Pro Life's pharisees are its biggest liabilities
To a very well-heeled pub on Horseferry Road with a chum where we were joined by Sarah M***** who works in public affairs for an aerospace interest group and dreams of becoming a Tory MP. In her spare time she's a big fish in the very small pond which is the Alive and Kicking Campaign. A&K is is another one of litigation queen, Josephine Quintavalle's megalomaniac initiatives. It attempted an assault of the Abortion Act last year but flopped badly not least because Quintavalle, for all that she considers herself much more modern, much more savvy than SPUC, has precisely zero experience of political campaigning and the kind of brilliant people skills which saw her fall out and publically diss her star attraction, the hot blonde vicar, Joanna Jepson.
Anyway, fresh from its barnstorming success last year, Alive and Kicking is still at it apparently and determined to have another heave at the abortion issue; specifically, it's set itself the task of slashing the number of abortions in half. Sounds fabulous, I'm Pro-Life too but dare one be so impertinent as to enquire how it intends to do this? Much waving around of hands and talk of strategy and tactics and the steering group. Uh huh and who's on the steering group? Well, Josephine of course and a chap called Kevin and Peter Saunders - yes that Peter Saunders, the one who Chris Paul exposed, if that's the right word, as having some very curious ideas about how to deal with sex offenders - and, wait for it ... Andrea Minichiello Williams. The last the telly-watching public saw of Minichiello Williams was on Channel 4's Dispatches giddily declaring that planet earth was four thousand years old or thereabouts.
But sorry to press the point, Sarah, how, exactly, will this campaign set about changing hearts and minds? Does it have any comprehension of the needs of women in crisis pregnancies? What would you do, Sarah, if you knew someone in a crisis pregnancy? "I'd talk to them about support about financial support and ..." what exactly does that mean, what do you mean by support? "Financial support, accomodation ..." Accomodation, you mean housing benefit right? "Yes and income support." Do you think about income support and housing benefit for yourself, Sarah? "No, I think about my pension." You think about your pension and what on earth makes you think that women in crisis pregnancies want to think of a life of housing benefit and income support? Don't you think they'd like to think about their pensions too? "Well they don't have to be in that position," she replied by which I think she meant they don't have to find themselves pregnant in the first place. Incisive thinker, eh?
But don't let me interrupt Sarah who was explaining why she was so moved to work for the cause. "I feel empathy with the foetus and solidarity with women who've had abortions and are left on their own but I don't feel empathy for women in crisis pregnancies," she declared casually.
There you are, she said it. Her boss, multi-millionairess Josephine Quintavalle, by the way, styles herself among other things, as a pro-life feminist and what an enormous outpouring of sisterly solidarity she's inspired in her circle. In case your fingers are hovering above the keyboard and poised to bash out a furious comment that this is an isolated example and one which is entirely atypical of the current crop of pro-life activists' genuinely felt compassion for the poorest and the weakest among us, hold your fire. Dredging around in my memory I can recall hearing that bright spark at the Catholic Union, Ms E***** K******, who had her fifteen minutes of fame some years ago when she refused to accept a school prize from a pro-choice politician, objecting to the dangerously communist idea that single mothers are entitled washing machines, or was it fridges? Same difference. Ms K******, incidentally, is supposed to be our front line of defence against the secularist hoardes and I'm sure you'll agree that she's an inspired choice for the role. She hasn't heard of Nick Cohen or David Aaronovitch and she thinks the Observer is a daily newspaper.
Mind you, I should also point out that by no means all pro-lifers are like that. The doyenne of Pro Life in the UK is the formidable Phyllis Bowman, a magnificent diva who stands only 5 foot tall but has a commanding presence. Phyllis Bowman has one of the tenderest hearts that can be found, she was an anti-war activist in the 1960s and took striking miners in during the strike of 1984-5. But there seems to be an increasing gulf between the younger core of Pro Life activists, who all too often are wierd single-issue obsessives and the older guard who have a more rounded view of the world, who have, in Denis Healey's famous phrase, a hinterland.
Pro Lifers often wonder why they keep on failing in the UK. There are many reasons but one of the main ones is that which I've just outlined. Far too many of them don't care about women in crisis pregnancies, haven't the faintest idea what they go through, are utterly disinterested in their needs and aspirations and let me tell you that their contemptuous attitude to the women they supposedly champion shows. It's not just the fact that croesus rich dowagers who style themselves Pro Life feminists have never campaigned for free or affordable childcare, or against cuts to single parent benefits, or for rape crisis centres, or any of the other basic bread and butter issues which concern working women and which socialist feminists in particular have battled hard for, which make a mockery of their pretensions, though God knows it's enough. It's that they very transparently couldn't give a damn about women for whom an unplanned pregnancy means the world falls in.
Idealist that I am, I believe in the Pro Life cause. I really would like to see it succeed. But it's not going to happen unless and until Pro Lifers engage in some serious self-criticism and the self-appointed wierdos who've achieved their status in the lobby by virtue of having bought their positions lose their litigation addiction, stop launching silly single-issue deposit-losing political parties and stop launching high-profile campaigns to lower the abortion limit when they haven't even a coherent idea of what it means to be Pro-Life and why. And for God's sake, could they stop mewing that they have compassion for women in crisis pregnancies. Women in crisis pregnancies don't need compassion, they need solutions.