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If we can abolish slavery, we can end abortion

But we must be creative in responding to the reality of unwanted pregnancy

By on Thursday, 27 October 2011

I sometimes envy the Americans. They see their efforts to protect unborn children as being of a piece with their country’s other great struggles for justice, both against the practice of slavery and in the civil rights movement a generation ago. And today a united society fights together on this front. From this they get a strong sense of continuity, that their cause is part of their pursuit of the full spectrum of civil and political rights, of which the effort to defend the child before birth has become the keystone.

We in Britain don’t perhaps feel so conscious of our living links to struggles akin to this one. We need to look back to Wilberforce and his ilk for inspiration, and quite sensibly too, when his generation was perhaps the last to have fought to accord the most basic right to the fellow humans in their midst, the right to life and not mere chattel status. If we are still a nation with a proud recent record of defending democracy and helping the underdog, it’s all the more a shame that we cannot stand as tall as we might because of the moral handicap of our failure to care for the unborn.

Today’s Britain, then, faces a double challenge: to make the case that the unborn deserve the same fundamental rights as those who’ve been born, and another, perhaps less spoken about: to prepare and lay the ground for a post-abortion culture. It will be a great wrench for a culture such as ours to re-orient itself so as to recognise again, as it once did, the inviolability of unborn human life, with all that flows from that recognition. To help this transformation to take place, we’d need to be very realistic about the scale of the changes asked of the whole of society, but in particular of women: asking, first of all, for nothing less than that a pregnancy, once begun, be allowed to reach its term. That is a shocking thing to consider, so familiar have we all become with the status quo.

All being medically well, then, the normal expectation would once again have to be that a conception would lead to a birth. But what would our society look like once the legal option to end a pregnancy, whether undesired or too hard to bear, had been taken away? Much thought will have to be given to this, or the default position of the defenders of the current law will be to shout that we propose nothing more a return to the 1950s.

Were our “offer” to be made to look anything like that, then our goal would recede indefinitely. One of the main stumbling blocks for many people in fully acknowledging the humanity of the unborn might just be an anxiety about what might happen to the culture if they did so. Wouldn’t the change inevitably be retrograde? Our task is surely to say that it needn’t be so. Genuinely attractive scenarios have to be put forward that don’t have the look and feel of 50 years ago.

President Obama has called for a new Manhattan Project to find alternatives to fossil fuels. I think something analogous is required in our case if we want to wean ourselves off abortion. To go on saying that this is the best we can do for women in need is a truly defeatist position. A real collaborative effort is needed to search for new solutions to help those with unwanted pregnancies. That could allow society one day to put behind it the sad choice it made to condone the ending of a pregnancy that was found too burdensome.

We can do better. Yes we can. Human beings are above all creative. It cannot be beyond us to find ways to meet the needs of the half of society which does the job of bringing children into the world, while at the same acting responsibly towards the unborn.

Are men, though, a sticking point in all this? For sure, this whole discussion must be approached with humility. A man can never, for one thing, wholly understand what a physical sacrifice it is in so many ways for a woman to persevere with a pregnancy, and to play her unique part in the early years of her child’s life. Especially given that the modern lifestyles have greatly reduced the support, especially from family members, available to her in this vital period. But, if men can’t pretend to know the price women pay to be mothers, they can still endeavour to be aware of it, to genuinely support them in choosing it, share what burdens they can, and perhaps above all to thank them for it. We will make no headway in this debate otherwise. We cannot, either, allow ourselves to be tempted into a style that fails to be moderate and judicious. Moreover, we should reject the alternatives that come close to denigration of those who disagree with us, especially those who’ve known pregnancy themselves, and whose motivations we cannot fully know and therefore cannot condemn.

If such a project could be undertaken that would thoroughly explore the look and feel of a post-abortion world and then make proposals as to how we might adapt to it, what preliminary suggestions might one make? Firstly, perhaps that if it shied away from radical and untried proposals, blended however they may be with traditional ones, newly presented, then it won’t capture the imaginations of its intended audience. It would have to do so, also, because the goal is so well worth our trouble: a win-win situation in which we shed our collective dependency on this cruelly self-harming act, and above all come again to see our children as safe and welcome visitors in their mother’s body, and in the human community. Better still, we begin to repay the vast debt that is owed to women since the law first offered them the falsest choice of all.

