Tag Archives: abortion rights

Responses to Mehdi Hasan’s ‘Pro-Life’ Op-Ed

Mehdi Hasan’s op-ed piece about being pro-life made the rounds quickly, rightfully prompting a number of responses. I just wanted to post some of the responses here in case anyone happens to stumble upon this and hasn’t seen them yet.

1. Abortion, Mehdi Hasan, Free Speech and the Left by Kenan Malik

2. Being Wrong About Abortion by Tauriq Moosa

3. Lies, Damned Lies, and Mehdi Hasan on Abortion by Kelly Hills. This piece also appears here on the Guardian’s site, linking it so you can read the comments.

I’m sure there are a lot more great responses, so if I find any more I will update this list.

 

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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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Global Day of Action for Safe and Legal Access to Abortion

The Global Day of Action for Safe and Legal Access to Abortion is 28 September. Want to get involved? Find out how, here.

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“I’m pro-choice, but I could never have an abortion.”

Amanda Marcotte has a piece on RH Reality Check that I agree with 100%. In this piece she explains how adding that tiny but loaded word “but” to the end of the phrase “I’m pro-choice” can serve to enforce a barrier between the person speaking the sentence and those ~other~ women, the ones who have abortions, the naughty ones.

This article is timely for me, as I just experienced the birth control incident days ago. And what Amanda says about women maintaining they are pro-choice yet distancing themselves from being looked at as a woman who actually would have an abortion, is directly related to this woman who rode the bus with me and felt the need to insist she does not have sex when I saw her packet of birth control pills.

A lot of us might still have internalized hang ups about sex. If you were raised in the United States like me, then it goes without saying that you were most likely not raised in a sex-positive environment, or maybe in an environment where sex was not discussed at all. Further, if you were raised in the Christian school system (also like me), then there’s a good chance you were a teenager with conflicting attitudes towards sex and sexuality, and a definite attitude towards abortion: something sluts do. I thankfully overcame a lot of cultural and religious brainwashing in order to hold the beliefs I hold now, yet even for women who have done the same, some of us can still find ourselves contemplating everything that is implied with the use of that little word “but.”

In the piece, Amanda says:

But even if you are absolutely positive you’d never have an abortion, you have to ask yourself: If you’re pro-choice, why do you need to exclaim about how you’d never do it? What purpose can it serve but to stigmatize abortion further?

Exactly. Commenting on someone’s freedom to do something (in this case, a woman’s right to abort) really doesn’t call for you to include your own personal commentary, unless you want the person or people you are speaking with to explicitly know that you do not identify with the group of people who would do it. If you are so concerned about being lumped in with those people, I think it’s worth asking yourself why, like Amanda suggests.

I would love to be able to say with certainty that I will never have an abortion. However, as I am not abstinent nor do I have my tubes tied, that isn’t a statement I can make in good faith. I use contraceptives that do not come with a 100% guarantee, and I’m thankful that abortion is an option available to me should I need it. I hope I won’t ever need it, but our lives simply aren’t able to be put in neat little boxes.

I know that women who get abortions are women just like me. We aren’t different, I am not better than them. I know this because I’ve been the person driving my pregnant, terrified roommate to the abortion clinic at 8:00 in the morning, while she fidgeted in the passenger seat, hoping we didn’t see anyone we knew. I know this because I have had a pregnancy scare, and without a moment’s hesitation I started to look for a clinic in my area. I know this because I’ve been the shoulder that a childhood friend has cried on after deciding to have an abortion, while saying she never thought this would happen to her.

The danger in distancing yourself from women who do have abortions by exclaiming that you never would is that 1) it is a statement I feel you can’t make with complete certainty unless you are in the situation yourself and 2) it reinforces the oppressive social stigma that women who seek abortions are doing so because they did something bad: they had sex. Anti-choicers want the general public to believe that all of us slutty sluts are out here having sex every moment of the day while laughing to ourselves and saying, “Oh,  fuck the condom, I can just get an abortion, ha ha ha!”

The reality is a lot of women who find themselves sitting in the waiting room at the abortion clinic are women who didn’t think it would happen to them. I guarantee you some of them have said, “I’m pro-choice, but…….”

They are me, I am them.

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