Tag Archives: abortion

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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The Legitimate Children of Rape by Andrew Solomon

Andrew Solomon has a piece in The New Yorker entitled The Legitimate Children of Rape. I really, really recommend that you read the entire thing; it isn’t very long. The focus of the piece, children born as a result of a women being raped, is still a highly sensitive topic, both personally and politically, as no one has been able to come out and just say it: some children should have been aborted. I hope that we as a society are able to move past all of the idealistic statements spoken by people when the topic of children of rape comes up:

1. There is no such thing as unwanted children. I think you have to be pretty dense to make this kind of statement.

2. All children are a blessing. Again, a dense position to take.

3. Women always love their children no matter what. Err, no.

Those are the typical sentiments trotted out when children of rape are discussed. Anyway, on to some particularly meaningful parts of this piece.

Writing in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Dr. Felicia H. Stewart and Dr. James Trussell have estimated that there are twenty-five thousand rape-related pregnancies each year in the United States. While these numbers make up only a small part of this country’s annual three million unwanted pregnancies, the numbers are still extremely high.

I had no idea until reading this that there are three million unwanted pregnancies annually. And the number is probably higher than that. Wow.

Classical mythology is full of rape, usually seen as a positive event for the rapist, who is often a god; Zeus so took Europa and Leda; Dionysus raped Aura; Poseidon, Aethra; Apollo, Euadne. It is noteworthy that every one of these rapes produces children. The rape of a vestal virgin by Mars produced Romulus and Remus, who founded Rome.

Historical and societal context of rape important in understanding its position in today’s world.

Historically, rape has been seen less as a violation of a woman than as a theft from a man to whom that woman belonged, either her husband or her father, who suffered an economic loss (a woman’s marriageability spoiled) and an insult to his honor.

Probably my favorite sentence of the whole piece. I still see this sentiment expressed today.

In Puritan Massachusetts, any woman pregnant through rape was prosecuted for fornication. In the nineteenth century, the American courts remained biased toward protecting men who might be falsely accused. In order to prove that an encounter was a rape, the woman had to demonstrate that she had resisted and been overcome; she usually had to show bodily harm as evidence of her struggle; and she had somehow to prove that the man had ejaculated inside her.

Notice the woman was prosecuted for fornication … any charges brought upon the man? No? Okay.

In 1971, the psychoanalyst Menachem Amir called rape a “victim-motivated crime.”

And we still see intense victim blaming today.

One rape survivor, in testimony before the Louisiana Senate Committee on Health and Welfare, described her son as “a living, breathing torture mechanism that replayed in my mind over and over the rape.” Another woman described having a rape-conceived son as “entrapment beyond description” and felt “the child was cursed from birth”; the child ultimately had severe psychological challenges and was removed from the family by social services concerned about his mental well-being. One of the women I interviewed said, “While most mothers just go with their natural instincts, my instincts are horrifying. It’s a constant, conscious effort that my instincts not take over.”

As Solomon points out, women who become pregnant after being raped are faced with a double challenge. First, coping with surviving a rape, which can take a life time. Second, discovering she is pregnant and having to make a quick decision regarding the pregnancy. The mental anguish caused by this must be unbearable.

One sees the problem abroad, where the Helms Amendment is taken to mean that no agency receiving U.S. funding can mention abortion even to women who have been systematically raped as part of a genocidal campaign.

What the fuck?

The journalist Helena Smith wrote the story of a woman named Mirveta, who gave birth to a child conceived in rape in Kosovo. Mirveta was twenty years old, and illiterate; her husband had abandoned her because of the pregnancy. “He was a healthy little boy and Mirveta had produced him,” Smith writes. “But birth, the fifth in her short lifetime, had not brought joy, only dread. As he was pulled from her loins, as the nurses at Kosovo’s British-administered university hospital handed her the baby, as the young Albanian mother took the child, she prepared to do the deed. She cradled him to her chest, she looked into her boy’s eyes, she stroked his face, and she snapped his neck. They say it was a fairly clean business. Mirveta had used her bare hands. It is said that, in tears, she handed her baby back to the nurses, holding his snapped, limp neck. In Pristina, in her psychiatric detention cell, she has been weeping ever since.” The aid worker taking care of Mirveta said, “Who knows? She may have looked into the baby’s face and seen the eyes of the Serb who raped her. She is a victim, too. Psychologically raped a second time.”

My god. Would anti-choicers preferred to let this rape survivor have an abortion, or force her to have her rapist’s baby as happened?

