Mehdi Hasan and abortion: So tell me, is this the right response?

I can assure you that no other lefty will dare touch this subject given the response I got today

tweet from @mehdirhasan, following responses to at his anti-abortion piece in the New Statesman / Huffington Post

Dear Mehdi Hasan

As someone who, like you, would describe themselves as “on the left”, I’m dreadfully disappointed that fellow lefties have let you down so badly following your groundbreaking piece Being Pro-Life Doesn’t Make Me Any Less Of A Lefty. You have been called “evil, a dickhead, sexist, misogynist, a dictator and the enemy”, and “a self-righteous little prick”. Worse still, bloggers have come up with virulent pieces such as this and this, which go so far as to accuse you, if not of being the type of person who fetishises “selfishness and unbridled individualism”, then at least of being in the wrong. I’m not surprised you’re upset and feel that the other side “effectively dominates and closes down the debate”. Well, sod them. You don’t have to listen to what they say – don’t they realise they’re just meant to listen to you?

Having no wish to close down debate myself, I’ve read your piece with an open mind and am willing to engage with you, that is, to go along with everything you say. After all, to carry on thinking what I thought before could only ever be a knee-jerk reaction. Indeed, I only ever supported the killing of babies in the first place because I blindly assumed it was just what we lefties did.

Thank you for quoting “the Hitch” on what really happens with abortion:

In order to terminate a pregnancy, you have to still a heartbeat, switch off a developing brain . . . break some bones and rupture some organs.

Like many people who have had miscarriages – who have scraped the bloody, pulpy remains of a much-wanted pregnancy from the bathroom floor and tearfully flushed it away – I had no idea, none whatsoever, that abortion was anything like this. I naturally assumed that with an unwanted pregnancy, the physical nature of the fetus was entirely different, a mere “clump of cells” – isn’t that the term you seem to have heard all pro-choice lefties using? Well, I won’t be using it any more (not that I ever have, come to think of it. But that’s probably because I’ve been too busy mopping up dead babies).

To reinforce this point about the fetus being more than a “blob of protoplasm”, you write eloquently of seeing your daughters in “their mother’s womb”:

I sat and watched in quiet awe as my two daughters stretched and slept in their mother’s womb during the 20-week ultrasound scans. I don’t need God or a holy book to tell me what is or isn’t a “person”.

I too have seen babies at 20-week ultrasound scans – my own sons, no less. Only I didn’t realise they were stretching and sleeping in “their mother’s womb”. I thought they were kicking and wriggling and growing in me, a complete person whose physical and mental well-being were attuned to – and threatened by – the act of creating life. I had no idea that I was in actual fact completely passive, that these little people were just “there” in me, minding their own business. I actually thought I had a role to play in it. “Unbridled individualism” doesn’t describe the half of it.

That’s not to say I necessarily assume just anyone has the right to just be in me without my consent, even if I’ve got nothing else to do with it. Or perhaps I should? Is it a special rule just for the innocent unborn or is everyone allowed a trip up or down my birth canal? (I’m not being flippant – seriously, I want to get this right.) You helpfully point out that a fetus is not part of a woman:

Yes, a woman has a right to choose what to do with her body – but a baby isn’t part of her body. The 24-week-old foetus can’t be compared with an appendix, a kidney or a set of tonsils.

No, it can’t. For starters, I’ve never lain awake at night worrying about whether having an appendectomy might suddenly be criminalised. And while suffering from a sore throat is a pain, I have never considered having or not having tonsils to be a serious, life-changing responsibility. So yes, you’re right. But if the fetus not being a part of me – even while it is inside me – is key, I’m wondering what the implications are. Do I need to revise my knee-jerk lefty views on rape? Perhaps not, since we’re talking about the weak and vulnerable (“Who is weaker or more vulnerable than the unborn child?”, you ask). But I’m just wondering what the actual principle is. Why should the fetus have the right to override another person’s bodily integrity, given that no one else on earth – from the rapist to the child in need of a bone marrow transplant – is entitled to do this? Fetuses are clearly really fucking special and I’ve been a self-centred fool not to realise it.

Sometimes, of course, lefty pro-choice feminists get it into their lefty pro-choice feminist heads that part of the problem is that a fetus only ever inhabits a womb – and most people with wombs are women. This makes such feminists behave in a manner which you rightly describe as “sexist” in one of your tweets:

Nothing more “sexist” than excluding men from having an opinion on one of the biggest ethical issues of all.

Indeed. Thanks to you and non-lefty Freddy Gray I am fast becoming aware that there is a far greater threat to freedom than women being obliged to continue with pregnancies against their will. It is men having to say things about abortion without a special rule being in place which prevents anyone else from disagreeing with them. This limits such men’s rights to say whatever they like without a comeback and, as you so rightly point out, the implications for freedom of speech are worrying. But until this evening, I’d have thought such imaginary threats weren’t quite as bad as genuine legal limitations and the actual threat of further restrictions, as is the case with abortion. Of course, I was wrong. Michael Gove is probably plotting to include “uppity women answering back about abortion” as part of the EBacc, and doing so with the kind of fundamentalist fervour of which Nadine Dorries can only dream.

