Reminder: you are no more than your uterine potential

// 26 February 2010

For me, the biggest problem with denying women access to safe, legal abortion is in the terrible risk to their health it presents. And the realisation (which sneaks up to put you ‘back in your place’ when you occasionally forget it), that despite warm words to the contrary, your value to society is really quite low.

This undervaluing of women happens all over the place, even here in the mainland UK where some of us have it relatively good (not the women of Northern Ireland, of course). You just have to look at the number of women killed and injured by their partners to see how little we are valued even in this country of supposed equal rights.

But rarely do you see so stark an example of how little female life is valued relative to its reproductive potential as this case, reported by Abortion Rights:

The reality of Nicaragua’s total ban on abortion was starkly revealed yesterday as Amnesty International reported that a 27 year old woman, known only as ‘Amalia’ who is suffering from cancer, is being denied medical treatment for her condition because she is 10 weeks pregnant. ‘Amalia’ was diagnosed with cancer on 2nd February, and it is feared that her cancer may have already spread to her brain, lungs and breasts. Her doctors have advised that she requires urgent chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment but have refused to initiate these because they may cause unintentional harm to the foetus.

Here’s more from Amnesty on how you can help.

Comments From You

Jackie Bather // Posted 26 February 2010 at 12:55 pm

So, constitutional male power and probably religious views , rise to the fore again…Totally disgraceful. It is tempting to see this as an ‘overseas’ matter only and therefore removed from the UK experience. Until I remember that some years ago, I had a boyfriend…a medical student…who told me that I would “have to have children” because he wanted them, even if I didn’t. Generously, he advised me that I would be able to have pain relief, to minimise my distress during childbirth. Sod off…what was this ? Rent-a-uterus ??

Laurel Dearing // Posted 26 February 2010 at 1:42 pm

thats painful to read

Jeff // Posted 26 February 2010 at 4:24 pm

That, frankly, is ridiculous. Although I am anti elective abortion, the idea that medical treatment should be withheld due to the danger to the mother is absurd. If the mother dies, the baby dies too. If you start chemo, the baby dies quite horribly. In cases like this, the best possible way to save as much life as possible is (unfortunatly) to abort the child and start the mother on medication as quickly as safety will allow.

Philippa Willitts // Posted 26 February 2010 at 5:36 pm

I’d seen this story and was horrified, and had no idea where to even start challenging it for the sake of this woman. So thanks so much for the Amnesty link. I’ve signed the letter.

Shea // Posted 26 February 2010 at 10:04 pm

Women as a reproductive means to an end…….how depressing. It’s bad enough with the NI situation, this is just horrendous. So actually the right to life only ever applies to the unborn, I’m not sure why that surprises me.

@ Jeff – I am completely in favour of elective abortion (this is in fact the de facto state that exists in the most of the UK and rightly so). No one has the right to make the decision for the women except her. It’s her body, her life and her set of issues. Why on earth would a stressed, over-worked GP know any better? The idea that a woman has to “pretend” that continuing with the pregnancy is detrimental to her mental health or that of her family, to get an abortion is just absurd and insulting. If you want women to have the choice to have children, you have to give them them just that: choice.

Ally // Posted 27 February 2010 at 12:12 am

Equating feminism with a pro-choice stance really gets on my wick. Obviously this is not a case of elective abortion, but, really, was that response necessary when a similarly strong pro-life stance will likely not be filtered? It simply isn’t something that there is a consensus about. Also, I wish people would (in all circumstances)stop using, “that’s the law!” as if it’s some kind of moral argument. It isn’t. 90 days without trial is the fucking law, that doesn’t make it acceptable.

maggie // Posted 27 February 2010 at 11:30 am

@ Jeff

At 10 weeks the embryo is passing just, into the foetal stage. Certainly it’s not a baby or a child.

I knew someone with breast cancer who choose not to have an abortion and continue with the pregnancy. She died when the baby was 9 months old. The key word here being choice. Her choice, though she was strongly advised to have an abortion.

I cannot imagine what Amalia is going through right now and thank Amnesty for highlighting this.

Shea // Posted 27 February 2010 at 2:02 pm

@ Ally – actually there is a very strong consensus about pro choice. Thats why we have legal abortion in this country. (Thats what democracy is about). Feminism is about giving women choice and control over their own bodies and reproductive decisions. There is no way you can square that with being pro-life.

(And tell me on that note, what the hell is pro-life about the above scenario?!? Why does Amalia’s life count as less than her foetus’s? Why does her pain and her suffering not come into the equation? As Jeff pointed out its a stupid decision, if Amalia dies, the foetus does too, its a zero sum argument!)

I know plenty of women who wouldn’t personally have an abortion, but they understand and support that every woman is different and its up to HER to make that decision for herself. Denying that right to other women simply because YOU believe abortion to be wrong is a gross injustice (as we can see from the original OP).

From your posts on the other thread, that abortion is “not an acceptable route out of pregnancy” (it categorically is) and “homosexuality is wrong”. I can surmise you aren’t a tolerant or progressive individual who respects that the fundamental life choices of other people are none of your damn business. Maybe you should re-read the comments policy – this is a safe and friendly space for feminists and not a place to put across your sexist, homophobic comments. Try the Daily Mail for that one, yeah?

Amy Clare // Posted 27 February 2010 at 3:04 pm

I’ve just printed and signed the letter from Amnesty, and will post as soon as I can. This is absolutely appalling, and cases such as these so clearly show how inappropriate the phrase ‘pro-life’ really is.

Make no mistake about it, this is a death sentence for being female. On the one hand you have an adult human being with autonomy, sentience, consciousness, feelings, hopes for the future, desires, memories, dependants, relationships, and basically all the other trappings of the life of a 27-year-old human. On the other you have a tiny embryo, completely dependent, with a brain so underdeveloped it cannot possibly be sentient yet, it has no memories, it has no hopes, desires or relationships. Anyone making a choice between the two lives (if saving both is impossible) and picking the latter over the former is not behaving rationally. The death of the 27-year-old will cause infinitely more suffering and pain. An intelligent person would know this, so the only explanation for picking embryo over adult is a belief that the adult is inferior, and their life does not matter for some reason.

Of course we all know what that reason is, don’t we?

Ally // Posted 28 February 2010 at 2:57 pm

If you read my post properly, you might have noticed that in the other thread I did not say that I believed homosexuality was wrong (incidentally, I am an atheist, and I don’t), simply that holding a religious view to that effect was not mere bigotry, and therefore the privilege to have your own children at the point where they are too young to make their own decisions about what they learn, taught the outcomes of your religion as part of sex education, or to leave sex education as something that should until a certain age be taught at home, was not something that could be legitimately ousted by the state.

Consensus was probably a sloppily used contentious word in my post above; we could argue all day about the point at which consensus is reached, and it would be fruitless. It certainly isn’t something that there is anything approaching unanimity on, and, more importantly feminism and an anti-abortion stance are not mutually exclusive.

Free choice has to be limited by the fundamental rights (and choices) of others, and some of those rights have to be something which it is beyond the power of government (and therefore democracy) to take a way, regardless of how strong the policy arguments in favour of doing so.

Politicalguineapig // Posted 28 February 2010 at 5:51 pm

Ally:”Feminism and an anti-abortion stance are not mutually exclusive”

Yes, they are. Feminism is the belief that women are people, not walking uterii or sex objects. People who are against abortion believe that the fetus is more important than its container. After all, she’s just a woman.

sianmarie // Posted 28 February 2010 at 5:51 pm

yes to what shea and amy clare said.

this is so heartbreaking, and just proves that ‘pro-life’ is a lie.

Shea // Posted 28 February 2010 at 6:31 pm

@ Ally – that sounds like a point concided if ever there was one.

“that holding a religious view to that effect was not mere bigotry”-

No it is outright biogtry. I wonder at what point you believe the privilege to teach your children your own erroneous belief ends? Telling them that other human beings are wrong and unnatural? How about when you teach them that people of other religions are inferior and should be killed? Too extreme?

Children have a human right to have the factual information that could save their life (i.e that if they grown up and need an abortion they can have this, that the HPV vaccine will protect them from certain cervical cancers, that condoms could save their lives.). Denying them access to this information because of the ignorance and prejudice of their parents, is tantamount to child abuse.

There is consensus on abortion in this country. That is why we have legal, safe abortion. This was overwhelmingly the reason why the Abortion Act was passed in 1965- it is why no proposed amendment to revoke this act has ever been passed (and I would say never will be). Feminism and an anti-abortion stance are mutually exclusive. From Amy Clare’s post above, tell me how anyone who is feminist can seriously believe that the life of a fully concious, sentient human adult woman can be of less value than that of a ball of cells? Please explain it to me because I find it incomprehensible that anyone can reconcile that belief with what feminism stands for.

“Free choice has to be limited by the fundamental rights (and choices) of others”

Free choice is a fundamental right. Without control over our bodies and what is done to them all other rights are meaningless.( After all by your line of reasoning if it isn’t wrong to force a woman to undergo a pregnancy she does not want, why should it be wrong to force that pregnancy on her in the first place? Why not permit rape if the right to existence is such a sacrosanct one?) The right to life and the right to be free of torture and inhumane treatment are absolute rights under the ECHR. Denying them is a gross abuse of human rights and preventing a woman accessing abortion absolutely falls under this.

“and some of those rights have to be something which it is beyond the power of government (and therefore democracy) to take a way, regardless of how strong the policy arguments in favour of doing so.”

Exactly which is why I would argue (in line with Amnesty International) that the right to safe legal abortion is an absolute one, and Nicaragua’s total ban is both morally wrong and absolutely abhorrent.

Pro-abortion Mother // Posted 1 March 2010 at 9:04 am

This story is horrendous. I agree with Amnesty’s political stance here, but what is being done to fund this woman’s treatment outside of Nicaragua – is there a fund to help her? I would contribute.

On abortion and its legality in the UK, the 1967 Abortion Act isn’t a fully pro-choice piece of legislation. You ought to realise that. Abortion in the UK is legal IN CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES. It has to be done on the advice of two medical practitioners pre-24 weeks of pregnancy who reach a view that the pregnant woman risks greater injury to her mental or physical health or that of her other children in continuing the pregnancy than in terminating it, or that an abortion will prevent grave physical or mental injury, or that continuing with the pregnancy poses greater risk to the life of the pregnant woman than a termination, or that the baby will be born with substantial risk of serious handicap.

First of all: the Abortion Act is clearly ablist. How do you all feel about that? Is it OK to terminate someone on the grounds that they are disabled because they haven’t yet been born?

I find that dubious. On the other hand bringing up a disabled child (often alone) is very tough.