Lord Nicholas Windsor is chairman of the Rome-based Dignitatis Humanae Institute

  • Polypubs

    Excellent article. In the case of Slavery, it is noteworthy that the attempt to extend free and compulsory education to the freed slaves- thus making their enfranchisement meaningful- came a cropper on the question of Anglican control of education. Gladstone bears much responsibility for this, Meanwhile, people like his father were re-introducing slavery under the guise of indentured servitude for Asiatics.
    A post-abortion Society, technologically speaking, is already feasible and offers numerous health and economic benefits. I refer to the technology re. freezing sperm and egg cells and reversible sterilization, freeing planned parenthood from the roulette wheel of the rythmn, barrier  or other method of contraception. Advances still awaited may in fact offer a safer alternative to certain aspects of inter-personal intimacy such that questions of lifestyle choice or rape cease to vitiate the debate.
    However, even if it is the case that technology and economic forces will inevitably cause the problem to wither away, it would be a great mistake not to accept Lord Windsor’s challenge and seek to build the cultural software, so to speak, necessary to ensure that a post abortion society is more rather than less humane and open to spiritual values than what currently obtains.

  • theroadmaster

    A very constructive piece for Lord Nicholas Windsor who wants pro-life advocates to think outside the box to present the case for a final ending to abortion.  Piecemeal reform to reduce the number of months allowed for the deliberate destruction of the unborn child seems to a limited and limiting objective.  The author of this piece argues for a re-imagining of the presentation of the anti-abortion case in order to make it more compulsive to the eyes and ears of the the neutral and unconvinced citizens in the general population.  We could start by emphasizing the humanity and integrity of the human life which is generated by the fertilisation of the ovum by the sperm before being implanted in the woman’s uterus.  The use of pictorial 3D images of the foetus as he or she develops in the womb at the different stages of incipient life, could be used to educate those who by default think in in a “pro-choice” mindset.  Some pro-life activists prefer to use pictures of aborted foetuses to convey the horrific nature of this industry of death, but I think that the enchanting nature of life as it develops in the womb may promote the pro-life message in a more healthy and challenging way than the former method.  Perhaps this could be supplemented with a re-framing of the discussion which surrounds rights in Western societies and how they relate to the integrity and worth of men and women in our world.   People can be aroused quite easily when one’s right to speak, protest or strike are trampled upon by state governments, yet they shrug their shoulders once the rights of the unborn are discussed.  We can optimize the best resources in Science, Philosophy, Religion and even Humanism to reverse this trend without draining our energies in engaging in negative polemics.

  • Polypubs

    ‘Lord Nicholas Windsor… wants pro-life advocates to think outside the box to present the case for a final ending to abortion.’Maybe that’s what the noble Lord really wants. But, by no means, is that what we should render back to his, paradigm busting, call-to-arms. 
    Ignorant though I am, and only too happy to be corrected,, I affirm he  meant something quite different- viz. not out of the box thinking for the purposes of Propaganda (which, in the Catholic context of that word would be self-defeating if not downright heretical) – but a sustained and collegiate imagining of an altered position for women- mothers- in our Lebenswelt such that every ‘murder in the womb’ has- by a sort of Viconian ‘verum factum’ and detective trail restitching of that Cosmos restored by the rolling back of the rock of His tomb- the status of a ‘scandal’ for Instrumental Reason.

    theroadmaster says ‘Perhaps this could be supplemented with a re-framing of the discussion which surrounds rights in Western societies’/
    Amen to that! Our Ecumenical values are threatened, in the same manner as our Economy’s stores of value are threatened, by a toxic overhang of ‘Rights’ and ‘Entitlements’ arising from the false coin and Ponzi scheme of ‘strategic essentialism’ and ‘Identity politics’.

    It is a pity, that Catholic thought- i.e. the notion that things have a centre, there is a non-Saduccee synoecism independent of the claims of a Classical language or its availability cascades- even yet remains, in English, of all languages, so abjectly impoverished of that rhetoric deflating rigour and demotic, therefore democratic, deontics which- uniquely- renders Rome’s Vicar in every other vernacular, host to a locavarian Host.

  • Polypubs

    A ‘post-abortion Society’- I’ve looked up Lord Nicholas, he’s 7 years younger than me and, like my son, went first to a School utterly lamentable in its institutional neglect of that which made it a necessary adjunct to an Abbey in Christendom.
    My fear is- more precisely, my suspicion of this Catholic organ arises from- the notion that the well born converts have it all their own way and the fundamental, foundational and Roman pietas ridden paideia- of my own Elementary School- gets short shrift, at least in these columns, though the true clamour of the multitudes, which converts claim to better prognosticate, is only to be shriven and annealed.
    Wieland Smith was lame, Smiths were lamed by their profession then. Christ was hyle’s carpenter.

