This is our truth, tell us yours
There can be few topics more personal than abortion, and few that are as politicised and moved from the personal into the public sphere. For this very reason I take the view that abortion is a totally personal choice, and one that the state must not legislate against since it would then be making laws controlling the bodily autonomy of individuals. Forcing someone to go through a pregnancy against their wishes strikes me as one of the worst forms of abuse I could imagine, literally treating women (and whilst not just women can get pregnant these laws are usually imposed to control women who have dared to think they were allowed to make choices about their lives) as breeding stock, as animals whose role it is to produce the next generation. Of course for women of colour this is exactly how they have been seen in various times throughout modern history, so it is no surprise that they tend to be the ones who the restriction of abortion rights harms the most.
I am a Christian, but one who believes that access to abortion (and contraception) must be universal, easy, and without judgement. This is not based on when I believe life begins, but on an understanding that it would be morally and ethically wrong to subject others to forced births because of my beliefs. Those who disagree with me tend to take an opposite view about belief, that their belief about when life begins, or the moral acceptability of abortion, must be universally imposed. In many ways things were easier when I was a Catholic, there is a logical consistency that appeals to me in opposing all human interference in the life process, from contraception to assisted suicide. A coherency of ethical outlook that says God alone can decide.
Sometimes people opposed to abortion rights use personal tales and photographs to “prove” that their side is right, and this is exactly what has happened today. A couple, although the headline only mentions the woman, as if it were a second virgin birth, have released pictures of the birth of their daughter to argue against the 24 week rule in the UK. For overseas readers a small explanation of UK abortion law might be useful. Up to 24 weeks you can have relatively easy access to an abortion. However it’s with many qualifications, legally you must prove to two separate doctors that pregnancy will cause you more physical or mental harm than an abortion. Fortunately we have managed to fight those who would insist on mandatory counselling or cooling off periods but we are far from abortion on demand as some claim. After 24 weeks things become a little more complicated. Abortion is allowed in exceptional circumstances such as cases of severe disability, but what classes as a severe can be confusing, and reeks of disablism. That however is an argument against time limits, not for.
In the article Emily Caines argues that because she wanted to be pregnant and grieves the loss of a baby, rather than a fetus, that the law is wrong. In fact given that the law is set at 24 weeks because of the viability of fetuses before that time her case supports those who believe it is a good and fair line to draw. The article uses exceptionally emotive language such as “forced to watch her baby to die” as if the doctors did not comply with her choice to see this as a birth, and treat both her and the baby with respect. It should be noted this would not always have been the case, that historically still-born fetuses in the early weeks of pregnancy were disposed of without the birth parents wishes being considered.
I have had personal experience of such a choice. Some years ago a family member and myself were both pregnant, with due dates only weeks apart. She discovered at a scan that her child (and I use that term deliberately as will become clear) was dying, it had severe disabilities and the doctors advised her that she would have to have an abortion/give birth. Both terms are correct since what the procedure was did not differ, but how she and her partner viewed it would affect what happened next. They had what in another context would have been seen as a late-term abortion, they viewed it as a birth, they took photos, named their first-born and had a funeral. She expected me to understand, as a pregnant person, and agree with their decisions, saying that I, of course, would have done exactly the same thing. I could understand, but there was no way I could agree. It seemed to me to be turning a wound into a festering sore. As someone who had suffered a number of miscarriages I wondered if she thought I should have named them, held a funeral service. As far as I was concerned she had an abortion, as millions do, and grieving might be part of the recovery process for some, but not for me.
This is the issue with the story about Emily Caines. She has lost a child, and in her grief wonders how anyone can make a choice different to hers. When we are in pain thinking of others is hard. However abortion is not for this person or that, it is for the specific person who needs one at a specific time. Whilst my family member or Mrs Caines cannot see themselves in the shoes of someone who wants, needs that abortion, it becomes even more important for the rest of us to do so.
She said: ‘Our picture shows Adelaide was not a foetus she was a fully formed human being and to think that a baby like her could be legally terminated on grounds of a lifestyle choice is to me is horrifying.’
Turn that quote around, the Caines chose to have a baby, a lifestyle choice is there ever was one. Would they have been horrified if the doctors had thrown the fetus down the waste disposal shute as has happened in the past? Told them to get on with things? That they can have more children? I think she would have been, their choice to view this as a birth, to name their daughter, was exactly that, a choice. The law must respect all choices, those who view abortion as a sin and those who believe it must be accessible to all. In this most personal of decisions we must not be swayed by personal tragedy when writing legislation.
This may seem an odd topic for a Christian, however the core of my belief system is that we are taught to love, and to understand we are all sinners. If someone makes a different choice to me this does not send me to heaven, and them to hell. We will all one day be judged, and on that day it is our own actions and choices, not the actions and choices of others that will matter