When I went for a termination (which I didn’t proceed with), it is clear that the clinic I went to didn’t give two hoots about whether the woman really had a mental or physical health reason to terminate. The government turn a blind eye to this practice and we effectively do have on demand abortion up to 24 weeks in the UK. But where do our rights stop and our responsibilities begin? What if we give birth then say we don’t feel like being mothers, can we dip in and out of childcare? Some responsibilities last a life time. I’m not comfortable with the legal limit being 24 weeks. I’ve had three babies and felt them kicking inside. I know that some babies are viably born at 24 weeks with medical intervention that wasn’t avaialble in 1967. I think if we have the right to have sex and reproduce or not, we must also accept the responsibilities that come with that right. One of those responsibilities must be to seek a prompt abortion early in pregnancy. On the basis of the law (not practice) as it currently stands, I decided I didn’t have the grounds to abort my baby and decided to stand up to my husband who was pressuring me into having the termination and to keep the baby. I am now divorced.

My mother was a nurse in gynaecology during the 1950s and cared for many women who’d had back street abortions. Some died. She was radically pro-choice and I admired her for it. But in those days, babies born alive with severe disabilities were taken away from their mothers and quietly smothered to death, and I don’t believe we want to see those practices back again. Friends who’ve had abortions still think about their unborn babies. It causes them pain.

I realise this post sounds anti-abortion and I’m not. But I’m just saying that on demand abortion as an alternative to contraception is abhorrent to me. Allowing women to take considered decisions that may well affect the rest of their lives is what I am prepared to fight for. There are two lives here and it is perfectly legitimate for the woman’s life to be more important than the babies – but we should acknowledge that it isn’t a great position to be in to have to make that sort of decision and it shouldn’t be done lightly – not that legislation can really force people into considered choices as opposed to any other sort of choice.

gadgetgal // Posted 1 March 2010 at 12:10 pm

@Pro-abortion Mother – having had more than one abortion I’m not sure I agree with some of your sentiments, but I do agree that abortion should never be seen as an alternative to contraception. In fact, in places where contraception has been difficult to come by abortion rates tend to go up – this is why good sex education is as important (if not more so) than being able to choose to have an abortion.

I don’t agree that on demand abortion would be necessarily seen as an alternative to contraception, though – most women, once they’re aware of the consequences involved in abortion (both physically and emotionally) would tend to plump for something like the pill or an IUD or some other form of contraception rather than abortion.

I do agree, though, that the law here isn’t as clean-cut as some might think – I had to go to the doctor and he simply put down that I would be harmed if I had this baby. I always felt this was a wrong-headed way of looking at it – mentally I was perfectly fine, in fact you’d think that if I hadn’t been that would have been an argument against me making the decision to have an abortion! I must admit, though, I do find the the ableism inherent in the act to be wrong – but that leads me to the conclusion that abortion SHOULD be available on demand, at least up until 24 weeks as it (almost) is now. Why should anyone have to lie and say they’re mentally unfit or anti-disabled in order to have something that they should have access to in the first place?

But, all that said, your statement here I like:

“Allowing women to take considered decisions that may well affect the rest of their lives is what I am prepared to fight for. There are two lives here and it is perfectly legitimate for the woman’s life to be more important than the babies – but we should acknowledge that it isn’t a great position to be in to have to make that sort of decision and it shouldn’t be done lightly.”

Very well put – this is why I fight for access to good sex education and contraception for everyone alongside abortion, and also fight against rape and DV. Not that any of that will help this poor woman in Nicaragua, but maybe we can lead by example by making our own laws a little more fair to women.

Shea // Posted 1 March 2010 at 12:36 pm

Firstly conceded a point (spell check isn’t working- could the Fword introduce one prior to submission?)

Second

@ Pro-abortion Mother- I find your chosen name on here interesting. I am pro-choice, I would never say pro-abortion, because I believe that far too often there is no real choice for women seeking an abortion. Due to economic, social, cultutral or familial pressures- as you pointed out with the situation with your husband. We stigmatise and moralise at every single or teenage mother in this country but also with women who choose to abort. Damned if you and damned if you don’t no?

The practise of the 1967 Act (sorry I got confused and thought it was 1965) is that there is abortion on demand, apart from a few repugnant specimens of the medical profession who believe it is their right to block access to abortion by imposing their sanctimonious views on their patients.

Why should women have to fufil the conditions set out in the Act? Isn’t it sufficient that a woman is simply not ready to be a mother and is fully appraised of the hard work and life long commitment that awaits her and wants to put off motherhood a bit longer? I find it infantilising that women are taken to not know their own minds on this.

I don’t believe the Act per se is ablist. The decision in each case is left to the parents (mother) of the child in question. For every mother who is horrified at the thought of a child with Down’s syndrome another will be overjoyed. I think it is more a problem that our society is ablist and there is a cultural and social reinforcement of this through abortion (in the same way that China’s one child policy is not necessarily anti-girl, but given the social and cutlutral context this is the result). There was a brilliant article on here not long ago that talked about these very issues.

The issue of viability is a red herring-repeated studies have found that the chances of survival at 24 weeks are so tiny as to be insignificant. Given that only 0.6% of abortion occur between 22 and 24 weeks I think this is more an emotive tactic by pro-life groups than an attempt to engage with the issues. And actually on that point, an abortion is legal up til birth if the mother’s life is in danger or there is a serious health condition or the foetus would be born so severely disabled that they would not live very long after birth, so the issue of 24 weeks muddies the waters somewhat.

“But I’m just saying that on demand abortion as an alternative to contraception is abhorrent to me.”

Its abhorrent to me also. But it doesn’t exist! There is no sane woman out there who regards abortion as an alternative to contraceptives. These kind of arguments are anti-women and are put out there ostensibly to show that women are too irresponsible and immature to control their own reproductive decisions (though strangely not too irresponsible or immature to become mothers).

“Allowing women to take considered decisions that may well affect the rest of their lives is what I am prepared to fight for.”

This is what I am prepared to fight for. This is what the OP is about. Amalia doesn’t even have that choice.

“There are two lives here and it is perfectly legitimate for the woman’s life to be more important than the babies” –

No there is one life here, the woman’s and there is a potential life that is utterly dependant on hers. The woman’s life is always more important than the foetus’s. Always.

“but we should acknowledge that it isn’t a great position to be in to have to make that sort of decision and it shouldn’t be done lightly – not that legislation can really force people into considered choices as opposed to any other sort of choice.”

Actually Nicaragua’s penal code is such poorly drafted legislation it criminalises even women who wanted pregnancies but have miscarried. Even then doctors have a duty to report their suspicions (i.e a woman has sought to induce a miscarriage) and a criminal investigation can be carried out. I would say the legislation is forcing people into one particular avenue- keep quiet about their pregnancy, seek a back-street abortion and avoid any kind of follow up treatment with a doctor. Brilliant. And a winning strategy for combating maternal mortality rates too!

Kate // Posted 1 March 2010 at 1:35 pm

The Act itself does not legislate for abortion on demand, and interestingly I recall a comment from David Steel last year claiming that he wouldn’t have put his name to it if he knew that was the situation it would create. You have to remember that the bill came about more because of the experiences of backstreet abortions and less because of a real feminist understanding of women’s autonomy.

In the main we do have a de facto situation of abortion on demand but that is not something we have secured legally. For some women this can mean a very nastry shock when they approach their GP about an abortion and are turned away with a moralistic finger wag. For others it means becoming aware of a rather farical process where your “legal” justification for an abortion can even include student loan repayments. Stating that you just don’t want to carry a baby to term is something that you in fact cannot do, not on paper at least.

Shea, I would question your confidence that anti-abortion amendments will never be passed. If you look at the voting intentions of Tory MPs and PPCs there is a very real risk that a future Tory majority would see the abortion limit cut to 20 weeks.

Pro-abortion mother, you make many points but my online sanity is only preserved by not engaging with trolls.

Juliet // Posted 1 March 2010 at 1:44 pm

I think people who define themselves as being ‘pro-life’ should call themselves ‘pro-SOME-life’. That would be far more accurate. And honest.

I don’t believe that the life of a foetus should ever be valued above that of the woman who is carrying it. When horrendous situations such as Amalia’s arise, it is up to the woman concerned to decide what to do, and no one else.

Jeff // Posted 1 March 2010 at 3:16 pm

@ Shea

Women do have the choice to have children, they can choose not to have sex. You say that nobody has the right to make a choice for the women, and you are entirely correct. But what you are basically saying here is that the women should have the right to make a choice for her infant, to live or not to live. That is fundamentally wrong.

@ maggie

Sorry, but the right to life comes under the definition of HUMAN rights. Whether you call it a foetus, or a baby, or a child, it’s still a human, and it’s rights are inalienable.

It’s a great shame that your friend died. Though it’s admirable that she chose to give her child a chance at life, that sort of cost is too high in my opinion. I would certainly have advised an abortion then too.

@politicalgunieapig

I disagree with this statement of yours:

“Yes, they are. Feminism is the belief that women are people, not walking uterii or sex objects. People who are against abortion believe that the fetus is more important than its container. After all, she’s just a woman.”

I am against abortion (elective atleast, abortions necessary for the health of the mother should be immediatly and safely accesable for all women), but I do not for a second believe that a women is any less important than the infant she carries. Their worth, like the worth of all humans, is exactly equal.

@Shea,

re your comment that;

“Free choice is a fundamental right.”

As is the right to life. Please consider this scenario; if I want to jump out of an aeroplane and parachute to the ground, my right to free choice allows me to do that. However my right to free choice does not allow me to force another person to come with me, I don’t think anybody would suggest for a second that I have the right to force another person to follow me out of an aeroplane, knowing that what I am doing might end both our lives. Their right to life, trumps my right to free choice. This is where my objection to abortion arises, women DO have the right to free choice, but that right does not trump their infants right to life.

and re your comment that;

“Nicaragua’s total ban is both morally wrong and absolutely abhorrent. ”

I do agree here, especially in the case above. All pregnancy carries risks, but forcing a women to continue one that will almost certainly end her life is totally, totally abhorrent. Tantamount, in fact, to murder.

@ Juliet,

“I think people who define themselves as being ‘pro-life’ should call themselves ‘pro-SOME-life’. That would be far more accurate. And honest.”

I concur, I’m not pro-life by any means, but I am anti-(elective) abortion.

Please do not take that to mean that I would have denied Amalia an abortion however. In cases where continued pregnancy risks the health of the mother, abortion is very much acceptable.

Kate // Posted 1 March 2010 at 3:32 pm

Well this stopped being a safe and friendly space for feminists… Thanks mods, because it’s not like there aren’t a million and one other sites on the internet where we can’t debate whether women “chosing” not to have sex really is the answer to that thorny old issue of abortion.

Politicalguineapig // Posted 1 March 2010 at 3:53 pm

Jeff: The ‘container’ remark is the logical outcome of a “pro-life” stance.

To many religious men, i.e. the Pope any number of pastors and clergy, women are expendable, and interchangable- they don’t exist as individuals.

(If you are that rare religious pro-choicer, this isn’t you and I applaud your convictions.)

And even if a woman is dying or would die if she carried the pregnancy to term, she can’t get an abortion because her case would only encourage the ‘sluts’ who think they can get away with sex.

(I suspect I may have a slightly more cynical take on religion because I’ve grown up in the U.S. and heard the yadda-yadda on abortion most of my politically aware life. As I understand it, most of the objections to choice and birth control are religious.)

Eek, comma abuse.

