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The campaign on ‘gendercide’ is blinded by a moral smugness

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

By on Wednesday, 29 February 2012

A woman at a rally against female foeticide, in New Delhi, India (PA photo)

A woman at a rally against female foeticide, in New Delhi, India (PA photo)

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”.

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.

  • maryp

    How on earth do people nowadays sort through the plethora of situations deciding which is right and which is wrong, without the benefit of a Catholic faith? On what do they base their decisions? I was shocked to find that a close friend of mine actually followed Richard Dawkins tweets. When I asked him why, his answer was that because they were very popular. I dread to think how his ideas of right or wrong might change if he continues with this practice. We are as a society, like lemmings, following whatever happens to be ‘in’ at the moment. God help us!

  • Anonymous

    “After-birth abortion (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.” Journal of Medical Ethics.
    ‘Two senior midwives from Glasgow have lost their battle not to assist in abortions following a court ruling’.
     It looks like the ‘culture of death’ frontiers are expanding at a fast rate aided and assisted by learned members of the judiciary and respected academics.
    Too bad we do not appear to have any heavy hitters to take on this lot. 
    Perhaps Benedict can have something to say again on this matter but very few appear to listen.

  • Against Female Foeticide

    Beginning of December, a program aired on ABC 20/20 about India’s deadly
    secret. It was about 40 million girls who have vanished. All aborted
    before they could take their first breath. Their crime was that they
    were girls. As you know the gender ratios is India are terribly skewed
    about 914 girls per 1,000 boys. In Punjab it is about 833 girls per1,000
    boys. Unfortunately this happens amongst the privileged and the
    educated also. The only woman who has brought cases against her in-laws
    and husband is Dr Mitu Khurana. Please watch her story and sign her
    petition for justice. Please give those 40 million girls silenced
    forever, a voice. Please forward this to as many friends as possible.
    After you sign the petition, there will be a request from the site for a
    donation. This donation is totally discretionary and does not in any
    way or form affect or benefit Dr Mitu Khurana. All she is asking for is
    your support (signing this petition) so that pressure can be put on the
    Indian authorities that the whole world is watching them in total
    disbelief as they make a young mother run around in vain for four years
    in search of justice.

  • theroadmaster

    Francis Phillips has perfectly encapsulated the hypocrisy at the heart of the expressions of glib outrage by some commentators at gender-based abortion without extending the same anger to the indiscriminate elimination of the innocents as result of physical disabilities or due to the social inconvenience of the pregnancy.  It seems too much like a “pro-choice” attitude in relation to the selection of victim and the measure of anger to be conveyed.  Perhaps it would not be asking too much, if individuals who have expressed vehemently their opposition to abortions based on gender, would follow through the logic of their argument to it’s ultimate conclusion, which is to oppose the infernal threat of termination to all innocent life in the womb.

  • Parasum

    Those who are positively in favour of abortion, cannot reasonably complain if it used against unborn female foetuses.

    If feminists campaign for abortion, they have no right whatever to complain when unborn female foetuses are aborted. They wanted abortion to be available – and abortion is what they got. If – as is now plain – they wanted only males to be aborted, they should have said so.

    Such people are as illogical as Rachel Cusk, who got what *she* wanted – and didn’t like it:

    Her article:

    A column on it:

    These two columns are ideal reading for anyone in low spirits.

  • Parasum

    Because they have other sources of moral values. Especially the thousands of millions who get their values from a different religion, Christian or not. It really is not difficult to get by without being Catholic: one could equally well ask, “How do people get by without being Anglican/Calvinist/Orthodox/Lutheran/Buddhist/Jewish/Muslim/etc. ?”

  • Charles Martel

    Good article, Francis

  • Rmlebl

    It strikes me as odd, even perverse, that somehow the right to equality is considered more fundamental than the right to life. You can kill them if you want, just make sure you do it in equal numbers.

  • WSquared

     Good points.  If they want to advocate for “choice,” who are they to say that these other women’s choices are “wrong”?