    It appears that English Catholicism, at least in this its electronic and dialethic incarnation, prefers the hasty pig iron smelted for nails to the Rood’s patient wood.

  • theroadmaster

    Thanks for your contribution, Polypubs,
    When I used the phrase “out of the box” thinking, I mean’t it in respect to going beyond the standard ripostes to “pro-choice” or pro-abortion positions, by imaginatively using scientific technology, philosophy and religion to broaden out the context of the debate to get to the core of the nature of human existence and mankind’s position in the universe.  By so doing, we then do not get stuck in the repetitive groove of stock answers or strident rhetoric in reply to our ideological opponents.  My example of using 3D images to illustrate the progress of the unborn child, would invite audiences to consider the vulnerable fragility and innocent beauty of nascent life.  Hopefully this would cause more minds to be open to the moral arguments in favor of protecting the unborn and lead to conversions to that very cause.
    Hopefully I have got the gist of your last paragraph, which I think is critical of language used to blur distinctions between different concepts, physical realities and amalgamate everything into an amorphous whole.  If I have got it wrong, then I apologise.

  • Anonymous

    Sir, it is for me, not you to apologise. 
    I misread your original comment in a manner which above all else was lacking in that caritas as reciprocity which is foundation and supreme type of communication.
    You, Sir, on the other hand have, with the eye of kindness, read even that last paragraph of mine you refer to in a manner charitable to me.
    In foro conscientiae, I confess my meaning was of a more parochial nature- viz. the complaint of those born or educated or by ethnicity, not faith, associated with the Catholic Religion, against the bien pensant posturing of those quite differently placed who convert, not, indeed, to condescend to us, but- by extractive introjection  (this is a term in British Psychoanalysis which means taking over someone else’s affect to dramatize oneself, leaving the other hollow or even ‘soul murdered’)- usurp our voice rendering us surd and ‘subaltern’ (Gramsci). 
    The phrase ‘locavarian host’ means the Soteriological corrollary of distributivism &. subsidiarity of Sittlichkeit (Morality). 
    I appreciate, my views- conditioned, no doubt, by my class and educational background- strike a discordant note in this forum.
    For this I apologise and, thanks to your not suave but Christian felicity in this matter, I do so with better grace and in better heart than when I penned the lines, uncharitable to you, which I heartily repent,  withdraw. and repudiate.

  • Oconnordamien

    Why does the Herald give such gravitas to an over privileged, wealthy, middle-aged man whose only point is that pregnant women should think the way he thinks they should think. 

    That is the crux of the article, the world must change until it supports his view of pregnancy and birth. Now the man isn’t stupid, he admits that not everyone thinks as he does. But he offers no idea how this will be achieved, except for a slight woolly idea that men will have to think as he does too. He is though, far more vague on that idea, a bit more empathy for women and stuff.

    What I find hateful in his lecture is that he implies women who abort do so casually without thought. He knows the potential of life far better than a women who feels it. As if he knows better about life and bearing it than an overwhelmed mother of two who is struggling to cope and is pregnant with a third child.

    Call me whatever you like but I will listen to the opinion of a woman who has had to consider an abortion rather than someone like this who as a child may well have spent more time with hired staff than loving parents.

    (Oh and don’t get me started on the stupidity of his slavery example)

     

  • Oconnordamien

    Sorry I didn’t get the mood right. Are playing Bamboozle? If so I can run for reference books to find an obscure and complicated way to make a simple point. 

    Here’s me feeling like an eejit coz I thought the subject was more important than my posturing. 

  • Oconnordamien

    Sorry I didn’t get the mood right. Are playing Bamboozle? If so I can run for reference books to find an obscure and complicated way to make a simple point. Here’s me feeling like an eejit coz I thought the subject was more important than my posturing

  • Oconnordamien

    Sorry I didn’t get the mood right. Are playing Bamboozle? If so I can run for reference books to find an obscure and complicated way to make a simple point. Here’s me feeling like an eejit coz I thought the subject was more important than my posturing

  • Oconnordamien

    Sorry I didn’t get the mood right. Are playing Bamboozle? If so I can run for reference books to find an obscure and complicated way to make a simple point. Here’s me feeling like an eejit coz I thought the subject was more important than my posturing

  • Oconnordamien

    Sorry to post again, but does any one actually think that just because this guy can call himself a lord that his opinions are better than yours?  

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, I must have missed the line where he said, “Subjects, you must listen to me because I am your Lord”. In fact for a matter of consicence he gave up his lineage to the throne; so I would guess he’s not too obsesssed with his royal status.

