Given the last post. Also have amended this slightly to make my position a little clearer.
A long long time ago I had an abortion. I'm not going to talk about who the chap involved was, but I will say that the pregnancy happened bang on the start of what was a career defining moment in my life, and I'd only been seeing the other person for a very short time (it was trying out the pill and me feeling horrible on it, coming off it: my cycle got shot to pieces). I was in debt, we were renting, and for the first time, I was earning some wages, but I was not employed, I was only freelancing. If that child had come along then, then bang - everything would have screwed up. The job, the relationship. a single mother living in rented accomodation with her beginnings of an independent life in tatters. Dire awfulness all round. Neither of us were ready by a long, long chalk.
I felt a bit weird about it, but also practical. And remained in that state afterwards for several years. Having now had a child and have gone beyond the point in pregnancy with No.2 that the first child was terminated (7 weeks approx), I must force myself to reassess my feelings about abortion, as a mother. Because my position has changed.
A leading pro-choice group in the UK argues on its website several positions including:
-The foetus is not alive (in law) (update: ok, that's not what they're saying. they state that the foetus has no legal rights and is not seen as seperate from the mother. not the same thing, so either ignore the above point or take it as being a given opinion by pro-choicers which has oft been trotted out)
-Abortion does not cause lasting psychological damage
Both of these positions are frankly, bullshit. You don't *have* to have carried a child to know that that being is alive and kicking inside you, but I would say it certainly changes your perception of that idea. The 12 week scan sees a small but perfectly forming human being hop, skipping and jumping around inside its fleshy parcel as if it can't wait to stretch its limbs in the real world (not before it stretches its limbs inside you, natch - groan). ultimately, as the mother of a child, you are its custodian for its first 9 months of life. you do not give birth to an object, which miraculously at the point of expellation suddenly comes to life.
This does make me - an avowedly pro-choice person, question the date up until when an abortion is legal. I say question, but it's really obviously a personal point of view, and should in no way inform anyone else's opinion on the subject. At 24 weeks, the "quickening" took place a long time previously. That is, that small, live being, has been felt inside you kicking and squeaking its way around in an increasingly restricted living area. For me, 24 weeks seems awfully late. What reason would one have to be having an abortion that late, unless it were for the emergence of a severe abnormality, which would have killed the child soon after / at or before birth? I don't know the answer if you ask me what date do I think I should choose. My answer is that for me, personally, 24 weeks seems very late. Given my stated position though, and the current state of law, women *must* be allowed to have abortions up until that point.
As to the apparent lack of psychological damage, I won't harp on about it, but it does. If I were to question women who had had children since having an abortion, my hypothesis is that many of those women would suffer increased levels of anxiety / stress or guilt. I do. Granted, it's not shoot-myself-in-the-head time, but it's a level of background noise I could really have done without in my life. To suggest it is purely a medical procedure somewhat akin to pulling teeth is a farce.
So the question that was debated several months ago with friends is this - will the abortion law in this country be changed, and what changes will it undergo? given that we have a Christian / catholic in control of the country, when those 3D scan pictures first emerged, showing small persons kicking and punching away in the womb, a great deal of public disquiet was in evidence about the 24 weeks rule. Disquiet and concern which was echoed by the PM. Here's my argument, which is what informs my position*, and makes my unease about dates irrelevant. Whether or not individual politicians actively believe that abortion is wrong is not the question that will vex health ministers. There will be somewhere a statistical correlation between the number of women's deaths increasing, and the weeks that the abortion laws have gradually chopped off the allowed limit. What the govt will be afraid of is this question: how many deaths of women a year at the hands of backstreet abortionists carrying out late abortions, do they think that readers of the Daily Mail will put up with before there's a revolt. 200? 400? 1000? It has to be the case that for every week they shave from the limit end, more women will die. There will eventually be a "tipping point" (I apologise for the use of the phrase ;) at which suddenly, the number of young women being slaughtered annually because of the desire to be rid of unwanted pregnancies just doesn't really come over too well.
So the answer to the abortion debate does not come in either the position of being for choice, or against it. The answer comes in how stupid / brave / state your chosen adjective any particular govt is in further reducing the limit.
Please note that this discussion relates purely to the UK, and not the US, where the religious right holds such a powerful sway over central govt and the judiciary that I don't think the deaths of countless women every year would be of much interest to them.
To return to my own position. I'm not 'proud' of having had an abortion, by which I mean I don't wear that responsibility lightly. However, given that it was in the past, I was then childless and had no idea what having a child actually meant, it is entirely pointless to express extreme regret, and beat myself about the back daily with sticks. It happened. I can't avoid it. I don't. To an extent, I shrug my shoulders about it. There you go. If you ask me if I would have another? The answer is: not if it were at gunpoint.
I would strongly, *strongly* recommend John Irving's amazing novel, "Cider House Rules" at this point, if you haven't read it. It's an exceptional moral dialogue and explanation of his position on abortion, based on a mass of research, some of which fills one with dread and heartache. I haven't seen the film and don't really feel the need to, so whatever you do, don't substitute that for the novel. It's just an acutely brilliant piece of work.
*There is also a strong feminist political position which I take on the issue. Again, it is entirely seperate to my personal feelings on abortion from an entirely "me"-centric p.o.v. One must, MUST remove one's emotional reaction from the argument in order to see the political impliactions of changes in abortion law. Take for example, changing the law to make abortion illegal. a) I would argue that it is difficult and dangerous for any man to be involved in that final decision making, given that it will entail a political curtailment in human rights for women and b) Regardless of the deaths of these potential children, by removing the right to abort, the human rights of women are taken back 50, 100 years. To state that women must be forced to give birth, regardless of the circumstances, is a shocking curtailment of rights, which necessarily involves a level of physical discrimination which is entirely unsatisfactory in a civilsed society. Not only is it discriminatory from a sexual position (and therefore, a masculine power related reasoning point which cannot be countenanced), but it is blatantly discriminatory against the poor. Rich women can and will *always* find safe ways to abort, whether a law bannign such exists in this country or not. The poor will be forced either in to motherhood regardless of the circumstances, or potential death, as discussed. Such a position, again, I maintain, regardless of the rights of the unborn child *cannot be countenanced*.
That abortion by definition results in the death of an unborn child is a non-negotiable point. My argumernt is that regardless of one's own position on the viability of that "choice" on a personal level, we as a nation must learn to accept that unwanted foetuses will, and always will be removed, either illegally or not. Therefore given the above points, we cannot possibily allow ourselves to accept a position where abortion rights are curtailed.
If anything were to happen in this country to curtail the right to abortion, I would be on the streets, fighting. Bit of a long home made placard though. "Though I personally woudn't have one (anymore), I defend the rights of any woman to have an abortion". If things start going the way I think they will in the US, then I can forsee quite a lot of donations to charities enabling poor young women to take interesting international holidays to Canada.