We need to talk about abortion.

So I’m not mincing my words here. No funny or misleading title. You need to know exactly what you’re getting yourself into before you read on. I only ask that you stick with me for the next couple of pages and keep an open mind.

When we talk about abortions, what immediately comes to mind? We tend to think of illegal backdoor slums, where procedures are performed by untrained or unqualified doctors, using old and rusty instruments that probably belong in a torture chamber more than a doctor’s surgery. We think of pain and horror and blood. We think of selfish, uncaring women who appear to be happier partying and getting blind drunk than having to think about caring about anyone other than themselves. We are bombarded with these images from the political right, religious organisations and the media itself. And it doesn’t seem to stop there.

Presidential candidate (sorry, I just threw up in my mouth a little) Donald Trump has done it again. Spewing incoherent and dangerously incorrect rhetoric about a subject he probably has little knowledge of. At the last Presidential debate he seemed to get late term abortions completely confused with caesarean sections. Yes, you heard right. Here’s the quote: “I think it’s terrible if you go with what Hillary is saying in the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. Now you can say that that’s okay and Hillary can say that that’s okay, but it’s not okay with me. Because based on what she’s saying and based on where she’s going and where she’s been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb on the ninth month on the final day. And that’s not acceptable.”

No, that’s stupid! Seriously, everything he just said in that paragraph is stupid. You don’t abort a baby at nine months, or the last day. If a baby is taken from the womb, then that’s a caesarean. That’s birth. I mean, is he talking literally? Yeah, sometimes the surgery is quite urgent, so babies are delivered quite quickly, and sometimes that can appear violent. But they are not being ripped out. Similarly, abortions are performed with injections and surgery. Nothing is being ripped out!

Getting these two completely different procedures mixed up, to me sets a very dangerous precedent. Firstly, let’s talk about the imagery that he uses. I firmly believe that Trump can be quite clever when it comes to the language that he uses, to some extent. Trump is an anti-abortionist, that much is true. I believe he very carefully chose those words he used to describe abortions, because it evokes in our minds a truly grim and horrific scenario. MacDuff describing to Macbeth in Shakespeare’s play about being “untimely ripped” from his mother’s womb sets the scene for a bloody climax. It is the nightmare that conservatives roll out every time there’s an argument around a women’s entitlement to control over her body. It is this repeated imagery and biased closed minded opinions that sets back the importance of open dialogue on a hugely important issue.

Additionally, what exactly does this do for caesareans? In the manner that Trump spoke, does he not agree with them? Caesareans are a much needed and necessary procedure when it comes to child birth. To denounce them at such an elevated stage as the presidential debate is shocking and irresponsible. I’ll agree that perhaps the rate of caesareans being performed is unnecessarily high. It seems they are being used for the convenience of the doctor rather than what’s best for the mother or her wishes. The fact that rates in America sit around 50% of all births is a worrying trend. Medical scientists state if it reaches above 70% of the population you start breeding out the ability to give birth naturally at all. Anyone know about bulldogs? You know that if humans became extinct now, then so would bulldogs, as they can’t give birth without human intervention. Their heads are too big to fit through their mothers’ birth canals. (On a side note, this is why Man of Steel annoys me. You can’t tell me that the first natural birth on Krypton after 1000 years wouldn’t have killed Superman’s mother. Nerds, feel free to discuss and argue at length. “Oh what about medical technology”, “Well why was she in pain at all then”…) No matter where you sit on the opinion on the rate or necessity of caesareans, no one is going to argue with how important they are. They are vital to saving the lives of both mother and baby.

I’m still not entirely sure what Trump’s angle is here. Does he not agree with caesareans? Does he not understand what they are? Does he actually believe what he’s saying, that there isn’t a difference between the two? Does he really truly believe that you can abort a baby days before birth? Does he not understand the definition of late term abortion? This article pretty much articulately sums up my feelings on the issue.

Frankly, if you are going to confuse the two, then there is at least one thing they do have in common; The incredible importance they both have for the health, safety and mental wellbeing for a woman. But to casually speak of them in the manner that Trump did last week, inferring that they are both someone inherently evil, is not only irresponsible but incredibly dangerous.

