Are men not allowed to talk about abortion any more? I’ve lost count of the angry comments I have read on Facebook and Twitter, denouncing Jeremy Hunt, the new Health Secretary, as a vile bigot because he supports a reduction in the 24 week time-limit on legal abortions. ‘Hunt: stay out of my c***’ is one that sticks in mind.
Lily Allen, the singer turned Twitterer, has joined the outrage. ‘Can small minded idiot blokes stop telling women whether or not they’re entitled to abortions please?’ She added: ‘Enough now… The day the number of single father households equal the number of single mother households is the day I start to listen to their views.’
Hang on there Lily, because the small-minded one here might be you. Women seem more and more united in the idea that any man who questions the absolute pro-choice position is dangerous and ‘ideological’ (which is, I think, a synonym for religious). To question Britain’s abortion laws in public is to be howled at by furious women. Older female columnists this week rolled off authoritative pieces saying they didn’t fight for women’s rights just so that ‘right-wing men’ could take them away. Leave our bodies alone etc. Men can have no idea what it is like to carry an unwanted child. No woman takes the decision to abort a child lightly, and so on.
The reaction seems suspiciously immediate and unthinking. As it happens, I do think that some women – those, say, who have had five or six abortions – take the decision too lightly, and I think men should be allowed to say so.
If a foetus were always just part of a woman’s body, then Lily and co might be right — anti-abortion men would simply be misogynists, right-wing or otherwise. But it isn’t that simple, is it? The right to an abortion isn’t another battle in the war for equality. Even Lily has to admit that at some point in a pregnancy there is another person involved – albeit a tiny and silent one – and that person’s existence ought to be considered, at least. And if a man wants to stand up for those tiny little beings – it seems a bit, er, bigoted to say that he can’t because he doesn’t have a womb.
Sometimes it looks to me as if all the shouting and twittering and raging at men over abortion has become an excuse not to think too deeply about the subject and its disturbing implications.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.