Choose love, not abortion

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The Independent Online
Mr and Mrs Brian Astbury are expecting to become the proud parents of twins. Siamese twins. They have refused to consider an abortion, and say that the hospital staff are "delighted". This decision, and this delight, is described by Polly Toynbee as "chilling". What an odd word to use to describe maternal love.

"Chilling" would more properly be applied to Ms Toynbee's article. She argues that the Astburys are sentimental and irresponsible, and that they ought to have the children aborted (by which method, suction or dismemberment, she does not say).

Ms Toynbee dismisses Melanie Astbury's statement that her children "will be born out of love into love" as "emotive imagining". It is such maternal "emotive imagining", believe it or not, which guarantees the continuation of the human race. Why else should any woman wish to go through the ordeal of pregnancy?

Ms Toynbee has always been strident in her advocacy of the abortion of children who might be physically or mentally disabled. When in 1981 Dr Leonard Arthur was charged with the murder of a baby boy with Down's syndrome, she wrote that "the scandal is that such children are born at all". In June I became the father of a baby girl with Down's syndrome and, as Polly Toynbee recalls, publicly compared the screening out of such lives with the Chinese and Nazi extermination of the handicapped. Ms Toynbee rejects this comparison but is avid to see the abortion of all handicapped foetuses. Why? Solely because they will become handicapped children and adults, whose lives, she believes, are valueless.

When I wrote my article in defence of the right to life of the handicapped I received a vast number of letters from the parents of handicapped children, all but one of which expressed the joy and love they gained from their offspring. I was also sent a large number of letters from the handicapped themselves, who told me how deeply hurt they were by those who blithely argued that their very existence was, to quote Ms Toynbee, "a scandal".

Alison Davis, who has severe spina bifida, wrote - they can write, you know, Polly - that "in recognising your daughter's infinite value you have recognised mine". Quentin Crewe, who is similarly confined to a wheelchair, wrote: "Had I been conceived today, counsellors would no doubt have recommended that I be aborted. I would have been denied what I feel has been a fortunate and wonderful life."

Ms Toynbee argues that none of this matters: the foetus, up to the moment of birth, is "not a person". Really? The babies in Mrs Astbury's womb, at 6lb and 5.5lb respectively, are thinking, feeling members of humanity, whatever Polly Toynbee imagines.

This morning, before leaving for work, I went to the nursery to kiss my baby daughter goodbye. She smiled and giggled. Call me sentimental and irresponsible, Polly, but I'm glad I didn't have her put down.

The writer is editor of `The Spectator'.