Pro-abortion Mother // Posted 1 March 2010 at 3:59 pm

Dear kate

I am not a troll. Don’t be offensive. Say whatever you’d like. Preserve your sanity by expressing yourself, as I do.

BareNakedLady // Posted 1 March 2010 at 4:15 pm

Shame that there can’t be an open discussion about whether it’s anti-feminist to be anti-elective-abortion, without accusations of trolling or taking away the ‘safe and friendly space for feminists’.

I don’t think it’s antifeminist to be against elective abortion. The current system has its faults but has its good points too. If one believes that every pregnancy, barring a serious detrimental effect on the woman carrying it, “should” be carried to term, then the current law is at least trying to pay lip service to that.

Obviously in Amalia’s case, she should have the option to terminate and get access to treatment. No one here is arguing that. But in non-life-threatening cases, some people might well consider that it is better for the woman to go through pregnancy and a birth, even with their associated risks and effects, than it is for the embryo to be prevented from progressing to a baby. Doesn’t it simply come down to how much value you think that cluster of embryonic cells have?

Protesting that that’s inherently antifeminist seems to me like protesting that the fact that mothers in general have to go through pregnancy and childbirth is antifeminist. It might not be a fair, it might mean that pregnant women / mothers have more health risks, more mental and physical stresses and more pain, but them’s the biological breaks.

In general, I believe that the decision should be down to the individual – partly because any two pregnant women are different and there isn’t a law that could fit everyone, it should be as much as possible up to the woman herself whether to abort. But there’s always going to be grey area and disagreement, so it seems a perfectly valid discussion to have.

Shea // Posted 1 March 2010 at 4:17 pm

@ Jeff – saying women can choose by not having sex is simplistic and ignorant. Sex has become recreational not simply porcreational in this country and there is no reason why women should be penalised for this cultural shift in attitude. Also what about the women who can’t physically carry children to term, (i.e they have a heart condition and the strain of pregnancy would kill them)? Are they supposed to remain sexless their whole life because of a tiny risk they will fall pregnant? What if they are happily married?

Frankly who are YOU to sermonise when and in what situation a woman should and shouldn’t have sex. I notice you haven’t mentioned men or their responsibilities in this scenario at all.

Thats also not even considering the women who don’t choose to have sex but are raped.

As I said, simplistic, moralising crap.

Human rights only apply to human beings who have been born, that is sentient moral agents. The rights of human being vary according to their moral agency. A woman has every right to make decisions on behalf of her unborn baby (remember these are positive decisions, such as stopping smoking too) because she has a greater degree of moral agency. A foetus has no legal rights, how could it?! In fact your being speciesist- after all chimpanzees share 98% of our DNA should we afford them human rights also?

The right to life can only ever apply women in this scenario. Your analogy is completely false. In the above scenario the life of the other person is not dependant on your own. In the case of pregnancy it always is. It is that dependancy and the risks it imposes on the mother’s life and health that mean it is always her right to free choice and her right to life that triumph.

There is no way that you can state that “Their worth, like the worth of all humans, is exactly equal” and then state that you agree that abortion in a case like Amalia’s is acceptable. It is a logical fallacy. Their lives cannot be equal, or it would result in every mother whose life is at risk being forced to die. Basically being a woman means a death sentence by your logic.

And incidentally I don’t see how you can take your position and then ignore the fact that literally thousands of embryos are being destoryed in fertility clinics across the world every single day because they are unwanted. Are they also “human”- don’t they too deserve to live?

Or can you at least be honest and admit that it is nothing to do with the embryo or fetus and instead is everything to do with the social control of women.

gadgetgal // Posted 1 March 2010 at 4:22 pm

@Jeff – There is difficulty in knowing where one person’s freedoms end and another’s rights begin – not an easy thing to know, and I don’t think it’s as simple as either the vehement pro-life or vehement pro-choice groups would like to make it out to be. But I can’t agree with you on your leanings towards restricting abortion, and it’s for one unfortunate truth you don’t seem to have picked up on – you said:

“Women do have the choice to have children, they can choose not to have sex.”

Actually, a lot of the time, they can’t – there is rape (a lot of which is even marriage sanctioned), and unfortunately as long as that exists you really are making the decision that one life is worth more than another. As Shea pointed out:

“Why not permit rape if the right to existence is such a sacrosanct one?”

That’s what you would, in effect, be doing – you can’t know whether a woman has been raped or not (the criminal justice system has proved this time and again), which means you’d have to deny ALL women the right to an abortion in those circumstances (just in case), so you would be saying that a woman’s right to a reasonable quality of life is worth less than a man’s and less than the baby she hasn’t even had yet. And that’s why, for many feminists, the idea of being politically pro-life AND a feminist is impossible – you would still be actively promoting that a woman’s rights and life are worth less than everyone else’s. You may not think that this is the case, but I’m betting I’m not the only woman who’s going to jump in here and let you know that that’s just the way it is, whether you (as a man, who will never have an unwanted pregnancy) can see it like that or not.

Things, even rights that you would believe to be inalienable, are usually more complicated than people think they are. The right to freedom of movement (unless you commit a crime, then you can be locked up); the right to life (unless we go to war and you’re drafted, then that one goes too); freedom of speech (unless you use it to hurt someone else); freedom of assembly (same again). All freedoms are not absolute, where there is a right there is a responsibility that can take that right away, or even another right (such as freedom from violence) that can directly affect the other (such as right to life). It’s just not as simplistic as you’ve made it out to be, even with the contradictions!

Politicalguineapig // Posted 1 March 2010 at 4:32 pm

From what I’ve seen (stateside, so it may not apply in England.) most of the objections to choice are religious.

Most of the clergy, especially those who decide the policies of churches, see women as interchangable components, rather than individuals. Thus it becomes easy for someone like, oh, say, the Pope to prefer the fetus over the actual woman. And then it becomes official policy in places like Ireland and Nicaragua, leading to horrific consequences. (To those who are pro-choice and religious, this doesn’t apply to you.)

Troon // Posted 1 March 2010 at 4:53 pm

I’m appalled by those here supporting limiting elective abortion as some sort of alternative. I watched my partner go through three pregnancies, two of which produced live healthy children. I’ve felt the sense of loss of a miscarriage (although not the pain or worry my body had ‘let me down’), but remain passionate about fighting for the legal right to choose abortion at any time, in fact more so since I’ve observed first hand the effects of pregnancy and the fears that go with it on the person I’m lucky enough to have found to share my life with.

Pregnancy is not an illness, but it is always more dangerous than not being pregnant is for the same woman. There are significant risks to health directly associated with pregnancy, the problems of identifying other diseases during pregnancy given the massive bodily changes occurring, and the greater risks in other accidents (fancy having a mass of bone close to your internal organs, thinned blood and being in a car crash anyone?). Arguments about ‘survivability’ or ‘humanness’ are not about balancing rights, they are basically saying that the foetus is a better category of human being. No other human has the right to derive its existence from another’s body without consent (I might need a blood transfusion, that operation will allow two lives to continue not one, at minimal harm to the second, but I can’t demand a donor give me their blood). It shouldn’t be up to those who argue for a woman’s choice to demonstrate ‘special circumstances’, but up to those who argue against to state why a foetus is such a special human being it not only gets equal, but superior, rights to everyone else.

Pregnant women in this country suffer so much from a series of conflations of their body with that of the baby, which can be only slightly less worrying to their partners. Pregnancy magazines and health books fill themselves with pretty pictures of foetuses and development, and add odd little bits of advice on the woman’s body. People touch bumps and offer advice on what to do. The government decides, on no medical evidence, that pregnant women need telling what to drink. Even on arriving at hospital and during labour those responsible for keeping them alive call them ‘Mum’. Abortion rights won’t change any of this, but they should at least be the area where it is totally unacceptable to disagree with women’s control of their own bodies.

Let’s be clear what nice sounding words like ‘elective’ or downright opposition mean. They mean you view a woman as intrinsically less than another human being (if that is how you define a foetus). They mean you wish to force someone to put their health at risk because you value projected innocence over a living, thinking human being. They mean you wish someone to feel every kick not as a sign of impending motherhood, but as the invasion of their body by an alien parasite. They mean you’re happy (if it’s your partner) to treat this woman as a free individual in control of their body when deciding they are capable of being willing to have sex with you, but then as an incompetent possession afterwards. You don’t need to be a fertile ciswoman to find this offensive and absolutely morally wrong, just a decent human being with a shred of empathy.

Shouldn’t post, this will be said better than me by those whose bodies are at risk from all this, but can’t let the one man on this thread speak for us all.

Lynne Miles // Posted 1 March 2010 at 5:50 pm

Hi all

Please note there were a number of other comments related to Jeff’s argument that “women can choose not to have abortions by choosing not to have sex” which made points around:

a) what about those who are raped, or

b) why should women have to be sexless/some variation on sex=recreation as well as procreation.

I haven’t published all of them because they’re repetitious, although I have posted those that bring up substantively new points.

I have let the comments through because I think it’s valid to discuss the question of whether you can be feminist and against elective abortion.

Shea // Posted 1 March 2010 at 7:13 pm

@ BareNakedLady -“I don’t think it’s antifeminist to be against elective abortion. The current system has its faults but has its good points too.”

Think through what you are saying. The only way a woman can currently get an abortion is to impune her own sanity and claim her mental capacity is diminished (i.e her physical/mental health is in jeopardy or her family life). But if a woman declares she is healthy, sane, with the full capacity and competency to make the decision and free from any threat or outside interference in her decision, she should be DENIED an abortion?

Am I the only one to find this patently ridiculous?

This is the only surgical (or medical) procedure that requires the consent of two doctors. Even far riskier experimental surgeries with worse outcomes do not requires two signatures. What privileges abortion? Surgery on co-joined twins, where one of them will very likely die does not require two signatures, so it evidently isn’t the fact that a human life will be destroyed. So once again- what privileges abortion?

The only conclusion I can come to is it is the social control of women. There is no other conclusion.

“like protesting that the fact that mothers in general have to go through pregnancy and childbirth is antifeminist. It might not be a fair, it might mean that pregnant women / mothers have more health risks, more mental and physical stresses and more pain, but them’s the biological breaks.”

Why are you only making a biological determinist argument in relation to women and pregnancy? Why not, well we can’t give a heart transplant I’m afraid because those are the biological break, or we can’t have mass vaccinations to ensure herd immunity, because some individuals don’t have immunity – those are the biological breaks. We are not determined by our biology in society at large, we interfere every day. Why should abortion/contraception be any different?

“Doesn’t it simply come down to how much value you think that cluster of embryonic cells have?”

No it comes down to how much value you place on the life of a woman. As Troon pointed out, I can’t demand a heart from someone because I need it or blood if I need a transfusion. If my life is dependant on someone else’s, then I’m at their mercy. Those are the biological breaks I’m afraid.

@ Troon – an truly excellent post. You said it all, brilliantly.

Jeff // Posted 1 March 2010 at 7:55 pm

@politicalguineapig,

“The ‘container’ remark is the logical outcome of a “pro-life” stance.”

I’ve yet to reach that outcome, after 15yrs of an anti-abortion stance.

@Shea, I’ll respond to your post piece by piece, it’ll get confusing otherwise.

