Juice from the sprawlings of the noodles in my noggin.

Month: January, 2013

Society vs women?

There is this inherent attitude in the pro-life argument, regardless of its precise content, that if we don’t legislate for abortion on demand, the problem will go away. I haven’t come across anyone naive enough to think it could ever go away by itself, but I have come across people who believe that there are other mechanisms with which we can deal with unwanted pregnancies. Even if a pro-life organization is willing to admit that part of the problem, regarding the way in which society treats women, is to blame for them considering or feeling pressurised to consider abortion, they still think that the answer is never ever for a woman to abort. I have quite a few issues with this.

Firstly, I commend the attitude that there is a problem with society and its view of pregnant women and women with crisis pregnancies. There is an attitude that makes an expectant mother feel guilty for even considering to have an abortion, an idea that women should never have an unwanted pregnancy, because they are a woman, and this is what women are built to do. A woman who does not want to have a child but finds herself pregnant is having unnatural thoughts, thoughts that some pro-lifers say come from societal pressures, and that it is society that needs to change in order for the problem to be dealt with. “We need to offer our women a better solution” they say. While I understand and commend this argument in so far as it admits that women are not to blame, I disagree with the core idea that if we change society’s attitude to pregnancy and women, abortions will not be sought. Unwanted pregnancies will always exist. There are a myriad of circumstances that can lead to a pregnancy being unwanted, none of which any woman should be expected to justify to anyone else.

Secondly, if the pro-lifers who believe society is to blame are really so very passionate about this grounding for being pro-life, why is it that they don’t set themselves up as organisations committed to sexual education for youth and providers of free contraceptives? I am perfectly willing to admit that in my own country, sexual education is wholly inadequate and that access to contraceptives is something that only became apparent and available to me in my very late teens. I would also like to point out that from a socio-economic point of view, I am, some might say, in a position of privilege and I see a direct correlation between this and my own sexual education and the aforementioned access to contraceptives. These things, though provided, are most certainly not provided equally. To my mind, if you believe that society needs to change its attitudes in order to avoid a problem, the way to go about being active about that is to make active changes, so, in this case, provide sexual education and free contraceptives. Instead, I’ve seen an “all talk” approach, and no difference in re-educating society to help women.

I mentioned in my last blog that I have yet to see an actual direct response from someone from a pro-life organisation explain exactly what they say to a rape victim who finds herself in the position of being expected to carry a child to term or raise anywhere between €500 and €2500 to travel abroad for an abortion. Carrying the child to term and raising it, or carrying the child to term and parting with it to give up for adoption. Raising money so that she can travel abroad, because in her own country to make this choice is a criminal act. To choose to terminate a pregnancy after such a horrific and unthinkable event in this country is to announce yourself as a law-breaker. Just what is it that the pro-life campaigners believe should be done here? What societal change could ever make a woman in this situation feel as though her pregnancy could somehow be wanted as opposed to unwanted? What authority is it that they grant themselves to feel that they can tell women in situations like this what they ought to think or ought to do? Has society really failed in a case like this because the woman considers abortion, or has society failed because it believes that she should want this child and is wrong to think otherwise?

Another case that is mentioned but not often directly addressed is the case of risk of the expectant mother committing suicide. Just recently I heard two gentlemen opposing legislation for abortions on demand argue against the case of threat of suicide. I have heard their argument from officials of pro-life organisations also. Both made exactly the same point and it is an argument that I have been hearing on replay for the last two months; “Abortion is not a treatment for suicidal depression”. Now, I will accept that as a statement. Abortion does not treat suicidal depression, there is no doubt about that. Treating suicidal depression is a very difficult and intricate process, which is different for each individual and can involve many steps including anti-psychotic medication, cognitive behavioural therapy, and just about anything in between. Suicidal depression can affect all people from all walks of life. Any amount of circumstances can cause it. If a case is presented of a homeless drug addict who is suffering from suicidal depression, it would be incorrect to say that if they stopped taking drugs, the depression would go away.

However, it would be correct to say that if they stopped taking drugs, they would find themselves in a frame of mind in which they were better able to cope with the depression. I am not for an instant comparing the life of an unborn child or any pregnancy to drugs or drug addiction, but what I am saying is that in cases of suicidal depression, changing a circumstance or set of circumstances in someone’s life can help a person get into a frame of mind in which they are able to deal with the depression. In the case of a woman carrying an unwanted pregnancy, I don’t think it is ever as simple as to say that if the pregnancy is terminated, the suicidal depression is or can be dealt with, but I do think that the correlation between the unwanted pregnancy and the depression should be investigated thoroughly and deeply before a judgement is made on it, and it should be recognised that each individual case is different.

Having reached this point, I’ve noticed something about my last two points. I’ve noticed this before of course, that whenever I find myself standing for the pro-choice side, I find myself addressing the issues of suicide and rape. I wonder why it is that we feel we have to wait for a woman to be in situations as dire as this before we will even consider allowing legislation that could help her. I wonder why it is that until a woman’s life is in danger, until her mental health has been pushed to its absolute limits and until she has suffered traumatic acts like rape or incestual rape that have resulted in her pregnancy, we think abortion is bad. Until a woman is in a situation where her circumstances are so dire that she feels wholly unable to nurture another human for at least nine months, we think that abortion is unacceptable. What is it that makes people think that this is ok? Is this what we want for our women, for them to be silenced until they are in danger of death or in such deep suffering that they cannot cope? I sincerely hope that it is not.

