Abortion on demand is a mandatory requirement for women’s liberation

Whilst abortion is legal in the UK, it is not available on demand.* Abortion can only be carried out in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy if two doctors agree that “abortion would cause less damage to a woman’s physical or mental health than continuing with the pregnancy”. That’s only if you’re lucky enough to live on the mainland. Abortion isn’t available in Northern Ireland. There are some obvious exceptions to the 24 week rule involving saving the life of the mother or preventing grave or serious injury to her; as well as the more difficult issue of aborting a fetus due to disability.**

I find any limits on abortion problematic. I think all women should have access to abortion when they want it without having to faff about finding two doctors who agree to the procedure. Having to find two doctors just extends the unwanted pregnancy unnecessarily causing added stress. The right to decide what does and does not happen to one’s own body is a fundamental issue of self-determination. I believe that women have the right to abortion at any point in their pregnancy; after all 91% of abortions in 2011 were before 13 weeks. There are very, very few abortions after the 24 week point and, no, the Sarah Catt case isn’t representative of anything. She was denied an abortion and therefore chose to self-abort. Catt was also not convicted under the abortion laws; instead she was found guilty of an archaic law from the mid 19th century. Women are perfectly capable of deciding if and when they need an abortion without having to discuss it with two doctors; doctors who may or may not be anti-choicers.

The language around accessing abortion itself infantilises women. We can only have an abortion if someone else tells us we can. Not because we want one. Not because we need one. But, because someone else deems it medically necessary. Abortion should be available to women at any point in the pregnancy because the woman deems it necessary and not because someone else gave her permission to do so. I also dislike the rhetoric around “good” abortions for victims of rape versus “bad” abortions for women who have had the temerity to have consensual sex without wanting to get pregnant. Any attempts to create a hierarchy of acceptable reasons for women to have abortions just limits women’s choices. It is the heart of woman-hating. This is without getting into the fact that many women have to access abortions for financial reasons. It’s hardly a choice if you are having an abortion because you can not afford to feed a child. That is why we have a welfare state [or did before the ConDems destroyed it]. Limiting access to abortion gives others rights over women’s bodies. It serves only as a punishment for the crime of being born with a vagina.

Canada is not a haven for women & abortion isn’t available ‘on demand’

I support abortion on demand for the entirety of a woman’s pregnancy. It is absolutely unacceptable that women require permission from two doctors to make a decision about what is best for their body. Our abortion laws are archaic and misogynistic. And, we allow “protestors” to harass women accessing clinics despite serious campaigning from organisations like BPAS (and @extreme_crochet!)

I was nodding my head along to this article by Caroline Criado-Perez demanding a fundamental change to how we understand abortion taking it out of criminal and making it a human right. Then I read this:

In Canada, one of the few countries where there are no legal restrictions on abortion – where for nearly three decades abortion has not been limited by criminal law, but by the Health Act – women have not run rampant with their autonomy.

and winced. Legal abortions were brought in the Canadian Health Act in 1969 but only in select circumstances. All other abortions remained illegal until 1988 when Henry Morgentaler challenged the criminal law before the Supreme Court and won. Technically, there are no “legal restrictions” on abortion. That doesn’t mean all women have equal access to abortion. Health is a devolved issue to provincial governments and access to abortion is depended on provincial legislatures. We may have a law guaranteeing access to abortion but that only benefits women with access to a local service provider or those who have the financial ability to travel – the similarities to Northern Ireland are quite obvious.

Women in Prince Edward Island have no access to abortion within the province. They are required to travel – most to either New Brunswick or Nova Scotia. PEI healthcare will pay for the actual abortion but not travel to and from a clinic. Abortion is also restricted to 16 weeks and 5 days in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Women who need one after this date are forced to travel to Ontario or Quebec. Women in PEI must have a blood test and ultrasound performed before being referred to a hospital – and doctors are not required by law to refer to women further delaying the process whilst women access a GP who will refer them. Private clinics do not require this but provincial healthcare insurance does not cover their costs.

Women in PEI can travel to Nova Scotia. They used to be able to travel to New Brunswick but the Morgentaler clinic, the only abortion clinic in the province, closed last year due to funding cuts. Women living in isolated communities find it far more difficult to access basic healthcare, never mind abortions. For a woman living in a small community in Nunavut, Northwest Territories or Yukon, travel to a larger centre with a hospital that provides abortions can cost the equivalent of an international flight to the UK. Women on the Eastern seaboard are actually travelling to Maine to access their legal right to abortion under Canadian law.

