Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Tories attack abortion rights

So, the Tories are starting to mess around with abortion rights. Not content with screwing over women with spending cuts that impact worse on women and children, they now are fiddling with one of our most basic, essential rights: access to safe abortion.

Tory Nadine Dorries MP, who previously tried to get the time limit on abortion lowered from 24 weeks to 20 weeks, is on the anti-abortion warpath again. Sadly for us, her party are now in power.

The lowering of the time limit from 24 weeks to 20 would have meant trouble for the most vulnerable of women. Women, for example, who have had to come over from Ireland (often in secret), having saved up the money. Women who have gone for their 20 week scan, excited about seeing their baby on the ultra-sound screen, only to find there is something wrong with it. I’m not sure what would’ve happened to such women had the abortion limit been lowered to 20 weeks – would they have had to make a decision then and there about a termination, or miss their window? That is horrific to imagine – and surely would lead to many hurried decisions, and much psychological damage.

Which is ironic, really. Because the tack that Dorries is now tacking is that abortion ‘damages’ women psychologically and that we need to re-think the way we do terminations to counteract that. In other words, try to talk women out of it. To quote Dorries:

‘If girls and women were offered counselling and information regarding other options such as, wait for it, yes, adoption. As strange as it may seem, some find that an easier option than having to deal with the consequences of a medical procedure which, somewhere in their deepest thoughts, they regard as the ending of a life.’

If any argument makes me angry, it’s this one. The idea being that going through a pregnancy and childbirth, the biggest physical and emotional thing a lot of women will ever experience, is no big deal. So let’s see, that might well involve puking every day for months, back and pelvic pain, extreme tiredness, and your body changing beyond recognition. Oh yes, and possibly life-threatening conditions such as eclampsia. And then there’s childbirth, which as you might have heard is a bit on the painful side (made more so by the NHS being far from up to scratch when it comes to maternity services). But that’s okay, you can just hand the baby over (no breastfeeding, I guess…) and forget about it. NOT. GOING. TO. HAPPEN.

And that’s without even mentioning the affects being adopted will have on the child as it grows up. I’m sure that a lot of work goes into making the transition as easy as possible, but it’s never going to be trauma-free.

I remember when I was researching for my MA dissertation in Toronto. I was in the Thomas Fisher library, looking through a box of letters from Margaret Atwood to fellow writer Gwendolyn MacEwen. One of the letters was written in a much shakier hand than usual, and reading the content it transpired that Atwood was heavily pregnant with her daughter, Jess.

She wrote of how it was affecting her and signed off by saying that there was a word in the English language for being made to have sex against your will, but there was no word for being pregnant against your will. She said that there should be, because having been pregnant, she couldn’t begin to imagine how traumatic that would be.

I couldn’t agree more. Having been pregnant twice – once when I didn’t want to be, and once when I did, I know there’s a big difference. Women know. So please don’t patronise us, Dorries. For the women who need counselling, great, make it available, but please don’t let that ‘counselling’ take the form of pro-life bullying. We’re not stupid. We know what you’re up to, and it’s grim.


  1. "..only to find there is something wrong with it."

    Is aborting a pregnancy because the child is the wrong sex legit?

    No agenda, just curious.

  2. Hi Weggis,

    When I wrote about something being wrong with a baby, I was referring to a genetic abnormality, although of course some people do terminate because the baby is the 'wrong' sex.

    I think the focus there should be in addressing why some cultures value boys over girls (it usually is this way around), rather than tampering with access to safe abortion.