Just a few days ago – 1st April 2020 – the number of deaths associated with the coronavirus rose by 563 in a single day.
This is similar to the number of abortions that are carried out in the UK every day of every year.
The first of these situations is regarded as an ’emergency’. Everyone’s talking about it. Everyone is affected by it.
The second scarcely raises an eyebrow. However an abortion may affect those directly involved (the mother and the father, especially), for the rest of us, it’s ‘business as usual’.
If only we took the silent epidemic of abortion as seriously as we are now taking the Covid-19 epidemic!
There is a strange and tragic disconnect between our attitude towards a ‘wanted’ and an ‘unwanted’ pregnancy.
Lizzie Ling in her recent book Abortion: Christian compassion, convictions and wisdom for today’s big issues draws attention to some more contradictions:
‘Consider a doctor who, on the neonatal ward, spends many hours fighting for the life of a child born prematurely. On an adjacent ward, a colleague is terminating the life of a perfectly healthy child in utero (in the womb) of the same gestational age. A third doctor, in a clinic at the same hospital, is trying to help an infertile couple who are desperate to have their own baby.
‘In the antenatal clinic…parents, absorbed by the ultrasound pictures, marvel at fingers and toes. Is it a boy or is it a girl? What will they be called? What will they do? There’s a sense of anticipation and celebration.
‘This though is not what happens in the abortion clinic. There, too, mothers will have an ultrasound scan. But in this case the screen is often turned away. Without the visual image, it’s easier to suppress the truth of what’s happening and avoid some of the pain. For similar reasons the child is referred to as a “pregnancy” in conversation, and the act of abortion as “emptying the uterus” or the “termination of pregnancy”. The truth of the situation hasn’t changed, but the effect of altering the terminology is that the procedure has been sanitised and the child dehumanised—all of which makes it easier to go ahead with an abortion.’
There are also legal contradictions. Historically, the lives of unborn children have been protected by law. Here in the UK, there is an offence of ‘child destruction’ in which the killing of an unborn child who would have been capable of being born alive carries a potential life sentence. But this is effectively undermined by the 1967 Abortion Act.
Such changes in the law were driven by a number of factors. One of these was the feminist movement and the desire for gender equality. How ironic, then, that in countries such as China and India abortions are so often performed on the basis of the sex of the child – with girls more likely to be aborted than boys.
Abortion practices also discriminate on the grounds of disability:
‘In the UK, part of the reason why abortion is increasing in the over-30s is because women of this age are more likely to have children with abnormalities. So, after antenatal screening (which is not 100% accurate), these children are being aborted. A disturbing fact is that in Iceland, there are now almost no children born with Down syndrome—all those identified antenatally are aborted. Only those who “slip through the net” (i.e. Down syndrome children not identified by screening) get to be born. This should cause us to reflect on what society really thinks about disability.’
All of this leads to a silencing, a stifling, a suppression, of the thoughts and feelings of those most directly involved. They have been badly let down. They have been badly deceived. I believe that many women who undergo abortions ‘know it is wrong’. Yet, in the way we use language, and in the way this feeds through to the procedures we perform, we say, ‘It doesn’t really matter. It’s no big deal. You’re doing the right thing. It’s your right, after all.’ We are at least as culpable as they.