The Knife is unembarrassedly anti-abortion. However, I know plenty of people who have had an abortion, and plenty of people who actually do them. Much as I regard the 1967 Abortion Act as a shameful episode in this country’s legislative history, and the perfect example of a new law being abused to the hilt, despite its progenitors’ assurances otherwise, a repeal is not on the cards.
Bear in mind the original wording, 44 years ago:
that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman, or of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated,
that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.
How many abortions fall solely within these criteria? The get out clause so widely abused is of course the reference to the woman’s mental health – a catch-all if there ever was one.
The Knife’s opposition to abortion is based on a belief in absolute morality. This is not because I think I’m a good person, I know that very frequently I’m not. It is because I believe that abortion is killing. I have far more respect for pro-abortion people who admit this, than for those who drone on about blobs of jelly, sentient states etc. I can perfectly well see the utilitarian argument for abortion, which ignores its long term effects, but I’m not a moral relativist.
Yet there is no point in taking the view that abortion should one day become illegal. It is both unrealistic, and would lead to yet another example of one of the last government’s worst features – the criminalising of ordinary citizens.
Abortion is a personal issue, and any changes in its usage will come from the people involved. This may occasionally be the provider, but usually the mother who is seeking help. The ideal situation therefore would be women no longer wanting abortion as the short term answer to a problem.
That is one reason why Nadine Dorries’ bill was a good idea, another being the obvious inappropriateness of the abortion provider also being the advice provider. It is a great discredit to Parliament that Ms Dorries was given so uncouth and hostile a reception, not least by David Cameron, no doubt in part because of the malign influence of the Lib Dems. It is a poor show that he behaved as he did, then attempted a disingenuous apology by text. Does he seriously think that his behaviour, and that of his whips, could support his claim that: “he had been ‘desperately’ keen to back her attempt to change the law and regretted that he had been unable to do so.” He’s only the prime minister, after all.
Similarly the prolife camp needs a better strategy. By that I don’t mean Ms Dorries, whose proposal was very reasonable, but all the relevant groups, Life, SPUC etc, who seem not to be a cohesive force, to put it mildly. In fact the Dorries proposal perfectly fits with the US approach of making small but highly influential changes to regulations around the abortion industry there. It’s not about making it illegal. In addition, the emphasis on advising, informing and supporting the mother, who may be desperately needing positive help, is ideal, and non-condemnatory.
Anyway, this one won’t go away, it never does. The argument is not settled, and the general edginess and loss of normal social mores when it’s discussed and debated underlines that many people are not remotely comfortable with either the topic, or the status quo in the United Kingdom.
As Ms Dorries rightly said, taking on abortion means you see politics at its ugliest