:

Wow thats a good one thank goodness someone is talking sense on this, MPs competing on timelimits has done my head in this week.