Two out of three of Britain’s main party leaders are ready to change the law to stop the killing of babies who can live outside the womb.
Only Tony Blair still defends this barbarous and disgusting practice
BY FREDDY GRAY
TONY BLAIR came under mounting pressure this week to withdraw his support for the “infanticide” of late-term unborn babies who can survive outside the womb.
Religious leaders, politicians and humanitarian campaigners have joined forces to attack the Prime Minister for his implacable stance.
He is now the only major party leader who supports the abortion of foetuses older than 20 weeks – a practice that, thanks to medical advances, even pro-choice advocates agree is effectively infanticide.
A time limit of 20 weeks would save the lives of an estimated 3,000 babies a year.
But the Prime Minister – who attends Mass weekly with his Catholic wife and children – was still refusing to budge as The Catholic Herald went to press.
Although Mr Blair claims to oppose abortion personally, he has consistently sided with the most hard-line elements in Parliament’s proabortion lobby.
He even voted against the modest reduction to 22 weeks supported by moderate prochoice MPs.
Polls published in national newspapers last weekend suggested that public opinion now favours a reduction in the time limit for abortions. In an ICM Sunday Telegraph survey, 53 per cent of respondents – and 59 per cent of women – said they would support lowering the limit from 24 to 20 weeks.
Mr Blair’s position contrasts strongly with that of Michael Howard, who last week promised to allow a Commons vote on abortion if the Conservative Party comes to power.
Charles Kennedy, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, who like Mr Howard previously supported a 22week limit, has also suggested that he might back a 20-week limit.
Cardinal Cormac MurphyO’Connor, the spiritual leader of Catholics in England and Wales, this week further pressed the Government to allow a review of the abortion law.
“There is a kind of awakening in British society to the reality of abortion,” said the Cardinal’s spokesman on Monday.
“The Cardinal hopes very much that all political parties will respond by allowing a review of the law.” The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, made a belated entry to the debate this week. He said the present law was producing “a groundswell of unhappiness” and suggested that voters in the forthcoming elections should ask candidates where they stood on the issue.
Dr Williams’s Sunday Times article did not call for a change in the law, but only implied it would be desirable. Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks was more forthright, arguing that too often abortion was being used as a “mere convenience”.
Iqbal Sacranie, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said any civilised society should be “seriously alarmed” by the number of terminations. Asked by Cosmopolitan magazine for his opinion, Mr Blair replied: “My view is that it should be left as it is.” Jim Dowson, director of the UK LifeLeague, an antiabortion group, said the only way for the pro-life cause to advance would be to remove Mr Blair from office.
“The guy is an incorrigi ble liar,” he said. “He claims to be a Christian, and yet the only thing he has done consistently is to vote in favour of abortion.” Josephine Quintavalle, of the Pro-Life Alliance, said the current debate revealed that the British public was beginning to come round to the pro-life argument.
“What we have seen in the last two weeks is that Tony Blair is perhaps not as in touch with public opinion as he thinks he is or ought to be,” she said.
The Rev Joanna Jepson, the Anglican curate who led a campaign to prosecute two doctors who terminated a 26week baby with a cleft palate, also poured scorn on the Prime Minister.
She said: “Tony Blair, I think, has been quite pathetic. He says he doesn’t agree with abortion but he is not prepared to do anything about it.
“That to me shows he is not taking people’s lives seriously – both the unborn children and women.” Miss Jepson was told by the Crown Prosecution Service last week that no further action will be taken in her case, but she has taken comfort from the intensity of the abortion debate in the last two weeks.
Ann Widdecombe, the former Shadow Home Secretary, said she was “appalled” by Mr Blair’s approach to abortion. “How he can attend Mass every week and still persistently vote in favour of abortion is utterly baffling,” she said.
Miss Widdecombe, MP for Maidstone and the Weald, said she would introduce a Private Member’s Bill to reduce the abortion time limit if she won a parliamentary ballot.
But certain pro-life groups are uneasy about any parliamentary Bills about abortion. “We would strongly advise pro-life politicians not to introduce such legislation,” said John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. He argued that any reduction in the time limit of legal abortions could involve the complete deregulation of earlier abortions.
“You cannot trade off the smallest, most vulnerable lives in exchange for bigger babies,” he said.
Josephine Quintavalle said this attitude was misguided: “Of course you have to be cautious with any legislation.
“But if the alternative is to do absolutely nothing then we will never change the abortion law at all.”