In conclusion, I’d like to point out that there are several points on the pro-life side that I find incredibly interesting and accurate. I think there is a societal problem, I think society needs to change the way it views women. Where I disagree is that that societal change entails us idealising pregnancy and behaving as though the response to pregnancies can be changed. I think as a society, we need to learn to trust a woman, within reason, when she says that her pregnancy is unwanted. We need to trust our women to make decisions about their bodies, their lives and their lifestyle choices. It’s unacceptable to me that we try to change a woman’s mind about her pregnancy as though her mind is ours to change. It’s simply not the case, and the mass delusion that that’s possible is what is keeping women shamed. In my country, abortion on demand is not legislated for, and yet thousands of nationals have abortions abroad every year. These women do not need to be silenced, these women need our support. These women need to know that whatever their circumstances, they have adequate care and support. These women are the women you and I know and love, and they deserve more than what the government is offering them now.


The big debate

I’ve been reading arguments from both sides of the abortion debate in newspapers, on Facebook, online and it even cropped up in a few books I read over Christmas. I’m seeing so much dribble, and I just can’t be silent about it anymore.

I keep hearing pro-lifers using the phrase “innocent life”. We must protect the “innocent life” of the unborn. It is as though this is the only focus. They are ignoring the quality of life, they are not giving due concern to the life of the mother, and they are not really thinking about how important life actually is, as far as I can see. If they really did care so much about life, they’d all be vegetarians who didn’t swat flies.  When I first started college, the bus I took had an ad plastered all over it about abortion tearing a woman’s life apart. I see posters in the bathrooms in university with the same message. I respect their point of view, but bullying women into thinking that they are evil for daring to even consider making a decision that they think is best for them is, in my mind, obnoxious.

I recently saw a pro-life page ask “Why are you pro-life?” and people commented in their hundreds. The two most common responses I saw were some form of religious reasoning and women simply saying “I have three kids, that’s all I need to think about or “I look at my beautiful daughters”. There is an obvious gaping hole in using that as an argument. It’s great that you love your children and adore them, that is what most women will feel about their children. But in using that as an argument against women who have abortions, you are in essence saying:
“I was pro-life about my pregnancy, so you should be pro-life about yours”
I can’t think of a more ridiculous argument, really. It is a total denial of the fact there there are countless women who are carrying unwanted pregnancies and that giving birth to them is either not the best option, or not an option at all. There is myriad of circumstances in which a woman could find herself unable to carry a pregnancy to term, and she shouldn’t have to justify a single one of them to someone who believes in denying her a termination just because they have children. This narrow-minded, judgmental view causes enough problems on a social level as it is, the last thing we need is for it to continue to allow much-needed legislation coming to pass. There’s surprisingly little research done on this topic, but this article deals with a massive study carried out in the US.


The study outlines that even later abortion is safer than childbirth and women who carried an unwanted pregnancy to term are three times more likely than women who receive an abortion to be below the poverty level two years later.  I cannot wrap my head around any organisation that says it is ok for that to happen.  The emphasis from the pro-life side is entirely devoted to the unborn. They focus on making women feel guilty and emploring legislation that makes women feel like criminals in their own country for considering to have an abortion. I find that deplorable.

The fact of the matter is, too many people have died in this country, or have lived out their lives in misery because they do not have access to abortion clinics. Where were the pro-lifers when Anne Lovett died alone at the grotto? Do they think it’s better that she died alone and afraid? Would they have condemned her for having an abortion? What do they have to say about women who are physically unable to carry a pregnancy to full term? Where do they stand on rape victims? To me, they are so obsessed with the idea of life beginning at conception that they ignore the fact that women who are denied abortions are carrying an unwanted pregnancy and having an unwanted child. They fight for legislation to be kept to allow countless unwanted children  to be carried, and they don’t understand that women should not be obliged to carry a child simply because they have a womb. I find that unacceptable.

There is nothing said about the women who  have abortions and feel it was a good decision. I read Caitlin Moran’s “How To Be A Woman” over the holidays and she has an incredible, eye-opening chapter about her own experience with abortion. She had a miscarriage shortly before she was married and it was devastating. It was devastating because, as she puts herself, the baby was “so wanted”. She went on to have two daughters but had incredibly difficult births, the details of which are in the book. When she became pregnant again, she knew that she was simply unable to carry the pregnancy to full term. She was not in a position in life to have another child. Realistically, women shouldn’t need to give any more justification than that. She had an abortion, and she is still a perfectly good mother to her two daughters.

The idea that it is now 2013 and we still have to convince people that a woman being viewed as baby-making machine is wrong is just beyond me. The more dribble the pro-life side come out with, the angrier I get. I’ve seen videos that outright state “An abortion is never needed to save a woman’s life”. I know people who have received bigoted phone calls from pro-life organisations giving them the “facts” of abortions. This is absolute and utter nonsense. I don’t want to live in a country where I, or any other woman is made feel like a criminal or a bad person for making a decision about what happens in my body. Pro-choice is pro woman. Pro-choice makes a statement that we trust our women to be able to make decisions for themselves. Pro-choice is, as far as I am concerned, the only choice.