Monday 20 March 2017

Abortion, again

A few things it may help to understand, from my personal observations of being very anti-abortion until I was about 16, then increasingly pro-choice to the point where now I have badges and everything.

Embryo/fetus = baby?
Those who oppose access to abortion for other pregnant people, not just for themselves, often genuinely do see the embryo/fetus as equivalent to a newborn baby.  Science says it's not, and therefore it becomes a moral issue that should be up to the individual pregnant person.  There is heaps and heaps and heaps of science on this, seriously.  I'm not going to link it all, here's just one from New Scientist showing that the neural connections to feel pain are simply not there at 24 weeks gestation.*   

From my personal experience of a miscarriage at six weeks I know that what I lost was not a baby equivalent.  From my personal experience of ultrasounds through three other pregnancies I know that what I was pregnant with at 20 weeks was also not a baby equivalent.  From my personal experience of having three live babies I did not feel like what I carried was a baby equivalent until they were being born.  That's just my experience of course, which informs my decisions and actions and should not necessarily inform yours or anyone else's - which by the way further underlines my determination that the pregnant person gets to decide, not anyone else.

The importance of "innocence" 
There is a view of human adults that is common I've found amongst those opposed to abortion which assumes adults are not "innocent".  I was raised kind of Catholic, I went to a Catholic school for about 6 years, and I'm familiar with the concept of sin, particularly as they apply to women.  There are a number of ideas that go along with this - periods as punishment for women as a result of Eve's apple trick, the idea that menstruation is "dirty" in fact significantly dirtier than urinating or defacating and that those who are menstruating are also dirty, and some really screwed up ideas about sex as sin.  The view is that we are constantly corrupted from birth onwards, at some point, probably in our late teens, reaching a tipping point, as exhibited by the white (pure) coffins for children versus darker colour coffins for adults that are common in Christian-influenced cultures.

The unhelpful construction of Sex as Sin
The sex as sin stuff is particularly awful in my opinion, breeding a lot of the terrible attitudes we have about consent, body image, toxic masculinity and unhealthy attitudes to girls and women.  Sex is considered for reproduction only, which always makes me wonder if those opposed to abortion on that basis have sex during pregnancy or after menopause or if infertile (but I would never ask).  Sex for any other purpose, such as pair-bonding, pleasure, physical release, would be sinful.  Do you know who has pretty much certainly had sex?  Pregnant people that's who.  Can we be sure it was for procreational purposes?  Probably not** if they are seeking an abortion.  Sinners!

Innocent versus sinner - choose a winner!
By virtue of being unborn, an embryo or fetus is absolutely clean of sin, ie a total and perfect innocent.  So in a contest of bodily autonomy rights between a baby equivalent that is totally without sin and a pregnant person who probably sinned just getting pregnant, let alone all those others times, guess who wins?  A baby is always a Good Thing, an adult human, particularly a woman, not so much.

A lot of people however don't consider sex sinful, do think it's a good idea that every child is a wanted one, and are a bit iffy about the idea of forced pregnancy.  I tend to think that the pregnant person is a full human here and now, and is the best placed person to choose whether or not to continue that pregnancy, to become a parent or expand their family.  Whatever reason they choose to go ahead or not is a) enough and b) not my business.  

God has a Reason?
There's also a theme that comes across sometimes in anti-abortion missives, that we shouldn't second guess God.  If God wants you to be pregnant then there's a Reason and that should be respected and you should go through with it regardless.  God Moves in Mysterious Ways is not just a weird cover of a U2 song.  What if the embryo or foetus aborted was going to grow up to cure cancer?  (Never to undertake genocide or be a serial rapist, mind).  

This is how sometimes people who even oppose abortion on the grounds of rape or incest position themselves - a baby is always a Good Thing, therefore a baby coming out of the terrible thing that happened is God's way of making it right.***  Other people might think it would be traumatic to know that you are a parent to your rapist's child, of course, let alone have to deal with the sometimes awful experience of pregnancy, any physical resemblance the child might develop, an ongoing relationship with the rapist as the other parent, and so on.  

Surgery is gross
The ickiness of surgical abortion grosses people out. As too would pregnancy and childbirth (c section or otherwise) if they stopped to think about it much.  See also: Stomach stapling, brain surgery, removal of teeth that have roots that have grown around the jawbone (that one made you wince didn't it).  A lot of surgery is gross to non-medical people, and can be quite violent too.  It's one of the reasons they put us under anaesthesia, sedate us, put up a screen between the patient and the area being operated on, during surgery.  I had to have a version prior to the birth of my first child, to try to turn him in the womb, and it was a full on muscular attempt and that didn't even have any blood involved.  The pulling and pushing that happens to your body with a caesarean is intense, despite an epidural.  Surgical abortions are not unique in their grossness BUT the gross details of terminations have been deliberately and widely publicised by those opposed to abortion to up the ickiness factor.  

Add surgery is gross to innocent baby versus sinful wanton woman and you see where this is going.

The cruel twist here is that medical abortions are relatively non-icky.  They are not too dissimilar from a heavy period in most cases.  Yet NZ's abortion law and the stigma attached to abortion means that every year hundreds of terminations that could have been medical have to be surgical because of deliberate delays built in to the system to deny the pregnant person the right to choose.

At the heart of it all
It's distrust of women, innit?****   It's a failure to understand that women are full moral adults, just like men thank you very much.  And thinking women aren't equal well there's a name for that (Spoiler alert: it's sexism).  Here's a particularly egregious example of how this plays out in real life, from 2014 on Dominion Rd in Auckland. 

Often when I've asked people who are squirmy about abortion and consider the current law an acceptable compromise*****  they come down to an argument that they want the pregnant person to be really sure because it is such a big decision.  Yet similar legally enforced overbearing rigor is not routinely required for other big decisions like becoming a parent, having another child, picking a career, getting hitched, or buying an apartment in a 1990s Auckland building with monolithic cladding.  

If not the pregnant person, who else is in a better place to make a decision on whether to continue a pregnancy or not?  No one.  Seriously, no one.  NO ONE.  

The answer is so simple.  If you are opposed to abortion don't have one.  You don't get to make decisions with other people's bodies, and the law shouldn't enshrine that you can.

*  Terrifyingly I had to go down to the fourth unpaid Google hit for this - the first two unpaid were anti-abortion sites lying about the science.  The third was this possibly helpful (haven't had time to read the whole thing) factcheck article.**  Of course there are many people who need an abortion because a wanted pregnancy has become non-viable, which is awful and tragic and doesn't need someone standing outside a clinic with a judgemental sign for those going through that to feel bad.***  The other position sometimes held simultaneously is that women will just lie and say they were raped to get abortions just because they don't want to have a baby right now, which is FUN FACT why the NZ law does not include rape as a ground but only as a consideration, because back in 1977 they thought women would lie about rape to get abortions.  Oh the irony.**** And not just women, because anyone else who is able to get pregnant must have their judgement impaired by that pesky uterus too I guess. 
***** Which it is not, it was considered a victory against abortion even in 1977

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