“Sex has become recreational not simply porcreational in this country and there is no reason why women should be penalised for this cultural shift in attitude.”

True, but nor should infants be penalised for that shift.

“Also what about the women who can’t physically carry children to term, (i.e they have a heart condition and the strain of pregnancy would kill them)”

I did say “elective abortion”, meaning those abortions carried out for non-medical reasons.

“Frankly who are YOU to sermonise when and in what situation a woman should and shouldn’t have sex. I notice you haven’t mentioned men or their responsibilities in this scenario at all.”

I’m not dictating when and in what situation women should have sex, I’m saying that just because you don’t want kids is not a good enough reason for an abortion.

You are right in that I havn’t mentioned men. Male abortionists I obviously disagree with, and they bear as much responsibility as women in the issue. I would also condemn any man attempted to force a women into or out of an abortion.

“Thats also not even considering the women who don’t choose to have sex but are raped”

Forgive me for not mentioning this, but again I was talking about electice abortions. I’ll amend that now though. Whilst it’s clear that I don’t know, I suspect that if I were forced the bear a rapists child I would suffer severe mental harm, so I don’t really think that the abortion of a rape pregnancy counts as “elective”.

“As I said, simplistic, moralising crap.”

Not all those opinions that differ from yours are “crap” you know. And there is nothing at all wrong with taking a moralistic point of view.

“Human rights only apply to human beings who have been born”

That’s your opinion, in mine, Human rights extend to ALL humans. The clue is in the title.

“after all chimpanzees share 98% of our DNA should we afford them human rights also? ”

Again, the clue is in the title.

“The right to life can only ever apply women in this scenario. Your analogy is completely false. In the above scenario the life of the other person is not dependant on your own. In the case of pregnancy it always is. It is that dependancy and the risks it imposes on the mother’s life and health that mean it is always her right to free choice and her right to life that triumph. ”

You seem to have misunderstood me here. I’m not contesting that the mothers right to life should be discarded in favour of the child. If her life is in danger, then I think abortion is the proper and sometimes only option. It’s those abortions that are carried out for other, non-medical, reasons that i object to.

“There is no way that you can state that “Their worth, like the worth of all humans, is exactly equal” and then state that you agree that abortion in a case like Amalia’s is acceptable. It is a logical fallacy. Their lives cannot be equal, or it would result in every mother whose life is at risk being forced to die. Basically being a woman means a death sentence by your logic.”

Rubbish, frankly. I think you are just reading what you assume all anti-abortionists would say, rather than what I am saying. The mother and child are of equal worth, the best option is to proceed with whichever course of action offers the best chance of saving the most life. In Amalia’s case, that would be abortion followed by chemotherapy.

“And incidentally I don’t see how you can take your position and then ignore the fact that literally thousands of embryos are being destoryed in fertility clinics across the world every single day because they are unwanted. Are they also “human”- don’t they too deserve to live? ”

How you arrived at the conclusion that I ignore the deaths of embryo’s in fertility clinics based on the short conversation we have had is nothing short of astounding! Tell me, where do you buy your crystal balls? I’ve been after one of those for literally years.

“Or can you at least be honest and admit that it is nothing to do with the embryo or fetus and instead is everything to do with the social control of women. ”

Ma’am, your biased assumptions about me are not the truth. If you cannot envisage somebody actually just having a moral objection to what they see as the equivilent of infanticide, then I really pity you. In addition, I rather expected the people here to be above such ad hominem attacks.

@gadgetgal,

Apologies for missing the rape issue previously, as I just said, I would not consider that to be “elective” but rather “medically necessary”. As to your point about not knowing whether a woman has been raped or not, you are quite correct. In that situation, I would simply trust women not to lie about being raped in order to get an abortion. I can’t imagine that many, if any, would do so.

@politicalguineapig,

I’m not religious in the least, it just seems silly to me that just because a baby hasn’t been born yet that it does not have the same rights as the rest of us.

@ Troon,

Again, I don’t think being anti-abortion necessarily assigns a foetus a superior position or rights. It seems a logical fallacy to me.

BareNakedLady // Posted 1 March 2010 at 8:55 pm

@Shea

“But if a woman declares she is healthy, sane, with the full capacity and competency to make the decision and free from any threat or outside interference in her decision, she should be DENIED an abortion?”

No, that’s not what I’m saying. I would class that as one of the faults of the current system. I’m just saying I don’t think it’s automatically anti-feminist to think abortion should be denied in that situation. I’m saying that I can conceive of having an opinion that allowing the embryo to progress to life is more important than the impact it would have on the woman’s quality of life.

I’m not denying that the impact on a woman’s quality of life can be considerable, that it can be dangerous, that abortion can be the right decision. I’m just saying that a personal belief in an embryo’s right to a possibility of life superseding the woman’s quality of life does not automatically = antifeminist.

“Why are you only making a biological determinist argument in relation to women and pregnancy? … Why should abortion/contraception be any different?”

Because it’s the woman who gets pregnant and gives birth. We can’t change that. So the question is always going to be between a woman and the potential child she carries. To say that therefore this belief is always, automatically, anti-feminist, seemed to be tantamount to complaining that pregnancy and birth themselves are anti-feminist. It *is* biologically determined that this is going to be a situation which affects women, there’s no comparable equivalent where we could say ‘the man’s quality of life is less/more important than the child he carries, therefore he should be denied/have access to an abortion’. That seems to be the reason why being anti-abortion gets labelled as being anti-feminist without any consideration of whether there are actually anti-feminist reasons at the heart of it, or beliefs which would apply to a man or a woman.

What I mean is, if I were to believe that the life of a child/potential child is more important than the life of an adult, then the only way that that’s relevant in discussion here is in relation to the life of the woman. But that’s not because I’ve decided it’s only women who should be regarded as less significant than embryos, that’s down to the biologically determined fact that it’s the woman who gets pregnant.

(I guess it might be ageist, but let’s not complicate things.)

And to restate: I am pro-choice. But I agree with Ally’s original point, feminism should not require one to be pro-choice.

Shea // Posted 1 March 2010 at 9:16 pm

@ Jeff- you have responded to my arguments about why women don’t have the option to not have sex by talking about abortion in life threatening cases. You have completely evaded the point being made.

“I’m not dictating when and in what situation women should have sex, I’m saying that just because you don’t want kids is not a good enough reason for an abortion.”

Thats a perfectly good reason to have an abortion. If you have been using contraceptives (and even if you haven’t) and have fallen pregnant, it clear that you didn’t want to have children. That decision should be respected. It should be respected in all cases. If I want ten abortions for even the most seemingly spurious of reasons then thats my choice, its my body and I can do whatever I like with it, just the way you can.

Also your anti-elective stance- what about a woman who won’t die from carrying a pregnancy to term but will go blind from it? Good enough reason? What about a woman who although hasn’t been raped but subsequently discovers her partner is abusive and violent and doesn’t want to be connected to him through a child? Again good enough for your moralistic point of view? I am genuinely curious to know the parameters of your “elective abortion” stance.

after all chimpanzees share 98% of our DNA should we afford them human rights also?

“Again, the clue is in the title.”

Again you’ve missed my point. Human embryos and chimpanzee embryos are indistinguishable until the later stages of development. On what grounds are you calling something “human” when in terms of DNA it is virtually identical to us?

“Rubbish, frankly. I think you are just reading what you assume all anti-abortionists would say, rather than what I am saying. The mother and child are of equal worth, the best option is to proceed with whichever course of action offers the best chance of saving the most life. In Amalia’s case, that would be abortion followed by chemotherapy.”

This is totally laughable. You have dug yourself into a moral hole and rather than give up you are trying to get out using a moral fudge. Their lives cannot be of equal worth- if they were nothing could be done to save either because it would jeopardise the life of the other.

“offer the best chance of saving the most life”

How are you quantifying life now? Potential? Gender? Age? How?!? There are according to you two lives of equal worth. Which is the “most”? There is no reason on your logic that Amalia’s life should be saved. She may survive in excruciating pain long enough for her foetus to be viable. Therefore her life can reasonably be forfeit by your logic. This is the perfect example of Reductio Ad Absurdum.

You completely side stepped my point on IVF and unwanted embryos- I expected as much. Anti-abortionists have no idea what to do about this, so they ignore it.

“ad hominem attacks”

I wish people who choose to wheel out accusations of ad hominem attacks actually knew what they were.

Defintion: ad hominem is an argument which links the validity of a premise to a characteristic or belief of the person advocating the premise

if you are taking my calling your rather crap argument that not having sex is a way to avoid abortion as an ad hominem then I suggest you get to grips with the above definition. I have already refuted your argument on this score, as have other posters on this thread. I can’t honestly find another example of anything else resembling ad hominem.

“Ma’am, your biased assumptions about me are not the truth.”

First don’t call me “Ma’am” I find it patronising. Also your biased assumption is that I must be a woman. I have made no biased assumptions about you. I base it on what you have posted and refute your logically fallacious premises on those grounds alone.

” If you cannot envisage somebody actually just having a moral objection to what they see as the equivilent of infanticide, then I really pity you.”

Equating abortion with infanticide is a fallacious argument better known as an appeal to emotion. You have offered no evidence that an embryo, devoid of a properly developed brain or nervous system is equivalent to an infant. Until you do so I don’t see how you can claim abortion (elective or otherwise) is infanticide. But hey make enough attacks and you may never have to defend your own position.

And on that note doctors can and do withold treatment from severely disabled and premature babies all the time. See the case of Charlotte Wyatt for proof. I would say this rather counts as much more like infanticide than abortion.

Don’t pity me. I don’t need your pity. Amalia on the other hand could probably use it and your action. Save it for her.

And lastly given the OP- if you can’t see that women and men have a moral objection to women being treated as a means to an end by being forced to carry to term pregnancies they don’t really want, it is you and your astounding lack of empathy that I pity.

gadgetgal // Posted 1 March 2010 at 9:39 pm

@Jeff – it’s because of issues like rape and it’s effects on mental health that I think elective abortion is really the only way to do it because it’s so subjective. Many people think that after rape being forced to carry a child to term could impair the mental health of the woman involved, but not only might it not do so, if you still believe that the rights of the unborn baby are equal then how is that it’s fault? Does one person’s mental, not physical, health outweigh another’s right to life? As I said, it’s very difficult to make those judgment calls from a practical perspective for someone else, and it’s not going to stop women from getting or trying to get abortions, it’ll just make it miserable and unsafe for them.

Believe me, this comes from the point of view of someone who can actually see your point – in a perfect world there would be no abortion because all contraceptives would be 100%, there would be no rape or forced marriages, there would be support for women who choose to have children, whatever their age or background, pregnancy and birth would be perfectly safe, but, unfortunately, this is not a perfect world and that makes it almost impossible to police in the way that you suggest. If you determine that women can self-report things like rape, mental health problems or physical well-being as reasons for an abortion, you’d be talking about exactly the same situation that we have at the moment. Frankly I don’t see the point – since women are having abortions anyway, elective or not, with the system that’s already in place, wouldn’t it be better from a pro-life perspective to try and change the things that can force a woman into that situation? I think it would do more good to be campaigning for an end to sexual violence, child abuse, poverty, lack of sex education, domestic violence, etc. etc. than the one opportunity for some of the damage that that can inflict to be lessened by taking it away from so many women.

