A pretty intense blog today. Feel free to comment and let me know your opinions.
I am pro-choice. I always have been and will be until sufficient evidence is laid before me that shows that women suffer less from carrying a child that they don't want than they do from having a cluster of cells removed. I think that a woman should have the right to choose what happens to her own body.
Tonight I attended a talk by an anti-abortion advocate titled 'Abortion Risks, Choices and Informed Consent'. The reason I choose to attend talks such as these is that I wanted to understand how anyone could possibly want to take away a person's right to a procedure that could avoid a child being born to parents who cannot support it and do not want it.
Her main arguments were -
- Abortions should be regarded as medical procedures and follow all of the best practice rules that any other procedure does.
- If a woman does not have all of the information about support available to her is that free choice?
- If a woman faces financial pressures is that still free choice?
- If a woman has an abortion because of pressures from society / work / education providers is that still free choice?
- Studies have shown mental stress, depression and regret can cause harm to people who have had abortions.
Some pretty big ones there and they really made me think. I would love a world where nobody has to choose between parenthood and their career, and where both partners have an equal part in the child's life and any decision making processes. This talk really threw into pretty sharp relief just how little society values motherhood. If we really empowered mothers we wouldn't tolerate anyone being overlooked for a promotion based on the fact they are able to continue the human species.
Anyway, here is my view on each of these points -
Abortions should be regarded as medical procedures and follow all of the best practice rules that any other procedure does.
Well, yes. An operation should naturally be done in a medically safe way in a medical facility by trained doctors so if there are any complications (as is the risk with any operation) the life of the woman is protected. This doesn't mean we should be limiting the number of places that a woman can have an abortion, but that we should be ensuring there are enough facilities that are fully equipped and suitable that women have access to.
If a woman does not have all of the information about support available to her is that free choice?
This in my eyes is another example of the failings in our education system. All young people should be taught about sexual health, including contraception, abortion, adoption, sexuality, government support, and the mental health aspects of all of the above. If we have all of the information about the benefits and risks of the options available to us then we can make better decisions. Knowing all of these things before they are needed takes added stress off people's shoulders as they are not forced into making rush decisions when new information becomes available.
The second part of this is consultation with doctors once you know you are pregnant and are considering an abortion. In NZ you must have two doctors sign off that your mental or physical health are at risk to proceed with an abortion. If this works correctly it should ensure that all women have all of the facts about repercussions of both continuing or discontinuing the pregnancy. She should also be informed about all support available and advised for her. If this process is taking place then women should have all of the information that could affect their decision.
I'm not sure what other measures could be put in place to help this one. It doesn't seem like a reason to stop people from terminating, simply a reason to increase funding and availability of support and unbiased information.
If a woman faces financial pressures is that still free choice?
In NZ there is a pretty comprehensive set of government benefits that can assist anyone who needs help with supporting a family. This funding is not really sufficient and should definitely be increased to give women more choices.
This still leaves people who are currently working and will face loss of income through being overlooked for promotions, possibly losing their job, and having to take time off which takes away from the amount of experience they could have had. This I think comes down to the issue of society not valuing women's contributions to life. Having a baby should not be something we punish as a society, women should be respected for their contributions in whatever way they contribute. Growing future humans and looking after them is arguably the most important thing a human can do, so why don't we treat it like that?
At present I don't believe this is an argument against abortion, but rather against how messed up our priorities are as a society. Until we can fix that - abortion is necessary.
If a woman has an abortion because of pressures from society / work / education providers is that still free choice?
Another way that women are failed by society. If a woman gets pregnant when she is young (mid teens to early twenties) she is shamed by society and regardless of her wishes is encouraged to have an abortion. In saying that - is a 14 year old girl really in a position where she is capable of providing adequate care to a child? Can we generalize and say that no person under a certain age is? Obviously we can't stop people from having sex, even at a very young age but again I believe that education plays a big part. Educating on ways to avoid pregnancy and about consent. If we can reduce the number of people who have to make the decision at all then everyone wins.
If someone does not wish to have a medical procedure they should not EVER be forced or coerced into having one, regardless of age. They should have the full and unbiased facts of their situation explained to them but the choice should always be theirs. If a woman chooses when half way into the operating theater that she has changed her mind that wish should be respected.
There is also a stigma against women who do continue pregnancies at a young age, labeling them 'sluts', 'selfish', 'reckless', and many other negative terms. More mature women are labeled too and told that their baby will have disabilities. Career women may find that they are passed over for promotions and raises because they will be taking maternity leave.
This is unacceptable. Whatever choice a person makes should be respected, they should not be shamed into having an abortion, or abused and called a murderer for choosing that option themselves.
Another interesting point that has come up recently is compulsory counselling or a 'waiting period' before the procedure to ensure that women are really sure that they want and are prepared for the consequences of a termination.
The argument against is - that is condescending and implies you think that women don't understand what an abortion means or how it will affect them, or that women make spur of the moment decisions and should be forced to think it through. Realistically - no woman wakes up one morning and goes "fuck it, I'll have an abortion". You can pretty firmly assume that they have given it some though. On the other hand it is worth checking that they know all of their alternatives. As previously mentioned in NZ women have to see two doctors. These people should be filling in the blanks and making sure that the woman is aware of and has considered all of the options available to her. I do think that a few hours between appointments would be good as it means there is time to think over things and seek a second opinion on issues raised by the first professional, but I do not think that there should be a long period of mandatory time that women must wait. When a later term procedure is done there is usually a several day wait for the operation so this also gives the woman time to emotionally prepare themselves. They can pull out at any point if they change their minds.
Compulsory counselling is another interesting one. Currently in NZ it is optional and apparently isn't taken up very often (I can't find statistics to confirm this). I guess that again it comes down to more information is always better. Potentially a single highly recommended session just to make sure that you are still ok a month or so later might be good. It would also help us gather information about the effects of terminations on mental health.
In summary, all of these things seem to show that we don't value the contribution mothers make to our society, that we need to improve our education system and empower women. With regards to pregnancy we should be celebrating the continuation of the human species, not treating women worse because they choose motherhood.
Overall the talk gave me a lot to think about and made me want to read all papers ever written about mental issues and stresses caused by continuing or choosing not to continue a pregnancy and the impacts on children.
Well done for reading all the way through, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments but remember to be respectful of other people's opinions. :)