The Labour Party was clearly disturbed by the Catholic Herald‘s recent account of its election abortion policy. It wants to stress that “abortion procedures and those performing them must be properly regulated” and that there would be “wide public consultation on the detail of new laws and regulations”.
And the party’s manifesto does not say in terms what the Herald reports – that “the Labour Party would decriminalise abortion in Britain, making it legal to have an abortion for any reason up to the birth of a child”.
However, the Herald‘s reading of the manifesto is undoubtedly correct. It says that “we will uphold women’s reproductive rights and decriminalise abortions”. Some will find it deeply disturbing to see it proposed that state healthcare provision could thus simultaneously provide for the delivery of some babies and the abortion of others up to birth under the same roof as a matter of usual course – this site included.
But what is striking is the lack of comment and debate about Labour’s proposed policy, whatever one’s view of it. After all, it is not only pro-lifers who might jib at the United Kingdom acquiring one of the most permissive abortion laws in the world. (The most common time limit among EU member states is twelve weeks.) Some of those who back the current legal settlement would do so.
One might expect the Catholic Church to object vociferously. But this is not the way of the bishops of England and Wales who tend for a series of reasons to keep their heads down. An election statement released yesterday by the church in effect asks election candidates to commit themselves to “the innate dignity of every human being; defending both the child in the womb, the good of the mother and an understanding of the immeasurable good of a child not yet born”.
This is the first of nine such requirements, and the church is unlikely either to prioritise it above the others or to single out Labour’s policy. The Archbishop of Westminster did not join the Archbishop of Canterbury in displaying public solidarity earlier this week with the Chief Rabbi over anti-semitism. The Church of England does not take quite the same view of abortion as the Catholic Church, but it is likely to be unhappy about Labour’s policy.
So too will be members of other faiths and of none. It will be said that Labour isn’t going to win the election, so why bother getting worked up about this policy? But the same principle applies to, say, the party’s tax approach – and many of us spend a lot of time poring over that. It’s worth noting that the one like the other would presumably be whipped. And there would be a big push within Labour to legislate for the abortion policy.
This site is not repeat not advising the Conservaties to weigh in. The party has traditionally taken the view that abortion is a conscience issue and therefore should not be whipped. But it should get across the details of abortion policy – including the polling on it which, when this site last looked, found that women have a more restrictive attitude to it than men.