As I said, don’t take this as a diatribe of any kind – I genuinely can see your perspective, and although I’ve always been politically pro-choice, and I’ve had abortions before, personally I would never have another one, even if my health was at risk, because my own perspective has changed so much over the years. But, saying that, I would never, nor COULD I ever, make that decision for anyone else – it isn’t my right to force my opinions onto anyone else, especially in an area where the opinions are so disparate. As you can see from the responses here there are many people who disagree with you, and consider it a right as many would the right to a private life or to worship as they see fit – and who am I to decide I’m more qualified than anyone else to tell them whether that’s right or wrong?

Troon // Posted 1 March 2010 at 9:46 pm

@Jeff

I’m sorry I was so unclear. Many of us, even those who’ve ‘lost’ ‘children’, would contest the idea that the embryo or foetus was a ‘human’. You think it is, so let’s accept that for the argument. Now let’s put what you are arguing in terms of a general relationship between two human beings (ignoring the important fact that this isn’t about humans in general, it’s about women). One human being needs bodily material from the other in order to survive. This process poses some risk to the second’s health. The second human being does not wish to provide such material. In NO other situation (organ donation, conjoined twins, blood transfusion) is the second legally compelled to provide bodily material to sustain the dependant human. In some of these cases (blood transfusion) the process to save a life would be much less risky than pregnancy, so this isn’t a ‘health’ issue. If you argue that in this one type of case a human should be forced to risk their life to save another by giving of their body, you are arguing that the human that needs support has greater rights not only than the woman its living off but than those in need of donation or transfusion, that is rights greater than all other living human beings. That selectivity needs explanation.

It seems to me that you are trying to define ‘elective’ by means which make no sense in practice, as if abortion rights were an abstract parlour game rather than an issue which daily affects the practical rights of women to be treated and feel they will be treated exactly as you or I always will be in terms of our basic bodily autonomy. Gadgetgal pointed out the difficulties of incorporating a ‘rape’ test, but they’re brushed aside. Others have pointed out that there is no clear ‘health’ test, which is why the current law in effect allows access on demand pre-24 weeks but does not do so legislatively. So where are you drawing the medical line? How great a threat to the currently living woman does a pregnancy have to be to allow her not to go through with it? Why does not having a foreign and unwanted creature growing inside her not seem to pose a significant mental health risk, even if the physical is brushed aside so easily? How can such a balance of threats be quantified legally? If they can’t, who should be judging each case, and how can their freedom from other ideologies be ensured (the 18-yr-old mother too drunk to remember the ‘father’ vs the 18-yr-old college scholarship wunderkind who forgot to take the pill when flying to collect an award in a different timezone)? You need to have clear answers to these, and to all other cases that are possible, not vague statements about ‘health’. These are obvious reasons why nobody should indulge in such non-specific moralising on this issue, but there are even more obvious ones why you or I shouldn’t in this space. I hope this hasn’t been a post too far from me as well, and apologise to others if it has (especially the pompous and vague first section).

FertileFem // Posted 1 March 2010 at 9:47 pm

@Jeff – Your exception for rape makes no sense. If you consider an embryo to be a fully-sentient human being who should be afforded the same rights as its host, the mother, then her ‘mental anguish’ at having to carry the baby to term shouldn’t matter. If her life is not in danger, what does her state of mind have to do with it? Shouldn’t she just suck it up and deliver the baby? After all, she can always give it up for adoption or try to learn to love it, like the anti-choice folks like to say. Or can you truly imagine no other circumstance in which a mother might be physically able to carry a pregnancy to term but in doing so would be irreparably harmed or caused undue mental anguish?

Your logic is flawed. An embryo is either a human being with equal rights or it isn’t. You can’t make exceptions for rape unless what you’re *really* saying is that mental anguish doesn’t matter if the pregnancy was not the result of a crime because otherwise, it was just plain ol’ irresponsible, promiscuous sex, which needs to be punished.

So which is it?

Jeff // Posted 1 March 2010 at 11:03 pm

@Shea,

“You have completely evaded the point being made. ”

Evaded, no. Missed, quite possibly. Let’s try again.

“Thats a perfectly good reason to have an abortion. If you have been using contraceptives (and even if you haven’t) and have fallen pregnant, it clear that you didn’t want to have children. That decision should be respected. It should be respected in all cases. If I want ten abortions for even the most seemingly spurious of reasons then thats my choice, its my body and I can do whatever I like with it, just the way you can. ”

Clearly your opinion. My opinion is that your decision not to have children does not mean you should be allowed to kill the ones that you do accidentally have through failed contraception or whatever. And the point is, that whilst I have the right to do whatever I want with MY body (as do you), I don’t have the right to do what I want to another humans body (and nor do you).

“What about a woman who although hasn’t been raped but subsequently discovers her partner is abusive and violent and doesn’t want to be connected to him through a child? Again good enough for your moralistic point of view? I am genuinely curious to know the parameters of your “elective abortion” stance. ”

Obviously, this is a little of a grey area. I’d say that just not wanting to be connected to someone through a child isn’t enough to justify killing it. But if that association would ruin your life, it probably would.

“On what grounds are you calling something “human” when in terms of DNA it is virtually identical to us? ”

Are you totally serious? If it’s the offspring of two human’s, it’s human.

“This is totally laughable. You have dug yourself into a moral hole and rather than give up you are trying to get out using a moral fudge. Their lives cannot be of equal worth- if they were nothing could be done to save either because it would jeopardise the life of the other. ”

Put it this way. If there’s two people drowning in a river, would you stand around and do nothing, since they’re both of equal worth, or would you try and save the person who you have the best chance of saving? Just because you have a better chance of saving one of the two doesn’t mean their life is more valuable, it’s just more likely that your attempts to save their life will succeed.

“How are you quantifying life now? Potential? Gender? Age? How?!? There are according to you two lives of equal worth. Which is the “most”? There is no reason on your logic that Amalia’s life should be saved. She may survive in excruciating pain long enough for her foetus to be viable. Therefore her life can reasonably be forfeit by your logic. This is the perfect example of Reductio Ad Absurdum. ”

Don’t really understand the question here. Though she MAY survive long enough for the infant to survive, that’s a bit hit and miss really. My logic says that continuing a pregnancy on that slim chance is not reasonable in the least.

“You completely side stepped my point on IVF and unwanted embryos- I expected as much. Anti-abortionists have no idea what to do about this, so they ignore it. ”

I didn’t side step it in the least, I laughed at you for assuming something you have absolutely no evidence for whatsoever. You know, like you’re doing now.

“if you are taking my calling your rather crap argument that not having sex is a way to avoid abortion as an ad hominem then I suggest you get to grips with the above definition. I have already refuted your argument on this score, as have other posters on this thread. I can’t honestly find another example of anything else resembling ad hominem. ”

Actually I’m taking your insistence that my beliefs about abortion are geared towards the social control of women rather than a moral objection to the killing of unborn infants as an ad hominem attack. Which is exactly what it was. And you have offered your opinion, not a refutal.

“First don’t call me “Ma’am” I find it patronising. ”

I apologise.

“Also your biased assumption is that I must be a woman. I have made no biased assumptions about you.”

Based on you sharing a name with my very-much-a-woman aunt, yes. That seems pretty reasonable to me.

“I base it on what you have posted and refute your logically fallacious premises on those grounds alone.”

Again, you’ve done nothing but offer opinions and insults, you certainly havn’t refuted anything.

“Equating abortion with infanticide is a fallacious argument better known as an appeal to emotion. You have offered no evidence that an embryo, devoid of a properly developed brain or nervous system is equivalent to an infant. Until you do so I don’t see how you can claim abortion (elective or otherwise) is infanticide. But hey make enough attacks and you may never have to defend your own position. ”

Sorry, I’m calling a foetus an “infant” simply because it’s the word that jumps to mind. The real issue is whether or not a foetus is a “human” or not. I believe it is. Since the closest “born” human to a foetus would be an infant, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me to equate abortion to infanticide.

“And on that note doctors can and do withold treatment from severely disabled and premature babies all the time. See the case of Charlotte Wyatt for proof. I would say this rather counts as much more like infanticide than abortion. ”

I would agree.

“And lastly given the OP- if you can’t see that women and men have a moral objection to women being treated as a means to an end by being forced to carry to term pregnancies they don’t really want, it is you and your astounding lack of empathy that I pity. ”

The moral objection would more appropriatly be directed towards the killing of kiddies. I’m afraid in a choice between upholding the right to choose and the right to life, life wins. Every time.

@gadgetgal,

I do see what you mean, and it is ridiculously hard to conclusively say one thing or the other. I am, essentially, trying to see a compromise between “no abortion” and “abortion for whatever reason you please”.

Also, please note that I have no desire to change the law, and that’s not what I’m advocating. Adding restrictions to abortion today would simply force it underground into a far more unsafe environment.

@Troon,

“I’m sorry I was so unclear. Many of us, even those who’ve ‘lost’ ‘children’, would contest the idea that the embryo or foetus was a ‘human’. You think it is, so let’s accept that for the argument. ”

I’m sure they would, that’s fine. Your opinion (and everybody elses) is just as valid as mine.

As to your “blood transfusion” (or whatever) analogy, it is my opinion that, with the exception of rape, a woman is at the very least choosing to accept the possibility of pregnancy when they have sex. This means that the analogy would more properly be a person, say, going through with an organ donation, but then changing their mind and demanding it back. Obviously, they aren’t going to get it.

Your second paragraph is very valid, I’m aware of the ambiguity of what I’m saying and perhaps further thought would help to tie it down to specificality (is that a word?) but I do doubt that. I’m not attempting to advocate a change in the current system, indeed I think any change at all, in either direction, would be a bad thing. What we have is probably the best we can do. If I had to, I would make the women involved the judge of whether continuing the pregnancy constituted an unnaceptable risk to her health (whether physical or medical) and simply trust to their morality not to lie about that opinion in order to gain an abortion for more trivial reasons.

I don’t remotely think your post was too far by the way, nor pompous or vague. It seemed very appropriate to me.

@FertileFem,

I’m aware of the contradictions. Like I said, i’m attempting to strike a compromise line between protecting a foetus’ right to life and protecting a women’s health. Ideally this wouldn’t be an issue, but in practice, it is clearly not possible to deny every women abortion for any reason, and it would be rather naive of me to advocate an utter impossibility.

Beginning to regret jumping into this without thinking the issue through thoroughly!

FertileFem // Posted 2 March 2010 at 8:18 am

@Jeff – But see, that’s just the problem. Your attempt to “strike a compromise line” is made under the assumption that you (or anyone else) have the right to make decisions for other people and that your morality takes precedence over someone else’s. I can understand that for those who think that life begins at conception, abortion would undoubtedly be a sad, abhorrent thing. But there are many things that other people do that we all find sad or abhorrent or just plain wrong.

