A very modern abortion debate

Maria Miller describes herself as “a very modern feminist”. In a similar vein, I would like describe myself as “a very modern Conservative Party supporter” plus, as a hobby, “a very modern axe murderer”. Right now I’m eating my lunch, “a very modern Michelin starred feast”, which merely happens to look and taste exactly like a cheese and marmite sandwich.

Modern feminist Miller – Tory minister for women – has reiterated her support for a reduction in the legal limit for abortion from 24 weeks to 20. Quoted in the Guardian, she claims to be “driven by that very practical impact that late term abortion has on women”, and notes an apparent need to “reflect the way medical science has moved on”. Sigh. This is all very boring, isn’t it? Not that unwanted pregnancies and waiting lists and doctor’s signatures and fear and pain and isolation are boring. But the argument’s boring, isn’t it? The same one, again and again, unmoving, as dates and rights are chipped away at simply by the lack of response.

I suppose, as a pro-choice woman – or “a very modern anti-choicer”, as I’m now known – I ought to go through the same old issues, simply for form’s sake. Anyhow, here goes <gulps down last bite of marmite-flavoured haute cuisine>:

  • yes, some women regret abortions. Some women regret having children. Some women regret voting Conservative. Much as it would be great to protect such women from from their foolish decisions, we still need to treat them as grown-ups (what with them being actual grown-ups aka “very modern children”)
  • no, the age at which a fetus might be able to survive outside the womb – aka be a baby or “a very modern zygote” – isn’t an obvious marker for when the abortion cut-off point should be. One would anticipate that scientific capabilities will continue to advance. It’s not out of the question that a fetus should be able to survive independently at an earlier stage, yet even if that time has not yet come, what moral difference can there be between then and now? And if the difference is purely a practical one, preventing women from having abortions when a newborn could survive independently cannot be an argument for preventing women from ending pregnancies. These are of course different things (or “very modern similar things”).
  • yes, most – or probably at least half – of the time, an uninterrupted pregnancy will lead to the birth of a real, live, human being. We get that. There are billions of human beings in the world. They have all been born and before that they were unborn. Yet even if we gave the unborn the same rights as the born, that doesn’t include the right to inhabit, use and harm another person’s body without their consent.
  • no, pro-choicers are not particularly squeamish about the realities of pregnancy. Many of us have our own children. Many of us have wanted to conceive, or have lost wanted pregnancies, and witnessed with our own eyes the bloody mix of self and other that anti-choicers are so eager to fetishize. Yet shattered fetal remains don’t represent our experiences and needs, or the value of being able to consent to what happens inside our own bodies. They don’t show what would be asked of us if a pregnancy, wanted or unwanted, continued to term. We can’t capture what we don’t know in pictures – depression, happiness, illness, haemmorhages, life, death. That’s why we try to use words.

There are never any answers from anti-choicers. They have ultrasounds, swollen bellies and babies, we have the unhappiness and grinding miseries that can’t be voiced for fear of raining on the happy parade that is the creation of life. It’s all a very modern, eternally short-circuited debate. Maria Miller says “science” and “commonsense” and it means nothing, but it never, ever has to.

Well, in any case, best stop blogging and get back to my “very modern afternoon of leisure”.


4 thoughts on “A very modern abortion debate

  1. She refers to common sense. Surely, when using common sense, the minister would look at the data (or is that not using common sense?) and note that reducing the time limit to 20 weeks wouldn’t do anybody any favours and would just leave a minority of women in a very sad, difficult, emotional and unfair position.

    If women, generally, got pregnant and thought ‘oh…interesting, ummmm….well, I’ve got 23 weeks (give or take how long it took to get a + test) to decide” the argument would (possibly) be different.

    As someone who’s watched a very close friend go through with the decision to abort later on I really think the minister needs to spend some time with women who’ve gone down that path – it’s not a tablet, it’s not a ‘heavy period’, it’s not straight forward, but it is their decision.

  2. I have posted on this topic at length and often – usually on US sites where the debate seems to be far more shrill than in Britain or here in Australia – and I won’t repeat myself here.

    Except to say this – something that is growing in my body is not a ‘person’ unless I choose to regard it as such. If I do not want it there, it has no more rights than a tumour.

    And it is *my* choice that matters – not “my man’s,” not any of my relatives, not my community’s and not somebody’s invisible friend. And certainly not Maria Miller’s.

  3. I missed all of this yesterday, thankfully, but I am not at all surprised. This is what the tories want and Maria Miller is best placed to push for it now that Dorries has, largely, been discredited.

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