I've refrained from blogging on this up until now but I have become angry on the whole issue now.
Anyone who knows me will appreciate that one of the things I most prefer about British politics to American politics is the much lesser prominence given to "moral issues" primarily due to a smaller outwardly-committed religious base in the UK. I am also pragmatic on abortion, although if it was a situation involving me I would find it very difficult to counsel going ahead with it. Nevertheless, I still do not want church-based politics in the UK.
However, the recent attempts by some to clamp down on abortion is most distasteful. There can be no justification, other than the cynical, for taking it completely out of the realm of elections. If legislators are to decide what laws they will pass to restrict us then we have every right to know what they will do in relation to a particular issue. Do we really want to elect people to have ultimate sovereignty over us yet to have no informed say over it at the ballot box? It's all to easy to dodge the very difficult question about the interaction of religion, morality and politics by saying it shouldn't be "an election issue", but by saying that we are dodging it. Isn't it a fundamental tenet of democracy that we should have a say on this if we want to?
My anger was raised more by listening to Polly Toynbee on Radio 4's Any Questions, which is still raging on in the background. Apparently a woman ought to have absolute right of life or death over a foetus up until it is born - I just can't countenance this. To say that this should just be a matter for any individual to make up their mind over seem splain wrong. Yes, women have a very difficult decision to make. Yes, that must be terrible. The attitude of Polly Toynbee seems to say that the foetus needs no rights at any point.
"It's not about viability, it's not about differing levels of viability. It is about a woman's inviolate right to choose what is inside her....I think a woman has an absolute right and I don't think anyone can say you must bear a child" she said.
I cannot countenance that: and that is a political question. To her the question of whether something can live is irrelevant: what matters is a woman's choice over whether she has a baby or not. That is not the point. She has a choice when she has sex over whether or not she risks having a child. Then she has another choice as to whether or not she has an abortion. I have trouble with aborting a foetus which has a good chance of living.
Almost as angering is the slur against Michael Howard that he has deliberately tried to whip up a storm. I just don't believe this. Is the suggestion that he is in collusion with various Archbishops of different Christian faiths? He was asked exactly the same question, which he didn't request to be asked, as the other two leaders, and they gave deliberately evasive answers (see below) rather than his pretty reasoned, sensitive response.
Women should be free to choose up until the point when the foetus develops the vital characteristics of a child. Then it becomes something close to eugenics, which given the great problems over cleft palate and hare lip is not too strong a word. It shouldn't be a party political issue, but that should never be an excuse for not discussing at what point a moral decision can no longer be made that one is no longer stopping a pregnancy, but stopping a child having a life, just as a tool to preserve the status quo.