Discussing abortion in the public square

Recently in the UK, Conservative politician and Catholic Jacob Rees-Mogg (and yes he is as posh as his name suggests) was interviewed on UK breakfast television and he was questioned about his views on same-sex marriage and abortion. You can watch the interview here.

Which got the predictable reaction

British papers called him a bigot and his parliamentary colleagues lined up to distance themselves from these ‘abhorrent’ views. There were some standing in his defence but not many.

But perhaps the important question to face, and we’ve long known it is the one posed by Isabel Hardman in The SpectatorCan leading politicians get away with opposing abortion and gay marriage?

She points out the fundamental contradiction in the way the media handles this issue:

It’s just that the religious politicians are always required to explain the detail of their worldview to an extent that those who profess liberal beliefs are not.

She then astutely puts her finger at the roof of this malaise.

The answer that they didn’t need to be interrogated because they were right is not the sign of a liberal society but of one that has made up its mind and doesn’t want to go to the bother of even proving that it’s right through argument.

So the situation is this: we have a culture where there is a widespread presumption that abortion is OK but without knowing why. This is a potential opportunity to make a bold apologetic case. And some are making it.

The key issue it would seem is this: when does a ‘fetus’ attain personhood. You can hear late-term abortionist Dr Fraser Fellows present this in debate with Stephanie in the first minute here:

His basic case is this: before 24 weeks a fetus is not a person because it is not independently viable but becomes a person after that. On the other side and the far more consistent position is that a human fetus is a human being from the moment of fertilization.

Here’s Stephanie Gray speaking at Google making the pro-life case. You’ll need to bookmark this one because it’s long but worth watching.

Trevin Wax does an excellent job of thinking through what Stephanie does and how she does it. He picks up on three tactics:

  1. Appeal to the heroic narrative of putting others ahead of oneself.
  2. Press into the language of abortion through the use of good questions.
  3. Tell stories that provide inspiration and perspective.

I doubt that the media will allow for a more thoughtful discussion of our values and reasons for abortion just because Jacob Rees-Mogg affirmed his view of the sanctity of all human life but if such an opportunity arises, let’s hope that people with the skills and compelling articulation of Stephanie Gray are the ones who step up to the plate.

Leave a Reply