As anyone who follows me on Facebook or Twitter knows, this last week I have been imploring my friends and followers to email their MP regarding Nadine Dorries' and Frank Field's proposed amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill regarding abortion.
For anyone who may have missed it, Dorries and Field believe women seeking abortions should be offered counselling "independently", as they think charities who perform abortions such as Marie Stopes and BPAS, have a "financial conflict of interest" - in other words, those organisations are too "pro-abortion" to be "trusted" to give women impartial advice as those £s apparently come into play.
There have been many arguments against the above notion and the amendments themselves this past week and I can't put mine any better than the array of links I have composed below this blog post. Certainly, the government has already performed a massive U-turn on its support for the proposals, though it's unclear at the time of writing whether the vote will be taken or not next week.
I hope not. I am vehemently Pro-Choice. So much so, I wrote a whole novel about it aimed at teen girls 14 - 20, which recently sold in Germany to Rowohlt Publishing and is currently being considered by a number of British publishers.
BUT WHAT NEXT? is a Pro-Choice book, exploring the phenomenon of teenage pregnancy from the protagonist Elizabeth's angle, where she literally LIVES all the ways her life could turn out: the Sliding Doors effect if you like. I became frustrated with depictions of unplanned pregnancy in soap, movies and books a long time ago. Always, teens are confronted with unexpected pregnancy and after a short period of freaking out - and perhaps visiting an abortion clinic and then running out - they opt to keep the baby. From there they are frequently bad mothers or slide into post natal depression and various other things go wrong for them. I read this character frequently in spec scripts and in recent years, I've spotted only Diablo Cody's Juno as even **attempting** to offer another side to the teen Mum.
In one sense, the story requires drama and conflict, so writers cannot be blamed for opting characters keeping babies - had the character had an abortion, the story would be over pretty quickly. Or would it? I'm not convinced - which is why I included a section on abortion in BUT WHAT NEXT? And guess what: it was as long as all the other chapters! Showing depictions of abortion *can* be part of stories, as long as we let it. And I think we must.
Many people express surprise at my beliefs on the importance of society being Pro-Choice. I have, essentially, lived my own life the Pro-Life way: I got pregnant as a teen (unplanned) and kept the baby, with no consideration of abortion. That's not to say I wasn't scared way back then, or I had everything I needed even, least of all the support and love of the baby's father. Having the baby was just something I HAD to do.
And that's just it. I believe absolutely in women's rights to CHOOSE and to be TRUSTED to make those decisions. I don't believe for a moment these amendments are really about counselling, but access to abortion. We don't live in an age where getting information is difficult. You need only Google the word "abortion procedure" to receive a plethora of results on how it is carried out. These amendments make the supposition a woman doesn't have the wit or maturity to understand what she is doing and must be "guided". Do we honestly believe women have been so busy playing with kittens Harry Enfield-style they've never even THOUGHT about such things as abortion in advance of needing one, or spoken to OTHER WOMEN about their experiences? As Suzanne Moore writes in the Guardian: "... Beware [these amendments'] language of care. This is not about care but about control."
I might be Pro-Life personally and always see a pregnancy through to its natural conclusion, but that is MY choice. I am Pro-Choice politically because my life and circumstances are not the same as other women's. When I decided, aged just fourteen (really!), I would never have an abortion, I made that decision knowing full well that though my parents were not well off, they would NEVER outcast me for it. They would welcome a grandchild, even in less than ideal circumstances - which they ended up doing. Again, that's not to say all was easy 'cos it wasn't for any of us, but they never wavered in their support and respect of my decision.
Think now about how different my decision might have ended up because I wasn't as lucky to have parents as great as that. What if they had told me to get an abortion or never darken their doors again? What if I had been in care? Consider medical problems I may have had, which might have made it difficult to carry through a pregnancy: is something like diabetes more "allowable" than say, having mental health issues? There are other, more "grey" areas too: what if I had been at university, studying for a career where single parenthood cannot be combined with it as "easily" as becoming a writer - ie. becoming a doctor? Philosophically, is one life - the potential child's - worth "more" than those other people I may have saved during the course of my career? And then let's not forget the endless finger-pointing at single mothers, especially those who must claim support from the state. Are women selfish for wanting an abortion, or selfish for wanting to keep the child when they have no money? Is having money the only barrier or ticket into parenthood??? The list goes go on and on because there are SO MANY differing individual circumstances. It can even change in an individual woman, depending what "stage" she is in her life!
Being Pro-Choice recognises a "one size fits all" approach to abortion access cannot work, because every woman is different. This blog post by Gia, 19 Weeks, sums up exactly why - not from a writer like me musing about it - but from a nurse on the front line. (Be warned those of a delicate disposition are advised not to read).
This is why I hope Dorries' and Field's proposals don't go through next week - and why I hope you'll take a moment to email your MP about them.
Abortion Rights website - email your MP about Dorries' & Field's amendments
FACT CHECK: Cutting Through The Rhetoric On Abortion - a neutral examination of Nadine Dorries' and Frank Field's proposals
The Costs And Consequences of Dorries' Proposals - let's cut through the emotive stuff and break down the FIGURES and what they mean
How The Abortion Amendments Pose A Health Risk To Women - As it says on the tin
The Latest Abortion Statistics For England And Wales - this makes surprising reading as to *who* is having abortions and in which age groups abortion is actually DOWN. We must turn the usual lazy stereotypes on their head
Interview With The Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) Anne Furedi - why a Pro-Choice society is needed
Tory MP And Novelist Louise Mensch's attempt at an Amendment - make sure you read the comments for Dr Evan Harris' view on why it's STILL fundamentally flawed
What The Conservative Women's Organisation Thinks Of The Amendments - Dorries cannot count on her fellow women's support
Is It Possible To Be Pro-Life AND Pro-Choice? - A fascinating essay about the limitations of following one "side" OR the other
Georgia Law Could Give Death Penalty For Miscarriages - unbelievable, hey? This bill was actually proposed in February of THIS YEAR in the US... Let's not let the UK get this far!!!