I am pro choice. I have no more right to an opinion on how someone deals with her pregnancy than I have on how anyone deals with their appendix. It’s nothing to do with me. Individuals make choices I wouldn’t all the time (have you seen Geordie Shore?) but that’s being human. My eyebrows may shoot up in disbelief at the make up, clothes and behaviour of the TV folk, but those are their choices. That’s how they choose to survive in the world. My situation is different. I make different choices.
The Geordie Shore people are rewarded for their choices. Encouraged by unreality TV to be highly sexual in their behavoiurs, and to be disrespectful of themselves and others. Some of the characters I’d love to slap, others I just want to hug, but it’s nothing to do with me. I choose differently. I choose not to watch.
Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland, unlike every other jurisdiction in the UK. Our politicians do not support a woman’s right to choose to end a pregnancy resulting from rape (who knows if it was really rape?) or Fatal Foetal Abnormality (what do doctors know?). In November 2015, the High Court ruled that NI abortion laws were in contravention of article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The result is that, just like the Republic of Ireland, we export abortion. Society turns a blind eye to the thousand women each year who travel to Great Britain for medical procedures illegal at in NI. Women who need to find money to get there, time to get away from their commitments at home. No matter how an individual came to the decision about what is right for her, practically, it’s not straightforward.
This week a young woman in this city was prosecuted and sentenced for buying miscarriage inducing drugs on the internet, taking them, and dumping the resultant soiled sanitary products in the bin. We only know this happened because her flatmates reported her to the police. Apparently that wasn’t an anti abortion thing, but because she showed no remorse. (We’ll let you do something we don’t agree with, as long as you are very sorry afterwards and agree that we were right all along.) The woman admitted buying and using the drugs, and now has a criminal record. The judge suspended the sentence, keeping the woman out of jail, and allowed her some privacy by making sure she’s not named. A ‘pro life’ group is hoping to get the sentence appealed, as ‘unduly lenient’.
My mind is boggled by it all. Had this woman lived in another part of the UK, she would have had the procedure without fuss. Had she the resources to travel, she would have had the procedure and nobody would have known. Amnesty International argue that she’s being punished for being poor. An opinion piece in the Guardian highlights some of the other options available to women in this situation.
I made the mistake of reading some of the social media comments on this case. The young woman has been the subject of much outrage and vitriol for having the audacity to have sex if she wasn’t prepared to raise a child. Because that’s how the real world works isn’t it? Nobody ever has heterosexual sex unless they are prepared to be changing nappies 9 months hence. The only reason to be intimate with another is to make a baby. Somebody better have a word with the Geordie Shore people.
By now, I can’t help but feel that this young woman’s situation is being used, again and again. We are in the run up to an election. This case has catalysed discussion. I’m happy that there is a discussion, but I’m deeply uncomfortable as to how it has come about. Like when there was a picture of a drowned refugee toddler, we seem unable to have a conversation unless we can imagine a ‘victim’ (Choose the young woman, the ‘wee baby’, the ‘traumatised’ flatmates as you prefer.)
The Public Prosecution Service decided that this case was in the ‘public interest’. I don’t know how such decisions are made. Hundreds of women have self reported abortions to the police and no action was taken. What’s different about this? Flatmates, elections, High Court decisions? Not content with a successful prosecution, the ‘pro life’ group want a longer sentence as both punishment and deterrent.Is there evidence from anywhere in the world that such a move reduces unwanted pregnancy?
Silly me. That’s not the interest of that group. They’re interested in reducing abortion, not unwanted pregnancy. But, surely, if society worked on the latter in a non judgemental fashion, the former would be reduced anyway?
Maybe I’m missing something.