Josie Cunningham is being labelled a "murderer" and "baby killer" by the "Great" British public. Others have called for her two children to be "taken away from her" and for her "execution". For taking the same decision that 1 in 3 women in the UK take. The very same 1 in 3 women, whose ability to conceive a child that they choose not to have, has absolutely nothing to do with the inability of others to conceive children they desperately want.
The abortion she is seeking will need to have the medical approval of two doctors to go ahead. The legal conditions of her being permitted an abortion, privately or not, will require her to prove that either her mental or physical health will be compromised, or the health of her existing children will be at risk, if she continues with the pregnancy. Up to 24 weeks into any pregnancy, these are the conditions for all women seeking an abortion in the UK, regardless of the circumstances of the conception, their economic situation, career path or background.
Being able to conceive a child is not, thank goodness, a status symbol, so the yelps that she "doesn't deserve a child" are ridiculous! Imagine a world where only the "worthy" are able to reproduce, and some board or government has the power to decide who qualifies and who doesn't: very soon you end up with a dystopian nightmare, or something resembling Nazi Germany!
The main cause for alarm about Josie Cunningham's reason for having an abortion appears to be her claim that she hopes this will improve her chances of being famous: "Having an abortion would further my career." "[on getting into glamour modelling] There's no chance for at least a year if I do have the baby." However, whatever anyone thinks of her chosen career, this is clearly a case of the prospect of motherhood hindering a woman's ability to support herself.
In the UK 30,000 women lose their jobs each year as a result of being pregnant, and women with young children suffer more discrimination at work than any other group. Given that she already has two children, it is unlikely that Cunningham is naïve about the practicalities of having another child. I might not have had an abortion to improve my chances of glamour modelling or getting onto Big Brother. But like many of the 1 in 5 other pregnancies that end in abortion in this country, I ended mine in full knowledge that continuing with it would have posed a hindrance to my career.
So the disgust and outrage begin to seem a little misplaced, though tabloids bullying women who are labelled anything from "vile" to "evil whore" to "scum" is nothing new. This media-choreographed storm is of course designed to be sensational, and already resembles the narrative arcs of previous villains of the tabloids, Jade Goody, and Jodie Marsh. Perhaps, as with their tales, Josie Cunningham will one day be revered as heroine and national treasure, in possession of the bright pink Range Rover and big house she dreams of. Because these are the things that young girls are told that matter: be beautiful, be big-breasted, be sexually available, be rich, be famous. It is easier to stand aghast at Josie Cunningham's decisions, than to look at what might be behind them.
- 3 girls would consider plastic surgery
- 1 in 3 girls experiences sexual bullying on a daily basis
- 1 in 3 teenage girls has experienced sexual violence from a boyfriend
- 3 in 10 teenagers between 14 and 17yrs old learn about sex from porn
From younger and younger we are setting women up to be targets of some form of abuse. If she is not beautiful she will be bullied: as Josie Cunningham experienced in advance of getting her notorious breast enlargement, and Jodie Marsh did before her nosejob. If she does not engage in sexual acts she will be pestered until she submits. Once she submits she will be shamed for doing so, perhaps to the point of suicide like Chevonea Kendall-Bryan. If she gets pregnant she's a "slag", and if she gets rid of it, she's "selfish". There is no escape from the endemic bullying of women, whatever decision you make about your life and career. Becoming an activist like Caroline Criado Perez, a historian like Mary Beard, a politician like Hillary Clinton, a journalist, a writer, a scientist, a sportswoman, or any profession, will make no difference.
So to all those who have spent their Bank Holiday spreading hate about Josie Cunningham having a safe legal abortion, please be honest about your reasons, and acknowledge what you are part of. This is what misogyny looks like.