In working on my book, I went to Rwanda in 2004 to interview women who had borne children of rape conceived during the genocide. At the end of my interviews, I asked interviewees whether they had any questions for me, in hopes that the reversal would help them to feel less disenfranchised in the microcosmic world of our interview. A woman paused shyly for a moment. “Well,” she said, a little hesitantly. “You work in this field of psychology.” I nodded. She took a deep breath. “Can you tell me how to love my daughter more?” she asked. “I want to love her so much, and I try my best, but when I look at her I see what happened to me and it interferes.”

Utterly heartbreaking.

I also recommend reading the Helena Smith piece that Solomon links to. It’s from 2000 and recounts the experiences of children borne of rape in Kosovo. Now I’m going to go research The Helms Amendment and see if it’s as fucked up as it sounds.

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Let’s analyze the comments on an abortion story. Fun!

Gila Lyons recently wrote a piece for Salon entitled Abortion, A Love Story. In the piece, Gila recalls how she met a man, started a relationship with him, after several months became pregnant, then had an abortion. She doesn’t spend a lot of time discussing how she arrived at her decision to abort, as it only gets a brief mention, nor does the abortion itself get more than a few paragraphs. 

As you’ll see, the comments are full of complaints that this piece celebrates abortion, encourages abortion, and brags about abortion. All Gila does is write about how a decision she made was the right one for her. But because she isn’t full of guilty, shame, regret and because she isn’t begging her audience to forgive her for being just another irresponsible whore who took the easy way out, people are disgusted. 

But onto the fun stuff. Let’s take a look at some of the comments, shall we?

Chilling, twisted and sick.

That’s the very first comment. The commenter clearly has issues with unmarried women being sexual beings and making decisions regarding their own bodies. Perhaps this comment would be more honest if it read: An unmarried woman had sex. I am uncomfortable!!!

The same commenter comes back to say:

What makes me uncomfortable are those people who seek to rationalize away barbarism by assuaging their dysfunctional consciences with reassurances from like-minded, self-absorbed individuals.

I’m unclear what part of the story this person finds dysfunctional, but I’ll bet a lot of money it involves Gila daring to have sex with a man she wasn’t ready to start a life with. How dare women express their sexuality with anyone they aren’t ready to marry and reproduce with! The nerve. And if you think removing a cluster of cells the size of a lentil is barbaric, but forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy to term and give birth isn’t, your opinion should not be taken seriously. 

JerseyGirl973 has this to add to the conversation:

i just gave my child up for adoption. i had way more reasons and excuses than the lame one she had, and i still think it is appalling. i think there are a lot of good reasons and that abortion should be legal. i still think a great deal of women do it because they are misguided misled and selfish.

This woman thinks Gila’s decision to have an abortion was a “lame” one. This feeds into the anti-choice dialogue that says women have abortions because they want to go out clubbing the next night, or they still want their cute clothes to fit them, or they change their minds when they are 8 months, despite the fact that there is zero evidence for any of these claims. This woman is trying to position her choice to give birth and adopt the baby out as a better choice than aborting, therein suggesting that every woman who is faced with an unplanned pregnancy should carry to term, whether they want to or not. She goes on to say that women abort because they’re selfish. This is another common anti-choice sentiment, and anti-choicers want us to envision large groups of women who take abortion lightly, and skip on down to the closest clinic for an abortion, then throw a party afterwards. The only reason a woman needs to have an abortion is that she doesn’t want to be pregnant. Making decisions that benefit your own best interests, be it mentally, emotionally or financially isn’t selfish, it’s responsible. 

Then we have this gem:

People like you will never understand this kind of love. All you understand is love of yourself and your wants. I mean, look at the anger with which you write. You have no shortage of socio-economic and medical excuses for seeking an abortion, but that’s all they are – excuses. You want to make it seem as though you see abortion as a right of compassion so as to comfort your ailing conscience for speaking out on behalf of a brutal act.

Firstly, I didn’t feel Gila’s piece was angry at all. Secondly, I’m sick of men (the person who left this comment is a man) accusing women who have abortions of being selfish. It’s up to us and only us to make medical decisions about our bodies. It doesn’t matter if we are rich and never have to work a day in our lives, or broke and living paycheck to paycheck – if we don’t want to be pregnant, we don’t want to be pregnant. He also takes a swipe at her position as an employed person to suggest that because she can afford to be pregnant and raise a child, she therefore must. But Gila never speaks about her socio-economic status in this story, so this commenter is assuming things about her that he cannot say with certainty. His final magnum opus, calling abortion a “brutal act.” Brutal is being forced to let a parasite use your body as a host for 9 months. Brutal is risking your life and your health in order give birth when you never wanted to in the first place. Brutal is expecting every woman who gets pregnant to immediately rearrange their existence because you demand they relinquish their right to undergo a legal medical procedure. 

