06 October, 2012

The wrong topic

Maria Millar, the women's minister, and Theresa May, the Home Secretary, say that the latest date for an abortion should be reduced to 20 weeks. Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, says it should be 12 weeks.

Now, it may be that the Tory Party is in such a mess that they need some topic of national conversation, anything as long as it's not to do with economics, to get people agitated and looking the other way.

Under any other circumstances opening this can of worms can only be a mistake.

Abortion has never been a political issue in Britain in the way it has in America, and we should be grateful for that. Firstly it is not something which divides opinion neatly along party lines and secondly it works people up into violence.

Still, now they've started, quite a difference between the time limits, no? May and Millar say that at 20 weeks a foetus can survive outside the womb, due to advances in medical care. Whilst not agreeing with their premise (the only sense I can make of all this is that life starts at conception), it does have some coherence. Some hospitals have adjacent wards where pregnancies are terminated and where there is advanced post natal care, both dealing with the same age group.

Hunt got into a bit of a mess saying 12 weeks was when the foetus resembled a human which would seem to invite him into all kinds of strange arguments. In fact 12 weeks is the law in France, Germany and Italy but even he, as disaster prone a person as to have ever sat in a ministerial car, cannot say to fellow Tory MPs that he wants to be in line with Europe.

Unless you are going to campaign vigorously in the subject, and none of these people have the guts to do so, this is a topic best left well alone.

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