Abort! Abort! Abort!

This entry was posted on
Wednesday, March 16th, 2005
8:50 am and is filed
under UK General Election 2005.

Dear God, it’s like watching a car crash in slow motion…

Guardian – Support Tories over abortion, cardinal tells Catholics: The head of the Catholic church in England and Wales broke with tradition yesterday by questioning Labour policy and urging worshippers to support Conservative plans for a reduction of the legal time limit for abortions.

BBC – Will abortion become poll issue?: Recent remarks by politicians and churchmen have raised the prospect that abortion may, for the first time, become a big issue in a British general election. The highly-emotive subject has long been seen as virtually out of bounds for the parties during the cut and thrust of campaigning. But now, thanks to statements from the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, and Tory leader Michael Howard, it has been thrown onto the front pages.

Guardian – Keep abortion a conscience vote, says No 10: Downing Street sought to defuse the pre-election row over abortion today, urging that the issue remain one of conscience for MPs and not become a matter of party politics.

Guardian – Leaders join forces to cool abortion row: The Catholic hierarchy last night joined forces with both Labour and the Conservatives to head off a political row over abortion in the coming election after the Archbishop of Westminster suggested that religion should play a larger part in British politics. Michael Howard insisted he had not tried to make abortion an issue during a magazine interview and key aides stressed that it should remain a matter for MPs’ consciences.

That’s not going to work, I’m afraid. Right now, pro-life groups will be planning group attacks on MPs, and will no doubt use the same intimidating and number-inflating tactics used in the recent attempt to muscle the BBC. Stephen Green has yet to open his big fat mouth, but it’s only a matter of time, really.

Here’s one group already on the roll…

Evening Standard – Pro-life group to ‘name and shame’ MPs: Abortion was confirmed as a key general election issue today when it emerged that MPs are to be “named and shamed” by pro-life and religious groups.

And here’s the first poster-foetus…

Independent – Blair’s protests fail to quell abortion debate: Debate on whether the abortion laws should be changed is set to intensify as the Crown Prosecution Service decides on legal action against doctors who aborted a foetus for cleft-palate. The CPS is expected to announce its decision today on whether to prosecute two doctors in Hereford who were accused by a vicar of committing an offence by aborting a baby at 28 weeks for a minor ailment.

And here’s the right-wing press making it an issue by proclaiming that it is an issue and/or deciding to hold the debate anyway…

The Sun – Blair makes abortion plea

The Sun – Great abortion debate: Abortion has become a hot election issue after Britain’s leading Roman Catholic backed Michael Howard’s call for a lower time limit on the op. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor told the country’s six million Catholics to ditch Labour after the Prime Minister revealed he was happy to leave the legal limit at 24 weeks.

Telegraph – Abortion becomes a general election issue

Telegraph – Blair on defensive as cardinal puts abortion at heart of general election

Daily Mail – Why this debate needs to be held: With an election only weeks away, it takes some courage for any political leader – particularly one who happens to be male – to raise questions about the abortion law, when the issue is so morally challenging and emotionally charged that many MPs would simply rather not raise their heads above the parapet. There is, after all, an unbridgeable gulf between those who think abortion wrong in almost all circumstances and those who believe with equal passion in a woman’s inalienable right to choose.

Did you get that? Apparently, it will be constructive to hold an emotionally charged debate in order to bridge an unbridgeable gulf. Clearly, it’s the responsible thing to do….


Independent: Abortion: The facts: Medical organisations say the law is humane, practical and working well. Pro-choice groups warn that any reduction in the time limit would be likely to affect the most vulnerable women – teenagers whose relationships have broken up and women waiting for the results of tests.

Guardian – Serious but settled: So, are Britain’s abortion laws now under attack from the Tory party, egged on by the Roman Catholic hierarchy? Militants on either side of the abortion divide may wish it so. But the truth is muddier and less melodramatic. Michael Howard’s alleged attempt to propel abortion on to the election agenda was hardly that. It consisted of an answer to a question posed to all the three party leaders by Cosmopolitan magazine. Mr Howard’s answer, that the 22-week limit might be reduced to 20 in the light of medical progress, is his own view. It is not Tory policy – abortion remains an issue of conscience and would be put to a free vote in this or any other parliament. Nor is it Catholic policy either; Catholics oppose abortion under all circumstances. If abortion has now become “a burning election issue”, as yesterday’s Daily Mail claimed, it is less Mr Howard’s doing than that of the press, which has inflated his comments, aided by a clumsy intervention by the Roman Catholic leader in England and Wales… Abortion a serious subject? Of course. But abortion a burning election issue? No. Forty years on, the legalisation of abortion is a settled matter. A generation has passed since the subject was last at the centre of our politics. It was Tony Blair who put it best in answer to Cosmopolitan. Nobody likes abortion, he said, but it is wrong to criminalise those who, in very difficult circumstances, make that choice. The debate will go on, he added, but there is no case for changing the law. That needed saying, and Mr Blair deserves credit for holding firm.

For now. I sense a weakness in the wind.

To close, I offer a quiet word or two on a turbulent priest…

Guardian Diary: And so to the entrance into the abortion debate of Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, who makes up in Irish names for what he lacks in moral consistency. “What is useful is not always what is right for society,” opines the head of the Catholic church in England, “and sometimes is very wrong.” Quite so. It was the cardinal who, when Bishop of Arundel, declined to report a priest he knew to be a paedophile to the police, instead awarding him a new chaplaincy. Here the man was able to continue the abuse for some years, before finally being convicted for crimes, among others, against a disabled child. The cardinal raging against expediency seems marginally less absurd than Cher expressing a distaste for Botox, but we wish him and his blind eye well.

And what I think is a pretty good indication of the ‘facts’ you can expect from pro-life groups in the coming days…

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This is not going to be pretty. This is not going to be pretty at all…

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