Parallel to the struggle surrounding poor Alfie, a few days ago Ealing Council imposed a buffer zone, preventing anti-abortion (and pro-choice) campaigners from standing within 100 feet of an abortion clinic in Ealing.
Liberal reports emphasise the discomfort caused to women who patronise this establishment. They ought to consider the broader context of this discomfort. Alleging that women should not have to experience this discomfort presupposes that women who use this clinic are doing nothing wrong. Authors of this pieces in this vein arguably should be upfront with their presuppositions.
I will state now that I oppose abortion. It was, until relatively recently, the standard view of most populations that people should feel bad about doing something wrong. If abortion is wrong, then women should feel bad about committing abortion. If a council bans protestors from standing within 100 feet of an abortion establishment on the grounds that it will make patrons feel discomfort, that council is committed to the position that abortion is acceptable. If that is what the councillors feel, they should be open about it and submit themselves to public debate on the matter.
This is the least they should do, and here is why: the gravity of the implications of the opposing side’s positions is great. If, as I maintain, abortion is the destruction of a human for personal reasons, and such destruction is categorically wrong, then it should be opposed. Abortion is particularly heinous because a child is as innocent as a human being can be: therefore an offence against a child is greater than an offence against a sin-riddled adult.
It will be no defence for a council to claim that metaphysics lie beyond its remit or that the state permits abortion. A council is made up of councillors, human beings who, by virtue of being human beings, have free will, which in turn imposes upon them moral obligations. A council, even if neither law nor equity say so, stands in a fiduciary relationship to the citizens under its aegis. The rate-payer entrusts money to the council (and money is a proxy for the time and labour of the individual, which are his personal property) on the understanding that the council is to use it for his best interest. The council is to act in a position of loyalty to the rate-payer, bound not to take advantage of opportunities that belong to the rate-payer and not willingly to expose the rate-payer to things that are harmful to him.
Suppose councillors protest that they must not think on metaphysical matters. They are responsible for creating bye-laws and upholding the laws of the land in their co-operation with the police. Law presupposes metaphysical commitments: we cannot engage with law without metaphysics. To the extent that a council is involved with law, it is involved with metaphysics. They have no defence unless they can show that a particular branch of metaphysics is beyond their remit. As things stand under English law, the health and safety of people in the council’s area is within the council’s remit (consider, for example, sanitation).
Blindly observing the law is not a defence either, because it does not entail that one cannot campaign to change the law. Councils and Parliaments have the power to change statute and do exercise this power: they repeal, amend, and expand legislation. All of these actions rely on the concept of change and presuppose that a body may legitimately change its opinion on matters as new arguments and data are adduced. The council is not obligated by law to impose this buffer zone: it could have chosen not to. The council, were it so inclined, could have commissioned a report on abortion and submitted this to Parliament for consideration.
As things continue in this vein I find myself aggrieved that so much of society seems to have abandoned the principles of individual human dignity and rights. Britain was once great and a champion of these things, not so now.