Abortion: Our Choice?

The topic of abortion has always been up for discussion in the public sphere of institutions and governments. Abortion was legalised in the UK in 1967 through the Abortion Act 1967 and was considered one of the most liberal abortion laws in Europe at the time. However, our close neighbours, Northern Ireland, have kept the same criminalised stance on abortion since 1861. People living in Northern Ireland are controlled by some of the harshest abortion laws in the world. And now we are seeing the same play out in the United States.

If you haven’t heard or seen the recent news, the state of Georgia passed a recent bill to bring about the ‘heartbeat law’, which would ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. This week, Alabama has also passed a similar bill that would blanket ban all abortions. There would be no exemptions for rape or incest. Any doctors found administrating abortions would face punishment of up to 99 years in prison. Rapists serve nowhere near as long as that in prison, and that’s if they are charged and convicted. What was especially infuriating about the case of Alabama is that the 25 senators who voted in favour of this bill were all white men. These men have decided that they know best when it comes to reproductive health, and it would seem what’s best is to force unwanted pregnancies on anyone with a uterus. However, it is no surprise that there is no mention in this bill of any implications or consequences for men doing the impregnating. The onus and responsibility is completely on people with a uterus. A point to make here though is that it is not simply a case of men against women, as there are plenty of women who are complicit and active in furthering the patriarchy and its misogyny.  The perfect example of this is Governor Kay Ivey. She is responsible for supporting and signing this abortion bill into criminal law.

Abortion laws also disproportionately impact those in disadvantaged and marginalised positions. Not all people can travel out of state or to another country to undergo an abortion. Therefore, those not in the economic position to go elsewhere will be forced into pregnancies and to have a child, which could further impact their economic position, and may have been one of the reasons they chose to have an abortion in the first place. Ultimately, these abortion laws do not and will not stop or prevent abortions; they simply make them more dangerous through ‘backstreet abortions’. So really, all these laws are doing are putting more people at risk.

Abortion laws such as these are just another form of control and power imposed by men over people and their bodies. They are completely based in patriarchy. It is yet another tool being used to devalue and silence people, whilst further maintaining our position as the subordinate. Men should absolutely not be given the power to vote or decide on what happens to anyone with a uterus. It is degrading and takes away our autonomy and human rights as an individual. We should not be living out The Handmaid’s Tale in 2019. Someone who chooses to have an abortion will know what’s best for them. It is a decision that can be influenced by so many factors, but in the end it comes down to whether that person wants to have a child or not. It is a freedom of choice that should be afforded to us all. An interesting thing I read earlier this week was in relation to organ donation and how a doctor cannot use a person’s organs after death without formal consent. So, in essence, a dead body will have more choice and more rights than a living person with a uterus. Astounding.

But, we know this already. We have been doing the work for years. What we need is for male allies to start speaking up. There are plenty of men who disagree with these laws, but we need them to be more vocal. It is not enough to silently condemn these men in power. We need allyship, and we need it now.

On Friday 18th May, the state of Missouri became the latest in the US to pass an abortion law banning the procedure after 8 weeks of pregnancy. Some good news is that these laws aren’t yet effective and abortion is still legal, so there is still hope. So, support the activists who have been doing the work, share their message, call or email your local MP, or donate to charities and/or organisations supporting those who are, and will be affected by these draconian laws.