A right to judge? Says who?

// 7 October 2007

There’s an interesting article in The Guardian today by Louise France discussing the stigma that continues to be attached to abortion. She looks specifically at the introduction of strigent abortion laws in the US, and effectively discusses what this could mean for women in the UK.

France makes reference to the Gonzales Vs. Carhart case which, following four years of legal dispute, ended on 18 April 2007 when, by a vote of five to four, the American Supreme Court upheld a law banning a certain type of abortion during the second-trimester. This was a significant turning point in the States, as remarks France:

“While it did not overturn the landmark Roe v Wade legislation which effectively made abortion legal in America in 1973, the ruling marked an unmistakable shift in favour of the rights of the unborn foetus over the rights of the woman. For America’s vocal and powerful pro-life movement it was a moment for celebration. For the beleaguered pro-choice contingent this was yet another example of how the rights of women to access safe abortion in America are being whittled away.”

What is equally significant is that as women’s rights in America are becoming increasingly restricted, this is being interpreted as an acceptable progression, so much so that last month a storage company initiated a new advertising campaign in New York with a picture of a coathanger placed next to the words: ‘Your closet space is shrinking as fast as her right to choose.’ But this is not funny. It is not a joke, and this facetious attitude does nothing but devalue the plight of women who continue to fight for the right to choose in America and the world over. What is also demonstrates is that women’s needs are not being accorded the serious discussion that they require – rather they are fast become something restricted, regimented and more importantly something which is completely and utterly out of our control.

France also discusses the representation of abortion by popular media, and how this has damaged the pro-choice movement:

“For the last 10 years the pro-life lobby has been winning over the cultural and political establishment. She may still be essentially pro-choice but writing in the New Republic the feminist Naomi Wolf surprised many by her use of language when she suggested ‘the abortion-rights movement [must be] willing publicly to mourn the evil – necessary evil though it might be – that is abortion’. Campaigners have lamented that this year’s blockbuster comedy Knocked Up about a woman who gets pregnant on a one-night stand barely mentions abortion as an option and in the one scene that it is referred to it is euphemistically called the ‘A’ word. Even Democrats are nervous about speaking out in favour. Last year Hillary Clinton called abortion a ‘sad, even tragic choice’.”

France expresses concerns that pro-life activists in the UK are using similar tactics as their US counterparts, and considering that more and more doctors are beginning to refuse to conduct terminations, more than ever it seems that the possibility of the introduction of restrictive laws outlawing abortion in the UK could be introduced over the next year (if not sooner).

If we loose our right to choose then where will this oppression end? Will it reach a stage when we are not even allowed to use methods of birth control when having sex, with every sexual tryst expected to end in conception? If it does not will we be held accountable, burnt on the stake for our mistreatment of sperm that was unable to fulfil it’s potential, owing to a fault on our part? Because it would have to be our fault, of course. Never has Margaret Atwood’s dysopian vision in The Handmaid’s Tale seemed so possible, and we need to keep fighting to ensure that this does not become a reality.

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