Then let's shout
MF,LANIE MCDONAGH THERE ARE some subjects where one is ruled entirely by contrariness. Women's ordination is one. It is those who argue vehemently about the necessity of women priests who send me flying to the defence of the status quo, while those who maintain that women arc inherently unfit for the priesthood turn me into a mulish feminist.
It is starting to get that way about the latest tactics of the pro-life movement. I'm a pro-lifer myself, or at least, an anti-abortionist, but I did worry rather when I heard that the pro-life movement was intending, not merely to field candidates in the election, but to screen a film of a late abortion by way of a party-political broadcast. It seemed, as an idea, to be counterproductive. We all know how people react when they are shown pictures of aborted foetuses: the reaction is not one of sympathy with these discarded scraps of humanity, but one of rage against the person who has presented the image.
I worried that raising the abortion issue in isolation might be seen as narrowing the scope of the pro-life movement, from its broad mission to care for mothers and children, to protect life that is born as well as unborn in the widest sense. And I worried that fielding 50 candidates who could confidently be predicted to lose their deposit might be counterproductive.
That was before reading an article by Janet Daley, a Right-wing columnist in the Daily Telegraph. She began her criticism of the antiabortion movement's latest initiative with these words: "Why are we still arguing about abortion? The overwhelming majority of people in Britain are in favour of legal abortion and most of them feel that the decision to terminate should be for individual women... There has been no largescale clamour to reverse the law. None the less, a vociferous campaign by lobby groups has maintained the idea that abortion law is still
highly controversial, when, as far as most voters are concerned, it is not controversial at alt."
That did it. From that point on I was all in favour of the pro-life movement fielding candidates, although I still badly wish they would think again about the film. The whole point of their endeavour, which Miss Daley has, characteristically, missed, is to ensure that if abortion is not controversial it ruddy well ought to be. It is trying to say, as emphatically as possible, that we do not follow public opinion in this; we attempt to form it. If people are not excited about abortion, it is almost certainly because they have never thought about or have shied away from the question of the status of the human foetus and the protection due to it. The anti-abortion movement is trying to focus attention on an issue which people quite consciously try not to think about.
It is not a nice subject. It is a bloody subject. But we have to be made to think about it, because not thinking about it allows qne party to the abortion, namely the foetus, to be destroyed without even the dignity of public concern.
I hope the pro-life lobby field a candidate in my constituency. If they do, I shall vote for her.