I write this with a feeling of utter disbelief that I should feel the need to do so. In the UK, in the year 2012, we are apparently to be dragged back into a fight most of us thought long won - the battle for the rights of women to make our own moral choices.
A few days ago, new Women's Minister Maria Miller stated that the time limit on abortion should be lowered; you can read about that here. That's right; we have a Minister for Women who wants to limit the reproductive rights of women - her actions, I am delighted to say, resulted in the hashtag #MariaMillerDoesNotSpeakForMe trending on Twitter. However, Cameron's appointment of an anti-women Women's Minister has been somewhat eclipsed - a remarkable feat in itself - by his appointment of Jeremy Hunt as Health Secretary.
Jeremy Hunt. You know, Rupert Murdoch's BFF. The one with the creative tax returns. Thinks serious diseases can be treated with drops of magic water. No education in science or in medicine – you know the one I mean.
And Hunt's wasted no time getting scary; today we learned that based on no evidence whatsoever and against the consensus of the medical profession, he wants to lower the time limit for abortion in the UK to twelve weeks. Why? Well according to this Guardian article, it's because "[t]here's an incredibly difficult question about the moment we should deem life to start. I'm not someone who thinks that abortion should be made illegal. Everyone looks at the evidence and comes to a view about when that moment is and my own view is that 12 weeks is the right point for it."
Let's just be clear about something here; this man, who has no medical training at all and quite openly has no value for evidence-based practice, not only believes his subjective opinion should outweigh the consensus of the scientific community in matters of policy BUT DOES NOT EVEN POSSESS THE WIT TO UNDERSTAND WHY HE SHOULDN'T ADMIT TO BELIEVING THAT. And this man is responsible for our healthcare.
This is terrifying.
I've blogged before about the bizarre notion that women's bodies should be considered somehow public or even government property; the short version is that you don't have the right to stop me making a certain decision about my life just because it's not the same decision you believe you would make in my place. The time limit on abortion IS a moral grey area, as Hunt himself admits and as I'm happy to concede; in truth I’m somewhat ambivalent about later-term abortions because there’s so much that must be taken into account. But the salient point here is that my opinion on whether other people should have abortions later in pregnancy doesn’t matter; even if I HAD a strong conviction on the subject, it would not be my place to inflict my personal opinion on others and put women's lives at risk by making it illegal to disagree with me. Neither, I contend, is it Jeremy Hunt’s.
He’s attempting to render a grey area black-and-white by making it illegal to disagree with his own entirely arbitrary opinion, and he doesn’t seem even to realize why that’s at once logically ludicrous, morally revolting AND terrifying. I’m sick of saying that pro-choice doesn’t mean pro-abortion; being pro-choice simply means being willing to let people make these difficult moral decisions for themselves, not treating grown women as if they’re goddamn children.
Abortion itself is almost a secondary issue here (keep your eye on it, though, because having Hunt publicly shoot for twelve weeks would be a great way to make the people aiming at twenty weeks sound reasonable - exactly analogous to the point I was making in the Akin article linked above); the scary thing about this, really, is that Hunt is now responsible for decisions on medical matters for the entire country... and it already horrifyingly clear that he has no value for logic or for evidence-based reasoning.
It’s been said many times in recent years that we now live in a world in which all opinions are considered inherently valid on their own merits. This has led, among much else, to homeopathy being funded by our already-stretched NHS, to religious leaders being consulted on matters of public policy, and to people with no scientific education whatever being convinced that their uninformed belief in creationism puts them on an equal platform in debate to real scientists and scholars. To quote Asimov, too many of us now labour under the foolish and dangerous misapprehension that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge”.
The appointment of someone like Hunt to such a position as that he now holds is a terrible comment on the anti-intellectual and politically cowardly illogic that pervades our society and shows itself in every parent who elects not to vaccinate, every believer who contends that their fatuous notions should govern the lives of others, and every vicious charlatan who takes people’s money in exchange for “psychic” readings, cleansing of auras or quack medicines.
If people want to run their own lives according to idiotic ideas I can’t stop them, but Hunt and others like him can fuck right off if they think for a moment that they’re going to abuse their power to inflict such rubbish on the rest of us.