Abortion is every woman’s right.We have come a long way since the days before the women’s liberation movement. In the 1950s and 60s women regularly died at the hands of unskilled abortionists, or from trying to do it themselves. Women were forced into horrific self-inflicted abuses, such as downing bottles of gin, taking scalding hot baths, jumping from heights and scraping their wombs with coat hangers.
These days it’s rare to hear of someone who dies in the process of aborting a foetus in Australia. In America, things are different. Due to a concerted campaign by right wing bigots (many of whom are prominent ruling-class figures), abortion rights are being severely attacked. Recent legislature changes have resulted in a slew of abortion clinics being shut down or being forced to make their services less accessible. In Mississippi, the state’s last remaining abortion clinic is fighting for its life.
Worse still, women in America are being jailed and abused by the state as a result of the ‘criminalisation of pregnancy’. A recent report conducted by the National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) found that through the invocation of things like ‘foeticide statutes’, there have been a wide range of cases in which pregnant women were arrested and detained not only if they ended a pregnancy or expressed an intention to end a pregnancy, but also after suffering unintentional pregnancy loss.
In 2008, Victorian law was updated to bring it out of the medieval era and abortion was removed from the criminal code. But even in the enlightened South, our rights are limited. Firstly, a woman is not free to simply have her pregnancy terminated, no questions asked, just because she chooses to do so. She must go through an invasive process during which a doctor evaluates whether or not she has sufficient grounds to have an abortion. She has to prove her case. Like children, women are deemed unable to take control of their bodies and their lives.
Secondly, abortion clinics can charge thousands of dollars for their services, excluding women who don’t have the money, or causing extreme stress for working class women who are forced to sacrifice other things in their lives to scrounge up the funds. And thirdly, there are still limitations on late-term abortions. The slogan ‘a woman’s right to choose’ should not have caveats. It should apply, regardless of the stage of the foetus, and regardless of what doctors or the state think about the matter.
It doesn’t help matters that mainstream feminists concede to conservative arguments that there are “too many” abortions, and that we should aim to reduce them. This line of argument merely agrees with the pro-lifers that abortion is a bad thing; hence, that abortions should be made more difficult to get.
Likewise, there are commentators who claim that women are psychologically damaged after having abortions. Having an abortion is statistically much safer for women than carrying a child to term, and obviously a hell of a lot less physically demanding. Abortion shouldn’t be a traumatic event, and the only reason it is, and that women feel guilty after having one, is because of the moral pressure on women from a society that condemns abortions and tells women who have them that they are ‘selfish’ or ‘immoral’ for not nurturing the foetus.
By far the most irksome anti-abortion argument is one that comes up on campuses and is preached by faux-intellectual philosophical types who want to quote philistines like Don Marquis and sit around angsting about whether we can ever devise a syllogism that could justify taking a human life. The preponderance of these idiots – who have over my years at Monash often written opinion pieces in this very publication – strongly reinforces my support for abortion.
Not only should we defend a woman’s right to abortion without any caveats, we should respond to the fact that there are more abortions happening today positively. It is not an ‘epidemic’, but rather an indication that more women feel confident to take control of their lives and their bodies, rejecting the sexist view that women should sacrifice their needs and their quality of life to those of a child.
This approach cuts against the sexist stereotypes that a woman’s role in society is to bear children, that having children is something all women should aspire to, and that women need children to be fulfilled in their personal lives.
My position is that many more women should be having abortions. It should be as casual and accessible as getting a flu shot.