For example, I am a pacifist so find all wars abhorrent, unnecessary and wrong. But I don’t go around condemning soldiers fighting in these wars, or blowing up their bases or accosting them in the street calling them mass murderers. I can help promote diplomacy, democracy and peaceful conflict resolution to prevent war but in reality I know it’s always going to exist so all I can do is try to minimise it and make it more rare and safer. I would personally never join the armed forces but that’s MY decision and they made theirs. Even if I don’t understand it I can still respect it. Why is that such a difficult concept for anti-choicers to follow?

All we can do is try to educate, provide support for those who need it and try to mind our own damn business otherwise, especially when it’s to do with bodily autonomy, which is a pretty irrefutable human right. Your need to express your morality by ‘saving innocents’ is completely arrogant because it presumes that your morals are the only right and just ones and that this gives you the right to quash an adult person’s rights for the sole purpose of allaying your own conscience.

childerowland // Posted 2 March 2010 at 9:13 am

This thread really is a good reminder of how to many people women are no more than their uterine potential…

I do find it inherently misogynistic to regard the ‘life’ of a being that cannot feel, cannot think and has never had the capacity to do those things equal to the life of someone who, in the words of Amy Clare earlier, has ‘autonomy, sentience, consciousness, feelings, hopes for the future, desires, memories, dependants, relationships.’

I find it incredibly offensive that my life is considered to be (by some people) of the same value as a fertilized egg. I mean, seriously.

I also think it’s misogynistic to regard simply not wanting to have a child as a ‘trivial’ reason to have an abortion. Pregnancy and birth can be difficult and extremely painful for women who *want* to have children – to force a woman who doesn’t want a child to go through it (even if it isn’t a risk to her life) is tantamount to torture. It’s placing very little value on the hopes, dreams and lives of women to suggest that it’s no biggie for them to have their lives changed forever by being forced to have a child that they don’t want.

Lynne Miles // Posted 2 March 2010 at 9:36 am

To be fair, Jeff did specifically say he wasn’t advocating changing the law … just talking about what he thinks is morally right and wrong.

Kate // Posted 2 March 2010 at 10:14 am

This is a waste of time. It’s not about arguing whether someone can be anti-choice and feminists, it’s a boring, misogynistic rehash of the same old anti-abortion arguments. Are we really this insecure in our feminism that we’re prepared to let conversations be derailed and default back to some 1960s baseline? Why does some bloke called Jeff jumped in to attack women and abortion and automatically get a platform and an audience?

FeminaErecta // Posted 2 March 2010 at 10:44 am

“I’m not dictating when and in what situation women should have sex, I’m saying that just because you don’t want kids is not a good enough reason for an abortion”

I’ve had an abortion at 11 weeks. I had an abortion because I was 23 and had no money, was working part time after being on the dole for a year and a half after uni which I paid for myself, so was in debt up to my eyeballs and couldn’t give a baby a life that I would want to give a baby. I didn’t want a child at the time at all. I don’t really talk to my family. I wanted to go back to uni and finish my degree (which, two years later, I have done). I wanted to get out of a bad reationship with the baby’s father (not abusive, just bad in general, which I have now done and am now single and very independent). I wanted to get a better job, I wanted to leave the squat I was living in and rent decent accomodation. Getting pregnant made me wake up to how shitty my life actually was. I have changed every single thing about my life since electively killing my child- and I have no problems saying that’s what I did- because, if and when I decided I do want to be a mother, I wanted to be the best kind of mother I can be.

I suffered absolutly no guilt at the time at all. I was enrolled on a uni course, living in a decent house, stopped taking ketamine and smoking every day and was single within three months of the abortion. I was incredibly happy, more so than I had been in years. All of my friends were incredibly supportive throughout, if any of them had any qualms about what I was doing they kept them to themselves.

Two years later, it is very different. I am now 25 and have faced facts that I am no longer interested in looking for a partner, my job has taken over my life, which I don’t mind at all because I work in further education and love it. I cannot stop thinking about the baby I killed. Everywhere I go I see little girls and boys and imagine how different my life would be. I get emotional all the time, bursting into tears for no reason at the sight of a gap for kids window, or an sma baby advert (the one where the dad tells the mum how proud he is of her and how amazing she is, welling up now thinking of it.) I see families and think how lucky they are to have each other when I have no one apart from my books and my students. I know full well how worried my friends are about me, and I feel really bad because I can’t talk to them about it without feeling very uncomfortable. If I could go back, though, I wouldn’t change a thing about what I did. I would be miserable, living with my ex boyfriend’s rich parents in their granny flat, which we saw as literally the only option at the time. Of course, I would love my baby, but I know full well I would resent having to put off years of my life to be a stay at home mum as I could never afford the childcare. I still think that if a woman is not ready to be a mum then she shouldn’t have to be, and this counts no matter how the baby came about, I still think that if a woman is sick as in the case above, she should be told the options, but it should always be her choice. I also think that if it was OK to have abortions, not just legal, but widely accepted and talked about openly and honestly, then you wouldn’t have women like me feeling miserable and depressed and not having anywhere to turn but to specialised councellors- who are all well and good but you should be able to talk to your mates about these things without being fearful of being stigmatised or having people who didn’t know you at the time call you selfish, or irresponsible because YOU wanted to have an orgasm orriginating from your G-spot, you knew neither of you had a disease and you couldn’t be arsed to go to the 24 hour garage for condoms.

On the way into Marie Stopes five people stopped my car and told me I was a murderer. I laughed it off then. Thank you so much, Jeff, for confirming that, in the wider world, that is all I will ever be considered, except for in safe places where people actually think that people should be able to make choices about their lives and talk about how that makes them feel without being made out to be a selfish child-killing whore.

Oh and BTW, the dad of the baby doesn’t feel ANYTHING. But he didn’t have it sucked out of his penis, so why would he?

Pro-abortion Mother // Posted 2 March 2010 at 10:51 am

Quite aside from the biological effects of motherhood, I would like to see Jeff accept that every time he has sex he has to accept that he might become a father and take full responsibility. Jeff, if you’ve had your required number of children, I suggest you abstain. What is morally inbalanced and inequitable about this debate is that the moral choice is the woman’s but the moral debate is conducted by all. A man’s role (and society’s role) in this is to uphold a woman’s right to make a moral choice. You can seek to influence that choice if you want to by moral means, but the choice and the consequences are the woman’s within the law. Jeff has a right to express himself and I have the right to take no notice. Given his stance and tone – and anyone’s who doesn’t accept that this is a thorny issue but one which belongs to women to ultimate decide, that’s a right I will exercise.

Lynne Miles // Posted 2 March 2010 at 10:56 am

Hi everyone. Just a note that I think this debate has run its useful course so I’m not publishing any further comments on the debate centred around Jeff’s views. Thanks.

gadgetgal // Posted 2 March 2010 at 11:14 am

@FeminaErecta – just want to say I’m with you there – I really wish there was some way to openly discuss this because counsellors cost money that I can’t afford and friends can only sympathise/empathise so far when it comes to abortion. Don’t know if it will help you but I’ll say that you just helped me a lot by letting me know I’m not alone – sometimes it feels like I’m the only one who feels so much for something that I wouldn’t change, even though it hurts so much now. It sometimes even feels wrong to me that I feel the way I do when I believe so strongly in choice, and that I made the right ones, and most other like-minded women I know who talk about it don’t seem to feel the same way. All I can say is the more the time passes the less and less it hurts me, and I hope the same happens for you x

Troon // Posted 2 March 2010 at 11:21 am

@Feminaerecta

Posted previosuly before your comment went up. Your experiences are horrible, and I wouldn’t wnat to hijack them, or seem to be failing to appreciate the deep problems of being judged by others, with nobody to turn to but ‘specialist counsellors’, but could I ask you to post a link to the contact details of such counsellors? Several of the students I have pastoral responsibility for (being young in a male dominated department means I am chosen to talk them through this, despite my inability to do so) are wrestling with the stigma of just such treatment, but I have been unable to find any counselling for them which doesn’t have anti-abortion undertones (as if the point were abortion causes pain, therefore they should see it is wrong-‘Life’ particualrly striong in this regard).

Thank you for being so open and honest in your post, if nothing else I will refer them to it to try and help them cope (although the rest of the thread won’t). At least that way some good may come form this.

Denise // Posted 2 March 2010 at 11:53 am

Lynne, the debate is closed, fine. I just wanted to say I found it incredible that you gave this person’s confused and misogynistic views so much space and polite attention, especially after, as you wrote above, you chose not to publish some “repetitious” comments which were obviously protesting against his views. I think it’s depressing that you felt you had to be so accommodating and let him derail like that. Must feminists always waste time fighting ridiculous rearguard actions?

Anyway, Kate’s comment above puts it much better than I can.

FeminaErecta // Posted 2 March 2010 at 12:18 pm

@Troon

I used to go to a councelling service in leeds just called Leeds Councelling- unfortunatly since getting a job the price has gone from £10 to £40 a session which is just ridiculous! care confidential are supposed to be unbiased (at least thats what the website says) though have never actually used them myself- can’t post a link up as my work website filter won’t let me go on it, but if you google it…

Its such bullshit that when women have the guts to actually ask for help they are made to feel worse by these places!

@gadgetgal

cheers for that, much appreciated, you’re not alone at all! . I feel mega guilty for feeling guilty because I am prochoice, which is just ridiculous because there is nothing I can do about any of it now even if I wanted to. Ah well, time wounds all heels…

Pro-abortion Mother // Posted 2 March 2010 at 12:37 pm

FeminaErecta

I want to express huge sympathy for an eloquent and moving post. You are quite right: this is where the debate and the help should be. You were faced with some hard choices and made the best of them. I hope that you have the family you want when you want it.

Shea // Posted 2 March 2010 at 1:18 pm

Can I just say as well, even though I take some responsibility for it, how utterly depressing that a post on the terrible situation of a young woman has descended into mud flinging arguments about abortion.

I hope Amalia gets the treatment she needs asap.

john // Posted 2 March 2010 at 1:49 pm

i just wanted to say that i thought gadgetgal’s and feminaerecta’s comments were deep.

They made me cry. Sometimes things people write is very powerful and makes you think.

Thanks

Lynne Miles // Posted 2 March 2010 at 2:00 pm

@Denise – I wasn’t consciously being “accomodting” I thought the debate was interesting. I’ve often wondered to myself whether there are any readers who are self-defined feminists but who are anti-abortion, and have often thought I’d quite like to post an open discussion thread on it. I will say that I wish the debate had occured between two women rather than what I assume to be a man and a woman.

The “repetitious” comments I didn’t post came in whilst I was unable to mod for a while and said more or less exactly the same thing, so I tried to summarise them in my comment because otherwise it turns into a pile-on and the time lag means that doesn’t necessarily represent how the thread would have gone if there were closer to ‘real time’ modding.

But it’s always a judgement call, so you and others may disagree with me.

Lynne Miles // Posted 2 March 2010 at 2:07 pm

..and I second (third, fourth?) the praise for FeministErecta and gadgetgal’s comments.

