As an African raised in a Christian household, where reading the bible was how my mum encouraged me to practice my reading skills. Most would assume that I'm anti choice - when in fact the opposite is true.
The tendency of the Christian Right to monopolise the debate on abortion: twisting it into a diatribe of 'baby killing', using horrific imagery of mutilated foetuses - all of this naturally impacts young women including young black religious women. The shame, the guilt and the sense of having let people down - these feelings are not exclusive to women of faith but they become more acute when deciding whether to have an abortion. Especially on the existential consideration of what the foetus is. Is it a life? Is it a thing? Am I a murderer? Will I be punished by God? Such questions are designed to make women feel guilty and have been deliberately propagated by the Christian Right in an attempt to keep women at home, in order to build traditional families. It seems the Christian Right only care about life when it's in the womb, even willing to kill medical providers of abortion. Theirs is an extreme way of reading the Bible when I am the embodiment that you can interpret the Bible in a different way.
Worryingly anti choice groups have been ramping up their tactics of intimidation of abortion clinics in the UK. Reports have alleged the closure of one clinic with others facing similar threats. On May 16 this year, a coalition of anti-choice groups called March for Life met for their annual demonstration. This group is comprised of various organisations including 'The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children' that harbour often sexist and homophobic views. March for Life believes abortion rights should be restricted and that the life of a foetus takes precedent over that of a woman's. The counter protest organised by the national pro choice campaign Abortion Rights attracted a strong showing of students from Birmingham University to stand up for choice and to demonstrate that in the 21st century such archaic views held by March for Life are becoming increasingly irrelevant.
Furthermore, the government's agenda of cuts to public health services is hitting women the hardest. The number of unplanned pregnancies is likely to rise costing the NHS an extra £250m on abortions and maternity services thanks to the cuts.
As a student, as a young black woman on low income, I am part of the group that is being hardest hit by the government's cuts. These cuts will restrict my access to public health services including abortion provision. I want to be able to enjoy university life, focus on my studies, prepare for my career without having to worry about the prospect of an unplanned pregnancy and no services available for accessing abortion. Having a baby is a life changing decision and if I should ever decide to have a child I want to be ready and be able to provide for one. I also do not look forward to having to face anti choice protesters claiming they care about my 'unborn child' but shed no tears over children having to eat from food banks, often going hungry because their parents cannot afford to buy them food. They don't seem to be pro life then. I am more than my body, I am a campaigner, a writer, a thinker - I am a woman who is more than the sum of her parts. Because if David Cameron can enjoy holidays in Ibiza then I should be entitled to carry on with my business - and accessing abortion is MY business.
I believe the only way forward for defending and extending access to abortion is to mount an effective campaign that has broad support from an array of forces across society for safe, free and legal access to abortion. This is why I as a student and a former member of the NUS Women's Committee, I was proud when the NUS Women's Officer affiliated the NUS Women's Campaign to Abortion Rights. It is now incumbent for every single campus in the UK to be pro-choice - particularly because of the fantastic role we students have played in defending access to abortion. Being pro choice can be achieved by encouraging all campuses to affiliate their Student Union to Abortion Rights. Students can also become individual members of Abortion Rights for only £5 a year! We should ensure access to abortion is a campaign priority for university campuses to ensure the pro choice majority are visible and heard.
And what better place to kick start the the pro choice student movement than at the Abortion Rights Student Conference on November 28 at Birmingham University.