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.