Pro-choice demonstration: Framing abortion as a stand-off between religion and secularism has made it a non-issue in the public mind
Perhaps it's the last great taboo. We have no problem sitting on the bus and telling our children about sex, moving effortlessly even in public from testing times-tables to expounding the birds and the bees. We fully endorse our teenagers being taught about contraception in their personal, social and health education classes. We're no longer queasy about the most graphic images of war, and most watersheds have been removed. We have no qualms about bringing up death and we joke about disability. And we're not coy in our conversations about gender.
But when it comes to abortion, well, that really is off limits. We suddenly get squeamish. An issue too emotive to engage with, too hot to handle. (Witness New Statesman columnist Mehdi Hasan's vilification on Twitter as being "anti-women" when he raised the subject). Because — and I write with a gentle heart, and not unaware of my Y chromosome — the argument is over, the consensus unquestionable, the debate dead.
Our silence is so astonishing because the reality is so widespread. With nearly one in five pregnancies ending in termination — nearly 190,000 a year in England and Wales — here is a truly classless concern, touching so many, talked about by so few.
When the issue last hit the headlines, in March 2012, it was only because it had a gender angle. You may recall: a number of abortion clinics were found by the Daily Telegraph to have been offering illegal sex-selection terminations. The Health Secretary Andrew Lansley's statement was revealing: "Carrying out an abortion on the grounds of gender alone is in my view morally repugnant." Doing it more indiscriminately, he appeared to be saying, is OK.
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