Privacy laws and late term abortion

I really don’t understand this. Privacy seems to have become a favourite thing of the courts these days. Super-injunctions abound, from protecting big corporations (Trafigura) to preventing people kiss-and-telling even many years after the events (Howard Donald) or even protecting children from finding out their Dad’s a cheater (unknown actor).

And yet, the high court have now decided that women seeking late term abortions, and the doctors treating them, aren’t deserving of privacy.  The court aren’t denying that releasing these “statistics” would identify the women and doctors involved.  There’s no public interest argument, as the group seeking the information (ProLife Alliance) are openly campaigning against ALL abortion in the UK.  There’s no public interest as we already know this covers just 130 cases per year.  And the government aren’t trying to deny the statistics, they are just aggregating them either by type or time period (e.g. 5 years of stats in one go) to avoid identifying individuals.

And yet, these same courts that will happily prevent the privacy of famous men who can’t keep it zipped, will deny privacy to women undergoing a hugely difficult decision under medical advice.

I’m sure this is largely a money issue.  Big companies and the rich and famous can afford expensive lawyers.  But I can’t help feeling there’s a lot of misogyny at work here too.  I think the court judges can sympathise with men who shouldn’t be publicly flogged for a small slip in judgement anyone could make.  But a woman, choosing to control her own body, to save her own life or prevent the suffering of her child.  Well…

The line between privacy and freedom of speech is always a difficult one to toe.  And that, I thought, was why the UK courts were encouraged to use the “public interest” test.  Now just because public interest is distasteful, doesn’t mean that any sordid secret should automatically not be public interest.  Yet at the same time, it’s in the public interest to defend vulnerable people – and women and families having to take the decision to have a late-term abortion are vulnerable.  And it’s in the public interest to keep the sanctity of doctor-patient confidentiality.  Which releasing these figures would undermine.

This argument isn’t actually about the rightness or wrongness of late term abortion (where I clearly disagree with the ProLife Alliance).  This is about the courts acting fairly.  Court judgements shouldn’t go to the highest bidder.  But especially, men and women should be assured that they are being treated equally as citizens before the law.

And I really don’t see equality in this decision.


Why David Cameron is wrong about AV

I got a letter from David Cameron this week, telling me why he’s No to AV.  I know this is way off-topic for this blog, but I’m really angry at his misleading letter.  So this is his letter, and my response in red;

Dear Elector […] I’m asking you to support our campaign and say no to AV.


AV is unfair: With our current system, everyone gets one vote.  But under AV, supporters of extreme parties like the BNP would be more likely to get their votes counted more times, meaning their votes are worth more than yours.

This is so inflammatory mentioning the BNP.  Yes, AV will give smaller parties the opportunity to gather votes.  But the current system is unfair.  If you don’t want to vote for one of the three main parties, your vote doesn’t count at all.  There are so many ‘safe’ seats where it’s completely unfair for the majority of residents.  Central party HQ decides who the candidate will be, and any vote for anyone else is completely wasted.  AV will limit the number of safe seats, and enfranchise thousands of people who currently know that their vote is wasted.

AV is unclear: Under AV, the candidate who finishes third can be declared the winner thanks to an unclear, complicated voting process.  It’s like someone coming third in a running race winning the gold medal.

Under the current system, you don’t need a majority to win.  This could mean that 6o or 70 or even 80 per cent of people can vote against a candidate who then goes on to win.  Under AV, all these people get the chance to have their vote against a candidate counted.   Politics isn’t a race, it’s about getting the person and government who best represents people’s views.

AV is unpopular: Just three countries in the world – Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Australia – use AV, compared to almost half the world’s electors who use our current system.

So if everyone else jumped off a bridge would you?  Actually, the key statement here is that they’re only measuring against countries in the world who vote LIKE US.  If you actually add up all the different ways of governing, perhaps we should consider some kind of religious or millitary totalitarian regime.  

AV is expensive:  Calculating the results is a long, complicated process, which could cost the taxpayer millions.

And this is the point I get really angry.  The actual figures for the increased cost are more like a couple of hundred thousand.  The ‘millions’ includes all the costs we already have for carrying out elections.  This is suggesting we’d be better off under a totalitarian regime, because it would be cheaper.  So who are you suggesting Dave?  The current crop of people JUST LIKE YOU?   These arguments are about representation.  It’s about being able to vote against the status-quo.  And using completely misleading figures is why we want to be able to vote against the status quo.  

So my summary – this is why I’m Yes to AV.  It’s fairer, it’s clearer, it’s hardly any more expensive.  It will help stop the idea that we have safe seats.  It will give us more choice than the simple Tory / Labour that we’ve had for the last century.

Sorry this is so off my usual topics, but I’m pleased to have got this off my chest.  Thank you!

