Abortion it’s such an emotive word isn’t it? A word that can evoke extremes of emotion. It’s a practise that has taken place since ancient times, it became legal in the UK in 1967, not that long ago really, if you think about it.
The dictionary definition of it is:
‘the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy, most often performed during the first 28 weeks of pregnancy.’
I think to talk about abortion though, perhaps we must first talk about pregnancy. I love children, I have three of them and I love being a Mum, but let me tell you something else, I hate being pregnant.
It is hard, exhausting, painful, makes you feel physically ill, and your body is never, ever the same after it. Ever. After my first pregnancy this took quite a while to come to terms with actually, the physical and mental person I was before I had a baby no longer really existed. A baby quite literally lives off you, your body prioritises the survival of the baby over your own. If you’re not eating enough calcium for example, the baby will take it from your bones and teeth. If you’re not eating enough food – maybe you’re just too sick to manage it – the baby will take everything it needs and leave your body lacking. Crazy huh?
That’s without talking about the birthing process. Most people rate it as one of the most painful things they have experienced. Let’s give the person who invented the epidural a very high five right here. That’s without talking about possible side affects – emergency c-sections, perineal tears, infected wombs, do you know that women can tear so badly they are left open from their vagina to their anus? I can’t begin to tell you what c-section pain is like – the very first time you stand up afterwards, it feels like you have been cut in half. But women are strong, we endure. We love our babies with our whole hearts. But pregnancy comes with a cost.
Then when the baby arrives, they need to be fed, to be clothed, to live in a happy safe environment, to be educated, to have shoes upon their feet. According to Loughborough University, the average cost of raising a child in the UK is an eye watering £150,753. At present, 50% of children in the UK are living in poverty in the UK. I have to admit to finding that number appalling. But, if you have a child in the UK this is the reality of where things are right here, right now.
Now, imagine having to go through with a pregnancy when you may have been raped, a reminder for the rest of your life of one of the most worst experiences of your life. Perhaps going through the pregnancy will actually physically kill you, your baby will survive, but you will not. Maybe you already have several children are you are living in terrible poverty, there is no help for you, I mean if it’s your third baby in the UK, you don’t even get child support. You don’t eat yourself several nights a week so that your children can, another child will leave your destitute. You experienced terrible birth trauma, maybe you nearly died, maybe your perineum is so destroyed it will leave you forever incontinent. The idea of going through birth again leaves you with such terrible PTSD the idea of killing yourself seems like a much better alternative.
But abortion…. it’s wrong… right?
Now let’s talk about the amazing invention that’s contraception. Those clever manufacturers may sell us their 99% effectiveness figures, but do you know that those figures are based on perfect use? On average use, condoms are in fact only 82% effective according to the NHS website. A bit less of a safe number now, isn’t it? So that means of every 100 people using condoms, 18 of them will get pregnant.
But if you use contraception, you don’t have to worry about getting pregnant… right?
Abortion is a moral issue, a divisive issue. But whether abortions are legal or not, history has shown us that they happen anyway. They happen down back alleys in unsafe and unsanitary ways, women get sick or die. Desperate women do desperate things.
Pregnancy and babies are a wonderful and treasured gift. But it is a gift that comes with a cost. A cost to women’s mental and physical health. Women have the right to decide if they are happy to pay that cost.
In America we are seeing a terrifying erosion of women’s rights, where society demands control of a women’s body, her health without any consideration for the long term impact. Whether that decision could kill her or mentally destroy her. Louisiana have banned abortions from the moment a heartbeat is detected, which for most women is usually before they realise they are even pregnant – about 6 weeks. This law does not include any exemptions for incest or rape.
There’s been a lot in the press about America, but I also want to take a moment to talk about a place a little closer to home – Northern Ireland. Abortion is banned there even in the case of rape or foetal abnormality. The UK does now fund people to travel to England and Scotland to have abortions from Northern Ireland, but it’s not enough. Women are not walking incubators, their bodies do not belong to the state. They should not have to endure something that may destroy them.
These laws are a step backwards for women in America. Not only that, but it is high time Northern Ireland was forced to come up to par with other UK countries. Moving away from barbaric laws that leave women scared, terrified and criminalised. Whenever I see counter arguments to this debate, it always centres around the rights of the baby. I would argue that the baby does not exist yet, but the mother does.
If a man doesn’t want a pregnancy, he can just walk away leaving the women to take care of the financial implications as well as the health ones. Yet, a women has no escape and is held prisoner both by her body and in some countries by brutal laws, where a woman becomes a second rate citizen, subjugated by her reproductive ability. How is this still even an issue for debate in 2019? It’s just another example of where gender equality seems a millennia away.
Let women decide what they want to do with their bodies, it is their body and their body alone. No-one else’s. Do not criminalise or penalise women for what they need to do to survive and don’t judge them when you have never walked in their shoes.
In 2019 we are seeing a terrifying step back in women’s rights and a blind eye is turned to the plight of women in Northern Ireland still. Now is the time for us all to speak out. To demand equality, to demand to have power over our own bodies. Before our rights get diminished even further. Let me ask you, if we don’t… what comes next?