Philobiblon: Keep fighting: Abortion rights are always at risk

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Keep fighting: Abortion rights are always at risk

Here in Britain it is easy to look across the Atlantic and think: "Thank the gods we've got sanity about abortion here."

Yet, perhaps because of "leakage" of the American anti-abortion campaigns, perhaps because while you have religion there'll be people trying to impose their views about the world on others, even here there are people trying to nibble away at the reasonably clearly established rights we have. (Still not straight abortion on request, of course - as it should be.)

In the past week it has been the rather odd mother Sue Axon, who has chosen to place through a legal action to put her own two teenage daughters in the glare of the media spotlight - which has shown that one of them is pregnant! (Since "teenage mother" is still clearly a term of abuse, so exposing your daughter has to raise questions about her parenting skills.)

And in fact Ms Axon told the Daily Mail that the law was probably at fault in her child having sex "so young", because of the right to confidentiality meant she thought she could get away with it. Not much sense of her either taking responsibility for her own parenting, or indeed for her ability to think logically, there.

She's brought a legal case trying to stop health professionals providing abortions to under 16s without parents being advised. Her only expressed motivation is that she felt "forced" into having an abortion (at the age of 30!) and has regretted it ever since. (Hardly a comparable case to a frightened 15-year-old, who could well be the subject of abuse - sexual or psychological, within her family.)

I was not surprised to learn from Mary Riddell in the Observer this morning that she's far from the lone crusader that she claims to be. In fact all of the "usual suspects" of the "pro-life" movement are lined up behind her.

Riddell says:

Ms Axon's side has talked reverentially of 'the family', omitting to mention that this can be an institution boasting rates of abuse and murder which make Feltham Young Offenders' Institution look like Pontin's. The trust that should impel teenagers to confide in their parents has to be earned, not imposed by law.

And I can't avoid the feeling that Ms Axon has failed to earn that right and is, with the support of people with a classically anti-abortion agenda, trying to enforce it.

The judge's decision has been reserved, but I fear this is the sort of case that will run and run. And if not this one, the same coterie will soon be back with some other attempt to reduce women's rights to their own bodies.

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