There is a splendid article in The Times today by David Aaronovitch about the threat to a woman’s right to choose an abortion in the United States. To those of my early baby boomer generation this is sad as well as shocking. More evidence that the liberal foundations we thought we’d help build 50 years ago are wobbling.
As students in the 1960s we protested against a number of iniquities and eventually won, or thought we had. The Vietnam War. The Death Penalty. Civil Rights. Gay Rights. Apartheid. Abortion reform. I don’t think that I took to the streets on all of them, but on some I did.
Then a little later I was an activist in favour of unity in Europe. By 1975 I had joined Edward Heath and Roy Jenkins in campaigning in favour of Britain taking a definitive and final decision to be an active member of the European Community. We won that one as well. For me the model in all this was Tony Crosland who had argued that the “Future of Socialism” lay in Social Reform and internationalism not nationalism and ideology driven public ownership.
Jenkins was to be the political leader par excellence for this liberal and social democratic revolution. The reforms, including on Europe, I mention here seemed final at the time. Opponents of change didn’t go away – we even had more debates on capital punishment in parliament for a while after abolition. But the ground seemed to have shifted and there was no turning back. But reaction and bigotry never goes away it seems.
Abortion has not gone away as a battleground. The decision we took to respect a woman’s freedom of choice is under threat again. 😱