Here we go again.

Medhi Hasan published a piece this morning for The Huffington Post UK entitled Being Pro-Life Doesn’t Make Me Any Less of a Lefty. In it he decries the left’s outrage over changing the time limit it’s legal for a woman to have an abortion from 24 weeks to 12 weeks. He makes what I imagine he believes are three ‘good’ points to support his claim that he is pro-life because he believes in protecting innocent lives. Before discussing his three points, let me post a few blurbs from throughout the piece to give you a little insight into the types of ideas that lead him to hold his opinion.

Abortion is one of those rare political issues on which left and right seem to have swapped ideologies: right-wingers talk of equality, human rights and “defending the innocent”, while left-wingers fetishise “choice”, selfishness and unbridled individualism.

Yes, right-wingers cherish equality and human rights when it comes to an embryo that requires a woman’s body in order to survive. But the woman whose body is needed full-time for 9 months? The woman who doesn’t want to be pregnant? Nah, don’t be concerned about her. After all, SHE HAD SEX! This is one of the oldest and most cherished anti-choice beliefs: because a woman had sex, she’s getting what she deserves if she suddenly finds a fetus growing inside of her that she doesn’t want. Never mind the fact that consenting to sex is not consenting to pregnancy and never mind the fact that allowing a fetus to exist against the will of the woman who’s carrying it is giving it more rights than any person is afforded.

As for fetishizing choice, selfishness and unbridled individualism  it’s almost comical to watch him try and demonize these characteristics, as if sexually active women have somehow forfeited their right to be individuals and decide whether or not they want to be pregnant. Anti-choicers constantly play the selfish card with women who have abortions; just another attempt at emotional blackmail and shaming, no different than standing outside of a clinic harassing women seeking services. Being pregnant is a medical condition – since when is making medical decisions about your own body considered selfish? When you’re a woman who has had sex, that’s when.

His statement also has an underlying implication: women who don’t want children are selfish. How dare we not fulfill our duty as women to pump out the babies? If a woman is adamantly childfree, like I am, and she happens to have an unplanned pregnancy, she better go through with that pregnancy regardless of her personal wants, lest she be considered selfish.

“My body, my life, my choice.” Such rhetoric has always left me perplexed. Isn’t socialism about protecting the weak and vulnerable, giving a voice to the voiceless? Who is weaker or more vulnerable than the unborn child? Which member of our society needs a voice more than the mute baby in the womb?

We can’t have an honest discussion about abortion rights if people are using emotionally-charged, incorrect terminology. There is no such thing as an unborn baby.  If it isn’t born, it isn’t a baby. There are embryos, fetuses and zygotes – none of these are a baby. The ‘pro-life’ movement has been very successful at integrating emotionally-charged phrases such as ‘unborn baby’ into the mainstream abortion debate, leading the public to believe that women regularly decide to abort 7 and 8-month old fetuses because their cute clothes don’t fit anymore. As usual, ‘pro-life’ deceives and the reality is quite different: study after study reveals that an overwhelming majority of abortions occur during the first trimester of pregnancy.

I guess Hasan doesn’t consider women who are forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term to be voiceless. Not being able to terminate an unwanted pregnancy would make me feel pretty damn voiceless, like a victim of my anatomy whose duty it is to give birth against my will. When he mentions weak and vulnerable it’s tempting to counter his statement with facts about the vast array of medical complications that can arise when a woman is pregnant, leaving her weak and vulnerable, but I don’t think it’s right to continually emphasize medical reasons as abortion exceptions. A woman doesn’t need to be near death in order to seek an abortion; in fact she doesn’t need to have any medical complications at all. All that’s required is for her to not want to be pregnant.

Yes, a woman has a right to choose what to do with her body – but a baby isn’t part of her body.

………… Not even really sure what to say about this one. Moving on.

First, you do realise that the UK is the exception, not the rule? Jeremy Hunt’s position is the norm across western Europe: 12 weeks is the limit in France, Germany, Italy and Belgium.

The norm? Are we supposed to draft our laws and legislation based on social norms? And why does it matter what other European countries’ laws state? Aside from being a terrible first point in support of his ‘pro-life’ stance, this sentiment is flat out childish.

Second, you can’t keep smearing those of us who happen to be pro-life as “anti-women” or “sexist”. For a start, 49 per cent of women, compared to 24 per cent of men, support a reduction in the abortion limit

Yes I can and I will. People don’t just “happen to be” pro-life. It’s a position they develop after considering the question: Do women deserve to be completely autonomous? He also attempts to appeal to women by throwing in the statistic about 49% of women supporting a reduction, as if this is supposed to make us forget that plenty of women around the world are sexists, too. Just because some women support abortion restrictions doesn’t mean that abortion restrictions don’t hurt women.

Third, please don’t throw faith in my face.

I’ve made it through this post without making a single religious-based argument and I know most pro-choicers could do the same. Perhaps I alluded to religiously-rooted beliefs when I said that people still believe women who have sex deserve to suffer the consequences, but that attitude is common in a lot of people even if they aren’t religious. Allowing a woman to make a medical decision without interference from the government doesn’t involve religion at all. No one is asking religious people to relinquish their beliefs; we’re simply asking them to not legally apply their personal beliefs to an entire population of people. He also attempts to appeal to atheists by mentioning Christopher Hitchens’ somewhat infamous pro-life views, but that’s as disingenuous as playing the faith card. Because one famous male atheist had pro-life beliefs, all non-believers should follow suit? Me thinks not.

Another problem is that the debate forces people to choose sides: right against left, religious against secular. Some of us, however, refuse to be sliced and diced in such a simplistic and divisive manner.

Not really. The side you do have to choose is for or against women being able to make autonomous medical decisions. That is a decision that doesn’t involve right, left, secular or religious.

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