Real life rules for surviving a slasher flick

Ok, starting with a confession.  I live in Swindon.  Phew, good to get that off my chest.  Anyway, the point of this confession is that sadly, a man from Swindon has recently been charged with murdering two local women.  And the media responses to the two different victims have left me absolutely fuming.

There’s a line in one of the Scream films, where Randy talks about the rules you should obey if you want to survive a horror film.  And one of them is never have sex.  You must stay a virgin, or you’ll die.  It’s a tongue-in-cheek joke in the movie, but the British press just don’t seem to see the funny side.  They actually seem to think that if you’re a good girl, you won’t get murdered.  Or at least if you do, there’ll be a public outpouring of grief so huge it will all be worth it.

The first young woman to be identified was popular and beautiful.  Her teachers had nothing but good things to say about her, and many people joined in the hunt to try and find her.  The press went crazy over “our girl”, which then led to Facebook-hysteria amongst everyone vaguely connected to Swindon, that they have walked through that part of town some time.   Flowers were left up and down the street.

It’s good that the murder of a young woman is taken so seriously.  I’m pleased that this murder generated headlines as violence against women is so often ignored.   And I don’t mean to belittle the sadness of a young woman being murdered, and I am very sorry for her family and all those that knew her.

But then the second young woman was identified.  And it barely generated a mention.  She’d done drugs you see.  And she’d argued with her family about her choice of boyfriend.  In the eyes of the press, occasionally bad things happen to good people.  But most of the time good people are safe.  If your behaviour doesn’t measure up to the standards…  well, you must pay the consequences.

Occasionally there’s a woman they aren’t quite sure how to categorise.  Like Joanna Yates, murdered in Bristol in 2010.  She might have invited someone into her apartment even though her boyfriend wasn’t home.  So best condemn her on the off-chance, then.

Serial killers don’t, according to the press, pick vulnerable women from isolated areas.  No, they target sex workers.  Jack the Ripper also targeted sex workers.  But the entire community felt threatened, because people realised that it could be them.  That sex workers were women – desperate and unfortunate perhaps, but still women.  Just like every other woman in the area, any of them could be next.

But the media today are constantly reinforcing the idea that if a woman is murdered, there’s probably more to it.  It’s rare that there’s a real “victim”.  There’s a reason why the rest of us can feel safe and judgemental.  When there’s not, it’s headline news.  But the rest of the time, obey the rules.

Just remember, don’t have sex, don’t do drink or drugs, and never say you’ll be right back.

When it’s not a joke, it takes victim-blaming to a whole new level.

Why is it important to call yourself a feminist?

I was asked in a comment on my last post, why it’s important to me that people call themselves feminists.  Isn’t it enough that they believe in equality?  Why must people sign up to my label, especially when I’ve acknowledged that there are problems with the connotations and associations the word “feminist” has.  I realise this post is going to be contentious, and I realise that many people have good reasons to not want to associate with the feminism movement.  But, in spite of all it’s flaws, I do want to stick up for feminism, and I do think people should call themselves a feminist.

The reason I think it’s important that people call themselves feminist, is that avoiding it denies some of the problem.  I heard David Willetts on Radio4’s Today programme, defending his statement that the increase of women in universities had created problems with access for young working class men (read more about his original statement on Caroline Crampton’s post on Liberal Conspiracy).  Willetts was actually defending these comments, maintaining that he wasn’t sexist, he wasn’t against women or even against feminism, but it was a ‘fact’ that young working class men were now the problem.  He even claimed that middle class women had made all the advances they wanted, and that he was all for equality.  And so, he completely dismissed feminist concerns, all in the name of equality.

But any feminist sees that his statement was anti-women.  He didn’t blame middle class men for going to university and taking places away from more deserving working class women.  He didn’t talk about the lack of social mobility available to young people from low-income families.  No, he framed his argument in an anti-women way.  He thereby missed the problem, and so ultimately won’t be able to solve it.

And by the way, if middle class women really had made all the achievements they needed to, perhaps there’d be a few women ministers around the table with you Mr Willetts.

It is important to call yourself a feminist, and important to be a feminist, because it reminds you of the framework.  It reminds those leading thoughts and discussions that women are discriminated against.  If people talk about equality without feminism, it’s too easy to say “but of course women get higher grades than men now” or “male circumcision is more widespread than FGM” or “of course some women want less demanding jobs so that they can focus on their families”.  Feminism frames the discussion.

So if you do believe in equality, you do need to accept the label of feminism.  Work within the movement to make improvements, argue the things you think are wrong, and I’m not asking you to accept everything that all feminists say without question by any means.  But women’s rights have been too hard-won, and are too easily brushed aside for us to give up on the fight now.

Whoever you are, if you believe in women’s equality, please be a feminist.