“A massive victory”. That’s how one national newspaper described yesterday’s decision by the government to pay £1400 to pregnant women to travel from Northern Ireland to Britain to end the life of their unborn child. If this is a victory, what constitutes a defeat?
Every abortion is a tragedy – a tragedy for a child whose life is taken and a tragedy for the mother who may have been persuaded that she has no choice but to have an abortion.
There are now 100,000 people alive in Northern Ireland who would be dead if Britain’s abortion laws had applied. So who has proved the more worthy champion of the supreme human right – the very right to life itself? Is it those whose legislation 50 years ago signed a death warrant for 8 million British babies, or those Northern Irish whose faithfulness saved the lives of 100,000?
The “victorious” narrative is based on the belief that abortion is a compassionate lesser of two evils. But there is nothing compassionate about scraping a child out of a mother’s womb. There is nothing compassionate about failing to provide help and support for a woman in crisis and offering her, instead, a ticket to a private clinic rather than giving care and support to her and her child.
When Northern Irish women arrive in England, most will be sent to the private clinics funded by the NHS, where around 600 abortions take place every day, including multiple abortions (some have had as many as eight).
Some of the clinics to which they will go will be named after Marie Stopes, who famously said that no society “should allow the diseased, the racially-negligent, the careless, the feeble-minded, the very lowest and worst members of the community to produce innumerable tens of thousands of warped and inferior infants”.
Stopes probably had in mind, among others, the Irish. So did those other luminaries, Beatrice and Sidney Webb, who warned that “children are being freely born to the Irish Roman Catholics and the Polish, Russian and German Jews, the thriftless and irresponsible. . . This can hardly result in anything but national deterioration . . . or this country falling to the Irish and the Jews.”
There was, of course, an echo of this unadulterated prejudice to be heard in the attacks on the Northern Irish this week.
For those Northern Irish women who have their abortions in an NHS hospital, let them also recall the brave Scottish midwives who lost their hospital jobs after refusing to help take the lives of their second patient – the baby – and reflect on what those midwives knew and believe. They hold, as science does, that life begins at conception.
They know that an unborn child can feel pain and be caused great distress. They know that there is nothing compassionate about taking a life – it’s to confuse care and killing. They know that we have a duty of care to a mother and her child. It can never be reduced to a choice.
I have never been able to understand those able to dispense with the inconvenient yet incontestable truth that these babies are human lives – each unique and infinitely valuable. Barely a year passes without a major new discovery about how little difference there is between children in their mother’s womb and those at the breast. Yet we are told repeatedly that all of this is irrelevant. Patently, this is a preposterous position that no civilised society should support.
Three extraordinary women who at various times were my guests at Westminster spelt out the truth that every abortion carries untold consequences.
The late Norma McCorvey, who as “Jane Roe” was the test case that led to abortion in the US, gave me copies of 1,000 affidavits that she had collected from post-abortive women. These sworn statements make for harrowing reading. She said: “This has long ceased to be a feminist issue about a woman’s right to choose.”
Dr Alveda King (niece of Martin Luther King), who had three abortions which she now deeply regrets, told me: “In our age the greatest human rights struggle, following in the footsteps of Wilberforce and my uncle’s civil rights movement, is the battle today for the unborn.”
St Mother Teresa of Calcutta told me and other parliamentarians: “The greatest destroyer of peace in the world today is abortion.”
We must be positively pro-life, from the womb to the tomb, for the mother and the child, for the sick and the dying, for good medicine, ethical science, just laws. This is a daunting challenge but our world desperately needs to rediscover the beauty and mystery of life and to uphold a culture of life in place of our contemporary culture of death. Better, surely, than a ticket to yet another death in a British abortion clinic?
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