It’s hypocritical to believe abortion is a right and yet be scandalised by who gets aborted and who doesn’t

Having blogged favourably about the BBC4 film, Catholics, last Thursday night, a friend has just emailed me about it. She, too, thought it a rare instance of BBC impartiality, but she adds: “It is always quite sad to me though, to see irreverence while receiving the Body of Christ – especially in a seminary. It makes the Real Presence look less real, because if they truly believed it was God they were receiving, surely they would fall to their knees?” She is quite right; I had missed this point – even though I once blogged in support of the practise of receiving Communion on the tongue when kneeling.

On a different point, I don’t know if other readers of the Telegraph have found this newspaper’s campaign on behalf of “gendercide” (the deliberate abortion of baby girls), rather distasteful? It struck me as an unpleasant mixture of hypocrisy and moral smugness: hypocrisy because none of the articles I read disagreed with abortion on principle, yet their outrage against this practice gave a “feelgood” factor to their indignation.

Thus Allison Pearson: she finds the idea that baby girls are being regularly aborted in this country chilling, unbelievable and horrifying. “I actually shouted aloud with dismay when I read the stories,” she writes; “It is deeply wrong, even criminal.” Yet Pearson supports abortion, “the procedure which President Bill Clinton said should be ‘safe, legal and rare’” – but only as long as it is carried out “if it threatens the mother’s health or if the foetus is severely disabled, has a distressing hereditary condition and will have an appalling quality of life”.

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Leaving aside the questions this remark raises about the way society regards disability and how “an appalling quality of life” is to be defined, surely it is quite within the law to abort a baby girl when, because of the culture she comes from – a culture that prizes baby boys above girls – the mother can argue that her mental health is threatened, indeed she will be suicidal, if she gives birth to a daughter?

In his bleak, uncompromising way Theodore Dalrymple (in real life retired doctor Anthony Daniels) made precisely this point in another Telegraph article. He writes: “The discovery that sexually selected termination of pregnancy is available in Britain should surprise no one; and if we are surprised, it can only be because we have not been paying attention for the past 40 years. Sexually selected termination is, after all, the natural result and logical extension of the way the Abortion Act has been interpreted during all this time.”

Dalrymple comments: “Of course, it is not difficult for someone to claim that the continuation of a pregnancy will harm her; all she has to do is threaten to take an overdose if it is not terminated. But if we take a latitudinarian view of what constitutes harm to mental health, there is no way of distinguishing between permissible and impermissible termination.”

Quite so. Allison Pearson must be wilfully blinded by her own self-righteousness if she hasn’t realised this. That is the problem with a “humane” view of abortion; people believe in it as a right – yet are subsequently scandalised by the mess, the brutality, the sheer arbitrariness of who gets aborted and who doesn’t. And where does this leave feminists like Pearson, who writes, “All the backward societies on earth repress and undervalue their girls and even murder those yearning to be born”? All babies “yearn to be born”, Ms Pearson, whether they are boys or girls, disabled or healthy. They are all human beings and our society is as backward as any third world country – perhaps more so, because we are not so dependent on the labour of our sons – as long as we allow the Abortion Act to remain on the statute books.

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