Saturday, May 28, 2005

Tomorrow's 'Independent' Today


Lemba is just six years old, and lives in the poverty-stricken Bunia region of the war-torn Congo.

She has the hideous deformity of a cleft palate.

Because of this, she is shunned by her neighbours as bewitched. She will never marry. Uniquely among her thirteen brothers and sisters, she has not been raped by the UN peacekeeping troops stationed in the area. Even notoriously unfussy aid workers have not offered her money or food to sleep with them.

In prosperous Britain, Lemba's story would have had a happier ending. A scan would have picked up the cleft palate. Then Lemba would have been ethically terminated. And the government would have kept the reason for termination secret, in case any prejudiced interest group or God-botherer complained.

Twenty years ago, there was a scanner in the local hospital. There were more than 400 nurses and doctors with termination skills in the Congo. But the East German factory that produced the scanners is now a Volkswagen plant, and no spares are available. The scanner is rusting and unused. There are now only three practising abortionists in the whole country. The others have taken their marketable skills abroad, to the West. More than 150 Congolese nurses now staff UK termination clinics.

So poor Lemba is condemned to live on, sustained only by the love of her family and teachers at the local mission school. Her story could - and should - have been very different.

Of the 180,000 unwanted British foetuses terminated last year, nearly 70,000 were terminated by doctors and nurses from overseas. But behind this cheerful statistic lies the hidden suffering of millions like Lemba.

And it's all our fault.

No comments: