Sunday, October 14, 2012

When liberals break cover: is an abortion debate possible?

Journalist Mehdi Hasan has written a fascinating piece for the Huffington Post on his views on abortion law:

What I would like is for my fellow lefties and liberals to try to understand and respect the views of those of us who are pro-life, rather than demonise us as right-wing reactionaries or medieval misogynists.

One of the biggest problems with the abortion debate is that it's asymmetric: the two sides are talking at cross-purposes. The pro-lifers speak about the right to life of the unborn baby; the pro-choicers speak about a woman's right to choose. The moral arguments, as the Scottish philosopher Alasdair Macintyre has said, are "incommensurable".

Another problem is that the debate forces people to choose sides: right against left, religious against secular. Some of us, however, refuse to be sliced and diced in such a simplistic and divisive manner. I consider abortion to be wrong because of, not in spite of, my progressive principles. That I am pro-life does not make me any less of a lefty.

Being both left wing, and 'pro-life', Hasan is rather unusual. Judging by his Twitter feed, the reaction from fellow liberals and left-wingers has been pretty nasty. In response, one of his tweets says ' am v disappointed that lefties have confirmed every rightwing prejudice today: we close down debate, we enforce orthodoxies etc

What kind of 'liberal democracy' are we, if certain debates are no longer possible? There are some issues I've decided to avoid blogging about, because the heat/light generation ratio is so dire. 


  1. I still remember how gob-smacked I was, as a card-carrying Liberal, to discover that the pro-abortion position was regarded as "liberal". It struck me as utterly fascist.

    That was back in 1966, when terms like "pro-choice" and "pro-life" had not been invented, or if they had, I had not heard of them.

  2. His follow-up piece reflecting on the Twitterstorm is very revealing too and well worth reading if you've read the original article:

  3. Mehdi's following post is well worth reading too:
    10 Things I Learned From Debating Abortion On Twitter