A couple of weeks ago pro-abortion campaigners delivered 600 coathangers to the Department of Health in protest at Jeremy Hunt's supposedly pro-life views. Their concern is that if the abortion limit is reduced (not that anyone seems to have plans to do so) that abortion will become "illegal and unsafe".
As a young adult, I had rather contradictory views on abortion. I was convinced that the unborn child was a person, and arguments at what point exactly it became a person seemed deeply flawed to me. However, I also believed that it was inevitable that women would have abortions and therefore it was better for them to have legal access to abortion so that they didn't die in back-street abortions. In short, I subscribed to the 600 coathanger view.
I have long since changed my mind about this. I realised that if the unborn child was a person (and furthermore, if we cannot say definitively that it is not) then there can be no justification for abortion. The "people will do it anyway so lets make it legal" argument has long been applied from everything from prostitution to speeding and doesn't hold water: if something is objectively wrong then making it legal doesn't make it objectively right.
After reading about the coathanger delivery I started thinking about it again, and I realised that what really worries me is what it is that drives women to seek an abortion at all costs. Things have changed since the Abortion Act was first introduced. Single mothers, although obviously they have extremely difficult lives, are not ostracised from society. And if she really doesn't want to or can't look after a baby, then there are hundreds of couples out there going through IVF and surrogacy who do want to have a child.
I was reading a friend's column in El Colombiano yesterday, in which she explains that being pro-life isn't just about mindlessly shouting about something you disagree with, but that it is important to inform your conscience about why abortion is wrong. I then read the comments section. I try not to do this, it generally annoys me. What I found was that whilst the comments where anti-abortion, quite a lot of them said things like "there's no need for abortions in this day and age because we have contraceptives". (That is something that I still struggle with. I am 100% with the Magisterium on this, but it has been so well drummed into me throughout school and university here in the "geopolitical epicentre of the culture of death" that contraceptivees are the solution to all the world's evils that often it is the first answer to pop into my head. I choose to reject this answer, but it is still there.)
What we have lost here is love. Love of a mother for a child is surely the most fundamental kind, and if a mother can argue that her child is not a child, or puts her right to what she considers life over his or hers then we have lost something fundamental. And for those women who have abortions because they are desperate and struggling and genuinely see it as the only solution, well, they are also called to make a great act of love, and so are the rest of us, to support them (practically, spiritually, psychologically) in that love. And if, horrifyingly, a child has been conceived in rape then that woman is also a mother and she too is called to make a sacrificial act of love. Acts of love are not easy. We must die to ourselves, say no to our own comfort, our own plans, in order to love. And "dying to ourselves" is not just a nice turn of phrase: Jesus really died on the cross out of love. And that is the measure for which we must strive.