Taboo subject?

Taboo subject?
From BBC - September 7, 2017

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg is the first British politician in decades to publicly oppose abortion in all cases, even when a woman has been raped.

It was not, he stressed, government policy, but his own personal view based on Catholic teachings.

He got credit from his supporters for his candour - not for Mr Rees-Mogg the evasions and caveats of other politicians who have found their personal religious convictions out of step with party policy and the prevailing orthodoxy.

But others found his views "extreme" and wildly at odds with majority opinion in the UK.

Tory MP Margot James called them "utterly abhorrent".

It would certainly be a strange way to launch a party-leadership bid, although Mr Rees-Mogg insists he has no ambitions in that direction, whatever social media says about "Moggmentum".

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said Mr Rees-Mogg's appearance on ITV's Good Morning Britain programme could well be a "tipping point" if the North-East Somerset MP ever changed his mind about that.

Former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe, a Catholic who has previously spoken out against abortion, told BBC Radio 5 live's Emma Barnett Mr Rees-Mogg's views were "nothing like as rare as you may think" and they would have no long-term effect on his career.

"Now, can a politician say what he thinks?" she said. "Or are we simply going to end up in a situation where every time you say what you think, you end up with an adverse effect, so in the end you simply dodge it?"

So why is abortion such an apparently taboo subject in British politics?

Settled matter?

In the US, being against abortion is a standard position for Republican politicians and a reliable dividing line with the Democrats, although the issue of exemptions for rape and incest is a highly sensitive one.

It still causes controversy when someone running for office voices their opposition to such exemptions, as Republican hopeful Marco Rubio did last year.

But American politicians are expected to be upfront about their religious beliefs and take a position on moral issues that in the UK tend to be seen as personal matters.

Piers Morgan, who prodded Mr Rees-Mogg into revealing his views on the Good Morning Britain sofa, tried a similar line of questioning, on his CNN show in 2012, during the Republican primaries.

The former Mirror editor asked White House hopeful Rick Santorum, a devout Catholic, if he would let his daughter get an abortion after rape.

Mr Santorum said did not say yes outright, adding that he would explain to her that a baby, even when "horribly created", was still a "gift, in a very broken way".

Donald Trump, who before running for president was pro-choice and is now firmly against abortion, draws the line at cases of rape, incest, and when the mother's health is endangered.

The issue of abortion in Britain is seen by many people as a settled matter - it rarely comes up at general elections.

"We are a pro-choice country, we have a pro-choice Parliament," said Katherine O'Brien, of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.

"Every politician is entitled to hold their own opinion on abortion. But what matters is whether they would let their own personal convictions stand in the way of women's ability to act on their own."

In fact, there have been several serious attempts to restrict abortions since Liberal leader David Steel succeeded in liberalising the law in 1967, resulting in some impassioned debates in the House of Commons.


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