Too often our society views women who choose to have an abortion as selfish. Someone who wasn’t done living their life, that a baby is merely an inconvenience to them and that lifestyle that they must simply be rid of. We punish them for desiring sex, for having it, and then for dealing with the consequences that come with that desire. But the reasons for an abortion are never so black and white. There are women who are far too young, too inexperienced, too immature or simply put just not ready to be a parent. Young teenagers, or as I like to all them, children, should not have to go through the humiliation of a public Court hearing to access medical care. There are women who have absolutely no support around them, no family, no friends, or the father is not in the picture for whatever reason. The prospects of being a single mum all alone is frankly a frightening idea. There are the women who have been raped. No, your body does not have a magic switch to prevent itself from falling pregnant if you get “legitimately” raped. That is a fallacy. Stop thinking it, stop believing it, stop spreading it! There are the women who will die if they carry a pregnancy either to term, or for any period of time at all. And then there are the truly awful moments when you hear the diagnosis of “Not compatible with life”. Can you imagine any parent being told the utmost worst news in their entire life? That their baby, when born will not survive. Absolute zero chance. How horrendous. I can’t imagine a worse fate. So for some, there is relief given by offering the procedure we place such taboo on. Because to force a woman to carry to term a child they know they will never hold, will never see grow, will never hear speak, I frankly can’t imagine a worse nightmare. If you believe that these stories simply don’t exist, then I implore you to read this article. I warn you, it is heart-breaking and you will probably need a stiff drink afterwards, but it is an important step to understanding late term abortions and how vital a service they are.

The argument that a women may regret her decision later is frequently marched out at any debate. I would agree that yes, on the surface, it makes a good point. But then again, isn’t there the possibility we regret ANY decisions that we ever make in life? What about the decision to NOT go through with one? And just as equally, there are plenty of women out there who DON’T regret the decision they make at all. Perhaps a woman changed her mind at the last minute and ended up keeping her child, and loving them more than she could have ever imagined. Alternatively, another woman may have walked out of that same clinic after a procedure and never looked back in regret, knowing she made the right choice.

“But what about the women who are forced into one by family, or violent partners?” I hear you ask. Again we should have laws and procedures set in place to protect those women just as much as the women making the choice out of their own free will. The problem is we never get as far as imposing well informed and researched laws, because the dialogue is always stopped in its tracks by people who have tunnel vision on the issue. Because irresponsible people have somehow ended up with all the power, and are too stubborn, old fashioned, and conservative to believe there is any other way of thinking. Because they keep pushing the agenda that “Abortion = Bad”, backed up with verbal images of “Babies being ripped from their mother’s wombs”. Even our own former Prime Minister when he was minister for health decided to weigh into the debate, and decided women were taking the “easy way out”. There is nothing easy about this decision, and to water it down to the likes of decisions like “Maybe I won’t have that third coffee today” is frankly demeaning and insulting. How such a man then became Minister for Women I’ll never understand. Then again after dumping all over our civil liberties, Trump went on to say how much he “loves and respects women”. Double vomit.

Then there’s the loudest argument of all: But what about the babies? The children who would have been born, who had no choice over their lives being ended. Who will speak for them? There is a meme doing the rounds at the moment of a quote by Sister Joan Chittister, “I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

I can’t agree more with her. You can’t be opposed to abortion and then not be horrified with the fact that children are dying at sea or rotting in our detention centres. You can’t condemn women for making the choice to end a pregnancy, and then continue to condemn single mothers with multiple children that she can’t afford to care for, and decide we need to crake down on those “cheating the welfare system”. You can’t actively protest against abortion and not care that the adoption process and rate in this country is one of the worst and lowest in the world.

You’re right, the idea of aborting a baby is not a nice one. Faced with the choice I don’t know if I could go through with one. If I was faced with a pregnancy that I realised would result in a child that I couldn’t afford to care for, or a terrible medical diagnosis regarding either the health of the child or my own, I don’t know if I could go through with such a thing. I personally wouldn’t have it in me. And that’s specifically coming from the fact that I struggled for years to conceive. The idea of abortion is terrible to me, and I completely understand why it is abhorrent to others. But I also understand the reasons why they happen, why they are needed and why we need to talk about them. I will never stand in the way of someone who needs one. Or someone who wants one. We need to talk about abortions. We need an open dialogue that is safe and free of judgement. To do that, we need to stop listening to the fearmongering likes of Trump.


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