Anna’s already given her verdict on Abort67 but has she got it wrong? Our author argues that the real issue is the outdated, simplistic language and attitudes which cloud the abortion debate.
Abortion is not something that anyone with an ounce of humanity talks about lightly. This is a subject where anonymity has never been more necessary – which shows just how wrong we have got this debate.
The past week has seen some pretty angry and emotional responses to the Abort67 protest that took place in Cambridge. On one side, we are talking about murder, plain and simple, or at least something akin to non-voluntary euthanasia. On the other, we are talking about women’s rights, and a simple procedure to give choice.
Of course, it’s actually not as simple as that, or there’d be a simple answer. But nor is it entirely about different worldviews, and there are an awful lot of people who float somewhere near the middle but are terrified of saying anything in case either side condemns them as hateful and disgusting. Our own CUSU representatives like to pontificate on this, and are certainly guilty of that condemning tone – and so are (largely male, but is that really a problem?) priests. And what a terrible situation it is that people conflicted about this issue, in base humanity, can’t talk about it without fear of being damned, either by the rights brigade or by the hard-liners on the life wagon.
Of course, the current situation in the UK is plainly idiotic with the ‘potential’ argument justifying 24 weeks. Saying that something could survive only at that age outside the womb is neither scientifically accurate nor logical when considering terminating (i.e. not allowing to come to term) a pregnancy. And of course it’s also not a hard and fast rule – terminations can and do take place after this time, with all the psychological and physical terrors that can affect all those involved.
It’s also difficult to fully justify the terminations for reasons of disability in an age where we embrace rather than hate difference. Terminating for Down’s syndrome just doesn’t fit for me. Is it really that different than terminating because of the wrong colour eyes – and then again, we get into the ‘choice’ language. Why is it that some choices are right, and some are wrong? Why can we choose to have a child aborted but not if that choice relies on an intrinsic bodily characteristic unless it’s considered in some way pathological?
We need to move away from a world where we pretend to be basing our choices on the science, and move towards one where we fully debate these ideas. The science is clear; after conception, that bundle of cells, all things going well, will become a child. It might not, but it could. It’s that middle ground that we need to think about, without relying on shock factor photos, but not ignoring the reality of the situation.
It is plainly repugnant to suggest a woman who has been through the disgusting ordeal of rape should be forced to carry the child – and in an ideal world, there would be no rape. But we live in the real world, and need to face up to it. But that’s not to suggest that, like some comments made by students in the last week, a woman’s womb is like their front room, and can be cleared at any opportunity.
In some cases that foetus is there with no control of the mother. But in some, the mother had control, and it is those cases where I think unease begins to set in. Abortion cannot and should not be used as contraception (though that raises the uncomfortable question of the morning after pill). And saying that doesn’t make me uncaring or inhuman; having consensual sex carries risks and responsibilities, for men and women. Young people in particularly need to be aware of that. And abortion is barely something taken on lightly, given the horrendous effect it can have on women.
So what we need to do is move to a situation where we aren’t using the language of choice or life – but instead be pro-humanity, and try to struggle with one of the most difficult, potentially dangerous and damaging, real questions of our time. Because it’s one that really matters, and we can’t afford to get it wrong.