Issues Of Principle
The one fact which surely does emerge clearly is that legislation about morals, which so often raises passionate controversy, is peculiarly unsuitable for the attentions of either confirmed, professional ‘reactionaries’ or confirmed, undiscriminating ‘progressives’. T.E. Utley – What Laws May Cure
We could, I am convinced, have spared ourselves a good deal of emotion and reached, on various matters, much sounder conclusions had this truth been recognised.
Had the object of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, legalising homosexual acts, been to promote the practice of homosexuality as an experiment in living, the Bill would have been unimaginable. Since the Bill also provided for a considerable increase in the penalties for seducing the young, it seemed to Parliament that the long-term objection to it was overwhelmingly offset by the amount of misery which it would prevent.
In the case of the Abortion Act 1967 many of the Bill’s supporters failed to formulate a clear case that abortion should be acceptable on ‘social’ as distinct from ‘medical and technically psychiatric’ grounds ? How can a court be expected to decide whether a doctor has acted in good faith in deciding that an abortion is necessary ‘to the mental and physical health’ of other children in the family? Do we think that abortion should be acceptable purely on grounds of social convenience, and how should that phrase be interpreted?
The reform of the divorce law now being proposed¹ questions whether we regard marriage merely as a contract between two individuals to be terminated by mutual consent when it is no longer desired by either, or whether the community as such has an interest in preserving the institution. There can be no doubt that public opinion is still overwhelmingly in favour of life-long marriage as the normal social rule, and that the institution of the family is still regarded as an essential element in our social arrangements. Public opinion is also predominantly in favour of allowing the dissolution of marriages which have irretrievably broken down when dissolution can be brought about with proper regard to the interests of both parties.
Respectable medical and sociological opinion is still divided over the question of whether the use of soft drugs leads inevitably or generally to the use of hard drugs. What is certain is that the current craze for drugs is part of a general movement of cultural protest, a movement which seems to even relatively unbiased observers to protest against society itself. It may be that some elements in this protest will eventually be recognised as valuable and will become incorporated in the culture of civilised countries². It may be that in fifty years time marijuana will have proved a healthy substitute for alcohol. Like other experiments it must pass through the sieve of popular criticism³.
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