Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Abortion is not a human right, says Queen's cousin and anti-choice campaigner Lord Windsor

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Lord Nicholas Windsor
First of all, apologies for the lack of activity on this blog over the past week – we've been busy producing the November/December issue of the magazine, which comes out next Thursday. More on that later. To get things going again here, I thought I'd write about a story that was in the papers at the start of the week – I'm a little late, I know, but I don't want to let this pass without comment.

The Queen cousin, Lord Nicholas Windsor, had an article in Monday's Daily Telegraph in which he argued that access to safe abortions should not be a human right. In the piece Windsor, who runs the Vatican's Dignitatis Humanae Institute (which "promotes the recognition of the infinite value of every single person by recognising each human life as being made in the Image and Likeness of God") and forfeited his right of succession to the British throne when he converted to Catholicism in 2001, describes how, once he started "thinking hard" about abortion, it hit him "in the stomach that terminating a pregnancy equalled none other than the destruction of a human being".

The piece was published to coincide with the British launch of the San Jose Articles, a declaration against moves at the UN to have access to abortion recognised as a human right. In Windsor's words, the Articles, which were launched by the All Party Parliamentary Pro-life Group at the House of Lords on Monday, "aim to show that there is no 'right to abortion' to be found in international law".

In his Telegraph article, Windsor suggests that abortion is a form of "eugenics", and describes as "sophistry" the fact that, in the age of legal terminations, "we need interminable philosophical debates to establish the status of the embryo, or the foetus, or the unborn child, or whatever it is".

The underlying message here, of course, is that countries that do allow legal, safe abortion should draw a line under all those "interminable philosophical debates" and re-criminalise it. And, as so often happens with the abortion debate, that point is being made by someone whose background makes it unlikely that he would ever be affected by the issue. One of the things that puzzles me about the anti-abortion lobby is what they must imagine a world without access to safe and legal abortion would look like.

Clearly, to a Windsor the alternative to abortion would simply be to bring up an unplanned child in an immensely comfortable and privileged environment, but that's hardly the reality for the majority of women in the 75 per cent of countries where abortion is illegal. The intention of the San Jose Articles is to protect the right of those countries to keep abortion illegal, yet the reality of such restrictive legislation is that tens of thousands of women die every year from undergoing unsafe abortions.

Even if we somehow reached the end of the "interminable philosophical debates" and all came to an agreement that an embryo is an unborn child, it wouldn't change the fact that people would still seek abortions. Is it "sophistry" to want them to be able to do so without the risk of dying?
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