Maeve // Posted 2 March 2010 at 2:13 pm

FeminaErecta, I think you’re being too hard on yourself in every way. You did what you believed was best at the time -that is the most anyone can ever do, isn’t it? We’re lumbered with a set of circumstances and have to deal with them the best way we can. If you’d had the baby when you were on ketamine and living in the squat with spiralling debts, people who assumed a right to judge would have called you selfish then as well, wouldn’t they?!

You are strong and you have done brilliantly. Try not to get too sad when you look at those shiny happy families. They’ve got their own problems and a lot of them would wish for a different kind of life. Those little girls and boys are lovely, sure. But how about taking care of them 24/7? Not a minute to do what you want? Nothing is what it’s cracked up to be. Don’t buy into myths and let them make you feel worse.

If you can’t stop thinking about the baby, don’t try. Just feel all the feelings, let them flow through you. Be gentle with yourself. You have had and are having such a tough time, but things will get easier. As gadgetgal says, you’re not alone. And please please please try not to take any notice of judgemental, blinkered, clueless people who have never had to deal with what you’re dealing with, and never will, and don’t merit one second of your attention.

Take care of yourself. You will be all right. I wish you all the best. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Denise // Posted 2 March 2010 at 2:29 pm

Thanks, Lynne, I take your point. Sorry, I should have been more understanding. Right now I’m just desperately wishing that Femina Erecta hadn’t had to read Jeff’s stuff.

I send her a hug. X

Laura // Posted 2 March 2010 at 2:45 pm

@ FeminaErecta – You’re not a heartless killer and you’re not selfish. You simply did what was right for you to enable you to live your life on your own terms, and I’m really pleased you’ve been able to move on from the position you were in back then. That’s why I am 100% certain that access to free abortion on demand without stigma is essential to women’s liberation. Without it, we are at the mercy of men and biology.

Denise // Posted 2 March 2010 at 3:28 pm

Femina Erecta, I was wondering if you might be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder? I had that some years back, and a therapy called Rational Emotive Behaviour therapy really helped me. It’s available on the NHS. And I’ve just read about a new ptsd therapy called EMDR, an eye movement therapy, which has also become available on the NHS. In London it’s available at St Bart’s. There’s an article about it in the life/style section of today’s Times.

Sorry if you already know of these, and not sure if they’ll be any use to you or not. Just thought I’d mention.

Warmest wishes to you. x

Shea // Posted 2 March 2010 at 4:40 pm

I want to second the sentiments expressed to FeminaErecta. You are not selfish, not a murderer or a child killing whore and you absolutely did the right thing under the circumstances. Give yourself time to heal and come to terms with the decision (it takes time believe me).

I know its scant consolation, but there are alot of women (walking wounded) in the same situation. I have had two abortions, both “elective” (inconvenient because of age and where I was in my career). I too find myself wondering about those children and what they would be like. But I also feel no guilt and I know that my life and circumstances would be markedly worse had I continued the pregnancies.

You are still very young (I’m not trying to be partonising with this), you are obviously fertile and I can almost guarantee that the chance to become a mother will come up again. It’s certain that you will be a better, happier mother when you have children to the right guy, in the right circumstances and you will be able to enjoy your pregnancy so much more. There is nothing worse than having a child and resenting it as you are aware.

Please don’t be hard on yourself. You deserve to enjoy sex and your body and take pleasure in it. People will judge you, thats what they do. But most of them will never be faced with your situation and they can never really understand it. Ignore them, they really aren’t worth the trouble.

Its a point not often made but there are many, many children alive today who wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for abortion. I know my two cousins wouldn’t exist because their mother would still be married to the wrong man and have a child she didn’t want by him.

I know the British Counselling Service (are they still called that, anyone?) used to advertise trainee counsellors at free or discounted rates for a session up my way (North East), otherwise I would say you should be eligible for counselling sessions via the NHS.

I hope you find peace and happiness- you deserve it. Take care & a massive hug from me x x x x

@ gadgetgal – I hear you & agree completely. I am also one of those “notorious women” who has had more than one abortion. Still not feeling guilty about it though! :-)

love to you both from this corner x

Lynne Miles // Posted 2 March 2010 at 5:25 pm

@Denise – no offense taken and all criticism welcomed. It’s a bit of a tightrope moderating and we’re not always going to get it right.

Anne Onne // Posted 2 March 2010 at 7:57 pm

FeminaErecta, thank you for sharing your story. I hope you find all the support you need. You made what you felt then (and still feel) would be the right decision for yourself, but also for the potential child. You are not ‘wrong’ or a bad person for having made this decision. You are not heartless, only someone with a lot of heart can really think through such a decision and sincerely try to do the best thing, whatever it is. You were not selfish, you thought about what kind of a life a child would have had, whether you would have proved a mother who resents her children and cannot support them. You made a difficult decision in difficult circumstances: one for which there was no entirely happy outcome whatever you could choose in your case. What you feel isn’t irrational, it is a natural response to what happened, and to the world around you. Like a lot of people, I think you shouldn’t be made to feel badly for your choice, and I hope you work through it and find peace.

I also hope people realise a personal choice is a personal choice, and that no living or not-yet living person is owed a life at the expense of another person’s bodily autonomy. Any pro-lifers actually believe we should enforce mandatory kidney, liver, bone marrow, or blood donations? After all, it won’t kill the donor, and imagine all the people whose lives would be saved! Nobody should have the right to force anyone to donate a kidney to a dying relative, and likewise nobody should be forced to rent out their uterus for 9 months (and then probably raise the kid alone!) and face the health and life-changing effects that this will cause, either.

Angie the Anti-Theist is a very brave woman on Youtube (link here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59Ud3g2ymOM ) talking through her decision to have an abortion and her chemical abortion itself, as a mother. If you feel up to it, it might be interesting to hear someone else’s thoughts. Just don’t read the comments, and probably not the reply and/or suggested videos.

I know people whose mothers remind them on a fairly regular basis that they wish they never had them because they ‘ruined my life’. I love these people, but I would not wish this kind of statement on anyone. Nobody deserves to grow up hated or in terrible circumstances with parent/s who hate them. If we support those who DO want kids, and encourage contraception, whilst making abortions available as early as possible, there will be less children living miserable lives, and more children who are supported and loved.

I think it’s always important to remind ourselves that there is no ‘right’ response to having chosen to have an abortion. Some people are happy, some people feel more conflicted. Some feel it was the right decision, some may wish to have made this decision differently, just like they may wish to have chosen differently in any other decision. I wish all of the above the support to make peace with their decision and to move forward with their lives.

coldharbour // Posted 3 March 2010 at 1:57 am

I find it immensely cruel and ironic that the vast proportion of the right-wing political ‘pro-life’ brigade support the mass slaughter of innocent people in Palestine, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and anywhere else the crusade appears justified in a colonial context. A documented history of the horrific circumstances woman faced in this country with regards to back street abortions would make anyone with an ounce of humanity balk at the thought of going back to the dark ages of illegality.

Jehenna // Posted 3 March 2010 at 8:15 am

I think it is possible to be feminist and anti-abortion, but I think it is also possible to be anti-abortion, and pro-choice.

I am anti-abortion. I believe the soul enters the body at the moment of conception, and that the growing baby should have the same rights as I do.

On the other hand, I also think that this is a belief which other people don’t share, and thus I have no right to impose my views on other people. As a result, I would not have an abortion, but I am not judgemental of those who would do otherwise. So I consider myself pro-choice. I don’t walk in other people’s shoes and I shouldn’t make their decisions for them, or expect them to behave in a particular way.

Both my best friends have had abortions, and I love them no less. I don’t think they did something wrong, but it would be wrong if I did it because of my beliefs. I’m not sure how much sense that makes, but anyway, it’s my belief that I am anti-abortion, and pro-choice.

With that in mind I think what is being done to Amalia is criminal.

And FeminaErecta deserves a hug and a nice cup of tea. It sounds like a sensible and unselfish decision, and it was YOUR decision. All of us live day to day, making the best decisions we can for our lives, and this is no different. Keep your chin up – you clearly are a wise person with lots to offer the world. Your friends and family are very lucky to have you.

JenniferRuth // Posted 3 March 2010 at 8:54 am

Jehenna – I think your views are pretty much the definition of pro-choice. You make choices based upon your beliefs but you also extend the right to other women to make different choices without prejudice.

Pro-life does not extend the right to all women to make the choice that best suits them when it comes to pregnancy. It is pro-forced pregnancy. That is why I think a pro-life stance is incompatible with feminism.

micearenice // Posted 3 March 2010 at 9:53 am

I am really pleased with how this thread has changed to a space that supports women and the decisions they make about their own bodies. Thanks FeminaErecta for sharing your moving story and brining this back to the personal from the general. Women who have experience of this issue read this blog and I was saddened that this ’safe’ space was turned in to a place where I felt at least one person was being judgemental.

10 years ago this month I had an ‘elective’ abortion at 8 weeks.

I use elective in speech marks because I don’t believe that there is such a thing in real life. It is a term that is used to demonise women who make choices about their bodies that some people find difficult.

When I found out I was pregnant I threw up on the test. I have never wanted children and the thought of this alien being inside me, feeding and gaining its life from me repulsed me (I understand that pregnancy for some people is a beautiful affair but I hated the very concept of it). My contraception had failed, and a week after I took the test I booked an appointment with the doctor.

This was not a decision I made lightly, I evaluated everything I had, I thought about the life I could give this child in my current situation, my support groups and the opportunities I would have to make changes but I simply could not get past the fact that I had never wanted to be in this situation. I did not see why I should have this life long relationship with a being who I could never love. I could not see why I should put either of us in that situation. I felt so repulsed by this thing inside me, I felt so sure in the knowledge that I would resent this thing for having changed my world, I felt so certain that if I went ahead with the pregnancy the outcome for either of us would not be good. In my situation, at this time in my life I was 100% positive that I would be nothing other than a TERRIBLE mother. I felt so sure about this that I was scared that the doctor might say no. I was so scared that I looked in to how I could abort the child myself. That is how strong my conviction was. That is how seriously I considered my situation.

There was nothing physically wrong with either me or the foetus. This was a decision based on how I wanted to live my life and how I believed our life together would pan out. I still believe I made the right decision 10 years on. I still don’t want children and I don’t believe I ever will. Continuing with the pregnancy for me would have been torture, not only physically but mentally too. Then once I would have given birth I don’t believe that this torture would stop. There would be another person in the world that I would always have responsibility for in one way or another (regardless as to whether I would adopt or not).

My point is that although we were both healthy, I made the decision I did on a series of complex factors; I thought through this situation to the very last detail and made a decision based on what I thought was best at the time – as I believe that every potential mother does. I don’t believe that there are many (if any) women who choose to abort a foetus without considering this decision to its fullest. ‘Elective’ abortion as spoken about above is implied to be made on trivial grounds – I would have fallen in to this category on the surface, but I truly do not believe that this was the case with my decision or indeed that other women in similar situations think this to be a trivial issue either.

