spiked editor Mick Hume in The Times (London), on the narcissistic self-indulgence behind Reverend Jepson's campaign against late abortion.
Just when you thought that the cult of celebrity could go no further, having created everything from a celebrity princess to a celebrity game-show cheat, along comes the Rev Joanna Jepson, celebrity anti-abortion crusader.
As she pursues her legal challenge to the late abortion of a foetus with a cleft palate, the blonde locks of the trainee Church of England vicar seem to have featured in the papers as often as those of Jonny Wilkinson. It is bad enough when the news becomes clogged with celebrity trivia. But it is far worse when the celebrity culture trivialises such a serious issue as abortion law.
For some in the godless media, the twentysomething, green-eyed, shiny-faced Miss Jepson is a godsend. They have presented her as a selfless campaigner on behalf of the unborn; a young woman who, in the words of one broadsheet, ‘speaks for us all’. Well, speak for yourself. Miss Jepson’s campaign really reflects the fashionable belief that ‘It’s all about Me!’ She has taken up the cleft palate abortion case, demanding that the doctors responsible be prosecuted, because she was born with a facial deformity that has been corrected by surgery. As a Sunday Times interviewer observed yesterday: ‘Her every sentence seems to cry out: would it have been right to abort me?’
To paraphrase the Carly Simon song, she’ s so vain, she thinks somebody else’s abortion is about her. That interview also revealed that the celebrity curate wants to be a vicar to celebrities. Not content with fighting to protect disfigured foetuses, she aims to save those she calls ‘the beautiful people’ of the fashion industry. After meeting models while studying for her theology MA, she has declared that the fashion world ‘needs to be redeemed’ by having ‘a theological voice in there’. What’s more, she is prepared to sacrifice herself to the world of glamour and become ‘chaplain to the catwalk’.
Having taught us that those with physical deformities can be beautiful inside, she wants to teach that the good-looking can have needy souls within. In short, with a little help from her, everybody can strive to be as perfect as Miss Jepson. While more cynical celebrities take up ‘ishoos’ in order to show that they have some moral worth, Miss Jepson’s moral worthiness has itself become her ticket to fame. So she will criticise the media obsession with physical perfection – in a newspaper article dominated by a photo of her looking mischievously over her shoulder through tumbling tresses. Such simpering, soft-focus self-righteousness is hard to stomach, even for some who essentially agree with her on late abortion. Still, they will say, at least she is doing something for others.
But her apparently principled argument reeks of narcissistic self-indulgence because it rests upon the assumption that, because Miss Jepson was born with a facial deformity, this other woman’s abortion must somehow concern the reverend. By law we are not allowed to know anything of the circumstances in which that woman took the decision to have a late abortion. But who cares about such details? All that matters in the age of ‘It’s all about Me!’ is that Miss Jepson found somebody else’s operation personally ‘offensive’.
Miss Jepson has every right to be offended by a late abortion, to condemn it, and to tell the woman and doctors concerned that they are going to Hell. But she ought not be able to drag them into the law courts. The other woman took the decision and has to live with the consequences. It is about her life choices and conscience, not Miss Jepson’s. She is no more obliged to abort a disabled foetus than Ms X is to train for the clergy – or, for that matter, to turn somebody else’s tragedy into a celebrity soapbox.
This article is republished from The Times (London)
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