Thursday, 6 December 2007

In response to the call to make abortion available in GP clinics and other 'non-traditional' settings

Time was when women were considered ‘mad’ for having a baby outside of marriage. Many of them killed their illicit offspring in an attempt to undo an act which routinely put them in a lunatic asylum. So socially deviant was an illegitimate pregnancy in Victorian eyes that it warranted a lifetime condemnation to a sordid existence as a classified maniac.

Have times changed? In some ways, yes. Single mothers are no longer thrown into a modern-day Bedlam. Yet I would argue that society still considers women who decide to keep unplanned babies as socially deviant.

“Just have an abortion” is a phrase frequently thrown at the television when at least one soap character per month becomes unexpectedly, and undesirably, pregnant. A Guardian review of the recent film Knocked Up criticised its unrealistic failure to have the main characters seriously discussing the possibility of an abortion when the highly attractive and intelligent female character becomes pregnant after a one night stand with the ‘loser’ male lead. They have a point: sugar-coated Hollywood films are a far cry from the reality of 1 in 5 of ALL pregnancies in England and Wales ending in abortion. That’s 20% of our potential population.

Abortion is seen as an emblem of choice for women today. No longer are women forced to bear and raise a child they did not plan to conceive. Abortion, or ‘termination’ as it is more palatably referred to, gives women an option of which lifestyle to pursue: that is how it is seen now. This is exemplified most effectively by the name of the ‘pro-choice’ lobby.

I am not going to enter into a debate about when life starts, or whether a woman has the right to have an abortion. I am merely going to discuss one particular fact, which is this: for many women, abortion is not a choice they make. It is the only option open to them. And for many women, abortion is not a ‘quick fix’, but a decision, often taken hastily and under pressure, that leads to innumerable negative repercussions both in the long-term and short-term. These repercussions can be emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual. Go here for real-life stories and facts about PAS (Post-Abortion Syndrome):

And here

Regarding the current pilot schemes testing whether making abortion available in GP clinics is viable, Phil Willis, a member of the Commons Science and Technology Committee, said this:

"I am certainly in favour of women always having choice in terms of where they can have a procedure.”

But how many of these women actually feel they have a choice on whether to have this ‘procedure’ in the first place? There are a number of factors in most women’s lives constricting that choice and eradicating the options. Pressure from family, from their partners, from society, from friends, from work – these are no small factors. Together they stifle any meaningful, valuable choice that a woman may have.

In legal terms, a woman still has the right to keep her baby if she wants. But this is as far as the choice goes. Supposing someone’s parents are threatening to throw her out, her boyfriend is insisting he will abandon her for good if she keeps the baby and her friends tell her an abortion is the only “sensible” thing to do? Not to mention the social stigma attached to becoming pregnant without planning to. Who doesn’t know someone from school who “got pregnant and kept it”, the one who everyone sees pushing the buggy around town when they’re back in their university holidays?

The debate over pro-life and pro-choice has become so polemic that women have been forgotten in the midst of emotive rhetoric. Step into their shoes for a moment. Women who have unplanned pregnancies are immediately offered by their GPs, the BPAS, FPA, and many other acronyms. The downsides of it, the post-traumatic stress which can last an entire lifetime, the possibility of infertility, the tears on every anniversary; these things are lost beneath the gloss of what a convenient and quick procedure this is. There is no real support offered. Does BPAS offer friendship and ongoing help to these women? Well, they offer a follow-up call after 24 hours and the ‘option of a post-treatment check-up’. What about after 24 years? If you don’t believe me, just ask the post-abortion counsellors working hard around the country, fuelled by compassion for the women who were duped with the promise of no-strings-attached abortion.

I’m aware that I have only addressed the problems of this potential new legislation in terms of the damage it does to women, to the lost mothers of our generation. This is not to the detriment of my belief that all life begins at conception. But in my opinion a large chunk of the debate is missing from both lobbies: the part where the woman comes in. Is abortion, literally on demand, the best thing for her, let alone the unborn human being inside her?

There are many other debates to be had. ‘Tough on the causes of crime’, Blair said. What about being tough on the causes of unwanted pregnancies? What about tackling our nation’s deluded belief that such a thing as ‘sex with no strings attached’, as Fatman Scoop said, exists? What about healing the deep-set insecurities that propel women (and men) into strangers’ beds? What about, ultimately, redressing the belief, proudly held by so many, that sex confined to marriage is restrictive, damaging and unnatural? Show me your evidence. Show me the benefits brought to society by this ‘liberation’. There are none… the price we have paid for a false liberation is to be found in surgical bins, counselling clinics and anguished women all over our country.

Of course there is only one solution to these problems, and Blair would never have mentioned that in public. Jesus Christ, who loves sinners and treats us as worthy to be known by him, the God who knows exactly what makes humans tick and what is best for them. He loves these women, and their unborn children, and you, and me, more than any of us can imagine. And regardless of what you believe about the rights and wrongs of abortion, we are all murderers. We all have God’s blood on our hands, as Jesus Christ was crucified for our sins. Yet the very blood that condemns us is the blood that cleanses us from these sins. It is blood that flows from God’s great mercy, forgiveness and love. And we as his church, his body, should be a vehicle of this love, offering the support, care and most of all unconditional acceptance that society cannot give, to these women, and everyone we have the privilege of knowing.

For more information on how the church is doing this already please visit Care Confidential– unbiased pregnancy and post-abortion counselling and long-term practical and emotional support in hundreds of centres around the country

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well it doesn't seem like your first post was lacking in your usual clarity and eloquence Bec! But the content is even better. This is an issue that needs to be talked about, thought about and acted upon - especially in the Church. I have been thinking about the issue of abortion in the last few weeks. The fact that 20% of our population is being murdered while being formed in the womb just adds to list of facts that remind me - us - that this is one of the greatest crimes we are responsible for as a nation... and if we don't speak and act against it we too are guilty of passively supporting abortion.