The central message of your article – that abortion is an issue that transcends traditional distinctions of left and right – has been a total revelation:

Abortion is one of those rare political issues on which left and right seem to have swapped ideologies: right-wingers talk of equality, human rights and “defending the innocent”, while left-wingers fetishise “choice”, selfishness and unbridled individualism.

Do you know what I used to think? (Don’t laugh.) I used to think that when people who were cutting health insurance and bombing the shit out of other countries talked about “defending the innocent”, they were lying! I used to think it was just a manipulative rhetorical device! Ha! Well, you’ve cured me of my cynicism. Unlike those on the left, right wingers should be at liberty to award themselves their own moral ratings and we lefties need to take them at face value. It doesn’t actually seem to make sense, sure, but if they’re saying these things, then they must be true.

So anyhow, Mehdi Hasan, I am hoping this is the response you wanted. I am hoping it isn’t too divisive. I am hoping it isn’t too sexist. I am hoping, too, that you never feel the loneliness, fear and violation that you ultimately wish upon others. Because given how appallingly you respond to criticism, I can’t imagine how you’d respond to something far more tangible, terrifying and permanent.

Kind regards

A lefty

16 thoughts on “Mehdi Hasan and abortion: So tell me, is this the right response?

  1. Oh, how deliciously brilliant you are, glosswitch!

    Mehdi Hasan is a ‘lefty’ in the same sense as many of my father’s hippie mates of the 70s – one of them is now a superintendent of police, another a lieutenant colonel in the army and yet another a catholic bishop. Good capitalist servants, all!

    My father, on the other hand, who, like me, believes that a woman has a greater right to decide what grows in her body than a foetus has to be there, and that a man has no right to any opinion at all about the matter, toils away as a schoolteacher, trying to surreptitiously raise his students’ awareness of the possibilities of transcending this sexist, class society.

    Seriously, until we stop sentimentalizing about the “innocent unborn” and start focusing on *our* rights, women will continue being blackmailed into being incubators, even when they don’t want to be.

    1. The ending of the piece – “There are few issues that unite Jeremy Hunt, Christopher Hitchens and me. I’m not ashamed to say that abortion is one of them.” – struck me as particularly telling. You can’t help thinking “really, there are far more things that unite you than you can possibly imagine”.

  2. At what point do you think the foetus gains squatters rights to violate someones bodily integrity (weeks/months/ever)?
    I’ve no particular view whether there should be a limit or what it should be – I am asking without judgement, out of genuine interest.
    I don’t see the left/right link myself – I know strongly pro-choice people who are decidedly right-wing in every other subject.

    1. “I know strongly pro-choice people who are decidedly right-wing in every other subject.”

      Along those lines, it might interest you to know (if you don’t already) Ayn Rand’s position on abortion. She called abortion a moral right said “An embryo has no rights. Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. A child cannot acquire any rights until it is born. The living take precedence over the not-yet-living (or the unborn).”

      1. Thanks, not read any of her stuff but I get the general gist.
        The people I referred to weren’t at all Libertarians, more traditional Mail-reading, social-conservative Tories.

  3. Brilliantly put, as usual!
    Having always considered myself a leftie, I’m open to new ideas. I’m particularly keen to learn more about what Mehdi Hasan knows about foetal development, since, apparently, the little blighters are completely independent of the dumb receptacles carrying them. Who knew?
    Silly me. I always thought a growing foetus needed a friendly womb inside a helpful body to grow! You know, as in women.
    How wrong I was. How wrong we all were, in our selfish, unbridled individualism. Thank goodness we’ve got Mehdi Hasan to put us all straight!

    1. This is the thing that really gets to me about his piece – not the fact that he is anti-abortion, but the fact that he seriously believes he is exposing some truth which other lefties can’t possibly face. I’d find it far less offensive if he did hold his views for religious reasons (my mum does, for instance, and it’s not a massive problem between us – there it’s a fundamental disagreement over faith and not someone taking it upon themselves to insult the intelligence and moral honesty of his/her peers).

      1. I agree! I think it’s classic “mansplaining”. Hysterical lefties need a rational chap to put them in their place. Those who agree with him are capable of engaging in intelligent debate. Those who don’t aren’t. Patronising in the extreme.

  4. Lovely, lovely, lovely response to a frankly embarrassing article by Mr. Hasan.

    The “a baby isn’t part of her body” but is what really got me. What is a part of? Just a ‘womb’, and therefore public property to legislate on? Say is all…

    1. Wow my fat fingers really messed up that post.

      But you get the gist. What you wrote? Excellent. What he wrote? Embarrassing.

      Glosswitch – 1, Hasan – 0

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