Life’s Dominion

21 Sep

The writer is struck by this story in The Guardian, of a woman named Sarah Catt who has been sent to prison for 8 years (of which the Judge apparently considers that she will serve 4: see Sentencing Remarks here) for self-administering a (very) late-term abortion. The Guardian writer’s concern is that the Judge who passed sentence is or was a fairly senior member of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship. Doubtless mindful of Peter Hain’s recent difficulties with allegedly ‘scandalising the court’ (the prosecution was dropped), she is careful not to allege bias, although an Administrative Lawyer might be forgiven for feeling that citing a dictum of Lord Hewart often quoted in bias cases was sailing close to the wind.

One trusts that there will be no prosecution here, but the article did cause this writer to pause. Probably the reader’s best bet is to read the Judge’s Sentencing Remarks (link above) and form their own view.

Perhaps the difficulty is inherent in the way the abortion legislation is framed: upto point X the legislation takes the ‘pro-choice’ attitude that we are just talking about a bundle of cells with impressive potential, and after point X the ‘pro-life’ attitude that we are near-enough to talking about a human being, so that the Judge’s comments about forms of homicide are not irrelevant after all?

But that is quite a change in the status of a being that takes place in one tick of a clock – from bundle of cells to human being (almost). It is unlikely that anyone thinks that that is the true moment at which the change takes place – the figure set is a political compromise probably regarded on both/all ‘sides’ as temporary. Perhaps that makes troubling convictions and troubling acquittals inevitable, each side of the line.

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