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Have we reached a tipping point on abortion?
Two events last week suggest that its ideological appeal is tottering and about to fall.
From 1917 to 1991, for more than 80 years, Russia was ruled by an ideology of oppression which paraded as a beacon of liberation. But within 40 years, the masquerade was over, even if the misery remained. Novels like Dr Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak; One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn; or Life and Fate, by Vasily Grossman, exposed the Soviet system for what it was, a band of thuggish mummified old toads lying to the people they governed. It took another 30 years to shake off Communism despots, but their ideology was dead.
Events last week suggest that we may have reached a similar tipping point with the ideology of abortion. Nearly 40 years ago Roe v. Wade pressed a button which opened the floodgates in the US and around the world. Now legalised abortion is being exposed as a republic of lies governed by another band of toads.
First of all, it emerged in the British press last week that UK abortion clinics are falsifying paperwork so that they can carry out their clients’ requests for sex-selective terminations. Undercover reporters for the London Telegraph accompanied pregnant women and taped doctors arranging an abortion after an unequivocal request to abort a child because it was of the wrong sex.
The reporters visited nine clinics; at three of them they were able to obtain sex-selective abortions. At the Calthorpe Clinic in Birmingham, one of the oldest in Britain, a doctor was initially reluctant.
“It’s like female infanticide isn’t it?” he said. But the pregnant woman suggested that he record a different reason for the termination. “That’s right, yeah, because it’s not a good reason anytime,” he replied. “I’ll put too young for pregnancy, yeah?” The patient agreed and the doctor continued, “It’s common in the Third World to have a female infanticide.”
Another doctor, in Manchester, told the Telegraph team, “I don’t ask questions. If you want a termination, you want a termination”. She then telephoned a colleague to book the procedure and explained that it was for “social reasons” and the woman “doesn’t want questions asked”.
An obstetrician on Harley Street, where the finest of British doctors have their offices, was recorded organising the abortion of a boy because the couple already had a boy from the husband’s first marriage and wanted a girl.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley was outraged and has referred the Telegraph’s allegations to the police. Is it finally dawning on the chattering classes that abortion is being turned against the very class it is supposed to protect – women? Scores of millions of girls are missing in India and China. Now the corruption of sex-selective abortion is being exported to the West in migrant communities. Apart from a few pro-abortion activists, thoughtful people in Britain are beginning to wonder why they have believed the lies of the abortion lobby.
For instance, a columnist for the Telegraph who supports abortion rights, Allison Pearson, wonders how Britain has come to this:
“Over the past 40 years, there has been a 3,700 per cent increase in abortions, and this in the era of the reliable oral contraceptive pill. This is not what the 1967 Abortion Act was intended for. It’s not a womb valeting service, ladies…
“There is a moral coarsening here that should concern us all. How desensitised have we become when an act of life or death – literally – is used as a tool to satisfy a curious desire to have one that you can dress in blue, as well as pink?”
Is there a law of history that at the 40 year mark, ideological ulcers burst open? Almost nothing highlights this better than an article published last week in one of the world’s leading bioethics journals.
If abortion, why not infanticide? This leading question is often treated as an absurd canard by supporters of abortion. However, it was seriously argued by two Italian ethicists in the prestigious Journal of Medical Ethics – also last week.
Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, both working in Australia at the moment, argue that a foetus and a new-born infant are only potential persons without any interests. Therefore the interests of the persons involved with them are paramount until some indefinite time after birth. To emphasise the continuity between the two acts, they term it “after-birth abortion” rather than infanticide. Guibilini and Minerva pull no punches.
“We claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be. Such circumstances include cases where the newborn has the potential to have an (at least) acceptable life, but the well-being of the family is at risk.”
Defenders of abortion rights have always denied the existence of a slippery slope. But Guibilini and Minerva enthusiastically use legalised abortion as the premise for their horrifying ride down the slippery dip.
“If criteria such as the costs (social, psychological, economic) for the potential parents are good enough reasons for having an abortion even when the fetus is healthy, if the moral status of the newborn is the same as that of the infant and if neither has any moral value by virtue of being a potential person, then the same reasons which justify abortion should also justify the killing of the potential person when it is at the stage of a newborn.”
Just as Communism lingered on for another 30 years after its nakedness became evident, legalised abortion will not die quickly. It ageing defenders will fight to the end. But the writing is on the wall. Their practitioners have been exposed as cynical as any Soviet apparatchik; their theorists as inhumanly flint-hearted as Lenin.
And curiously, the cycle of reform is beginning where it began -- in Russia. As early as 1913 Lenin demanded “the unconditional annulment of all laws against abortions or against the distribution of medical literature on contraceptive measures.” In 1920, Russia became the first nation in the world to legalise abortion for both social and medical reasons.
But last year the Russian Duma restricted abortion, partly to remedy plunging birth rates. Abortion providers must now devote 10 percent of their advertising to describing the dangers of abortion and it has become illegal to describe abortion as a safe medical procedure. Russia’s first lady, Svetlana Medvedeva, is crusading to lower abortion rates. Free abortions, the Health Ministry announced earlier this month, will only be available for victims of rape, and not for other social reasons.
Lenin must be turning in his grave. Hopefully Betty Friedan will soon be turning as well.
Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.
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