Trigger warning: abortion, rape, sexual and domestic abuse.
Worldwide, one in eight pregnancy related deaths each year are a result of unsafe abortion. According to the World Health Organisation, just under half of all unsafe abortions are due to the illegality of abortion, and this kills 68,000 women a year, and leaves at least a further two million with severe damage or disease. This is what we, as pro-choice activists, are up against.
Yesterday (18/02/2013), sixty anti-choice campaigners, the ‘LIFE’ society as they like to call themselves, turned up to Edinburgh University Student Association welfare council to oppose a motion calling for affiliation to Abortion Rights Edinburgh. This is the latest example of organised anti-choice campaigners around the UK.
Abort 67, Forty Days for Life, Society for the Protection of Unborn Children have all rallied and protested over the past year; they have made people with uteri feel unsafe in a whole host of places, from their university campuses to outside abortion clinics. These organisations have been co-ordinated and supported nationally by the umbrella group Alliance of Pro-life Students. They have been legitimised by reactionary politicians both at home and in The States by Tory MPs like Nadine Dorries and presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Anti-choice discourse is rapidly increasing; becoming more misogynistic and violent with every ounce of support it gets.
The anti-choice movement is about lies, manipulation and abuse. They show images of late abortions to vulnerable women outside clinics, despite the fact late abortions account for only 1% of abortions in the UK. They tell us that women have ‘ways of shutting down’ pregnancy after rape, furthering a misogynistic, victim-blaming discourse that already ruins the lives of many women. They tell us abortion makes us murderers, when unsafe abortions kill tens of thousands of women every year.
Removing access to abortion will trap many women in life-threatening, abusive, poverty-stricken environments. Those lucky enough to access abortion will be pushed into black-market abortion practices where conditions are unhygienic, practitioners under-qualified and fees exorbitant. Here they are at a significant risk of severe health complications, or even death. Should they not have access to them, or should they choose not to take the risk- they will be left with a child in their lives that they do not want and may not be able to support. The financial burden may ruin their lives. They may have to give up careers they worked hard for and cared about. They may be trapped with an abusive partner, and have to raise a child in an abusive, dangerous household. They may develop post-natal depression. The consequences are indescribably numerous and severe.
Anti-choice campaigners will tell us that we should go through with unwanted pregnancies and give the child up for adoption; whilst this will be the best option for some, it may result in emotional and psychological suffering for both parent and child. It also forces 9 months of pain on a person who will be pushed out of the workforce, stigmatised and left to suffer the physical symptoms of pregnancy. This is absolutely no choice. Anti-choice campaigners may tell us to use contraception- but what about where contraception is not accessible? What about accidents? What about the fact that absolutely no contraceptive is 100% effective? Anti-choice campaigners may most disgustingly of all tell us to be abstinent. Our sexuality is ours to express and define and is not the property of any other person. And where does this leave victims of rape? It is absolutely not acceptable or in anyway morally permissible to place any amount of blame on a victim of rape.
We cannot let the work of our sisters and allies in the 60s be in vain. They fought for our right to choose, and we must defend it. Not only should we defend it but we should extend it. There are so many reasons why abortion should be free, safe, legal and on demand, but none is more important than a person’s ownership over their own body. Bodily autonomy is a human right, and nobody should be able to take away our right to choose.