    I think this is a great piece and was a little wake up to me, reminding me that I must be more understanding of the burdens of pregnancy. I think it’s that we have in place a system to properly support those who decide to keep their babies (great credit must go to Good Counsel Network and other for the work they already do on this front) and for those who wish to have their babies adopted (for which great criticism is due for the last Government for the legislation which forced our agencies to shut).

  • Anonymous

    Here’s me feeling like an eejit coz I thought the subject was more important than my posturing’- me too. I feel a right lummox trying to get my head round  the subject viz. trying to conceive a post-abortion society, and that also means- as theroadmaster points out- ridding ourselves of all the rancour and acrimony of the political postures we have been taking on this issue for the last thirty years.I would like to believe that there’s something higher- call it theology or dunno ….casuistry? or something- the stuff of five dollar words anyroad, which we can inscribe ourselves in, so to speak, such that we don’t feel like such fools when overtaken by events.
    ‘Woman, the hour cometh and now is &c.’

  • Oconnordamien

    Never post while angry…. I. should learn that.

    Two blokes throwing big words at each other got my dander going,  I think, as an important thing as this is, rivalry should be forgotten.

  • http://profiles.google.com/polypubs vivek iyer

    You are right.
    ‘I fear those big words which make us so unhappy’
    The trouble about middle age is that it’s like finding out all your stocks and shares are valuless. You’ve got the big words in lawyer writing on the deeds and sure you could go to court and hurl those big words at some other guy who has probably been shafted the same way- but where does that get you?

    Still, its got its comic side.

  • Oconnordamien

    t to throw in a  quote, Homer said  what I’m thinking, (the greek not the simpson)

    “The blade itself incites to deeds of violence”.

    Anyone who thinks they can change humanity is an idiot. Doesn’t matter if you think god-given or  evolved, we are as we are, good ,bad and in this case slightly Drunk! 

    But I am confounded that people who believe are so inclined to think the worst of people.

  • theroadmaster

    Get thou to a Thesaurus or obscure theological reference book which deals with arcane terms.

  • theroadmaster

    Was this a case of one bloke stating that mine is bigger than your’s.  

  • theroadmaster

    Get thou to a Thesaurus or obscure theological reference book which deals with arcane terms.

  • theroadmaster

    You are forgiven, sirrah.  I take my hat off to you for your courtesy

  • Oconnordamien

    I wasn’t saying how he spoke, more how you listened. Indeed as he gave up his line why call him “Lord”, 

  • theroadmaster

    Because a man does not experience pregnancy, does that invalidate any comments that he has to make regarding the humanity and right to life of the unborn child in the womb?  You may retort that one has to walk a mile or more in somebody else’s shoes before giving a considered response.  The same can be stated about any situation that one sees around them but have not directly experienced, war, famine etc.  
    A man who supports the right to life of the child is in reality more pro-feminist than the opinionated so-called “feminists” in the pro-choice ranks who value “reproductive rights”(code for abortion) more than the right of the developing child in the womb to live.  Abortion ultimately erodes the natural maternal instinct in women who decide to chose that drastic option.  We need to broaden out the options in terms of counseling and adoption services to make it even more unpalatable.

  • Oconnordamien

    You make the point far more eloquently than I did. And much better than the author did.  

  • Anonymous

    I agree that the unborn deserve the same fundamental rights as those who’ve been born, but note that those who have been born are – for 18 years – subjected to a political system that takes absolutely no account of their interests, but which is very efficient at wrecking their chances of a good life – or indeed any future – by destroying the planet, starting wars and undermining the moral basis of civilised society, not to mention global financial stability. This flows from the short termism built into our flawed democracy, which is based on greed. Only the money matters. Children have no money so they effectively don’t exist – they are invisible to Parliament. Until parents get a say in their childrens’ future, at the ballot box, the controllers of “wealth” will continue to deny unborn children their future.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=509047388 Helen Gallagher

    No, I think the fact that he’s extremely wealthy, disconnected from real life, and has not instituted any of the solutions he proposes  invalidates his opinions.

     Has he adopted? No. Has he financially helped any mothers? No. Has he helped to fund adoption centres, invested in contraceptive research, supported factual sex education? No, No and No.

  • Fiona Cullen-Skowronski

    Nicholas, abortion up to twelve weeks into pregnancy was legal in Poland until the end of communism, and it was very common for a woman to have one or more abortions. Abortion is no longer available in Poland, and there doesn’t seem to have been any problem with this sudden change, apart from one or two foreign interferers trying to impose abortion on Poland.