Controlling abortion limits is a way of controlling women

The argument, ostensibly about abortion, is really about women’s advances towards equality.

Share

Abortion limits should not be off limits. Existing laws must periodically be scrutinised. But we must be watchful too.

The debate is often seized by dedicated rightwingers and anti-feminists. That’s what we saw happening last week as slithery Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, baleful Maria Miller, Minister for Women and pesky Tory MP Nadine Dorries called for a reduction of the existing 24-week threshold. The Tories seemed to have spawned an undeclared, powerful US type Tea Party ( with scones).

See how “moderniser” Cameron is elbowed aside as the cabal swoops down on women’s reproductive rights. The argument, ostensibly about legal abortion, is actually about the slow but real advances made by western women towards autonomy, equality, access and freedom. What makes Hunt, Miller and Dorries so dangerous is that they don’t look or sound reactionary or crazed. Instead they come across as sensible, sympathetic to females, scientific even and, hey, two of them have wombs.

These objectors, I bet, have no qualms about bombing nations and ending countless lives that way. They also must believe that teen pregnancy rates are too high and too many young, ill-educated women with babies are on benefit, a “burden on the state” as they say. How all that is rationalised remains a mystery. Just a few points they might think about: very few foetuses are aborted at 24 weeks, and some have congenital abnormalities not picked up earlier; premature babies have serious health problems; abortions help poorer families not get poorer – and don’t get judgemental and think they are too stupid to use contraception.

I became pregnant more than once because various types of contraception failed. I had two abortions, and might have had a third had I not miscarried. The first two were when I was an impoverished, married university student. Having a child then would have led to wretched lives for all of us. The third pregnancy I discovered three months after my ex-husband had left me. I had a 10-year-old son to bring up, sudden financial insecurity and a broken heart. I look at high-tech images of foetuses and feel a sense of loss and a little guilt. But I know too that I had to make those choices. Any woman or girl feeling trapped by an unwanted pregnancy should be able to do the same.

You don’t always know you are pregnant.


You don’t always know you are pregnant – why, even Sandra Howard, wife of Tory grandee Michael Howard, confessed this weekend that in 1962, when young and married to her first husband, she only discovered her pregnancy at four months. He took off and she had the child. Some women and girls spend agonised weeks worrying about terminations, or are in denial which is why Hunt’s suggestion of a 12-week cut-off is so cruel and sexist and alarming.

Fanatical American Christian groups are spreading their “truths” around the UK. To find out about their zeal and irrepressibility, read Kathryn Joyce’s book, Quiverful: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement. Or go search out Lila Rose, young, smart, attractive American graduate who entraps people working at abortion clinics and films them to “prove” the service is shady and immoral. If you think we are not like them, think again. British women who talk publicly about abortion get terrorised by religious nutheads and other pro-lifers. Some are from the Christian People’s Alliance which condemns sex education as “immoral”. Pro-choice clinics are targeted too – sometimes in sinister ways. Dorries has accused Marie Stopes, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and other regulated clinics of pushing women into terminations and gaining financially from the procedures, claims denied by all who matter, though not ideologues with heads full of fixations and fantasies.

And, as I said earlier, controlling women’s bodies is about a bigger and more chilling agenda. The Equalities and Human Rights Commission has lost its voice; in the recession more women are being laid off than men and the cuts disproportionately affect women. I spoke at a fancy dinner organised by women in the City a few days ago and some told me they still had to fight prejudice every day. Millions of young women have been brainwashed by the media into cultural submission, into believing they are only worth anything if they look like living sex dolls. With all these problems Hunt and co think all women should just go have babies. Dorries wants 60,000 fewer abortions a year and says nothing about the thousands who would be born into hopelessness or those truly not wanted. Do these Tories really hate women (and children) that much? I fear so.

By politicising this serious issue, these Tories have made it impossible for a reasonable, dispassionate case to be made for a slight reduction from the present 24 weeks. I’ve been inclined to support that option and have just learnt a hard lesson. It has been a long journey from 1967 when David Steel pushed through the current, enlightened abortion law. Any give and the anti-abortionist militia will take it all. So, no, no, no, the limit must stay where it is.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own