During the last leadership election Ann Widdecombe was furious to learn that a Christian MP was backing Michael Portillo. Michael Portillo’s social libertarianism was beyond her pale – as, four years earlier, Michael ‘something of the night’ Howard had been. A few weeks later, when the race was down to two contenders, she had announced her support for Ken Clarke. Pro-life Ann was backing the former Health Secretary who had presided over 1990’s relaxation of Britain’s abortion laws. I made the mistake of accusing Miss W of inconsistency. How could she be furious with a Christian MP for backing Michael Portillo, I asked her, when she was backing pro-abortion Ken over pro-life IDS? I was lucky to escape the confrontation alive. My expose of the contradiction was not welcomed. Miss W’s calculated pragmatism was trumping an uncompromising interpretation of principle. Miss W was backing Ken because he was a winner, she insisted, and IDS was not a winner.
My little story is a little proof that abortion is not the litmus issue that it is in American politics. Even the impeccably pro-life Miss W isn’t prepared to decide her vote on the issue. Abortion is unlikely to feature much in this leadership issue but I was encouraged to hear Dr Fox mention Britain’s abortion rate in both his interview and speech of yesterday. Speaking to the CPS he said:
“The signs of a broken society are all around us. In the increase in violent crime. In the growth of family breakdown. In worsening domestic violence. In record rates of abortion. In rising teenage pregnancy rates. Increasing numbers of suicides.”
You don’t have to be against abortion to be worried at “record rates of abortion”. Supporters of abortion recognise that terminations of pregnancy are often very traumatic for women. Much evidence links abortion with subsequent depression, infertility problems and other medical conditions. Hillary and Bill Clinton, staunch defenders of Roe versus Wade, always talk about abortion being “safe, legal and rare”. “Rare”. How can Britain make abortion rare – or, at least, reduce the number of abortions? It is a legitimate question for Liam Fox to answer given that he has had the courage to raise the issue. It is a question that other candidates could be pressed on, too. David Davis has a consistently pro-life parliamentary voting record on abortion, cloning and euthanasia. I don’t know where David Cameron or Malcolm Rifkind stand on abortion.
Abortion numbers could be reduced without altering a woman’s ‘right’ to an abortion. I personally favour introducing a policy of full-informed consent that would educate the expectant mother about the reality of the baby growing inside her and the risks of termination. I think a 24 to 48 hour cooling off period should exist between requesting an abortion and being granted one. Australia’s policy could be a model. Such a policy would not remove a woman’s right but, along with best practice in medicine generally, it would allow her to make be more aware of the medical implications of her decision.
It would be great if issues like this could be discussed in Britain without hate and bile. It would be great if issues like this could be discussed on this blog without hate and bile. Impress me friends…