Thursday, 23 February 2012

Gender-based abortion — no shock, no horror

I don’t know whether it is still the case, but I seem to remember that Private Eye used to make much of the ‘shock horror!’ approach to investigative reporting: ‘Takeaway Kebab Content Shock Horror!’ — that sort of thing.
The point being made was that some things are neither shocking, nor horrible, but a weak story benefits from a few exclamation marks in the same way that a bad film can have a good trailer.
The sad truth, however, is that the story in today’s Daily Telegraph, which suggests that doctors will abort babies of the ‘wrong gender’ on demand (no questions asked) will probably not evoke the shock and horror it ought to require.
Certainly there will be a frisson of protest. It is said that Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, will mount an investigation.
But I doubt there will be a nationwide outbreak of penitence and grief over what we have become as a society. Abortion is too much part of what we do to risk asking tough questions about how we do it.
The reason I say this is that back in 1967 when the Abortion Act was passed, the reason for its introduction was the elimination of the scourge of ‘back street’ abortions. Better, it was said, to do this unfortunate procedure safely and openly, than see the deaths of some women and the blighting of the lives of others.
And there was doubtless a certain truth to this argument, but let us not forget that, whilst every premature death is a tragedy, the figures involved were not vast. Of course, given the illegality of most abortions in the UK before that date, actual figures are also hard to obtain (though coroners might be hard to fool). However, according to a briefing paper from the British MedicalAssociation, “In the three years from 1961 to 1963 the Department of Health reported that 160 women were recorded as dying as a result of abortions ...” (the corresponding figure from 1981-83 was 4).
The point is not that these deaths were acceptable, but rather the opposite — that though the figues were low compared with, say, deaths in the building industry or on the roads, they evoked sufficient public moral discomfort to persuade people that legalized abortion was a better alternative.
The case for abortion, however, was not that women should have a ‘choice’, much less that they should have ‘control over their own bodies’ (in the early 1960s that particular suggestion would have met with the robust retort that they ought perhaps in that case to control their sexual appetite).
Rather, it was a genuine shock and horror at the picture of seedy premises and tragic women evoked by the very term ‘backstreet’ abortion.
Unfortunately, the operation of the Abortion Act did not follow the principles behind its implementation. And from abortion being a last-resort measure aimed at preventing a greater evil, comparable to amputating a limb to save a life, it has become part of our lifestyle, pushed not so much into the backstreets of our cities as the backs of our minds. Like other stuff, it happens, but we don’t want to think about it too much.
Some people will doubtless object that abortion is not a ‘lifestyle choice’ by the woman concerned. And in most cases that will be true — though gender- based abortion sails pretty close to the wind in this regard. But every such woman is part of a social matrix, and it is that collective lifestyle which, in most cases, brings a particular individual to find themselves in the circumstances where, rather than give birth to a child, they consider having it aborted.
It is this wider context which we would find hard to confront. Hence, I suggest, the response to today’s news will not be an outbreak of national self-questioning, so much as a ‘tut tut’ at the proclivities of some cultures and the selfishness of a few individuals.
In the end, of course, abortion is not the problem. Our whole cultural approach to sex and sexuality is imploding under a variety of pressures. But then the human race has never, it seems, been able to handle its sexuality in an entirely satisfactory way. Such is the irony of what we are — rational beings, with far-from-rational compulsions.
Biologists may blame our genes. Christians may blame the Fall. We all live with the consequences. But if what was unthinkable fifty years ago is now happening in our clinics and surgeries, imagine what the next fifty may bring if we do not find some better way to live with ourselves.
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  1. I think that it speaks volumes for our attitude to the vulnerable (think also, the so-called care and respect for the elderly). And also our attitude to death.

    Simon Cotton

  2. Andrew Lansley is reported as saying that this is "illegal and immoral".

    This brilliantly encapsulates the absurdity, insanity and immorality of the abortion industry. It is quite alright to kill unborn babies at random (and the State will give every assistance), but choosing to kill unborn girls, or boys, is illegal and immoral.

    It is rather like telling the Syrian army that it is quite alright for them to shoot people at random, but is illegal and immoral if they decide to shoot only men or only women.

