David Robertson: Abortion should fuel informed debate

The devolution of abortion legislation should fuel informed discussion. Picture: PA

The devolution of abortion legislation should fuel informed discussion. Picture: PA

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THERE IS no right to abortion in UK law, so why is the debate in Scotland being framed as if there is?

Does anyone actually know what British values actually are? For our Prime Minister it seems as though they are self-evident, liberal and tolerant. Our secular humanists also seem to think that their approach is humane, rational and non-doctrinaire. Yet they too have a set of fundamental beliefs that they regard as so self-evident as to be beyond question, at least by any thinking rational person. One such belief is that of a woman’s right to have an abortion.

In fact it is so deeply ingrained in the creed of the “progressive” psyche that even some of the keenest supporters of Scottish independence are worried about the governments proposals to devolve abortion law in Scotland. Some are concerned that we might end up like Northern Ireland. Already MSPs are faced with two motions concerning abortion rights – the first from Green MSP Patrick Harvie “recognises the fundamental importance of women’s sexual and reproductive rights, and commits to defend those rights against any attempt to undermine women’s access to safe and legal abortion in Scotland.” The second from SNP MSP John Mason “ recognises what it considers the fundamental rights of babies to be protected both before and after birth as well as the importance of women’s sexual and reproductive rights, and commits to achieving a proper balance between these respective rights.”

Patrick Harvie has described this second motion as “anti-choice” because in the eyes of those for abortion is a shibboleth issue, any restriction on abortion is an assault on women’s rights.

As a consequence of this belief, any prospect of abortion limits being reduced will result in a storm of abuse from our moral guardians in the liberal “intelligentsia” on the grounds that simply there is no debate to be had. Anyone who dares to disagree must be a right-wing fascist, or a religious fundamentalist. After all is it not the case that the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child is just a milder version of Isis?! In the hope that an intelligent debate about abortion can actually be permitted and allowed in modern secular Scotland, I would like to suggest the following questions as discussion starters.

1. Do the proponents of abortion realise that there is no “right to abortion” in UK law? In fact abortion on demand is illegal. The 1967 Act allows for abortion where the mental or physical wellbeing of the mother is at risk. It was intended to provide abortion as an exception, not as an alternative to contraception. Why are some politicians trying to introduce American style “abortion wars” into Scottish politics?

2. Given that babies can survive at 24 weeks outside the womb, is there any scientific or logical reason not to reduce the age limit? Are France, Germany and Italy with their 12-week limits any less “progressive” than Scotland?

3. Given that the Named Persons Act indicates that their role will start before the child is born, is this not a de facto recognition that there is a child in the womb? If it is only children who have a named person and the child in the womb is to have one in the last trimester, then surely that is a state recognition that there actually is a child in the womb?

4. Do those who support Mr Harvie’s motion believe that the child in the womb has no rights, or that the mother’s rights always trump these rights? Does a mother have absolute rights not just over her own body, but also over the body in the womb? If so logically why should she not have the same rights over the child outside the womb. Is post-natal abortion not a logical consequence of such a philosophy?

5. Do those who are pro-abortion support the right of children to be given adequate education about what abortion actually is? To be told it is equivalent to the removal of a wart is at best gross ignorance, at worst wilful deception. I suspect if most people saw the Planned Parenthood videos where abortionists discuss the dismembering of a baby’s body and selling on the parts, there would be a dramatic reduction in abortions.

Of course this issue is not just about a woman’s rights and what those rights should be. It is also about other rights. Does the father have no rights? And above all what about the child in the womb? This is the key question. If there is, as the Named Persons legislation recognises, a child in the womb then abortion is the taking of a human life. Something that should surely not be done in a civilised and progressive society, without serious consideration and all other alternatives being looked at.

Today we look with horror at how “civilised” society could acquiesce in and support the evil of slavery. In the future I believe we will look back with horror at the way that society, despite our increased scientific knowledge about the status of the child in the womb, has acquiesced in the evil of abortion.

If we want a more enlightened approach then perhaps we need to begin a more enlightened conversation, with people on all sides trying to think about the welfare of all people, and not just the fundamentalist views of their particular political or religious tribe. Or is that a conversation too far for our tolerant liberals and “compassionate” Conservatives?

• David Robertson, Solas CPC www.solas-cpc.org/

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