Abortion. A word that divides nations, is taboo and continues to cause controversy. Women have been having abortions, be they backstreet botched abortions or even taking to using a knitting needle or coat hanger since the mid-late 1800's when abortions were first made illegal. The Abortion Act 1967 was created for a reason and to challenge this will ultimately be detrimental to women all over the country.
I find the term 'pro-life' offensive. In my eyes, surely everyone is pro-life and this should not be used to vilify women. It is about choice, a woman's choice, a woman and her partners choice. Would we be having this same debate if men were the ones that produced babies? There are countless amounts of men who support their partners decision to terminate a pregnancy, yet unsurprisingly their are numerous amounts of men who campaign against it: Jeremy Hunt and our Prime Minister, David Cameron to name a few. Funny that, isn't it. Some may say, it is another way of attempting to control women...
It is those "pro-life" activists that make it difficult for many women to have children. Access to subsidised daycare, gender and pay equality, poor sex education, the gap between the rich and poor. These are all factors which can lead to women deciding that they are unable to have a child and are as such those rights that the majority of these activists support. Planned parenthood is a good thing, abortion is a tough decision to make and is not one that women come to easily.
Again, religion rears its ugly head. Look at Ireland where women, by having an abortion, can be charged with murder and doctors who carry out the procedure can face life in prison. If they need an abortion they have to endure travelling to a foreign country and undergoing the procedure without any support in their own country. This is utter madness and women are being let down. It is time that religion catapulted itself into the 21st century and became relevant to our society.
I read an article in The Guardian the other week where Jill Filipovic discussed how the Roe V Wade 1973 supreme court ruling in America was in fact a "historic struggle for emancipation". I completely agree. Filipovic also raised the worrying facts of how in some states in America, there are continual attempts to enforce a law whereby if a woman were to have an abortion or even miscarry, she could be charged with murder! I know i'm not in the minority when I say... WHAT?!
Panorama also aired their documentary last week, "The Great Abortion Divide" and I felt instantly outraged by "Pro-life activists, both men and women, confronting the public with graphic images of different stages of a developing fetus in the womb. Of the few who walked past, they were each offended and angered by their protests and I would have been one of them.
I find it alarming when women are even against it. It should be about choice. A woman should have full control over her reproductive rights. What if some of these women who challenge it became pregnant by being raped, or maybe their daughter did, perhaps they faced similar circumstances like Savita Halappanavar - would they still be against it? Why are women challenging their own rights to control their body, it really makes no sense to me.
What about the rights of the woman who is carrying the fetus, do her rights suddenly vanish? The decision to terminate a pregnancy will differ from woman to woman and support is what is essential. I understand the role of ethics and unless it is for a real medical reason, I think abortions over 24 weeks does challenge my view, however, that is why there is a limit on it. When a male activist was asked by Victoria Derbyshire if what they were "adding to a woman's distress over such a difficult decisions", he responded, "that was not the case" - oh, so all of a sudden a living, breathing adult woman's rights are forgone. This is just the attitude that Savita Halappanavar faced, which ultimately meant that she lost her life and the fetus'.
More money needs to be invested into sex education, family planning, reliable birth control and services that protect women, providing them with full access to counselling before and after an abortion. The stigma needs to be erased and a sensible conversation and acceptance of abortion is vital. Making it illegal will not reduce abortions but instead make them more dangerous, lead to maternal deaths and restricting women's choice. Instead of judging others, we should be supporting a society that is trying to be responsible in many cases and not be heading back to a Victorian era. How can you not support abortion?
Unfortunately, I think that this debate will continue for a long time to come and will always divide the nation.