Mehdi Hasan, the social commentator and political director of the Huffington Post UK, has written an article about abortion which has prompted me to make an immediate response. After some thought, it is the premise of his piece with which I take an issue, framed perfectly by its title: “Being pro-life doesn’t make me any less of a lefty”. It saddens me that a view on abortion, whether for or against, is considered to be a badge of political allegiance. It is so emotive a matter that to frame it as a matter of left-versus-right is reductive, and, I think, quite wrong.
The key source that Mr. Hasan quotes in his post is that of Christopher Hitchens, who wrote of left-wingers and their “’Me Decade’ possessive individualism”. Mr. Hasan enlarges upon this theme by writing of left-wingers who ‘fetishise “choice”, selfishness and unbridled individualism.” The tone of these quotes – “unbridled individualism”, “Me Decade” – imply that to support abortion is to support narcissism run riot: that the Left’s obsession with personal autonomy has created a monster where the majority of women have abortions as a casual lifestyle choice. From my limited knowledge of this issue, this stance is very far from the reality.
So often – too often – on the issue of abortion, I hear people comment “But what about the unborn child?” I have never known a woman considering abortion who has not thought, long and heart-breakingly hard, of the unborn child. I have never known a woman who has not thought deeply about the life that they can give that child, with all the surrounding circumstances that still make being a woman, and doubly a mother, in today’s society so difficult. I have never known a woman who has taken that choice lightly: who has not acted with an astonishing bravery when choosing to have an abortion. To have an abortion, after all, is to say goodbye to a child you will never meet; which, when all is said and done, is perhaps the loneliest of all walks that a human being will ever take.