Abortion tourism has not been sufficiently researched to assess the data but it happens to women whose legal guarantee to abortion is irrelevant in the face of other legal and financial barriers.

This is why i loathe the myths surrounding Canada being a haven for women. It’s just not true and it isn’t just intellectually lazy to employ, it’s actually dangerous. Reading Criado-Perez’s piece you would assume every single woman in Canada has access to abortion on demand and that the decrease in numbers of abortion is due to women’s choices rather than limited access to abortion.

Canada frequently makes the Top Ten of the UN’s human development index. That only works if you ignore the fact that Human Rights Watch had to investigate the disappearance of Indigenous women along the so-called “Highway of Tears” in British Columbia for the government to at least make a pretence of taking Indigenous femicide seriously.

Women’s services are being decimated by the national, provincial and local governments. The welfare state supports women in poverty even less than the government of the UK does. Access to healthcare is a postcode lottery as is access to child tax credits. Indigenous women are raped and prostituted by white men at statistically significant higher rates than other women but the various governments aren’t interested in actually stopping this racialised femicide.

Women across the world deserve access to abortion on demand. They deserve reproductive justice but comparisons to Canada will not get women in the UK these rights. Unless we want to continue a two-tiered system that only benefits white women living in urban areas.

Women are worse than men

This is an actual comment submitted by a man to my post on the hypocrisy of left-wing dudebros.

Far worse than the males you condemn are the women who are anti-choice. These women disgust me as I see them as a force for either back alley abortions and the death of so many women or the other alternative–mandatory motherhood.

Here you have it: women who oppose abortion are “far worse” than violent men who rape and kill.

A comment by a man actually proving the point of my post.

Language Does Matter: FGM is not “cissexist”

These four tweets have been appearing in my TL for days.

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The term FGM is not cissexist. Female genital mutilation, as defined by the World Health Organisation,

“includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. … FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”

This definition does not even begin to describe the actual practise and consequences of female genital mutilation. The long-term consequences of FGM includes: sterility, difficulty urinating, increased infant and maternal mortality, fistulas, bleeding, and infections. As an organisation, the WHO has serious problems with misogyny, racism, and classism. It replicates capitalist, patriarchal white supremacist controls over women’s bodies, an allegiance to wealthy industrialised nations and far too much investment from pharmaceutical corporations whose whole raison d’être is making money: not helping people.

Yet, even the WHO recognises that FGM is a form of violence against women and girls. It is only performed on girls. We need to be able to name this crime – just as we need to name every other form of violence against women and girls. We will not end violence against women and girls by obfuscating language.

We need to be able to talk about abortion, access to birth control, and all other forms of reproductive justice as women’s issues. We need to recognise and label these as forms of violence against women and girls. We need to be clear that male circumcision is not equivalent to female genital mutilation. It may not be medically necessary and it may cause pain to infant boys, but it does not maim and kill infant boys like the practise of female genital mutilation does. Circumcision does not cause sterility or result in difficulty in urination. It doesn’t kill.

It is not “cissexist” to talk about the biological reality of women’s bodies and the damage done to them within a capitalist-patriarchy. Frankly, even the suggestion that it is “cissexist” demonstrates a fundamental inability to actually understand the reality of lives of women and girls in our world. I am incredibly angry at living in a society in which identity politics have not only erased all political and theoretical understandings of the oppression of women as a class but that we have to see this type of bullshit bandied about as if it’s The Most Important Thing Ever Written. It’s not. It’s just the same women-hating shite that we have to deal with on a daily basis.

The term FGM is not “cissexist” and suggesting that it is is misogyny.

A Woman is Repeatedly Violated: What Happens Next

I woke up this morning to the sounds of my adopted nephew, who has bipolar disorder, ADHD, FASD, and operational defiance disorder, and my daughter playing Just Dance on the Wii. Granted, it’s not perhaps the gentlest of ways to wake up: Who let the dogs out is OTT at the best of times. The kids were enjoying themselves so I hid with some tea in the kitchen and read the news. This article by Sarah Ditum for the New Statesman was the very first thing I read and I was both horrified and heart-breaking.

