Discussion of abortion ignites strong views on both sides of the argument, and the expression of those strong views in judgemental and hateful terms is not uncommon in the debate. The activities of those supporting the “40 Days for Life” Campaign in London recently, who filmed women attending a clinic where terminations are performed, is an indication of how strongly held views can result in callous actions which seem almost contradictory to the underlying belief. I struggle to see how the message of respect for all human life is being conveyed by demonising and shaming women at a point in their lives when they are possibly at their most vulnerable.
Like many women, my personal views on abortion are often conflicted. With two children of my own, I struggle with the concept at a philosophical level and I can understand both points of view. But fundamentally, I do believe that it is not my place to judge. Nor yours. Nor the Church. Nor the state.
I have a great deal of compassion for those women who find themselves unhappily unexpectedly pregnant, and sympathy for the difficult decision they are faced with. No one plans an unplanned pregnancy; not the rape victim, not the mother of four living in poverty with a partner who regularly beats her, not the 18-year-old just about to leave home for university and a promising future, not the woman who is just not ready to be a mother. For many women the decision to terminate a pregnancy will be the most difficult and painful one they will make in their lives. Women seeking an abortion need compassion and understanding, not vitriol and judgement.
It is widely regarded that the right to abortion on demand is enshrined in UK law. This is a fallacy. The 1967 Abortion Act provides a legal defence for doctors carrying out abortions. The law requires that two doctors reach an opinion that the continuation of a pregnancy is of greater risk to the physical or mental health of the woman than termination. The decision to that a termination is legal is a medical one reached by doctors, not the choice of a woman exerting her own autonomy. The law does not consider that the thoughts and feelings of an individual woman on her reproductive destiny are sufficient grounds for termination.
In September last year, Nadine Dorrie MP tabled a Private Members Bill in the House of Commons which proposed that abortion counselling services should not be provided by organisations which provide terminations, but rather by independent counselling services, many of whom are influenced by pro-life organisations. Her bill was heavily defeated, but the Government set up a Cross Party working group to explore the “spirit” of her proposals. Some of Nadine Dorrie’s biggest and most vocal allies in bringing her proposals are Christian pressure groups, most notably Christian Concern. Their website states: “At Christian Concern we resist abortion and aim to inform women of its dangers. We believe that every unborn child should have their right to life protected.” Christian Concern has financial links with the US-based Alliance Defence Fund, a fiercely right-wing organisation with significant financial backing, which campaigns heavily against abortion and equal rights for individuals who are homosexual.
A public consultation undertaken by the Abortion Counselling Working Group is due open shortly. If you believe that each woman has within her the power to make the right choice for her, and has the right to have that choice, whatever it may be, respected without judgement, then I would urge you to make your feelings public, parade your power and contribute to the debate.
With an open heart and acceptance, regardless of your choice.
Do you feel that reproductive autonomy is a fundamental aspect of female power? Do you believe that abortion is always wrong? Is it the place of the church to intervene? This is a sensitive debate and please be mindful of the Woman Uncut Comment Policy when leaving a comment below