New user? Register here:
Email Address:
Password:
Retype Password:
First Name:
Last Name:
Existing user? Login here:
 
 
Comment >

Giles Fraser: Exposing the flaws of choice

Click to enlarge


A study from the University of London, which was published this week, says that Down-syndrome pregnancies have risen by 70 per cent. This is put down to women having babies later in life, when the chances of a Down-syndrome con­cep­tion are higher. But the study also says that fewer children are being born with the condition, as its abortion rate is now 92 per cent. Some apparent expert on the Today programme justified all of this under that lazy catch-all alibi: choice.

It is the choice of modern women to try for babies later in life because this fits in better with their desire for a career earlier in life. So the number of abortions rises steadily. Abortion is a by-product of a lifestyle choice. But because it is a largely hidden one — the sadness of abortion taking place privately and discreetly — the full cost of this demographic shift in women’s behaviour and expectations is rarely weighed. It is out of sight and out of mind — and thus so much easier to wave away with a casual flick of the word “choice”.

But the Today-programme expert is not alone in using the word as she did. It is the single most over-used, and misused, get-out-of-jail-free card in contemporary moral jargon. So let’s take it slowly. Choice is good, in so far as a free society is better than an unfree one. That moral principle is in the bank, for me.

None the less, just because some­thing is a choice does not make it morally right. I might choose to stab the Dean of St Paul’s, but my choos­ing to do so makes no differ­ence to the morality of the act. This is so ob­vious that it ought not to need saying.

Yet the way that many public figures segue from the importance of having choice to a blanket affirm­a­tion of the moral rightness of any and every choice made, by anybody in any conceivable circumstances, is absurd, and deeply corrosive of the moral fibre of society. I feel a bit of an idiot having to point this out. But if Grandma can’t suck eggs, she needs to be shown how.

More than 1100 Down-syndrome babies were aborted in 2007-08, compared with 300 in 1989-90. Those of us who think this a significant moral issue are often treated like religious fundamentalists who want to put women in shackles and push them into the hands of grubby back-street abortionists.

Rubbish: what most of us want to see is an end to our culture’s damaging obsession with physical perfection, something driven by our own fear of inadequacy. The false logic of choice which blocks any challenge to this cult of perfection is profoundly harmful to us all.

The Revd Dr Giles Fraser is Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral and Director of the St Paul’s Institute.

Job of the week

Principal

West Midlands

PRINCIPAL ST ALBAN'S ACADEMY Lead an outstanding high-profile school in Birmingham St Alban's Academy serves the Highgate area of Birmingham. It is part of the ARK Schools group, a network of ...  Read More

Signup for job alerts
Top feature

It’s not all religion’s fault

It’s not all religion’s fault

In her new book, Karen Armstrong argues that violence comes from a deep-seated 'warrior ethos' rather than from religion. She talks to Cole Moreton  Subscribe to read more

Question of the week
Should the seal of the confessional be absolute?

To prevent multiple voting, we now ask readers to be logged in. This is free, quick and easy, honestly. Click here to login or register

Top comment

Clergy are ‘more like Old Labour than New’

A survey commissioned to support debates on the future of the C of E yields some interesting results, says Linda Woodhead  Read More

Fri 31 Oct 14 @ 15:11
Canon Alan Billings, Labour Party candidate, elected Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire. http://t.co/iydy5Z0tDj

Fri 31 Oct 14 @ 14:53
'Positive action' is being taken to create a pool of women ready to be considered for the episcopate http://t.co/mDg7mlOLfo