Monday, January 22, 2007

Blog For Choice Day.

Today is Blog for Choice Day, as organised by Bush v. Choice annually. This year they want bloggers to post on this day, telling readers why we are pro-choice.

I wasn't always. A very Catholic upbringing and much emotional blackmail sucked me into the belief that abortion was very, very wrong. It was so drilled into my head that abortion kills babies that how could I *not* be against it? Who wouldn't oppose killing babies?!

In school they showed us a film where we saw abortions taking place, we saw the 'products of conception' (in Catholic-ese, the unborn baby) in bin liners, and we were told and showed the full goryness of terminations.

Strangely though, watching that awful film was where I first began to question my 'pro-life' beliefs. I wondered why the filmmakers had to show us those things, to prove their point. Was argument and discussion not enough? Sure, there was blood and gore, but opposing abortion on the basis of it being gory and making you feel a bit squeamish would make you fundamentally opposed to tonsillectomies, open heart surgery, appendix operations, and any and every other surgical procedure which exists.

I thought, surely they should want people to oppose abortion because it's wrong, not because it might make you feel a bit sick...

I also, at this stage, was beginning to for the first time in my life, have good friends who were not Roman Catholic. I remember watching a news report about (the then new) IVF, and commenting 'that's really bad'. The friend I was with said, 'No, you must be mixing it up with something else, it's really good, it helps people have children when they couldn't otherwise'.

I was confused! They'd said at Church how bad it was, the Catholic Pictorial (yep, that's the name!) had front page headlines about how evil it was. But if K was right, that it helped create babies, then why was I supposed to be against it?

The big thing was that I had only ever heard 'pro-life' arguments. (I put 'pro-life' in quotation marks because I now believe that being anti-choice and being pro-life are quite different things. However, at that point in my life, I did believe I was pro-life, and so use that term here). I had heard that there were pro-abortion arguments, but only in the context of 'how to argue back'.

So, I had my SPUC leaflet where they rubbished pro-choice principles and points of view, and I had no reason not to believe it.

I knew all the arguments against all the arguments!
But more planned children are abused than unplanned ones!
But women virtually never get pregnant after rape!
But even if the Mum is going to die, she's had a chance of life, the baby should have the chance over her!
But even if the woman was raped, don't punish the baby for its father's crimes!
But the woman will be so traumatised after an abortion, and will never forgive herself!
But even if she doesn't want the baby, she should give it up for adoption and make a childless couple happy!

And so it went on. I believed this stuff! I didn't know any better.

Thankfully as I became an adult and left home, Catholicism's influence declined, and real women in real situations became part of my real consciousness. A woman I knew had an abortion and I was stunned that afterwards, she was predominantly relieved. This made me question everything - all I had ever been told was that women who have abortions will be depressed and grieving forever, and here was C, breathing a sigh of relief, with no doubt that she had made the right decision.

I realised that even when the anti-choicers were pretending to be on the woman's side (women shouldn't have abortion because they always regret it, and they may never have any more children / may get breast cancer / whatever bandwagon is currently being jumped on), they really, really weren't.

So if that one argument wasn't true, what about all the others??

I realised that women aren't 'murdering' their 'babies'. I realised that life just doesn't work like that. I realised that women getting pregnant needed to have absolute and total control over their own bodies, and that being pregnant when you don't want to be is terribly detrimental to a woman's health, soul, mind and life.

Things just aren't as clearcut as the anti-choice lobby like to suggest. The fact is that a woman should never, ever be forced to carry and give birth to a baby when she does not want to. The fact is that women in this society are vilified no matter what they do (have a termination, become a single mother, work, don't work...). The fact is that the men involved in unwanted pregnancies can, and so often do, happily run away and take no responsibility for their actions. Women are forced to take responsibility because this thing is inside their body, making them throw up and feel exhausted and be terrified of what on earth they are going to do, what is going to happen.

Because the consequences of unwanted pregnancies are a million times bigger for women than for men, women must be able to make a free and informed choice as to what she is going to do. No woman should be forced to carry and give birth to a baby they do not want. No woman. Ever.

The physical and mental trauma of unwanted pregnancy on a woman is massive. And what a welcome for the kid when it is born!

If a woman knows she does not have the stability / finances / good health / desire / whatever to give birth to, or to bring up a baby, we need to respect her wishes on that. She knows best! It is her body, after all. It is her life, after all.

Because the thing is, a woman having an abortion is not killing her baby. And nor is the doctor who carries it out. Nor the nurse who assists. Nor the friend who takes the woman to the hospital. Nobody is killing anything or anyone.

There are cells inside the woman's womb which, given the right conditions may have developed into a baby. But at 8 weeks, 12 weeks, 16 weeks, whatever date, it is not actually a baby. It lives off the woman's body and nutrients, and without her it would not exist or live. Even the later abortions, which certain politicians are determined to ban, on the basis that a tiny proportion of babies born at 24 weeks can live, are not evil because of that fact. Most births of wanted children at 24 weeks are unfortunately doomed, and in any case, abortions up to 24 weeks are very rare, and should not be affected by those rare statistics. Just because one baby born at 24 weeks may survive, it does not mean that a woman pregnant with a foetus of that same duration should be forced to endure the remaining 16 weeks of pregnancy, and birth.

Many of the women who need such late abortions are in a very vulnerable position. Often it is younger women who may not have known they were pregnant, or who may have been in some degree of denial about their pregnancies. Or women who discover that they are at risk of a severely ill baby and know they could not cope with that, or do not want to put a baby born naturally through the pain which could occur.

As a disabled woman myself, I am of course wary of calls for all potentially disabled kids to be wiped out in a eugenics-type fashion, but this is not, not NOT happening! Women must have the right to choose whether they remain pregnant or not, whether they have a child or not. It must be ultimately their own decision. It has to be!

Those who are anti-choice are anti-women. There is much misogyny within the anti-choice arguments and organisations. They do not believe that women are capable of making up their own minds, or mature enough to, and certainly shouldn't be trusted with such decisions about their own bodies. More importance is given to what is (sorry SPUC, but it really is) a collection of cells inside a womb than to the woman whose womb that is.

There is a myth that here in the UK we have 'abortion on demand'. That's not true. It can be pretty bloody tricky to get a termination, and even more tricky to get one on the NHS. Many women end up having to pay for their terminations. Women are made to have ultrasound, so-called 'dating' scans, which force the image of the embryo into a woman's consciousness and seem purely there to invoke guilt and regret and a change of mind in the woman. NHS abortions are often very much pushing the 12 week limit because of delays, and indeed on the news today, the BBC reported that despite the recommended 3-week waiting time for a woman who has requested a termination, many women are having to wait 7 weeks for the procedure. Now, given that it may be some weeks before a woman realises she is pregnant, she will either be forced to pay for a private operation, forced to undergo a more traumatic later abortion, or forced to have an unwanted child.

Women must always be given the right to choose what happens to her body. It's as simple, and as complicated, as that.

I leave you with a quotation from a wise woman (don't know who, unfortunately).
How can you trust me with a baby if you can't trust me with a choice?

Good Links:
abortion clinic days
Bush v. Choice - the pro-choice anti-Bush action centre

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Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for you. You've said that you were brainwashed by the Catholic church, but it's the other way around.

You've been brainwashed by the pro-choice movement.

A standard surgery cannot be compared to abortion. Surgery on someone's body is to heal. Abortion, which happens in the woman's body, is to kill.

The embryo, fetus, whatever you want to call it is:

1) Alive
2) Human

Just by logic, abortion is a fallacy.

God Bless You.