Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Unnatural death

I needed some light reading a few days ago, and pulled Dorothy Sayers' Unnatural Death off the shelf. It's one of the delightful series of mysteries she wrote around the character of Lord Peter Wimsey. And it was a very good read, another great romp through the vanished England of nearly a century ago. But it also contained a sentence that carried an unsettling resonance with today's world.

At the very end, when the murderer has been identified, Wimsey's friend Inspector Parker is musing on the case, and says:

She probably really thought that anyone who inconvenienced her had no right to exist.
When Unnatural Death was published in 1927, the murderess' point of view was enough to startle even a police inspector. Eighty years later, we accept her attitude 3,000 times a day. According to Planned Parenthood's Alan Guttmacher Institute, it's the chief reason given by women in the US for having an abortion: the child in the womb would be an inconvenience if it were allowed to develop. No matter that everything we've learned about life in womb since 1973 has tended to reinforce the humanity of the unborn child. The pregnancy, let alone bringing up the child afterwards, would upset plans for school, social life, travel, career advancement, etc., etc. So terribly inconvenient to the pursuit of happiness.

And our enlightened age applauds. We are, after all, so much more sophisticated than Inspector Parker in that primitive year of 1927.