I shouldn’t even be including this comment since it’s so trite, but just for shits and giggles:

Who the hell kills her baby, then writes about it. Hey, Gila, use birth control or keep your legs together!

Assuming the person who left that comment is American, it really speaks to America’s lack of science education that so many people adamantly exclaim that an embryo is a baby.

Liberals are OK with ripping to shreds in the womb a human being capable emotions, and with a keen sense of physical pain.

Both camps show different sides of human depravity, but don’t pretend that abortion — especially the abortion of fully-developed fetuses — is anything less than depraved and barbaric. It’s one step removed from infanticide.

I have a feeling I’ll be repeating this a lot: an embryo the size of a lentil is not a human being. But this commenter not only feels it is a human being, he feels that he knows it has “a keen sense of physical pain.” I’ll assume it’s from his field experience speaking extensively with embryos. Also, a “fully-developed fetus” is not the size of a lentil, regardless of the fact that the term fully-developed fetus means nothing. If a woman chooses to keep the embryo, barring a miscarriage or other complications, it will be a human being once it’s born. But “will” and “is” are drastically different things. I will be a corpse. Am I a corpse right now? No.

Cells that constitute an individual unique human being who will never have a chance to exist again because his or her mother decided to pretend he or she was a clump of cells and nothing more.

Funny. This comment starts off saying “cells” yet ends with criticizing people for pretending the embryo is “a clump of cells.” Basically, how dare you pretend the cells are just cells!?!? Also, “constitute an individual unique human being” …. *sigh* We’ve been over this before. A human being, no.

It’s a vulgar attempt to present abortion as a morally neutral proposition, but the only people who adopt that view are those who have already lost their soul and humanity. They feel compelled to encourage others to do the same because in their warped minds, if enough accept it, then it becomes right instead of what it is, depraved.

I’d hope that all logical people would be in favor of giving a woman control of her own body. That doesn’t seem like a moral issue to me, rather a rational and humane one. Further, women who decide that pregnancy and motherhood aren’t for them have “lost their soul and humanity,” because, you know, women exist to breed regardless of their careers, education and personal feelings. I guess that’s just our cross to bear as women, and we should relegate ourselves to a lifetime of no sex unless we are absolutely certain we are ready to be pregnant. If not wanting to be a mother means losing your humanity, then I never had any to begin with, as I never want children. You don’t have to scratch far below the surface to find where the real anger lies: a woman had consensual sex with a man she didn’t want to make a life with. The shame cycle continues. 

What part of this is beautiful? Please share. I’m as liberal as the day is long, but celebrating an abortion story rubs me the wrong way.

Because Gila isn’t filled with shame, regret and longing for her embryo, this story is read as celebrating an abortion. I personally feel she should celebrate her decision, but I don’t think this piece has a celebratory tone at all. 

She wasn’t careful with her birth control because she was crazy about him, thus got pregnant on purpose. When he wasn’t into it, she just terminated the pregnancy like la dee da.

Isn’t the real problem being irresponsible and conniving? Ten bucks says if he has been supportive of the news she would have kept the baby. Where is the part where she takes responsibility for her mistake?

A gleeful abortion of a planned, healthy pregnancy: downer. Sure, it probably happens every day but it’s nothing to applaud.

Hello projections and fantasy. This commenter must have been right there along with Gila and her partner in order to provide such detailed insight and analysis. As for “Where is the part where she takes responsibility for her mistake?”, I can only assume this person didn’t finish the piece, because there they will find it. 

In sum: Gila fell in love with a man and conceived a child with him, but then she decided he was wrong for her, so she found a doctor to lie to her and destroy their inconvenient baby.

It was all going so well, until the words that follow “doctor.” 

In summation, the anti-choice crowd wants to grant rights to embryos, zygotes and fetuses that no human being has. Human beings cannot be forced to donate blood, organs or any other body parts. Even after death, your body parts cannot be used for anything without your previous written consent. If you are driving your car and crash into someone, you are not required to accompany them to the hospital and be hooked up to their body in order for the person to survive, even though you are responsible for the condition they are in. But because women – poor women, rich women, young women, middle-aged women, mothers, childfree women – are allowed to have sex, anti-choicers want to force them to carry a pregnancy to term, as punishment, for the non-crime of being sexually active. 


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