I honestly don’t have it in for Nadine Dorries, although I do keep a firm eye on her blog, but I was a little disappointed, if not surprised, to read her statement that “I am no pro-life Catholic”, when she was outlining her position to an interviewer from the Guardian, who thought that her alleged pro-life views stemmed from her Christian faith.
To some extent her faith does play a part, I don’t think Nadine would seek to deny that, but the point she was making was that her particular stance on abortion is based on science and science alone. When it comes to the highly contentious issue of fetal pain prior to 24 weeks, there is much conflicting evidence and thus Nadine came out with the rather unfortunate phrase “I have chosen the ‘fact’ I wish to believe.” I fear this is going to haunt her somewhat. Nadine says that she is motivated by the science alone, in the absence of definitive evidence that a fetus of 20 weeks does not feel pain, she is going to assume that it does until proven otherwise.
Whilst wishing to avoid unnecessary suffering is a commendable approach, it does leave the door open should the science ever be available to prove her wrong, although it is unlikely that the question will able to be satisfactorily resolved. An abortion is going to result in the death of the baby – fetal pain is a separate issue. Surely any pain could be circumvented by administering anaesthetic to the baby prior to the procedure to detach it from the womb and remove it? Whilst Nadine may claim that this is science based, actually her campaign is based on her ethics of wishing to spare undue suffering. A more factually correct turn of phrase would be to state that her stated values and aims of avoiding pain to the soon to be dead child, are rooted in what she believes to be the scientific evidence.
Nadine has criticised churches in the past, in an interview with the Catholic Herald in January, she told Ed West of how ‘she felt badly let down by Christians’ and how ‘the churches have been pathetic’ and how she needs ‘religious support’.
If that is the case, then stating “I am no pro-life Catholic” in somewhat disparaging terms, is not the way to get it.
Furthermore, to be pro-life is not, as I have written countless times, exclusive to a Catholic, Christian or any religious viewpoint, although it is a theme of commonality between all major religions. It is perfectly possible to believe that life starts at conception without any recourse to a deity whatsoever.
To be “neither pro-choice nor pro-life,” is not going to garner support from either Catholics or traditionally pro-life Evangelicals, it’s a wishy-washy sitting on the fence, trying to please everyone and yet pleasing no-one, pro-lifers recognising that this is not a politician who reflects their values and pro-choicers being suspicious of someone who looks to be chipping away at their perceived ‘rights’ by aiming to reduce the abortion time limits.
I do admire Nadine, I do believe that her campaign is based upon a genuine concern for women’s welfare as well as an abhorrence for the repugnant practice of late-term abortion, but I am disappointed that she feels the need to vehemently deny that her beliefs are based upon anything other than science. In her position I would be expressing my faith whilst simultaneously making a compelling moral, ethical, scientific and evidence-based case against abortion. Whilst my faith influences my views on abortion, it should not undermine the argument against abortion to any intelligent and critical thinker.
It says something about society and politics today, that Christianity is still seen as taboo, to admit to being a Christian automatically calls one’s judgement into question. Nadine was clearly on the defensive, when really there is no need to be. The question is not one of fetal pain or viability, but as straightforward as “it is acceptable to kill unborn children”? A negative answer is not indicative of a belief in sky-pixies or spaghetti monsters.
There is no shame in admitting that a value stems from a faith or lack thereof. To attempt to conceal religious belief in politics is to concede defeat to the irrational prejudices of atheist bigots and accept the agenda of those who would contend that faith has no place in politics. According to the likes of Dawkins all our values must be held outside of religious beliefs and based on evidence if they are not to be dismissed as mere ideology, a concept which is ironically itself an ideology.
This is why Nadine Dorries is coming unstuck. As a professed Christian, she is unsuccessfully attempting to separate out her faith and her ethics, which is leaving her open to criticism on both sides. Whilst attempting to peddle the “science” line, she neatly side-steps the issue of her morality or her faith in an attempt to avoid the inevitable personal criticism. The problem is one of credibility; it is difficult for a sceptic and hostile pro-choice lobby to believe that her faith plays no part in her politics, whilst it is equally difficult for pro-life Christians to back a politician who openly states that she is not against abortion, who seeks back-door fudges which avoid the issue at hand and who criticises them, their churches and their faith leaders.
All the science in the world, fetal pain and viability obfuscates the burning ethical question. “Is it right to kill an unborn child”? “You can’t have the death penalty in a civilised society” opined David Cameron yesterday. We have it already, 600 deaths per day.
A clergyman admitted to me the other day that it was with some reluctance that he supported Nadine’s efforts in terms of her Right to Know campaign, his main issue being that she came across as too self-serving, something of a self-promoter. Whilst Nadine obviously needs to be wary of protecting her public image, not least so that she does not undermine her campaigns, when I read statements such as “Are the Guardian out to get me” and her concerns that she might be perceived as “Britain’s answer to Sarah Palin” it does seem indicative of a preoccupation with self-image. The lives of the unborn deserve more than that. At least Sarah Palin, for all her weaknesses is able to be honest about her faith and her unequivocal views on abortion. Palin does not lack the courage of her convictions.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven”