The Abortion Act – which was passed 49 years ago today – was meant to be a cautious, limited measure. Instead, it has led to the abortion of six and a half million children in England and Wales. It was meant to have strict safeguards, so that the law could not be abused. Instead (just to mention recent scandals) we have witnessed doctors escape prosecution for sanctioning sex-selective abortions and pre-signing stacks of abortion forms without ever seeing the women they were supposedly treating. The numbers of repeat abortions and abortions on the grounds of disability has skyrocketed, with late-term abortions for babies with disabilities increasing by 271 per cent since 1995.
The weight of this reality can be crushing. In all this darkness, death and injustice, it is easy to lose hope. But it is crucial that we remember the pro-life struggle is not unique. We can gain inspiration from all those who have fought for truth and freedom in situations which once seemed impossible to overcome.
In his 1971 essay “Theses on Hope and Hopelessness”, Leszek Kołakowski proposed a strategy to nurture freedom in communist Poland. Kołakowski knew that to many, the communist machine seemed too large, too robust to be fought. But he argued that the inescapable contradictions of the system itself, and the cracks which were present, opened up an opportunity for gradual change towards a more tolerable social order, if constant pressure could be applied. Solidarity was founded in the shipyards of Gdansk nine years later.
On the 49th anniversary of the Abortion Act, we must not give in to hopelessness. Instead, the pro-life movement must exploit the inescapable contradictions in the pro-choice camp and apply constant pressure to the cracks visible in this dying ideology.
Much of the general public are more intellectually honest than the pro-choice lobby, to many, the hypocrisy of fighting for the rights of women on the one hand, and supporting the elimination of baby girls on the other, is clear. In fact, a Comres poll in February 2014 showed that 88% of women believed that aborting babies solely because of their gender should be explicitly banned by law. Similar numbers think doctors who pre-sign abortion forms should be prosecuted.
As for time limits, a 2012 YouGov poll found that more than half of women (and of 18-24s) want the 24-week abortion limit reduced. Polling does not tell the whole story, but it does show the areas in which the culture of death has less of a choke-hold on the general public and the cracks in which pressure should be applied. Most people are uneasy about the carelessness of Britain’s abortion culture. They realise that the actual practice of abortion is a long way from the reassuring words with which pro-choice campaigners try to persuade us.
Four years before the publication of Kołakowski’s “Theses”, Karol Wojtyła had been made a Cardinal, after which he continued to lecture in moral philosophy at the Catholic University of Lublin in Poland. Wojtyła, like Kołakowski, knew that a system which disregarded human dignity could not withstand the test of time and would necessarily die. They both lived to be proved right.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Abortion Act next year, we must also stand firm and continue to be a witness to the truth of the human person, recognising that a civilised society does not pit mother against child and does not discriminate against its weakest members.
We must continue to fight the good fight and keep hope alive.
Clara Watson is life matters officer for the charity Life