The Department of Health has put together a consultation paper including the original proposals which the public will apparently be invited to comment on later in the year (we’ll be posting the link when that happens), and a group of cross-party MPs has also been meeting to discuss them for months.
I am pro choice. I shouldn’t have to explain that means I think that women should get to decide what to do with their bodies, but I do, repeatedly. I don’t think that every woman who finds herself facing an unplanned pregnancy should be whisked away to have the foetus removed unless she has a ring on the right finger and a certain amount in her bank account. And I don’t think abortion providers do, either.
Instead I subscribe to the radical idea that women should be given the information and allowed to decide what to do with their own bodies. Whether that means having a baby or not should be down to one person. And it’s not Nadine Dorries.
There seems to be a perception in some parts of the press at the moment that getting an abortion is only slightly more difficult than picking up a takeaway. As if someone could walk into a clinic and order a D&C to go, and be on their way 15 minutes later to head back out for more unprotected sex (because let’s not forget that the only women who ever want or need abortions are irresponsible hedonists who can’t be bothered to use condoms. Not rape victims, mothers, women whose lives would be threatened if they carried a pregnancy to term, or any of the others who make that choice every day). It’s not. Despite being legal and theoretically accessible, there are still an impressive collection of hoops to jump through before you can have an abortion.
Counselling for women who are struggling to make a decision either way, or who are worried about the consequences either of having an abortion or of having an unplanned child, is not a bad idea. But we have ended up in a crazy, incredible situation where ‘independent’ counselling is likely to be anything but – one of the main discussion points for the MPs is, apparently, the question of whether agencies should clearly reveal their ethical attitude to abortion before giving advice. As if an anti-choice organisation should be allowed to present themselves as impartial before attempting to bully a woman into a particular decision.
We are not, yet, at the same stage as America - where a potential presidential candidate can say he thinks that women pregnant as the result of rape should be encouraged to see the conception as a “gift” and be praised for his stance. But it seems that the fight for abortion rights is not as settled here as we might like to believe.
Get angry. You’re going to need to it.