A Parliament's Right To Choose

This morning Yvette Cooper explained on BBC Woman's Hour just why it was important  the Scottish parliament shouldn't be trusted to have control of abortion laws.  It seems our parliament would swiftly be held hostage by the forces of social darkness, bullied like sundry American States into forcing its female citizens to travel furth of their own land to access a legal termination. Or, worse, to resort to the illegal variety.

Yesterday Channel Four's Kathy Newman took much the same tack on social media, casually assuming that only Westminster could be trusted to protect the rights of women enshrined in the 1967 Abortion Act. Not to be outdone, the odd Lord - I use the adjective advisedly - weighed in to explain why the upper and unelected house was right to plan delays to the Scotland Bill in order to protect Scottish women from the supposed future follies of their government.

It is of course their right to live in the past, and to occupy a different constitutional planet from the one on which modern Scotland dwells. But it is not their right or their business to deny powers to Holyrood which have already been signed off in a cross party agreement; shilpit in so many other  respects as the Smith proposals and the subsequent legislation may be.

A very long time ago, when the original Scotland Act was being drafted prior to the fact of devolution it is true to say that those working on it deliberately did not seek to have abortion as part of the settlement.  They made the assumption that a subsequent Scottish parliament might take a less liberal view than its Westminster counterpart. Much the same assumption as Cooper and Co are making now.

Much has happened since those drafting days; not least a parliament with 16 years under its belt which has proved, in several different administrations, to have rather more liberal instincts than the Commons. The current First Minister has made it clear she has no wish to amend the Abortion Act.  The three major parties are led by women. Are they really to be considered a worse bet for womankind than Dave, George and Boris, not even to mention  a posse of elderly peers.

There are people who have always opposed abortion on faith grounds, and that opposition will remain within any legislature.  it is a sincerely held view, but not one which commands majority opinion in any UK parliament.  Their argument is conducted on moral rather than constitutional grounds.

What gives offence is that merry band of refuseniks who seem to believe that the Westminster lower and upper houses are better qualified to decide what's better for Scots than the parliament which, in the normal course of business, looks after all major domestic decisions including all kinds of health care.  

Because of that Scotland has not been subjected to many of the entirely dubious health "reforms" which have bedevilled the NHS down south. This does not mean NHS Scotland is in rude good health; it does mean that it's difficulties are not generally the result of ideological meddling.

All she wanted, said Ms Cooper, was for herself and Scottish female MSP's to stand together in protecting women's rights.  Just so long as the tartan contingent didn't get ideas above their parliamentary station.

I have always been pro choice. I will always fight for women to be able to control their own fertility.  And I've never needed a nanny to clarify my thoughts. Neither does Holyrood.