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Artillery Row

Why do we mourn the unborn?

Our attitudes towards children in the womb are hopelessly confused

The government’s new “baby loss certificate” scheme epitomises our hopelessly confused approach towards abortion. These certificates will commemorate babies who die before 24 weeks in the womb through miscarriage. 

Up until now, babies born dead after 24 weeks of pregnancy have been determined as stillbirths, with their deaths officially registered, but this has not been the case for babies who die before that stage. This is despite pregnancy loss, or miscarriage, before 24 weeks being experienced by an estimated one in five women in the UK.

It’s hard to quibble with the initiative. A woman interviewed on Radio 4 spoke movingly of how without this certificate she felt that there was no recognition for her lost baby, as if it had never existed, and would be entirely forgotten after its parents were gone.

Yet even though it appears a kind, sensitive initiative that will bring solace to bereaved couples, it also leaves one confused given it happening in the current climate around liberalising abortion.

The announcement about the certificates coincides with a potentially historic vote on an amendment to the Government’s Criminal Justice Bill that would, in effect, allow women to perform their own abortion after 24 weeks up to birth with no risk of censure.

As Georgia L. Gilholy discusses in her recent Critic article, the amendment would enable women “to self-induce terminations at any stage of pregnancy if they were to intentionally or unknowingly mislead abortion providers about their baby’s gestational age,” as happened in the tragic and very public case of Carla Foster.

Since the pandemic, Gilholy notes, due to legislation meant to be a temporary measure that has actually been made permanent, women have been able to access abortion pills through the mail without any medical oversight, in the form of a “minimum of one in-person appointment prior to being prescribed abortion drugs”.

Welcome to modern, family-friendly Britain, in which we have great energy spent on enabling more extreme abortion practices — even though abortion is an issue which divides people starkly both ways while at the same time you can now get a certificate “in memory of your baby” (the government’s words on its website) if lost before 24 weeks; the point after which we could be about to enable abortion up to birth. 

If you don’t think there is anything contradictory about this then at the least might we ponder how the so-called “clump-of-cells” narrative beloved by many pro-abortionists is looking increasingly tenuous (if not inhumane and barbaric) in light of the rationale behind the roll out of the certificates, and the moving testimonies of the women saying how important these certificates are. 

This is one of the reasons a cross-party group of 25 MPs has tabled another amendment to the Government’s Criminal Justice Bill that would go the other way and lower the abortion time limit from 24 to 22 weeks due to advances in medical science.

“The increase in survival rates for babies born at 22 and 23 weeks gestation is one of medical science’s great success stories in recent years,” notes Caroline Ansell, the Conservative MP for Eastbourne, who is leading the group of MPs. “More and more babies born at these ages are able to survive thanks to the hard work of neonatal teams.” It means the UK’s 24-week abortion limit is in fact now beyond the point when many babies survive, double that of the most common time limit among the majority of European countries, and “represents a contradiction at the heart of our abortion law”, says the Catholic Herald.

It also represents a contradiction in the current British psyche, and a dark side to the great British mantra of Keep Calm and Carry On.  Medical science is increasingly removing the curtain to reveal just how astonishing the moment of human conception is — as is what immediately follows. 

Not bad going for a “clump of cells”

Among the various processes happening, the “most basic” is the “growth through cell multiplication — a 3,000-fold increase that, by analogy, would see an adult human finger become an 800-foot skyscraper,” writes James Le Fanu, a retired General Practitioner, journalist and author.

Not bad going for a “clump of cells” (which, if you are reading this, you once were as your past self engaged in that skyscraper-dimensioned growth). What in fact occurs in the human womb, Le Fanu says, “lies so far beyond our comprehension it might as well be a miracle”.

Though religion need not come into it. Basic moral instincts — those which, rightly, will guide the issuing of these certificates — should cause us to think again about the contradictions in our cultural attitudes towards the unborn.

In the US, for some the abortion issue alone will decide how they vote this year, as the parties have markedly different stances on the issue. Given the lack of options in Britain due to the apparent political consensus over liberalising abortion, I am increasingly tempted to “scratch” or “spoil” my vote, which can be done in a number of ways, though I believe a popular method is to graffiti the classic phallic doodle on your ballet. Rather than that, though, I might sketch a baby bump, or the outline of that large-headed alien-like womb-encased adventurer that we all once were. 

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