Quote of the Week: Theodore Dalrymple, “In Praise of Prejudice”

But, as the great historian Lord Acton said, ‘Ideas have a radiation and a development, an ancestry and posterity of their own, in which men play the part of godfathers and godmothers more than that of legitimate parents.’ Who can doubt that many people have forgotten, for very obvious reasons, Mill’s great qualification of personal sovereignty, namely that it applies to conduct that ‘merely concerns himself?’ When the person argues for abortion on demand (and I speak as someone not totally opposed to abortion) on the grounds that the woman is the Roi soliel over her own body, does he not forget that the fetus is not purely of her body, but is a distinct being in formation and is, until parthenogenesis becomes the rule, the product, to use a neutral and impersonal term, of another person also? In any minimally decent world, wouldn’t the father have inescapable responsibilities towards his offspring, and therefore (since there ought to be no taxation without representation), have some moral right to a say in the matter? Mill was certainly not an apologist of abortion-on-demand type egoism, but he was, in Acton’s phrase, its godfather, or one of its godfathers.

▪ Theodore Dalrymple, In Praise of Prejudice (Encounter Books, 2007) extract from page 45.

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