Picture credit: skakman306/Getty
Artillery Row

Who hears the voiceless?

Leaving unborn children without legal protections would be an ethical disgrace

Something far more important than an election could soon take place in the United Kingdom

On June 4th, our Members of Parliament were scheduled to vote on an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill which would remove any remaining legal protections for the unborn child at any stage of pregnancy. Although Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s decision to call a General Election has shelved this legislation for now, it will almost certainly rear its head again in the next parliament. 

Human beings are people, not property to be discarded as and when they are deemed inconvenient. This push to further expand our country’s extreme abortion regime must be resisted by any politicians worthy of their office, and I would urge my fellow British adults to ask their prospective MPs to sign the “Both Lives Matter” pledge against these plans.

Having myself publicly participated in this debate in recent years, I am no longer able to ignore the parallels between modern society’s cold indifference to the plight of the unborn with that of the erstwhile Atlantic slave trade.

This article is not an attempt to be outrageous. It is clear that both slavery and abortion-on-demand, along with virtually every other human rights abuse, rely on dehumanisation. Take the recent instance in which Stella Creasy MP, whose clause is among the extreme ones recently put forward in the House of Commons, suggested that a late-term unborn “fetus” was not a “viable” human simply because it was yet to draw breath outside the womb, a claim no one with so much as an F in GCSE in biology could take seriously.

In the case of abortion, the average voter is largely removed from witnessing the immediate impacts of the procedure by the fact that the unborn child lives inside the mother’s body and cannot be fully seen without the aid of technology. In the case of the early modern slave trade spearheaded by European colonial powers and their collaborators, Britons were generally ignorant of the horrors unfolding all those miles away because the vast majority of slaves never set foot on British soil. Both issues are easy to push to one side, or justify due to social pressures when we do not have to see what they actually involve. 

Just as many bemoaned the liberalisation of abortion, there were arguments against New World slavery from the outset. Fierce clerical disputationes in sixteenth-century Spain crafted sophisticated secular and theological defences of the human person against the abuses of slavery. Sadly, these debates only had a negligible impact on imperial policies. By the late eighteenth-century the sun had partly set on the Iberian Golden Age, and our Empire was jostling France to sit atop the top pyramid of world powers, which, akin to the Egyptian ones, took slavery for granted.

It was during this era when a group of overwhelmingly Christian abolitionists deliberately sought out the realities of the trade that was part and parcel of the Early Modern world. In May 1779, following a profound deepening of his Protestant faith, William Wilberforce rose to give his maiden speech in the House of Commons, in which he railed against slavery, slamming the custom as not only inhumane but economically superfluous. The bulk of his colleagues seemed to view him as a bible-bashing idealist, intent on flushing his political ambitions down the drain for a misguided shot at utopia. Many view the modern pro-life movement with the same scorn. 

The testimonies of West African ex-slaves themselves, like Olaudah Equiano’s semi-allegorical biography, were distributed widely by this well-organised abolitionist minority, and even former slavers, perhaps most famously that repentant “wretch” Rvd John Newton who penned the powerful anthem “Amazing Grace” spread the word about the horrors they had viewed first-hand: slaves being worked to death, hung from shackles, whipped and forced to lie in their own excrement for weeks at sea. Many abolitionists would use models of shackles and slave ships to instil rage in their would-be disciples. 

The modern equivalents of these chilling anecdotes and artefacts would perhaps be footage of children inside the womb, making obvious their humanity, and the women and doctors previously involved in the procedure who have found themselves to have been “duped” by pro-choice talking points that pretend, like Creasy, that life inside the womb is not life at all.

it is just as human to sympathise with the truth as it is to decide to ignore it

Although we should admit that believing in objective morality requires some leap of faith, my argument is not a strictly religious one, nor is it necessary for one to be wholly anti-abortion to wince at what is being proposed in Britain. Most people are complacent and require stronger social incentives to support or reject something controversial. Still, it is just as human to sympathise with the truth as it is to decide to ignore it. 

In the Book of Exodus, Pharaoh saw multiple miracles performed by the God of Israel through Moses, namely the punitive plagues that struck Egypt. Despite acknowledging the power of God and therefore of truth, Pharaoh repeatedly hardened his heart and refused to let the enslaved Israelites go until he and his army were destroyed in the Red Sea. It seems that far too many modern leaders are keen to follow in his doomed footsteps.

Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print

Try five issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £10

Critic magazine cover