Sadiq Khan, the Labour Mayor of London, has backed the ‘message and aims’ of the activism of Abortion Rights—a radical pro-abortion group. Describing abortion as a ‘basic right,’ Khan stated in a letter to Kerry Abel, chair of the pro-choice organisation, that he has a ‘long-standing history of supporting the right of women to have an abortion.’
Abortion Rights campaign for a right to abortion for any reason and at any time, including sex-selective abortion, abortion for disability, and late-term abortion.
The claim that abortion is a basic right has been growing in acceptance in recent years, being driven from the top through the United Nations.
Amnesty International, for example, claim that: ‘Access to safe abortion services is a human right.’ Yet how can this be when no internationally accepted statement of human rights says so?
Why don’t human beings inside the womb have the same rights as human beings outside it?
You have to read between the lines, it seems. Amnesty argue as follows: Without irony, they start by pointing out (correctly) that: ‘Under international human rights law, everyone has a right to life, a right to health, and a right to be free from violence, discrimination, and torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.’
At this point, let us pause and ask: What about the right to life of the unborn child? That is surely the key consideration missing from this analysis. Science is clear that the unborn child is a biologically unique, living individual, a member of the human species at its earliest stages of development. That is incontrovertible scientific fact. Yet it features nowhere in the arguments of pro-choice proponents, who simply pretend it isn’t there, or deny science and claim it is otherwise.
Why don’t human beings inside the womb have the same rights as human beings outside it? Human beings are born at different times, some as early as 22 weeks and survive. Why does a human being acquire rights merely by moving from one side of the uterus wall to the other? Abortion advocates cannot tell us.
It is in truth an arbitrary distinction, introduced in part – and perhaps for understandable reasons – out of consideration for people who have determined that they do not wish or feel able to care for the human life they have created.
Yet however much compassion we may rightly have for people who find themselves in difficult circumstances, we would never endorse infanticide as a solution to such challenges. For the same reason neither can we endorse abortion. The existence of a human life is a basic fact that must be properly and fully integrated into any moral consideration of a course of action.
Back to Amnesty. Their next move is to add a gloss to the human rights they have listed: ‘Human rights law clearly spells out that decisions about your body are yours alone – this is what is known as bodily autonomy.’
Having added in this supposedly overarching right to ‘bodily autonomy’, they then claim: ‘Forcing someone to carry on an unwanted pregnancy, or forcing them to seek out an unsafe abortion, is a violation of their human rights, including the rights to privacy and bodily autonomy.’
Yet a right to privacy cannot be understood as a blank cheque to do anything in private regardless of how it impacts on the rights of others. Terminating a pregnancy, however privately, disregards the right to life of the unborn child (as well as possibly the paternal rights of the child’s father).
Science is clear that the unborn child is a member of the human species at its earliest stages of development.
Likewise the right to ‘bodily autonomy’, even if we assume this to be a fair summary of other rights, cannot be absolute, since it would again be a blank cheque to commit criminal or unethical behaviour with one’s ‘body’. The missing consideration is, again, the right to life (and to parental care) of the unborn child.
Amnesty’s next and final step is to claim that people sometimes have ‘no choice but to resort to unsafe abortions’ – though do not explain why they cannot choose to keep the child. They argue that such people ‘risk prosecution and punishment, including imprisonment, and can face cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and discrimination in, and exclusion from, vital post-abortion health care.’
Yet it is no part of a mainstream pro-life platform to criminalise and prosecute women who obtain illegal abortions, or to deprive them of the healthcare they need following one. The targets of such measures are invariably abortion providers, not recipients.
Of course, it is more difficult to obtain a safe abortion where abortion is illegal. But that is the case for any illegal conduct – it is more difficult to do it safely. One purpose of making something illegal is to make it more difficult to do, and one consequence of that is it becomes more difficult to do safely. But if unborn children have a right to life then it is right to make it more difficult to deny them that right, notwithstanding the impact on the safety of abortion.
Amnesty International support their case by citing research from the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute that purports to show that countries which ban abortion have no lower abortion rates than those in which it is legal. However the research behind this counter-intuitive claim has been discredited by others who point out that its conclusion is entirely the artefact of its very dubious assumptions. In fact, it is well-established that pro-life policies can appreciably reduce abortion incidence.
Amnesty conclude: ‘Access to abortion is therefore fundamentally linked to protecting and upholding the human rights of women, girls and others who can become pregnant, and thus for achieving social and gender justice.’
Yet this conclusion only says that access to abortion is ‘fundamentally linked’ to the human rights of women, which is short of establishing a ‘human right’ to abortion, even by their own argument.
And that argument, as we have seen, is deeply flawed, as it pays no heed to the right to life and to parental care of children who happen, for the moment, to be inside the womb.
Abortion is a grave moral evil.
Abortion is a grave moral evil. With up to a fifth of all UK children killed before birth each year, and similar numbers in other countries where it is legal, it is the number one cause of death worldwide. It affects girls far more than boys.
Sadiq Khan is wrong to give his blessing to those who support this modern day slaughter of the innocents. Let us pray that he, and all who back abortion, come to see why human beings are no less deserving of their concern before they are born than afterwards.
(Dr Will Jones is a maths graduate with a PhD in political philosophy and author of Evangelical Social Theology: Past and Present [Grove, 2017]. He blogs at Faith and Politics)