26 Oct 2010

Possibly the most depressing news of the year so far...

...is the article on P13 of today’s Independent, titled ‘US-style anti-abortion protestors target clinics in Britain’. The picture of a frankly ridiculous looking ‘pro-life’ protester in a Texas Chainsaw Massacre-type mask holding up the obligatory doll does undermine the notion that these woman-hating loonies actually pose any serious threat to our rights, but the article still makes for uneasy reading.

Apparently a Texas-Based group calling itself 40 Days For Life has begun targeting abortion clinics in the UK, clearly no longer satisfied with just harassing and browbeating women born on American soil. They call their actions ‘peaceful, prayerful and [a] legal vigil’, a claim not exactly borne out by the fact they have been filming women and staff walking into clinic (presumably to ‘name and shame’ those goddamn whores who dare to kill cute ickle babbas) and pressing misleading literature on women seeking abortion. Oh, that old literature, with its claims about all those terrible ‘risks’ of terminating a pregnancy. I love the way they never get around to pointing out that giving birth is actually 11 times more likely to prove fatal than having an abortion. And that there’s no such thing as ‘post-abortion syndrome’. And that the only thing that’s likely to cause a woman mental trauma or depression is being prevented from GETTING THE FUCKING ABORTION WHEN SHE NEEDS IT. But I guess the only people to acknowledge such facts are ones who see women as autonomous, full human beings deserving of respect – instead of as wombs on legs.

I don’t know who in the article is more deserving of my contempt, the male British head of 40 Days for Life who claims “I am pro choice. But I am not pro-choice about rape, burglary, kidnapping or killing children”(because a 12-week old zygote is the same as a child. Riiiiight), or the British paediatrician joining in harassing women and staff outside the London Marie Stopes clinic, who claims “We’ve seen seven clinics close because of our vigils and at least 3100 women, who were going to have an abortion, but didn’t”. Sure they didn’t just go to another clinic where your unevolved, woman-hating asses weren’t outside giving them shit, sista? Jesus fucking christ.

Darinka Aleksic, campaign co-ordinator at Abortion Rights, gets right to the crux of what these crusaders are actually up to. “We are strongly in favour of women receiving as much support, counselling and information about abortion as possible. But we’re worried about the tenor of a lot of the advice being given out by these picketers. There’s a lot of emphasis on guilt and misleading scientific information.” Yesss, you can just never quite get away from guilt when it comes to religious, right-wing propaganda, can you? Ms Aleksic is being pretty fucking restrained in her comments in a way I’m not sure I could manage – my own phrasing would probably go a little along the lines of “they can’t stand the idea of all women not being barefoot, pregnant and chained to the kitchen sink, so they’re making sure they shame women a) for daring to have sex in the first place and b) for wanting bodily control, by haranguing them at a time when they’re already vulnerable, with sinister propaganda that prioritises the rights of a ball of cells over a living human. What a bunch of retarded, Bible-bashing, misogynistic losers”.

What’s more disheartening than the fact that the American lunatic fringe has invaded our peaceful shores with its slut-shaming, “weren’t things great back in 1830 before these bitches got too uppity?” attitude, is the short post-script to the article reflecting on the erosion of British abortion rights. When the motion to reduce the abortion time limit from 24 weeks to 22 weeks was voted on two years ago in Parliament, the three men who are now respectively the current PM, Foreign Secretary and Health Secretary, voted in favour of it. Therese Coffey, a newly elected Tory MP, has put forward a motion requiring women “seeking an abortion on mental health grounds to receive counselling and be warned of possible risks to their mental health”.

It may all sound fairly minor in comparison to the insane assaults on abortion rights in the States (having to have an ultrasound before you abort, anyone? Having to sign a death warrant for that cute li’l baby you murdered, bitch?), but you’ve only got to look across the Atlantic to see where this insidious, piece-by-piece, peeling away of abortion rights is getting its ideas from. The motion by Coffey particularly disturbed me, and not just because of the total lack of evidence that abortion causes any other mental sensation for women than one of RELIEF. As someone who has mental health problems in my past and hence on my medical records, I’m concerned that should I ever require an abortion, the validity of my request for one would be called into question by that very fact. The idea of having to be ‘counselled’ – which in any pro-life/anti-choice arena means, having your decision aggressively questioned and undermined, and fed anti-abortion propaganda – before you’re ‘trusted’ to undertake a procedure which should be available on demand and without apology, makes me shudder.

I just hope that, if this bizarre, condescending motion actually gets taken seriously in parliament, and it sparks ‘a renewed debate on abortion laws’, that the debate results in these audacious erosions of women’s rights being brought to full light, and both MPs and the wider world reflecting on just how woman-hating, freakish and sinister they are. And realising our laws need to stay the way they are for very good reasons.

Women, men, politicians and doctors who are pro-choice trust women. Anyone who is 'pro-life', or, let's call it what it really is - anti-choice, mistrust, and therefore wish to oppress women. It’s as simple as that.

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