I can’t possibly hope to match Alex Kane’s personal take on abortion, but it did remind me peripherally of a true story.
It began in London just before the Big Crash of 1929. A decorated Army Officer named Frederick, who was born almost half a century before and who had seen service in both the Boer War and the Great War, had a liaison with a girl named Gladys aged just 17. This would have been scandalous enough, but the result was pregnancy. An attempt was of course made to end the pregnancy, but it failed. A permanently disabled daughter, Vera, was born unable to walk and scarcely able to speak and was placed in what passed, pre-War, for “care”. Given the social reality of the time, Frederick and Gladys had no option but to stay together, and soon she had two sons too.
However, Frederick passed away in 1936. Gladys was left with a disabled daughter, a young boy, and a babe-in-arms. She had no chance; with Vera already away, the two sons soon followed, ending up in separate orphanages through the War. The elder son, Derek, tried to play the role social norms of the time dictated, but it is hard to be “man of the house” without a house; he visited Vera when he could, but communication was scant. Neither of them could have been in any doubt, however, about how she – and indeed they – had come into the world.
Vera passed away aged just 23, never having had much of a life. Gladys, sadly, followed soon after, never even making it to the age Frederick had been when they had met.
I don’t know quite what that tells us about matters of conscience, other than that they are never as straightforward as they are when politicians and commentators debate them. For this is a grubby story of real life – life as it is, not life as we would want it; life as it appears in reality in practice, not as it appears on paper in theory. It is complex, fairness rarely has anything to do with it, and unfortunately there is not always a happy ending.
As it happens, despite the unpromising circumstances into which he was born, Derek is still with us and celebrates his 82nd birthday tomorrow. Happy Birthday, Dad.