Saturday, 6 October 2012

Mothers for abortion rights

When I became a mum I used to enjoy joking about the new found legitimacy this status gave me in being morally outraged. "As a mother," I'd say, "I really hate paedophiles," as if I thought abusing children was perfectly acceptable before I had one.

There is one area however where I think being a parent makes it even more important to stand up and be counted, and that is when it comes to abortion rights, particularly at the moment as Jeremy Hunt (Secretary of State for Health) has told The Times that he'd like to see the legal abortion limit halved from 24 weeks to 12 weeks.

This is because it is very easy to get confused when it comes to abortion and to think that it is about women not liking, or wanting, children.  Actually abortion is very little to do with children and everything to do with grown women looking at their lives and working out whether to ruin it or not by going ahead with an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy or a pregnancy in which the foetus faces huge medical problems. In fact it is only now I have a child and realise how all consuming being a parent is that I realise how catastrophic having parenthood forced upon you would be.

This doesn't mean I believe in sugar coating what abortion is by using euphemisms about collections of cells or worrying about the exact number of weeks at which a foetus becomes, with huge medical help, viable.  We do ourselves a disservice when we do this, as if we cannot face up to what abortion is. Yes, abortion is killing a potential baby. But not allowing abortion is ruining an actual, not a potential, life. And faced with two horrible possibilities I would always choose the actual life. That's why Hunt is being dishonest with himself if he really thinks abortion is okay, but only until 12 weeks. Either it is okay, and we value the actual life more than the potential life, or it isn't okay and the number of weeks is immaterial.

When I was less than a week old, in 1978, I went to a party. It was to mark the first anniversary of the opening of the day care abortion service, where my mum worked as a counsellor - though she was on maternity leave at the time. Some people may find this odd - taking a baby to celebrate abortion. But it wasn't to celebrate abortion, it was to celebrate the fact that women could end pregnancies, if they chose to do so, safely and legally. That is, it celebrated the opportunity to save lives, not end lives.

That's why abortion is one of the areas where mothers in particular need to stand up and be counted when it comes to supporting access to abortion. Because the anti abortionists, and those who want to limit access to abortion, need to know that women who are in favour of access to abortion are not baby hating monsters. In fact they may well already be mothers, very good ones probably. No, they just like women, actual women, with actual lives, and want to help those lives go as well as possible.


  1. I agree with what you say to an extent, however if you decide a baby is going to ruin your life, surely this decision should be taken as early on in the pregnancy as possible, and not leave it until so late in the pregnancy. I'm not sure if you know how they abort babies but it is pretty awful.

  2. As a pro choice mother myself, I 100% agree.

    [obligatory: 'If you met my kids you'd support abortion too' gag here]

  3. The thing is, though, 21st century mummy, about 90% of abortions are carried out within the first 12 weeks. Later abortions tend to be happen either where the 20-week anomaly scan has thrown up some serious abnormalities, or where the woman hasn't realised she's pregnant or, sometimes with teenagers or victims of sexual abuse, where they've concealed the pregnancy or been in denial about it.

  4. Well said and gets the message across very clear. This needs to be sent to Jeremy Hunt/and or press. Like how you sum it up here '...not allowing abortion is ruining an actual, not a potential, life.'