Following a leaked “draft opinion” which suggests the Supreme Court may strike down the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, the United States finds itself in the middle of a fierce debate on abortion rights. The overturning of the decision that legalised abortion on a nationwide basis, could see individual states having the power to ban terminations if they wish to do so. If the draft opinion becomes the law of the land, in an instant abortion would be illegal in 22 US states — due to existing statutes and “trigger laws” which are specifically designed for such a judicial development.
The loaded reactions to the unprecedented leak have not been confined to the United States — with a wave of non-US politicians and commentators expressing their passionate views on reproductive rights in a foreign country. Indeed, it has further served to demonstrate the absurd over-domination of US cultural battles in the UK — an aggressive “Americanisation” of British sociopolitical discourse which is anything but a welcome import.
London is home to some of the UK’s most socially conservative communities
Being no stranger to wading into matters that are far removed from his bread-and-butter mayoral responsibilities in London, Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted his entire city’s supposed solidarity with the women of the United States, declaring that the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling “enshrined women’s fundamental rights over their own bodies” and that it “must not be undone”. While Khan desperately seeks to elevate himself as some sort of transatlantic political celebrity, London continues to face serious problems associated with its economic insecurity, gang-related knife crime and substandard public transport systems. But crucially, Khan’s simple-minded act of virtue-signalling “progressivism” overlooks two rather important dynamics — that some of the staunchest anti-abortionists across the pond are women, and that he is the mayor of one of the most socially conservative regions of the UK.
Pro-life feminism may sound like an oxymoron for pro-choice social liberals (who may well also believe that a biological male should be legally recognised as a woman if they self-identify as such or that mandating Covid-19 vaccinations for vaccine-hesitant female healthcare workers is more than acceptable).
Organisations such as Feminists for Life (FFF) and the Susan B. Antony List (SBA List) are two of the more prominent anti-abortion organisations in the US. The non-profit SBA List provides support to anti-abortion politicians — usually women — through its Candidate Fund political action committee (PAC). There are other anti-abortionist organisations driven by female activists, such as New Wave Feminists and and Feminists for Nonviolent Choices. Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, the pro-life activist who founded New Wave Feminists, is well known for wearing a shirt with the slogan “our liberation cannot be bought with the blood of our children”.
The other inconvenient truth for Sadiq Khan is that while he parades London as a socially-liberal metropolis when it comes to matters of abortion, the city is home to some of the most socially conservative communities in the UK — if not the whole of Western Europe. An UnHerd/Focaldata analysis in the build-up to the 2019 UK General Election found that the constituency which was most supportive of the view that “all morals are grounded in religious teachings” was Westminster North — represented by Labour MP Karen Buck, who holds a majority of 10,759 votes.
Virtue-signalling on social media has little to do with his public duties
Other seats in the top ten most supportive constituencies for this survey item included Hackney North and Stoke Newington (which has been represented by former Labour shadow home secretary Diane Abbott since 1987) and the Edmonton in the north of London (where sitting Labour Co-operative MP Kate Osamor has a majority of nearly 40 percentage points). London may be a Remain-voting city with a Labour mayor, but robust forms of social conservatism are well and truly alive in many of its communities. Khan should refrain from exploiting traditional-minded voters — especially in London boroughs such as Tower Hamlets and Redbridge — to virtue-signal on social media over matters that have little to do with his public duties.
Whilst there is not much fertile ground for a formidable US-style anti-abortionist movement in the UK (especially after the secularisation of the mainstream and the Anglican Church’s tendency to pander to “fashionable” cultural trends), recent figures do provide reason for pause and reflection.
Data from 2010 to 2020 showed increases in abortion rates for all women aged 23 years and above, with a particularly notable increase amongst those aged 30-34 years. In 2020, 42 per cent of women undergoing abortions had at least one previous abortion, an increase from the 2010 figure of 34 per cent. Over four in five abortions in 2020 — 81 per cent — were for women whose given marital status was “single”. Never mind what is going on in the United States — there is much to think over the extent to which pregnancies are taking place in “casual” settings, as well as abusive relationships and unstable family structures. Irrespective of one’s “liberalism” or “conservatism” over reproductive rights, these are not developments that portray British society in an especially positive light.
If the British social discourse over Roe v. Wade has taught us anything, it is that many of us are itching to intervene in domestic affairs in lands afar but are far less willing to engage with uncomfortable realities on our own doorstep. That must change.
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