Melanie McDonagh Melanie McDonagh

Britain’s abortion debate is horrendously one-sided

(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

Notice anything about the coverage of the new Texas abortion law in Britain? I mean, quite apart from the fact that we’re obsessing about it in a way that confirms that culturally, Britain is more or less an offshore US state (the US is another country, no?).

But on the actual issue, Texas has changed its abortion law to ban the procedure if there is ‘a detectable fetal heartbeat’ — in effect, after six weeks. The US Supreme Court has just upheld this in a very tight 5-4 vote. The justices are also due to hear an appeal against a 2018 Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks. South Carolina is moving the same way, passing its own ‘fetal heartbeat’ Bill in February. So we’re heading toward Roe vs Wade territory, a huge debate about ethics, the right to life and the right to choice.

But that’s what’s missing from the UK coverage: any idea of a debate. There has been consensus among the pundits and among the reporters that this is, as one editorial put it, a ‘cruel, vindictive and dangerous law.’ Any dissent, any cheerful reaction from anti-abortionists about how this law will save an unknown number of foetuses — i.e. pre-natal human beings — is strangely absent.

The consensus, the unchallenged consensus, is that this is Handmaid’s Tale territory, on par with what’s happening in Afghanistan under its exciting new regime. One headline called on the ‘Texas Tallibanistas’ to beware, freedom would win. The Guardian this morning reports with satisfaction that the UN has condemned the new law as ‘structural sex and gender-based discrimination at its worst’. Do people realise what’s happening in Afghanistan? Stoning adulterers isn’t quite on the cards in Texas.

The Texan law has been covered in the UK as if it was a self-evident catastrophe

Certainly, you may take the view that the new Texas law will increase illegal abortions and personally I take a dim view of the fact that there seems to be a bounty for snitches, which is always a terrible idea.

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