Why Decriminalise Abortion: An Evening In Parliament
On 10th October, 2018, I had the honour of attending a meeting on why the UK needs to decriminalise abortion, hosted in the House of Commons. The line up included:
The evening consisted of the aforementioned women all discussing abortion rights in relation to their respected fields. If I’m honest, it was a tough evening. Not because it was heavy with numbers & facts, but because I can’t fathom why on earth we’re still fighting this battle? Let’s start with some of the statistics:
The NHS holds the right to only perform abortions on those who live in the U.K. Ultimately, if a woman from Northern Ireland travels to the U.K for an abortion and the NHS refuses to perform it due to high demand, that woman would then have to pay to have it done privately. Making the process of travel, accommodation & hospital fees so excessive that it undeniably becomes a classist issue.
In many cases, the process of abortion includes an ultrasound, whereby the woman in question has to listen to the heartbeat & look at the fetus. The process also include pre-abortion counselling which, more often than not, will try to sway the woman into having the baby.
These are a few of many statistics that prove women still don’t have autonomy over their own pregnancy. During what was a truly riveting conversation, Stella Creasy (MP for Walthamstow), stated that ‘until women have autonomy over their pregnancy, they can’t have true autonomy over their body’. It wasn’t until then that it really resonated with me. Yes, I have always been pro-choice. I have always seen it as a feminist issue, and an urgent one at that. But it wasn’t until Creasy said this that I truly realised just how much it affected me. I’ll be honest. I’ve never had an abortion. I’ve had pregnancy scares (but what girl hasn’t?), but it never came into fruition. I’ve thought about abortion a lot; my partner & I have had ‘the discussion’ in case I ever got pregnant. I said I would abort it if it happened now, but how can you ever truly know until you’re crossing that bridge? He said it would be up to me. No woman I know comes to the decision of abortion lightly. It is life-altering, whatever you decide. I have had these conversations with girlfriends over brunch - open and honest explorations about the implications an abortion will have on their lives.
I get where pro-lifer’s are coming from. If religion plays a part in the decision making for them, then of course there is more to play for. But, as a country, we are becoming a far more secular society than ever before. Why does religion play a part in legislation? Because it is hard to separate oneself from one’s spiritual morals when developing law. I get that. The people in the hierarchy of the Church that I’ve spoken with about this are not necessarily pro-lifers - they agree that it is an incredibly uncomfortable conversation that needs to be had. Rather than criminalising it (because we all know illegal abortions will still be, unsafely, had), they suggest more money being put into the counselling beforehand. Not the kind that sways you into going through with the pregnancy, but the kind that will give you the chance to see all of the options available to you. That’s pretty agreeable, no?
I become frustrated when I hear of women using abortion as birth control. But those women should not be the reason why other women can no longer have the option legally available to them.
Lets stop polarising the discussion. Pro-choicer’s are not baby killers. Pro-lifer’s are not religious nut-jobs. Middle ground brought people from both sides together to have a reasonable and honest discussion about their opposing opinions. Whilst their minds weren’t changed, opening the conversation allows a non-aggressive approach to a topic that has to be discussed. Breaking down barriers to truly listen to your opposers will always have great benefits. See the video here.
Ultimately, everyone will always have opposing opinions over abortions. Whether it be a moral, religious or a feminist issue, we cannot expect to come to a conclusion that everyone will be happy with. However, despite your stance don’t you agree that - ultimately - whatever the circumstance, the choice should be available to all women? Why is it up to us to decide whether a woman qualifies for an abortion? Who are we to make life-altering decisions for those we don’t know? The decision should rest upon the shoulders of those involved, and those people should have all the options available to them.
Article by VERVE Operative & blogger Helena Burton-Jones