Letter: Unconditional respect for life is the basis of a civilised society

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The Independent Online
Sir: Bryan Appleyard's is a curiously emotive piece, while seeming at the same time devoid of any feeling or understanding towards the women who choose to have abortions.

He uses inflammatory language to describe suction termination - but suction termination takes place up to 12 weeks, a stage when the "pieces" of a foetus are not identifiable; and research indicates that foetal pain is not experienced before 13 weeks. The pain that is experienced, however, is the pain of a mother who for "social reasons" - the same social reasons that produce bigots, men who sit in judgement on women, family breakdown, and desperation in some pregnant women - decides to abort a baby she may be deeply attached to, but decides not to keep.

Whether abortion happens as a result of increasing scientific intervention, or for social reasons, the discussion surrounding it must be carried out in a climate of empathy for the mother making her choice, not against a background of stigma and judgement. As a man, Bryan Appleyard is in the fortunate position of never having to make this agonising choice. As such, perhaps he should also be prepared to concede that his arguments will always be coloured by a certain lack of understanding.

HELEN BAILEY

London SW16

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