A young woman living in Ireland was raped, became pregnant, was denied an abortion, was force-fed during a hunger strike as she was suicidal and then forced to endure  a c-section at 24 weeks gestation. As Ditum makes clear, this woman experiences a catalogue of violations of her bodily integrity:

And what trauma. As an onlooker to this case, what strikes me is the constant traffic of foreign objects through this woman’s body, imposing foreign wills. The penis of the rapist who forced himself into her. The nasogastric tube stuck into her nostril and down against her resisting throat. The scalpel of the doctors who cut her open, their hands in her belly, the moving horror of another body within your restrained flesh. The unbelievable awfulness of being compelled to provide life to the child of the man who raped you. And the terrible silence of voicelessness, a woman with no tongue that would let her be heard.

This is the reality of woman-hating in our culture: a woman is nothing more than a womb to carry a foetus conceived in rape. A woman is violated over and over again by the Patriarchy who care only about the rights of foetus when it is inside the body of a woman.

We don’t know the health of the child but being born at 24 weeks has a very high risk of being severely disabled. Maternal stress also has a negative impact on the foetus. This child does not have very good prospects: being placed in foster care for adoption (if the birth mother so chooses) does not have great outcomes for a child with disabilities. Most adoptive parents do not want a child with disabilities and remaining in the care system does very little for a child’s mental and physical health. This assumes the child will be considered adoptable – Ireland prohibits the adoption of children born in marriage and has other equally bizarre rules which make adoption difficult. If the mother chooses to keep the child, the welfare state of Ireland (or indeed anywhere) is not supportive of a child with disabilities. Accessing the minuscule services that exist requires daily fights. It is emotionally and physically draining. The outcomes for this child, if they survive birth at 24 weeks, is not very good in any scenario.

The mother has experienced multiple traumas. Regardless of whether or not she will choose to keep the child, there is no real welfare state or health care which can support her through the trauma of rape, forced pregnancy and forced surgery. Her mental and physical health are not known (and must remain unknown for her privacy) but we can imagine the consequences of trauma.

The other question is who will pay for this care for both the mother and the child now born? No country has real universal healthcare which supports women through trauma and gives appropriate support to a person with disabilities. Poverty, and all the consequences which come with it including poor physical and mental health, are the future of this woman and the child.

My nephew was adopted in an open-adoption in Canada which supposedly has a welfare state and national healthcare. He has a relationship with his extended birth family, as well as his extended adopted family. We all love him but we also know the reality of his life: the fights for appropriate support in school, mental health care, physical health care and inclusion in society. Every day we watch him battle with the consequences of this multiple diagnoses. Yet, he is one of the “lucky” ones because he has a stable home life and a knowledge of his whole family. Most children born with disabilities who are in the care system have to deal with being bounced from foster placement to care homes dealing with a system which prefers to spend money on weapons than on caring appropriately for its citizens.

It is unlikely we will ever learn how or if this child and their birth mother live, but this is why reproductive justice is more than access to abortion or birth control or living in a world without rape. Far too many traumatized women and children bear the brunt of a culture which privileges foetuses over people.

On Josie Cunningham and abortion

I am pro-choice. I believe that every woman knows what is best for herself at the moment she makes the decision to have an abortion or continue a pregnancy whilst living within a capitalist-patriarchy.

I support Josie Cunningham.

With no ifs, ands or buts.

I just support Josie Cunningham.

Naral Pro-Choice America Blog For Choice Day: 2013

I am pro-choice because I am pro-woman. I believe that male violence is the root of women’s oppression. I believe that women can never be free of male violence without complete reproductive freedom.

Complete reproductive freedom requires:

Free access to healthcare
Free access to contraception
Free 24 hour access to childcare
Free access to education
Free access to abortion on demand

Complete reproductive freedom requires a welfare state so that women can make the choice to have a child without worrying about not being able to feed that child. That is the hallmark of a humane society. Anyone who is anti-abortion and who also supports the current destruction of our welfare state is a hypocrite who should not be allowed to have PIV.

I believe that women are not only fully human but are also capable of making decisions for themselves.

I support unlimited access to abortion on demand. I believe women are more than capable of making decisions for their own bodies.

I believe that we need more sex education for children that their parents can not opt out on.

