I’m angry. Here’s why.

November 18, 2012

This is a reminder. In some countries, women die because abortion is illegal.

Even when the they’ve been told the fetus would not survive after birth. In fact, where they are so against abortion that they are even denied in circumstances when the woman’s life is at risk.

By far not the first person globally, and probably not the last, Savita Halappanavar died in Ireland of blood poisoning after her fetus died inside her body and poisoned her to death. The doctors wouldn’t remove the fetus until it’s heart stopped beating despite the fact that she was clearly miscarrying.

Constitutionally abortion is legal in Ireland, but a court ruled that abortion should be permissible if it would save a woman’s live. The two contradictory messages mean that individual doctors make individual decisions at their discretion. Savita was reportedly told that ‘This is a Catholic country’.

The result?

As the MP Clare Daly said: “An unviable foetus – the woman was having a miscarriage – was given priority over the woman’s life”

The fetus was going to die anyway. But because of the law, the doctors refused to remove the dying fetus and as a result the pregnant woman died too. A woman in the prime of her life. (Who incidentally had many more childbearing years ahead, d’ya hear that pro-lifers?)

This link will take you to a moving tribute video so you can see her face and her smile and her vibrancy. If you can make it through without crying, you’re… well, you’re not me.

And maybe in the case of Ireland, change will come as a result of the tragedy, but globally the problem persists.

I don’t care if people think that abortion is morally wrong. We can argue that one till the cows come home. (Heck some people think that divorce, tattooing and bad haircuts are morally wrong but probably agree that they should remain legal).

But I do care if people continue to argue that abortion should be illegal, including in circumstances where women’s lives are at risk or where fetuses are nonviable, that women should not be trusted to make decisions about their bodies. That they should not have access to a medical procedure which will enable them to maintain sanity, physical and mental health and a sense of autonomy in their lives.

Also, some people think that even though where abortion is legal, it should still be really hard to get one, because you know, maybe if we make it hard to get one, she won’t get one. (I’m looking at YOU, New Zealand and America.)

And if women do get one, some people think it’s ok to judge and be nasty about the women, but notably not the men who help cause the pregnancy and may even have participated and agreed in the decision to abort.

As this post points out, stop taking pregnant women out of the equation when talking about being pro-life. Doesn’t being pro-life apply to women too?

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More good links

here and here

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I read a lot of posts about abortion. It’s a hot feminist topic. It’s hot because it’s always current. I’m sure I haven’t read everything available but I’ve noticed something missing from the public slut-shaming rhetoric as well as education and advocacy campaigns.

We all know that men are often absolved of culpability in relation to conception. It’s never their fault, nor responsibility when a woman gets pregnant. (Amazing really when you think of it in those terms.)

Women are slut-shamed and told to ‘hold a pill’ between their knees when they demand that health care should cover contraception. In other words women shouldn’t want to have sex and if they do have sex and become pregnant it is their responsibility alone to deal with the consequences. You would think that those who are ferociously anti-abortion would want to see free/low cost contraception available.

It seems obvious to point out the (uterus-bearing) women can’t become pregnant accidentally alone, that there is usually a (sperm producing) man involved. But men are conspicuously absent from the conversation. You don’t hear Rush Limbaugh point out that perhaps men should be backing off on how much sex they are having. In other words, men are entitled to have as much sex, unprotected sex, as they want, because the world I live in won’t hold men accountable for contraception or conception.

It’s obvious that men should be part of this issue and part of this debate. Men should be expected to assume responsibility for their offspring. Simple.

We know that women are vilified if they have sex for reasons other than procreation (gasp) and/or become pregnant and decide to terminate that pregnancy for their own goddamn private reasons* (not ones which Ron Paul (Presidential hopeful) sanctions, like ‘honest rape‘ [Yup, Ron Paul, actually said that]).

Ok, just focusing on the decision to terminate now. Why do the pro-lifers assume that men aren’t opting for terminations? Often the public discussion forgets the reality that men are involved in the decision to terminate as well. What I mean is that while yes, many terminations are women who decide this on their own, there are many women (up to 60% depending on which site you Google) who have given birth previously, so many are already mothers.

Therefore I can safely assume that a significant percentage of women seeking abortions are in relationships, with men. There are many situations where a couple will sit down and decide to terminate a pregnancy together. Which means, y’know, if you think about it… that men are choosing to abort fetuses too. For their own goddamn private reasons.*

To me this implies two things. The first is that men should be more active in the fight for sexual and reproductive health and rights. (If women have better rights, then so will men.) And the second is that If you’re going to vilify women for terminating pregnancies, then how about you include the dude bros in them there fire and brimstone.

And while I’m thinking about it….

I also think that there are implications for the images that are used in conjunction with pro-choice advocacy. A scan of images I can easily get my hands which have any gendered symbols at all use female symbols.

Occasionally there will be a picture of a dude supporting the cause, but in general the imagery displays women.

Just to be clear, it is a woman’s right to ultimately choose because it is her body, but there are many situations when women include men in the decision-making process.

I think we should include men in the debate, by making them visible as potentially part of the process that results in a termination. It feels like erasure at the moment. I’m sure there are many of us who have consulted or would consult the men who were part of the conception.

Is this a slippery slope? If we do this, will it create a sense of male ownership over female bodies? That’s not my intention. I’m interested to know what others think.

I guess I wonder if it would be an effective way to include men in the fight for rights, instead of erasing them from the decision-making process. Perhaps there are good reasons why pro-choice imagery is so mono-gendered and someone will be able to explain that to me.

Can we hold the two truths that the decision to terminate (or not) is ultimately up to the person (woman) bearing the uterus, but that there may be men involved in the process?

 

* I’m excluding examples where men may coerce women to terminate.

 

Apologies for cis-gendered language. I’m speaking generically here that people with uteri are generally women and the people contributing the sperm are generally men. But not always.