I’m hardly the first to air a view on this, and what with ground already covered, and a week away (deliberately) incommunicado in The Lake District, I wasn’t going to record my two-penneth worth. Until the latest chuntering from the new Secretary of State for Health.
Nevermind the irony of appointing to this sensitive position (an over-credited-for-a-successful-Olympics) one who, coupled with his previously suspected endorsement of the dismantling of the NHS, was also said to have attempted to effect excision of the tribute to it from the wonderful opening ceremony directed by Danny Boyle (but who has since denied this). Of more evidential concern, however, is that Jeremy Hunt was seemingly amongst that wacko fringe of homeopathy-endorsing MPs (since renounced).
And now, as if these stances and his hitherto ill thought through, Murdoch-schmoozing contributions to public life don’t collectively render him wholly unsuitable for the role, he apparently feels his new position affords his opinion even more clout, deciding time is ripe to re-advocate not merely the reduction of the legal limit on abortion, but its scything to twelve weeks.
Which, he casuistically assures us, is nothing to do with his beliefs as a committed Christian. Of course not; forgive the assumption. So then, on what basis? Advancements in medical science often provide handy obscurantism: technology that gives us in utero images exploited as emotional propaganda; combined with increased survival chances of prematurely delivered babies. Interesting irony here: how what is usually (not always) a religious position is happy to invoke science when it suits its cause, but rejects it out of hand as unethical when it gets in the way. Take this on further… would the ‘Pro-lifers’ be happy were medical science (fiction) advanced to the point that the whole of gestation was reliably possible in the incubator? Thus rendering any justification for abortion totally unwarranted. But then we get into the territory of manipulating germ cells and embryonic cells in the laboratory, which for many comes under the same umbrella (the advent of human embryonic stem cell research was actually manna to the floundering pro-life movement).
Lest I need to clarify for the morally trigger happy, I am not for a second advocating such a Brave New World. I am merely conducting a(n admittedly muddled) thought experiment extending from the actual ‘pro-life’ ideal of pushing back the time limit to… ultimately zero. Because, whilst having to admit and accept that implantation into a womb is an absolute biological necessity for development of embryo into foetus, there’s a further irony here. ‘Pro-lifers’ cannot seriously argue that a reduction in the legal limit renders it acceptable to abort pregnancies before that limit. Mooting twenty-two, or twenty weeks is a wispy smokescreen, particularly when ventured under the guise of feminism. Are we really to believe this an acceptable compromise to them? Because current medical capability precludes survival in an incubator before X weeks gestation, it is therefore acceptable to tolerate termination up to X weeks? Or should we consider what it is they really seek – an outright ban?
Isn’t that a crafty choice of language by the religious right? ‘Pro-life’. Immediately paints advocates of a woman’s right to choose as ‘anti-life’ (by extension, murderous). Yet such advocates are not ‘pro-abortion’ per se. I would predict most, if not all, of us are also anti-abortion, in that it is not an outcome that anybody favours. Abortion is a difficult issue, which surely moves any feeling thinking person. Which is precisely why it should not be subjected to some blanket legal stricture – particularly one set by powerful men (because it is actually none of their damn business what women choose to do with their own bodies). We need to counter-emphasise with ‘Pro-choice’, and thus label the contending position as ‘Anti-choice’? Because therein lies the true desire of the religious right – its control over how women live their reproductive lives.