Abortion, darkness and devils.
According to reports - much to the chagrin of Harriet Harman - all discussion of the abortion clauses has been shunted to the end of the debate. If the Bill runs out of time, the ‘pro-choice’ amendments will not be debated, and Ms Harman will have lost her chance to liberalise the abortion law using this Bill.
However, while this appears to be good news and answered prayer, it is not impossible that the debate on the earlier issues will be swift, and the abortion amendments consequently reached. One must pray for an effective filibusterer.
We have already seen the defeat of the amendment backed by David Cameron to reduce the abortion time limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks. Proponents of this cause argue that there has been a considerable improvement in the chances for survival of those babies born at 24 weeks. But Cranmer returns again and again to these arbitrary time limits. What need you four and twenty, ten, or five? Indeed, what need one?
How can a mere law of man prescribe death for a 24-week-old developing baby, and yet grant the ‘right to life’ to one of 25 weeks? Why not 20? Why not 10? And if 10, why not five, or one?
In 1967 we were assured that legalised abortion would never to be ‘on demand’, but reserved for clearly-defined medical reasons. The reality, 40 years on, is that abortion is available on demand, and has become simply another method of birth control. And now we live in a world unforeseen through the misty haze of the 60s; a world in which a 21 week-old foetus may be delivered alive and, with medical intervention, may survive. In the womb the baby has no rights – he or she is an ‘it’; outside of the womb, with a precarious hold on life, ‘it’ becomes a ‘he’ or a ‘she’, with every right to life.
It is perhaps on this issue above all others in which religion, politics, science and morality all cohere. Roe v Wade was a defining moment for abortion in the United States, and Great Britain seems to have absorbed its central ruling by transatlatic osmosis. Women now may abort their babies for any reason, except in the God-fearing land of Northern Ireland. The likes of Nadine Dorries, Edward Leigh and Frank Field may be a rapidly-diminishing species in England, but they are a-plenty in the Province.
But why, oh why could Ruth Kelly have not made this her raison d’être; the summit of her political career? Why could the absolute devotion of a member of Opus Dei have not forced a conflict in cabinet, a crisis in government, and produced a martyr for a most worthy cause?
Instead, the Right Honourable lady resigned from the government last month in order to
Why? Why resign? The strategy is as limp as those adoption agencies which are preferring to close rather than fight their corner and letting the authorities bring them to court.
Of course there is a sense in which Cranmer admires Mrs Kelly. As a committed Catholic she had little choice but to vote against this Bill. But what does that say of her behaviour to date? If she now feels an overwhelming desire to vote against its provisions for fatherless children or ‘Frankenstein-like’ human-animal hybrids, why was this desire not so overwhelming throughout the year?
It is a manifest pity that Ms Kelly will not be the MP for Bolton West in 2010. Not because of the rising tide of Conservatism, but because she was developing a degree of conviction - the stuff of which true martyrs are made.