Turning back the clock

Near round-the-dock fuss about Mandy Allwood, who is carrying eight foetuses and has been adopted by Max Clifford, the PR guru, has generated vast acres of reactionary nonsense. These backward and irrational views have been ‘smuggled’ in under the cloak of sanctimonious and hypocritical moralising, not to mention unpleasant attacks on Allwood’s character.

Whatever the exact circumstances behind the story (is this a get-rich-quick ‘scam’ by Allwood and her supposed partner Paul Hudson?), it is clear that the attacks on her need to be refuted. More importantly, the reactionary agenda behind these attacks needs to be drawn out and held up to ridicule by all those who regard themselves as in any way progressive, or even a sympathiser with the Enlightenment.

The anti-science crowd are having a field day, of course. They are portraying Allwood as a freak of nature - this is what happens when you ‘tamper with nature’, they preach. If only such technology - IVF, in vitro fertilisation, etc could be disinvented and the clock firmly rolled back. If you cannot have a baby - tough.

More alarming though, are the forces coalescing around an ‘anti-choice’ world view. This is being married to the fashionable rightwing assault on so-called “rights-based” culture, which is rotting the nation from within and needs to be expunged. Duties and responsibilities? - yes. Rights? - no.

This was expressed in pure form by Peter McKay of the Evening Standard (August 19). After denouncing “feckless, selfish people [who] use abortion as birth control” (which he ascribes to the “law of unintended consequences”), he goes on to launch an assault on fertility treatment in general. With Mandy Allwood in his target sights, he tells us how fertility treatment is being “used to create illegitimate families” and distastefully reports how Allwood “believes she had a right to fertility treatment and to the medical treatments she prefers which are paid by her local authority”.

He concludes by issuing an appeal - “Rights, rights, rights. Who will oppose the assertion of such rights?”

We all know, of course, that there are many people and forces who if given the chance will implacably “oppose the assertion of such rights” - whether it be Atheists Against Abortion or religious fanatics of all hues. Just look to the United States, where the debate around ‘pro- or anti-choice’ is rapidly becoming the issue for the Republican Party, and American politics in general.

It is not inconceivable that the next US government will be one ‘committed’ to a major attack on abortion rights, if not for the banning of abortion.

Communists unconditionally defend the right of women to have an abortion. We also believe that fertility treatment should be available to all who need it. If Mandy Allwood has to pay herself for such treatment, she will need to fork out £500,000 for the specialist maternal care required. Fertility treatment must not be allowed to become the private preserve of the rich. Scientific and medical advancement has opened up the possibility of enhancing human happiness - do not allow it to slip out of our fingers and increase human misery instead.

Eddie Ford