SARAH VINE: America’s abortion shambles is a dystopian warning for us in Britain

Whatever your views on abortion – for or against or, like me, somewhere in the middle – there is no doubt that what has just happened in America is not a good thing.

Judges for the Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe vs Wade ruling, meaning that abortion is now effectively illegal in many states in America. The result is that women – many of them very young, vulnerable, poor, victims of domestic or sexual violence – will now be forced to give birth to children they do not want and, perhaps more importantly, may not be equipped to take care of.

In one fell swoop, American women have been deprived of an important principle that goes to the heart of women’s liberation over the past 50 years. A principle without which many of the advances in sexual equality would never have happened: the right to choose what we do with our bodies.

Abortion is never a good or easy choice. Yes, there should be limitations. Yes, it should be subject to rigorous checks. And yes, it should never be undertaken lightly. But it must be a choice, and it must be the woman’s choice.

For the college girl who has been raped; for the exhausted mother who just can’t cope with another child; for the victim of domestic violence, fearful of bringing a child into a world of pain; for the hopeless drug addict, whose baby will join the cycle of addiction before it even utters its first cries. But also just for ordinary women. Those who just aren’t ready – financially, emotionally, relationship-wise – to take on the huge responsibility of bringing new life into this world. Without safe, legal access to abortion, women will always be slaves to their fertility, bound by biology to the rules – and desires – of men. Welcome to Gilead. And isn’t there something dystopian about that line-up of grim-faced Supreme Court judges, presiding over the fate of millions of American women? Especially when you stop to think about the inconsistencies – and hypocrisies – of the wider cultural landscape in America.

We are talking about a country that allows teenagers to walk into any gun shop and purchase assault weapons capable of causing devastation in seconds. Barely a month ago 18-year-old Salvador Ramos massacred 19 primary school children and two teachers in Texas, some of whose injuries were so devastating they could only be identified by their clothing. If the Supreme Court is so intent on protecting the lives of innocent American children, why not start by doing something about the country’s insane gun laws? But then nothing about modern America seems to make sense. This is a country where major cities have descended into lawlessness. Where the opiate plague, driven by prescription drugs such as oxycodone and fentanyl, has hollowed out whole communities and people live like zombies on the street.

And yet last week the US Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of Juul vapes over doubts over the safety of its products. Talk about a cough in a hurricane.

The truth is, none of these decisions are to do with right or wrong, or what’s best for the ordinary citizen in the street. They’re to do with politics, and what’s best for politicians. That, I’m afraid, is why America is in so much trouble. And why, if we’re not careful, the same will soon happen here. When Donald Trump vacated the White House last year, he left behind a political hand grenade – the appointment of the three conservative Supreme Court judges pivotal to the abortion decision – which has now gone off.

Joe Biden may be useless and doddery, but even if he had the vigour and charisma of JF Kennedy, there wouldn’t have been much he could do to stop it.

This is the worst kind of politics; tactical politics, underhand and immoral and designed not to serve the democratic will of the people but the personal ambitions of those who believe themselves entitled to hold power. And we’ve just seen a classic example of it in Britain this weekend. The Government’s by-election defeats, which saw the Liberal Democrats take Tiverton and Honiton, while Labour regained Wakefield, was no doubt influenced by Partygate, along with other woes facing Boris Johnson, including the cost-of-living crisis. But it was also in no small part down to the fact that, as Sajid Javid pointed out yesterday, Labour and the Lib Dems have clearly made an electoral pact.

The two parties did little campaigning in the constituency they were not targeting – and both lost their respective deposits there.

Such tactical electioneering is not technically illegal, but it is morally dishonest. And it smacks of two party leaders – Keir Starmer and Ed Davey – who, unable to win fair and square, are willing to compromise their own principles and trick the electorate into handing them power. No doubt Starmer would be horrified to think of himself in the same bracket as a man like Trump.

But gaming the system to win at all costs is exactly what Trump has done in America to push through this abortion ban despite not having been anywhere near the White House for the past 18 months. And it’s exactly what the Labour Party is planning on doing here, at the next Election: victory at all costs, and to hell with the rest.

Labour MP Stella Creasy has tweeted support for her ‘American sisters’ over abortion rights. Good for her. Given the Labour Party’s inability to establish the answer to the question ‘what is a woman’, it would be helpful to know whether she means sisters WITH a penis, or those without.

Not sure why you would even want to build a treehouse at Chequers. Boris and Carrie allegedly wanted one for their son Wilf. But there are any number of secret passages – such as the one leading from the ‘prison room’ to the front drawing room – and hiding places to fuel the imagination. By comparison a treehouse – even one costing £150,000 – would seem rather dull.

Bling shoes earn their stripes

Gucci has released a pair of men’s loafers in collaboration with Adidas – yours for £785. They have all the blingy elements normally associated with a traditional Gucci loafer – with three white stripes. Proof that luxury fashion has nothing to do with style anymore – but is simply designed to appeal to the only people who can still afford the eye-watering prices: footballers and rappers.

What’s making Kate so smug?

Why is it so hard to paint the Duchess of Cambridge? This latest portrait, by artist Jamie Coreth, is better than that 2012 Paul Emsley one but is not an unqualified success. They just look like a Royal Barbie and Ken and their expressions are ever so slightly too smug. Speculation is rife about what they are looking at. The Duchess of Montecito (as she is now known) heading for the Californian hills, perhaps?

Over in Rwanda, Prince Charles is keen to introduce a UK ‘slavery memorial day’ along the lines of Holocaust Memorial Day to commemorate the victims of the past. This might well be a good idea, although someone should maybe remind him that we do already have Black History Month in Britain, of which discussions about slavery are a big part. I think the difference between the Holocaust and slavery is that no one denies that the latter existed, was a barbaric practice and was a crime against humanity. Sadly, the same is not true of antisemitism.

Cheery sight of the queen on horseback
News that the Queen is literally back in the saddle – riding her horses at Windsor – is immensely cheering. She has always loved her horses, and while I don’t really see the appeal, I have friends who, like her, consider these creatures far more than mere animals and are rarely happier than when spending time with them – something that after a difficult and emotional few months, Her Majesty surely deserves.

Nigella Lawson and Prue Leith both swear by the flavour-enhancing powers of Marmite in their recipes. I couldn’t agree more: almost everything tastes better with a smidge of the dark stuff in it. There’s just one exception: peanut butter. Someone once bought me a jar laced with Marmite, and even I couldn’t stomach it. To put it politely: the visuals were rather… challenging.

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