Marie-Claire magazine is where I often turn for interesting notions about the issues of the day. Their readership is female, working, relatively well educated, and I would say 30-40 something, so I am a little old for them. But I do read the magazine, and have done for many years. I like their feature articles on women around the world. This month, for instance, the magazine has a piece on the women of Fukushima in Japan a year after the tsunami, who chose not to leave. This is the French Marie-Claire I am talking about. Some years ago, when I was an MP, I sent copies of an article from the British Marie-Claire to a large number of constituents who had contacted me to say that "we" should not interfere in Iraq. They were taking the view that bloodthirsty totalitarian dictatorship and the slaughter of a whole bunch of brown-skin Ay-rabs was just fine by them. Although I don't suppose they thought of it like that. Anyway, the article was called something like "I Married A Suicide Bomber", and featured interviews with the widows of men who had blown themselves up, mostly in Palestine. The article didn't make much of it, but I was very struck by the photographs of ceremonies at which the widows received financial compensation for the loss of their husbands, in the form of envelopes of money with pictures of Saddam Hussein on them. It was enough money, the widows said, to put their children through school.
Imagine the reaction to this mailing. Can you? Howls of outrage from quite a number of men, who were disgusted that I had sent them a "women's magazine" article. Howls, too, from both men and women, who said that I had no business sending them "third-party" material, but should have given them my own views. Well, I had already done that, which was why they were outraged in the first place. But I did at least vote in accordance with the (interventionist) views I had expressed, rather than say I had voted against the Iraq action when in fact I had abstained, as one M. Salter did. However, that is another matter.
This month's French Marie-Claire has interviews with all the main candidates for the French presidential election, the first round of voting in which is on 22nd April. They were all asked the same questions. One of these questions was (my translation) "A number of abortion centres (IVG in French, "interruption volontaire de grossesse") have closed. What would you do to ensure greater respect for the right to abortion?" Francois Hollande (Parti Socialiste) said that hospital restructuring too often meant the loss of an abortion clinic. He would ensure that every public hospital contained an abortion clinic. Nicolas Sarkozy (UMP) said that access to abortion was a basic right for women, and that he believed in it very strongly, and that his record as President showed that a number of inequalities in access to abortion had been removed across France. Marine Le Pen (Front National) said that she would prefer investment in health services to be put into fuller reimbursement of elderly people for the cost of their medication, rather than into abortion services, because abortion is avoidable, except in cases of rape. Francois Bayrou (MoDem, sort of LibDem-ish) said that he did not think the right to abortion was under threat in France. He knew though that many doctors were not happy performing abortions, and that these services were not well enough remunerated. And Jean-Luc Melenchon (Front de Gauche) said that the closure of abortion clinics had to be stopped, and a step towards better protection of the right to abortion would be to ban the demonstrations which sometimes took place outside the clinics, against health professionals who performed the abortions, and especially against the women having the procedure.
My reflection is this: I do not think it is likely that such a question would be posed to UK political candidates, and that if it was it would not be couched, or answered, in these terms. Agree? And as for the USA, well, even asking the question would probably get you killed.