  3. The reason I say this is that back in 1967 when the Abortion Act was passed, the reason for its introduction was the elimination of the scourge of ‘back street’ abortions. Better, it was said, to do this unfortunate procedure safely and openly, than see the deaths of some women and the blighting of the lives of others.

    Recognize in that the sweet, dulcet tones of the Deceiver as he says this "small harmless" sin is for the greater long term good and is both compassionate and charitable.

    But then the human race has never, it seems, been able to handle its sexuality in an entirely satisfactory way. Such is the irony of what we are — rational beings, with far-from-rational compulsions.

    The compulsion is rational it is born from the necessity for the species to reproduce to continue.

    Cultures which manage sexuality and reproduction well prosper and continue those that don't go the way of the Spartans, Merkits and Ubykh that is decline and disappear.

    The modern West has turned sexuality into a recreation and almost entirely divorced it from its reproductive function, which has been medicalized away.

    The West is in decline - it has crept up on people over forty years so without many noticing the decay has grown and the rot is spreading.

    In hard lands and hard environments there isn't the resource or the time for the nonsense we see promulgated as normal.

    My Great Grandmother - who was well off for her time kept a diary, which is still in the family. She was married at seventeen, had six children of whom four survived to adulthood and she died at thirty eight - a grandmother already!

    And as a result, you read my words and thoughts over one hundred years later - think about it.

  4. As part of my PhD research I spent many a happy hour at the British Library and National Archive researching the social conditions of the 19th Century – and in particular the Christian response to the same – tho’ (excepting Wilberforce) in the main it was the Non-Conformists and Humanists that seemed the greatest movers and shakers in 19th Century philanthropy and social reform! As I type this, on my desk is a copy of General Booth’s ‘In Darkest England and The Way Out’ – an exhaustive manifesto for the overcoming of social ills written by Booth 1890 (tho’ I suspect a good portion of it was ghost written ‘by a valuable literary friend’ – as Booth hints at in the introduction). Which is certainly not a cheerful book at bed time!

    In comparison to the ills of the 19th and earlier centuries, gender based abortion does have a flavour of the ‘shock horror’ story – or at least of the: ‘Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.’ (Eccl 7:10). Now, in our present age, a few unscrupulous doctors perform an (ILLEGAL) act of blatant wickedness, yet infanticide of live birth babies was not uncommon in the 19th century in England ( ) - nor the slavery and exploitation of children ‘not wanted’ by their parents or society. I think care is needed not to paint our present age as somehow inherently ‘darker’ than those before it. Our lot today is far better than our antecedents and no small part of this has been achieved by family planning and contraception: which itself is another form of meddling in reproduction (tho’ certainly not on a par with abortion).

    As you note, no society has ever got it ‘right’ when it comes to sexuality; but here I don’t think the matter can be reduced to ‘just sexuality’. This moral failure goes beyond sexuality, indeed to restrict it to sexuality is to apply a limiting reductionism that negates the complex character of this (and many) social problem(s) and issues. Illegal gender specific abortion is a product of complex cultural, economic and professional failings. What I think needs to be stressed is that the law does not sanction this activity. The chief failings here seem to be cultural pressure (particularly of those cultures from the Indian Sub-Continent) and the lack of professional standards (coupled with a good dollop of greed) from a handful of unscrupulous doctors and clinics. These feelings cannot be laid at the feet of wider society (which has legislated against such uses of abortion); nor can they be seen as evidence of a ‘muddled’ or flawed attitude to sex and sexuality. They are substantial evidence of people’s selfishness and in particular gender inequality and oppression – since it is more likely female children are aborted in preference to male children. But that is an age old problem – and certainly not one restricted to our present age!

    Peter Denshaw

  5. typo alert 'These feelings cannot be laid' should read 'these failings cannot be laid...'


  6. I'm really not sure what Peter Denshaw's slabs of words mean, so I won't spend any more time on his post. :o)

    Thanks for the article John. This is an issue that needs to be drawn to public attention. In some societies abortion inevitably leads to killing of far more girls than boys, and that attitude is starting to infiltrate into sections of our western societies too. This is one of the consequences of our society's flirtation with trendy liberalism, and the public need to be reminded of where this will lead.

    Of course the die-hard liberals will think of some wordy excuse as to why this doesn't matter. But then, what else would one expect from people like that?