Why pro-abortion campaigners failed to convince the Home Secretary

In a celebrated scene from Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead, the dissident John Galt makes a ludicrous but eloquent speech about the pioneers of human history. “The great creators – the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors – stood alone against the men of their time,” Galt claims.

The speech is individualistic and anti-Christian: Rand’s idealised creator serves “nothing and no one” and pursues “his own truth”, putting “selfishness” over the “orgy of self-sacrificing”. But it does at least assert that crowds can be mistaken.

Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, loves this speech: last year he told the Spectator that he re-reads it twice a year. “It’s about the power of the individual,” he said. “About sticking up for your beliefs, against popular opinion.”

This sympathy for outsiders may help to explain why Javid has just taken an unusually common-sense decision for a senior minister. Last Thursday, Javid announced that there would be no ban on pro-life vigils – despite requests from more than 100 MPs and concerted pressure from pro-abortion organisations.

Those lobbying for a ban claimed that pro-life vigils were “targeting individual women who have come to a difficult decision”, “harassing” those wanting an abortion with “daily abuse”. These are quotations from a letter signed by 113 MPs, Jeremy Corbyn among them, asking Javid’s predecessor Amber Rudd to impose “buffer zones”, effectively barring vigils from the area near abortion clinics.

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