I trust women to make the decision to have an abortion or to continue with a pregnancy for themselves.

I trust women to make the decision without political interference.

I trust women.

Preventing access to abortion is just another form of Violence against Women.

It is just another front in the War on Women.

I am pro-choice because I believe women are human too.

Another Example of Why The Term “Pro-Life” is Deeply Offensive

In the too little, too late category, two investigations have been opened into the PREVENTABLE death of Savita Halappanavar (31) who was denied a life-saving abortion in Ireland;  you know, the ONLY type of abortion legally available in Ireland. Yet, Halappanavar was denied an abortion to save her life despite the fact that she was miscarrying.  Halappanavar was denied an abortion for 3 days despite repeatedly asking and with the knowledge that the foetus had no chance of survival because her doctors made the decision to deny her a life-saving treatment. Instead, Halappanavar died of septicaemia. 

I can not adequately express how unbelievably angry this makes me. I hate anti-choicers and I am sick of them prancing about calling themselves “pro-life”. They aren’t pro-life. They are hypocritical woman-hating, uterus-controlling anti-choicers and they deserve neither our respect nor our time.

It is just another form of Violence against Women. 

It is just another front in the War on Women

Please join Abortion Rights so that we can continue campaigning to prevent more women from dying because of religious intolerance and medical arrogance. Every woman has the right to an abortion when they need it. No one has the right to deny women this choice.

I am Pro-Woman not Pro-Choice

You see, unlike all the penises who believe they have the right to dictate the contents of a woman’s uterus, I happen to believe that women are not only fully human but are also capable of making decisions for themselves. Without the help of a penis. 

I support unlimited access to abortion on demand because I believe women are human. I believe women are more than capable of making decisions for their own bodies. 

I believe no woman will have an abortion at 37 weeks for shits and giggles. 

I believe that we need more sex education for children that their parents can not opt out on.

I trust women to make the decision to have an abortion or to continue with a pregnancy for themselves.

I trust women to make the decision without political interference. 

I trust women.

The people I don’t trust are the anti-women nincompoops who want to curtail women’s rights to access abortion. I don’t trust male politicians who will never have to make the choice to write the laws which will effect my body. My “pro-choice” MP didn’t think it was important for him to show up to the debate in parliament today since the debate was “purely for expressions of view, and do not make binding policy. There are no votes at the end of these debates.” His refusal to attend meant that the voices of the anti-choice women-haters were the loudest. His refusal meant that the men who claim that fetuses are “fully human” were heard and not the voices of those who believe that women are fully human. 

These men dictating their right to control the contents of a woman’s uterus are the same men who voted for cuts to benefits. It is the same men who are currently carving up the NHS. Who do they think will pay for the incredibly expensive neo-natal care of a fetus born at 22 weeks? As one of the anti-choicers pointed out today in the debate, people were already fundraising for special care baby units. Where will this money come from now that the NHS is being destroyed? Who will pay for the long-term care of these children? Who will pay for their housing as housing benefit is slashed? Who will pay for their education as the schools budget is decimated? Who will pay for their childcare as benefit payments are destroyed? 

Anyone who is anti-abortion and who also votes to cuts to the welfare state, in any shape or form, is a hypocrite. I’m sick to death of the hypocrites. 

I am pro-choice because I believe women are human too.

Some excellent blogs on abortion: 

War on Women: The Abortion Battle.

Nadine Dorries has secured a 90 minute debate spot on abortion on Wednesday October 31 at 9:30. She is asking for the limit for abortions in the UK to be reduced from 24 weeks to 22 weeks. This is just a debate. There will be no vote, however, Dorries is using this as the second stage of her attack on abortion rights. Her next stage is a full parliamentary debate in the Spring of 2003 where Dorries would like to decrease the time limit on abortions to, at the most, 20 weeks. Considering the support Dorries already has from the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, this is quite clearly a concerted attack on women’s bodily autonomy. Women in the UK already do not have the right to abortion on demand. Women in the UK need greater access to abortion without judgement. We can not allow Nadine Dorries continue her War on Women’s bodies. 

Please write to your MP today to ensure that they vote to keep the abortion limit at 24 weeks. There is an excellent form letter available here on Edinburgh Eye’s blog.

Petition here to end the legal requirement for two doctors signatures for a woman to access an abortion.