‘Unmarried and without children…’
‘Though of Jewish origin, he is an aggressive secularist…’
‘In Oxfordshire he lives like the eternal student bachelor, which has given rise to baseless rumours about his sexuality…’
‘As he has slid away from the establishment, he has eschewed the suit in favour of a more proletarian jacket and odd trousers’
Okay, I know it’s the Daily Hate-and-Fear – but this is still nasty stuff.
Harris’s real crime, aside from not being married, religious or well dressed, is of course that he supports a woman’s right to choose, and is standing up to the faith-based pressure groups who are campaigning to reduce the time limit for abortions.
It’s common now for advocates of faith politics to dress their prejudice up as science, and these week the Guardian reported that many medical experts who submitted evidence to the parliamentary inquiry into abortion did not declare their memberships of various anti-abortion and pro-abstinence groups. (One of them, John Wyatt of the Christian Medical Fellowship, has his arguments taken apart by Ben Goldacre here).
The debate is ostensibly about reducing the 24-week time limit. For what it’s worth, this isn’t a good or necessary measure. The foetus cannot feel pain until 26 weeks (that’s when the cortex develops) and babies can’t survive under 24. It takes weeks of post-test agonising for a woman to even make the necessary call to the doctor – abortion is not an easy decision to make. I’ve had female friends sob in my arms, after having terminated something the size of a tadpole.
Once someone has made their mind up, it can be weeks or even months before the procedure happens. Abortion requires the consent of two doctors – the only medical procedure that does so. The process can also be delayed by pressure from family, peers or anti-abortion medical staff.
Let’s take it, for the sake of argument, that every unborn child represents a potential human life. The Mail’s piece on Harris is astonished that a quarter of all pregnancies end in medical termination; what it doesn’t say is that almost half of all pregnancies end in spontaneous termination – and this can happen before the woman even realises that she is pregnant. The body simply rejects the pregnancy. If women who abort are guilty of murder, are women who miscarry guilty of manslaughter?
And – come on, guys – what about masturbation? How many Holocausts of potential lives can be blamed on pornography and idle fantasisation? (This argument has never been adopted by the ‘pro-life’ lobby, perhaps because its members may be the most prolific mass murderers of all in that respect).
Yet all this is academic. Saturday’s demonstrations to mark the anniversary of the 1967 laws who marked by the UK Life League, a major voice on the anti-abortion side. This is from its mission statement:
We are absolutists. We can never subscribe to the popular ‘gradualist’ approach, which is infecting the other Pro-Life groups. We will never tolerate a wee bit of abortion, LifeLeague campaign to stop all abortions, to criminalise the act and to hold to account in law, (not the mothers) all those who perform, assist or are in any way connected to the promotion of baby murder. Until abortion is outlawed completely, the LifeLeague will campaign to defend our unborn brothers and sisters with every means at our disposal.
The UK Life League not only opposes abortion but contraception and homosexuality. Under the ominous heading of ‘Contraception – It’s [sic] Implications for Society’ the website has this to say:
In addition to promoting abortion – widespread contraception has (in the popular mind) produced ‘sex without consequences, accountability and responsibility’. This in turn has spawned:
(1) The Rise of Feminism: By breaking the central role of motherhood, and thus facilitating non-appropriate economic and social roles.
(2) The Rise of Extra-marital sex: Facilitated by contraception removing any ‘unintended consequences’ from recreational sex.
(3) The Rise of Homosexuality and perverted lifestyles: Once it is accepted that sex is for pleasure, base lusts cannot be refused.
(4) The Rising Divorce Rate: Resultant from the breakdown of the family order and greater potential for promiscuity (see points 1 and 2).
(5) The Decline of the Family: Brought about by points 1, 2, 3 and 4. Once the family goes, society does also.
If you are single, abstinence is always your best and only morally acceptable choice. It is not always easy, but it always works.
Now, do you think these people will be satisfied if government reduces the deadline to 13 weeks?
Make no mistake – these people are fundamentalists. They hate the free society. They hate the idea of pleasure without a price. They also hate women. As Tessa says: ‘I’m still waiting to hear the Church condemn vasectomies. Oh no, wait, that would affect men’s bodies. Silly me.’
The right to abortion is yet another battle of the Enlightenment that is going to have to be fought all over again. Given today’s liberal equivocation over basic human values, I am not optimistic. Maybe I should be. Here’s Polly Toynbee:
The hall was packed with old campaigners from 40 years ago – Wendy Savage, Diane Munday, Annie Marjoram among them – and, mercifully, plenty of young, indignant women, too. The Abortion Rights meeting began with Mike Leigh (son of a GP and a midwife) showing his movie, Vera Drake, on the dread and danger of illegal abortion days. It ended with David Steel and others ready for the fight in the forthcoming vote. (No, he has not back-slid.) Some of us had to pinch ourselves, time-warped back to old 1967 arguments against women’s same old enemies.
Forty years on – are we really back here again? Old campaigners and young women alike at the Abortion Rights meeting were stirred by this wake-up call to remember other half-won battles. Why tolerate women still being paid 17% less than men, and worse for part-timers? October 30 is the Fawcett Society’s No Pay Day. The current pay gap is the equivalent of men being paid all year while women work for free from October 30. How on earth have we still not done what Barbara Castle thought she’d fixed back in 1970? Then there’s still no childcare for many, poverty for single mothers, no maintenance from fathers and 40% less for women’s pensions. This is indeed still only a half-made women’s revolution.