We are the poorer

I am writing this on a quiet June Saturday afternoon after a middling busy week in work, attending to the needs of my patients, from the simple and uncomplicated to the life threatening and complex. All the talk is about how we slowly return our service to normal, and pick up the pieces of our chronic disease management, manage our workload and negotiate the morass of functional/non functional secondary care services. COVID 19 seems a world away, something you read about in the papers – a vague threat in potentia. Our relieved hospital colleagues are going back to their day jobs, back to their families. Cases are dropping, and deaths are approaching zero. Days go by without another COVID19 death, and we express relief and thankfulness that we have survived thus far.

Aren’t statistics funny things? ‘If one man dies, it’s a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic’, as Stalin was said to have commented. It’s all down to the reporting. I was saddened to hear that the official statistics for abortions carried out in Northern Ireland since the start of April was 129 (no doubt higher now). 129 children who won’t see the light of day, who won’t know a parent’s embrace, who weren’t given the benefit of the doubt that maybe, just maybe, their existance on this earth was better than their non-existence, based entirely on the whims of another – someone who, linked in the most intimate and meaningful to them by genetics and tissue, but who knew next to nothing about them as a person. Their hair colour. Their eye colour. Whether they would like broccoli or not. Their were probably at least a couple of sets of twins amongst those figures. Some of them might have been sick, but most of these children would have been healthy and vigorous, given the chance. Which they weren’t.

129 child deaths in 2 months. Just over two daily. What will these figures look like in another 2 months, or two years? They won’t be static. They will increase. And there will be those in healthcare and those in the media who will applaud that increase, as if the killing of an unborn child is a thing to be celebrated and rejoiced over. Ghouls.

We have spent 3 months decimating our society, restricting out personal liberty and rewiring our healthcare system from the ground up to save lives, to protect the vulnerable and to reduce the spread of a pernicious and subtle disease, and we lament and mourn over the fact that in 41,481 cases in the UK as of today, we were too late, too slow, too unresourced, too unlucky, too uncompassionate – those patients died. It could have been much worse, but that is precious little consolation for spouses, parents, children, grandchildren, friends and family of the dead.

If we don’t have second or third waves of infection, we will have less than 100,000 deaths, hopefully much less. That will be a great relief to many. Keep these numbers in your head.

Here’s the thing. The abortion statistics for England and Wales 2019 were released this week, and unsurprisingly they are the highest on record – 207,384 children killed before birth. 98% were for the tenuous and ill-defined reason “the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman” Not life or death. Not due to foetal abnormality. Not due to grave concerns over maternal health. Why? We can speculate about the different possible factors which might have led to these mothers having an abortion, but the greatest one is – because they could. The option was there, and it seemed like an easy option, or an easier option. So they took it. What would have happened had those 207,384 kids had been born? Would their lives all have been unremitting misery? The lives of their parents? Probably not. How might these individuals have enriched the societies and the communities and the families in which they were raised? No-one now can tell.

In what way does it make sense to prevent tens of thousands from death for entirely valid humane reasons, and then to condemn to death hundreds of thousands for very little reason at all?

What have we lost? Every year since 1967 in Great Britain. And now every year in Northern Ireland, starting from 2020.

We are the poorer.

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