Pro-abortion Mother // Posted 3 March 2010 at 11:21 am

Not sure I agree with JenniferRuth’s conclusion. Someone (like Jehenna) can be pro-life for herself but pro-choice for others. This doesn’t make Jehenna any less of a feminist. In fact, in a way by promoting other people’s freedoms despite her own choices I think she is more of a liberal feminist. Was it Voltaire who wrote, “I do not like what you say, but I will die upholding your right to say it”. Someone may have a view for themselves, like I did in deciding I couldn’t justify aborting my baby, but still want that choice for others. Pro-life doesn’t necessarily mean pro-life for everyone. It can mean two things: what would you do if you yourself were pregnant, and what rights do you want other women to have. I want the right to choose. But I chose to keep my baby. In other circumstances, I might have chosen not to. But my choice at that time was clearly pro-life AND pro-choice. The trouble is that pro-life has come to mean anti-abortion. Maybe we should change the terminology from the pro-life expression which after all is a very emotive one created by people with an agenda.

JenniferRuth // Posted 3 March 2010 at 1:12 pm

@ Pro-abortion Mother

You misunderstand me. Jehanna being pro-life for herself and pro-choice for others IS being pro-choice. The pro-choice ideology is all about respecting the fact that women can make a choice regarding pregnancy for themselves and should not be forced either to carry or abort a pregnancy. It is the woman’s choice.

Those that are pro-life and extend their beliefs to other woman (for example, advocating that abortion be illegal) are taking away a woman’s choice. They are saying that they should have a say in what a woman does with her body and therefore believe in forced pregnancy. There is no way around it. It is anti-feminist.

I think we basically agree and I was probably not clear enough on my original comment.

Mary // Posted 3 March 2010 at 1:25 pm

Pro-choice and anti-choice works for me. I think you can be feminist and pro-life, and feminist and anti-abortion, and feminist and pro-helping-women-who-feel-pressured-to-have-abortions-but-would-actually-prefer-not-to-if-they-had-more-options. But if you’re feminist and anti-choice, then I would probably want to know more about how and why you held that position.

I do not like the simple idea of “being feminist means you have to be pro-choice”, though. I think reproductive rights and access to safe and legal abortion are incredibly important, but “you have to believe in the right to abortion in order to call yourself a feminist” is one of the ways in which the majority white Western feminist movement has alienated women from other backgrounds and traditions.

Shea // Posted 3 March 2010 at 2:52 pm

@ Mary –

“you have to believe in the right to abortion in order to call yourself a feminist” is one of the ways in which the majority white Western feminist movement has alienated women from other backgrounds and traditions.

I’d disagree with you here. Ive found the right to safe legal abortion the only unifying concept that I’ve shared with many non-western feminists, especially those in Latin America. Its still a current issue for so many of them, even where so called left wing “socialist” governments have been elected, such as Bolivia.

I think both “Pro life” and “Pro Choice” are euphemisms. As we see from the scenario in the OP there is nothing pro life about “Pro Life”. And too often “Pro Choice” represents a situation where in reality no choice exists.

I absolutely think you can be completely adamantly against abortion for yourself, whatever premise these belief are based on. I even feel there are very good arguments that abortion is too often presented as the ideal solution to women, who in reality wanted to keep the child and felt they lacked the financial or familial situation.

There is even a better argument that abortion has allowed alot of men to rid themselves of any responsibility for contraception or fatherhood by presenting conception as an autonomous biological act, easily remedied.

But I fail to see how you can force pregnancy on women against their will, with all the attendant physical, emotional and life changing consequences and call that feminist.

And it worries me because I see increasingly how the rhetoric of feminism has become co-opted by people who are decidedly not feminist (i.e George Bush, the “liberator” of Afghan women) and used to push an agenda that is not feminist. It permits a dangerous moral relativism that results in feminism meaning anything but actually standing for nothing.

Bethany // Posted 3 March 2010 at 3:10 pm

A friend of mine got pregnant a few years back. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do and thought it was probably best to have a termination, but her boyfriend persuaded her to go ahead and have the baby, promising all the support she could possibly need. She loved him, and she did go ahead. They split when the baby was just a few months old, due to him becoming violent towards her and refusing to take on any parental responsibilities whatsoever. He refused to pay maintenance and she had to take him to court. She was awarded a laughable sum, but he doesn’t even pay that and she hasn’t got the time, energy or money to keep fighting when she gets no support from the legal system. The child is a right handful – not his fault because of course he is just a child, and the first months and years of his life were not exactly peaceful. Now, aged five, he is very badly behaved and she’s lost friends/social life because people don’t want to be around him. She would like to have another relationship, but no man is interested once he finds out she’s got a kid. She can’t even get the father out of her life because even though he doesn’t want parental responsibilties, he demands the right to interfere, something else which would put off any potential partners big time.

She has considered giving the child up for adoption. She is extremely depressed and wishes she could turn back the years and get to that clinic! She feels like nothing nice will ever happen again.

Femina Erecta, you did the right thing. It could have been a LOT worse.

Shea // Posted 3 March 2010 at 3:10 pm

Also, I’m not trying to re-ignite the debate about abortion, but I think there is an important point to make, that frozen embryos as a result of IVF are being destroyed everday and that the debate on abortion has now moved on to the right to free choice for men also.

Please look at the case of Natallie Evans which went before the European Court of Human Rights – there it was her ex-partner who triumphed in choosing not be a father- “The key thing for me was just to be able to decide when, and if, I would start a family.”(his words).

Please see the link below:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4779876.stm

The debate is far more complex now than a simple rehash of 1960s arguments. The paradigm has shifted irrevocably.

Shea // Posted 3 March 2010 at 3:18 pm

@ coldharbour- just want to second your sentiments on this. I am in total agreement. I also fail to see how so many of the “Pro life” brigade can support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or the death penalty for that matter. And yes to the backstreet abortion comment. Dark ages indeed.

Jehenna // Posted 4 March 2010 at 1:23 am

Shea, I agree with you about IVF. I am actually anti-IVF too, in the sense that it falls under ‘the soul enters the body at the moment of conception’ rule.

Interestingly, I believe that IVF itself is not the problem, but the way in which multiple fetuses are created and then destroyed when not needed. As a result, should I ever be in a position to undergo IVF, I will be looking at producing one fetus at a time. Which is not economically optimal, I’m sure, but is the only way I’ll know that I’m not doing something against my ethics.

But likewise I cannot condemn someone for doing things differently.

My mother considers herself a feminist, because she believes in the equality of men and women. But she is vehemently anti-abortion under any circumstances because to her a life is a life, and the life of the mother does not take precedence over the life of the child.

I think we spend far too much time here, and in other arenas, trying to decide who is and who is not a feminist.

If we can look at gender and say that gender is something we can self-define, then can we not also self-define feminism? Why should a belief system be more absolute than gender?

This is a tough question precisely because of Shea’s point about those who co-opt feminism to do things which are not feminist.

childerowland // Posted 4 March 2010 at 9:04 am

But to ‘self-define’ feminism renders it completely meaningless. I’d much rather there be fewer people calling themselves feminists and have feminism actually *mean* something than have most people calling themselves feminists when many of those people believe that sexism (e.g. forcing women to give birth) is acceptable.

Also, I am someone who regards a fetus as a human life and I am open to the possibility that it has a soul. It is possible to believe these things *and* to not only be pro-choice, but to not see abortion as some terrible thing. I’m just saying this because some people seem to think that the whole abortion debate hinges on whether or not you think the fetus is a life or not.

Claire // Posted 4 March 2010 at 11:07 am

I agree with Jehenna that we spend too much time on this site trying to exclude different women for not being feminist enough. I don’t want to belong to some exclusive club that creates its own ideologies and casts people out who don’t conform. I want feminism to encompass an appreciation of difference and a right to different viewpoints. But I have blown it anyway as a feminist because I shave my armpits (but not my legs).

JenniferRuth // Posted 4 March 2010 at 12:00 pm

I think a lot of people here are confused about the difference between being a person being a feminist and feminist acts and beliefs. People often mistake “what you said/did does not sound feminist to me” with “what you said/did means you are not a feminist”

If being a feminist depended upon all our actions and thoughts being feminist then NO ONE would be feminist. It simply isn’t possible (especially in a world where institutional sexism is rife) for everything you say and do to be feminist. It might not even be safe of helpful for you to be feminist in certain situations!

Just because you are a feminist does not mean that everything you do is automatically feminist and wonderful and worthy of praise. You can be a feminist and be pro-life…but pro-life will never be a feminist ideology no matter how much you wish it. Just like you can wear high heels but just because you are a feminist wearing high heels doesn’t mean that all the problematic sexist issues with high heels suddenly disappear. I love wearing heels but I’m not gonna call them feminist because, well, they just aren’t (that is a whole other post though).

But this doesn’t mean you are “cast out” of an exclusive club! No-one is being excluded just because one thing you might think or do or say isn’t specifically feminist. If that were the case then the “feminism club” would have no-one in it!

Yes, feminism should embrace different ideas and viewponts. This doesn’t mean that everyone has to agree with you. Neither does it mean that your viewpoints are safe from criticism. And this is good – feminism is all about analysis and asking why and breaking things down. Disagreement and criticism are not excluding people or stripping them of the label feminist.

Kate // Posted 4 March 2010 at 12:25 pm

Excellent post JenniferRuth. May it be referred to in all future (inevitable) arguments.

julie k // Posted 4 March 2010 at 12:35 pm

Sorry, complete derail (probably won’t be published!) but all this talk about what is or isn’t “feminist enough” reminded me of a (feminist) friend many years ago who was told, in all seriousness, by another feminist that she couldn’t possibly be one because she “didn’t have a feminist hairstyle”.

True story. :D

Mary // Posted 5 March 2010 at 11:14 am

Shea – I don’t think that’s a contradiction of what I said. I absolutely agree that reproductive rights including abortion are a live and important issue for many women around the world from all sorts of different backgrounds. What I said was that I objected to was the insistence that “you have to believe in the right to abortion in order to call yourself a feminist” – ie. a very narrow definition of reproductive rights. In some places, women are fighting for the right not to have abortions or against the social pressure to abort particular foetuses.

I believe in women’s reproductive rights, and it’s the focus on access to safe, legal abortion over other types of reproductive rights that is potentially alienating. But for some women, that might mean fighting for better access to contraception to reduce the number of abortions, or it might mean better access to childcare or fighting against high rates of abortion in particular communities or the social pressure to abort female foetuses or disabled foetuses or whatever. Access to safe legal abortion is the most threatened and therefore the prioritised reproductive right in a lot of places, but not all.

FeminaErecta // Posted 5 March 2010 at 11:20 am

just wanted to say a massive thank you for everyone who was so lovely and supportive- I didn’t realise how much of a big thing it was! I will take evrything yiu say into deep consideration, and I honestly don’t believe that I am a heartless childkiller!

I just know how lucky I am to live in a country where I could have the choice and was in a situation where the choice was mine to make. My idea of feminism ‘is’ is women and men supporting each other to live their lives without fear or exploitation, and historically women are often the most at risk of these things. I feel that on this blog, this is being achiveved.

If nobody saw it, the article in yesterday’s guardian about black women in America being told (on massive billboards) that them having an abortion is tantamount to bringing back slavery and lynching made me incensed with rage…

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