Smoky Mountains Sunrise

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The World Doesn't Have a Right to Abortion

The womb ought be the safest place for a baby to be and should be protected by law, writes Nicholas Windsor. 

A 3D ultrasound showing a baby inside the womb Photo: Getty
From The Telegraph
By Nicholas Windsor

If I were to imagine the voice of a rather sensible relative, or just a concerned bystander, addressing me on the subject of abortion, the words I hear them using go something like the following: "Why on earth get yourself mixed up in/wade into a matter like this?" (Aside) "And isn't it rather distasteful?"

Well, I don't think my well-meaning voice has it far wrong. I can't be altogether wise to join this debate (on the side I've chosen, anyhow) and, no, it's never going to be the stuff of polite conversation. But just why is it that this question generates so much heat in politics, in the media and around the dinner table? Not just, I think, because it belongs somehow to the category of "bedroom and bathroom" subjects that nice people don't broach too freely. Much more than that, it seems to be a highly reactionary position, one that, probably without a precedent, would seek to take back a "right", specifically a woman's right, that was conferred by Parliament in 1967 in the Abortion Act. What could be more illiberal in our culture than that? No wonder there is fury and resistance.
Three generations have had a legal option they didn't have before, and here comes a jumped-up minority that has the gall to say we should "turn back the clock". That's how bad it looks. You'd have to have a superlative reason to do it. That, of course, is just what we insufferable pro-lifers say we have. What we suggest is this: the cost is too high because the cost is paid in innocent human life.

Abortion is perceived as a solution to a problem called unwanted pregnancy. A real problem, then. A real "solution", too. But it's not a just solution for all concerned. It leaves out of the picture the consequences for "the entity", about whose nature we've disagreed so passionately in the last decades. Was it always like that? Didn't we used to know in our heads and feel in our guts that if one had conceived, then that meant one was pregnant, which meant in turn that one was going to wait patiently, if uncomfortably, for nine months and then go on "to have" a baby – to really give birth to one and hold it in one's hands. All being well, that's what happened. It used to be that basic a consideration. It's got a lot murkier in recent years. We're told we can't afford such simple knowledge any longer. Now we need interminable philosophical debates to establish the status of the embryo, or the foetus, or the unborn child, or whatever it is. To me, a lot of this is sheer sophistry. Who's kidding whom here?

So why don't I think much of abortion? First of all, for the above reasons and not because (as that brilliant writer Philip Pullman would put it) "the Vatican" told me to. But it became visceral for me once I started thinking hard about the subject. It hit me in the stomach that terminating a pregnancy equalled none other than the destruction of a human being. It knocked the wind out of me the first time, as it does every single time I think of it. 

Look at it this way: I was born in 1970. My dear mother would have been within her rights to find it inconvenient to have me. Bad luck, she didn't. But my generation has had a close shave. Whether we were born depended on lots of factors: not just on a mother's decision, but also on the fathers' influence and that of the surrounding culture – friends' advice and the views of the philosophers I mentioned earlier. Others of my generation weren't that fortunate, and some of those were our siblings. That's why we take this thing seriously, if you want to know. We were the first generation that really were vulnerable in the womb. Surely, the womb should be the safest place in the world to be. Not any more.

So, how many don't have those sisters and brothers whom the law, in my view, should have protected? And how many of those siblings didn't go on to compose the symphonies they should, by rights, have composed? How many didn't go on to give birth in their turn? This is eugenics, isn't it? Hell, that's another story.

Speaking of another story, but on the same subject, an important project is launched today in the House of Lords by parliamentarians and experts, as it was last week in the United Nations General Assembly and around the world.

The aim of this, based on a document called the San José Articles, is to stop the practice we've been talking about from being foisted on to countries that don't want it. The Articles aim to show that there is no "right to abortion" to be found in international law that would oblige such countries to "conform, or else". This is in spite of the UN and other agencies' claims to the contrary.
Human rights lawyers of a certain stamp around the world are taking the same pro-abortion line, manipulating the current provisions of international law. Frankly, officials and politicians in developing countries are being bullied into writing such a right to abortion into their domestic law. This project aims to help them to fight back. 

Lord Nicholas Windsor is Chairman of the Rome-based Dignitatis Humanae Institute.

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