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.

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.