For reasons which I can only assume are based on ideological belief, it appears that the Government is about to change the rules on abortion so that women who want one are obliged to get counselling from an independent service, rather than it being provided in-house by the same people who actually perform the abortion. The sting in the tail here is that a lot of that independent counselling will probably come from groups linked to Christian organisations who are quite likely to use the opportunity to discourage these women from having the abortions in the first place. Cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the abortion providers, Guardian-reading liberals etc.. Incidentally, I assume the Government is acting out of ideological belief because a government without a strong view on the matter would never even touch abortion, a subject that comes with guaranteed shit-storms attached, whatever you do with it. However, it wouldn’t be the first time this one walked straight into a shit-storm without appreciating that it was doing just that and had to back-track; we’ll see. 

Abortion for me was always one of those issues on which I could never quite comprehend the white-hot moral zeal involved on both sides, and have always suspected that it was covering for weak arguments. On the one side, “a woman’s right to control her body” has become a sacred mantra, but given that there are contraceptive methods of 98% effectiveness available, in the vast majority of cases what you’re actually talking about is a thick woman’s right to save herself from the consequences of her own daftness (stupidity very frequently aided and abetted by an equally stupid and/or selfish man), mitigated against only by the fact that at least the baby isn’t stuck with such half-witted parents. 

For instance, there are the teenage mothers who look at the TV cameras with big sad eyes and say stuff like, “We didn’t use a condom because he said he loved me.”  To which the only response is, “And you believed him?” (which, incidentally, the interviewer, will never say, because inner-city youth are delicate flowers and should never be told that they might have helped author some of their own misfortunes). Really, being part of the pro-abortion movement requires a one-eyed belief in the inherent goodness and rightness of women, and a reluctance to contemplate the concept that perhaps a woman who gets herself up the duff without wanting it is (gasp!) actually not that deserving of sympathy.

On the other, the anti-abortion movement, however much they try to pretend otherwise, are basically a bunch of evangelicals and Catholics united by noses of a bluish hue and a collective belief that as it involves killing someone, abortion is wrong  because “lol Thou shalt not kill” (I think that was the way John XXIII put it in Humanae Vitae, anyway). But clearly, there are an awful lot of killings God appears not to disapprove of at all, especially if they involve the gratuitous smiting a tribe whose name ends in “-ite”, and in the absence of a definitive statement from the Big Man himself, I was never very convinced as to why the destruction of an unborn and unwanted child for the greater good of child and mother fell in the “disapproved of” category. 

It’s also true that, quite as much as their opponents, they put a lot of emphasis on emotional issues like the squickiness of abortion itself, and that suggests a lack of rational arguments on the point, especially if you don’t accept the bit about God not liking abortion. In that respect, they resemble the animal rights brigade, who tend to assume that you are squeamish, blissfully ignorant of abattoirs and will fall over squealing if informed in sufficient detail that dying to be made into food is not necessarily a heap of fun. Killing is never a nice process, but that doesn’t have a lot to do with whether it should happen.

Abortion generates a lot of fervour, which is precisely my problem with both sides of the debate. Essentially, neither of them truly have rational positions about the procedure  – just emotions about it, shouted as loudly and as often as possible. When a moral decision really comes down to your feelings anyway, those of a pregnant teenage girl, even a stupid one, are as valid as those of a feminist or a Jesuit priest, and no amount of counselling is going to make her understand them better. A better question than, “who should counsel women before abortion?” is “so why do they need counselling at all?”


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