In a recently unearthed interview, Tim Farron came out against abortion. The leader of the Liberal Democrats said that abortion was ‘wrong at any time’ and was ‘too widely available,’ in a discussion with fellow men of faith at the Salvation Army. Considering his recent controversy on homosexuality, as well as the party he is leading, it was no surprise that he was launched on by both left and right wing press. Of course, Farron was quick to announce that he is pro-choice, with the line being that he was either always that way inclined, or that he changed his mind, as many people do with politics.
Abortion, as both a subject and as a political view, has always been highly contentious. Whilst abortion was legalised by the Abortion Act 1967 in the UK, the one piece of legislation that is often pointed to is the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe V. Wade decision. Though overshadowed slightly at the time, due to the decision being announced on the same day as the death of former President Lyndon B. Johnson, it is the most significant and well-known legislative piece on the issue in the Western world. Simply, the US has a much more relaxed policy (though the de facto case may be different) than in the UK, where it also happens to be a much more polarising policy. For years, there has been the promise of repeal- especially promising with the Republicans controlling all elements of government branches, though no significant progress has been made at a federal level. Across the pond, there have been attempts to lower the time limit for abortions (demand for a ban is a lot lower in the UK), but again, the 24 weeks remains, and will probably do so for a while.
Many other countries are more limited, with a total of six counties banning the procedure even when there is immediate risk to the woman’s life. Each of those countries happens to be Catholic, with the Vatican being the most unsurprising addition to this list. Every year, countries restrict or loosen abortion rights. Across the world, women have different rights.
In terms of abortion views, those who are either big or small c conservatives tend to be most against abortion. UKIP, the furthest right mainstream party, tends to be against abortion, with a sizeable chunk of Conservatives wanting restrictions. Across the pond, it is pretty difficult to find a pro-choice Republican, with several of the most prominent politicians- Marco Rubio and Rick Santorum for example- wanting it in only in the case of maternal life, rape or foetal health not applicable. Though there will be atheists against abortion, most arguments raised are that of religious origin. Whilst the mother is important, the foetus is also a living thing and must be treated as such according to the sanctity of life as created by whichever God the person believes in. In short, life is from the point of conception in their eyes.
In this author’s view, there is a right-wing argument for abortion rights.
Many readers will have heard of Tomi Lahren. A firebrand conservative presenter often called ‘White Power Barbie’ for some of her comments on race, she is the young, pretty face away from the stale, pale and male view often associated with the Republican Party (see Mike Pence and Paul Ryan for details). Recently, she revealed that she is pro-choice with the line of ‘You know what? I’m for limited government, so stay out of my guns, and you can stay out of my body as well.’ Lahren soon found herself suspended from her job because of these pro-choice views, countering it with a still pending lawsuit. She got flack from her usual supporters, as well as (slight) praise from her critics. Many couldn’t see how she could be both a conservative and pro-choice.
Those who believe in a small government don’t want to hear the government dictating what they want them to do with their own lives. Lahren, like many people, is personally opposed to abortion. They don’t like it, they don’t want it. What they also don’t want is to force their opinions on other people. If one wants to look into it in a philosophical light, they can follow John Stuart Mills’ ‘Harm Principle’ in which it is argued that the government should only intervene if the person intends to harm others. Of course, this argument depends on whether one should define a foetus as a ‘person,’ something that is the most influential part of the abortion debate.
Even those who have never had an abortion will know that not many people will come skipping in and out with glee. People do use it as birth control, and whilst rare, it is tragic and needs to be prevented. Abortion isn’t something that they will take lightly. Women are sometimes forced by somebody else. Other times, they or the foetus will die or be severely harmed by continuous pregnancy or birth. A rape can physically or mentally destroy them. In these cases, they may also be unable to afford or care for a child, especially in places where healthcare is not readily available- like the United States.
The one that many will forget is mental health. You can’t immediately see a person’s brain like you can a life-threatening illness. Some people will go into pregnancy with severe mental illness, which means as they can barely care for themselves, and will therefore not be able to care for children. It is a shame on society which means women find it easier to abort a child than get help for something that can hurt themselves and their baby, with postnatal depression not uncommon these days.
People disagree with abortion, which is up to them. From Traditional Conservatives to pro-life Democrats, it happens. You may not agree, but not liking an opinion will not make it go away. What isn’t ok, however, is judging a woman’s choices. They may choose to go into a pregnancy, but you do not know the circumstances that occur after conception. A person’s body does not belong to society. It belongs to them. In this case, you could argue their doctor has a say, but that body also doesn’t belong to the doctor.
Tomi Lahren is not the first and last person to put their beliefs on the backburner and put the liberty of others ahead. John Kerry, former Secretary of State and 2004 Democratic Presidential candidate, is a devout member of the Catholic Church who carries a rosary with him whilst campaigning. As with most members of the Catholic faith, he is against abortion on a personal level. Like Lahren, he believes in a woman’s right to choose so.
Joe Biden, the former Vice President and all round gaffe machine/meme, is a more interesting case. In one of the 2012 Vice Presidential debates, he answered- after Paul Ryan confirmed his position as a strong member of the pro-life camp- with the following:
‘I accept my church’s position that life begins at conception. That’s the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life… I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman. I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that women can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor, in my view.’
Though Biden is still somewhat more conservative in his views- for example, supporting the Hyde Amendment which prevents federal funding for abortions, as well as the Partial-Birth Abortion Act of 2003, which the majority of Democrats voted against, he is still more liberal than not. So much so that he is unable to receive communion in his dioceses of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Though it may not seem like a lot to many atheist or non-Catholic readers, the communion is essential part of Biden’s faith, showing that liberty does come with a price tag. We can hardly call Biden or Kerry right-wing, but their arguments in favour of giving women choice help this integral small government.
Abortion is one of the most controversial debates of our time, but it is one that we need to get out into the open. You can dislike or even hate Farron and Lahren- personally, because of their politics, or both, but you can respect their opinion, much like you can respect the rights of the bodies of millions of women.