Is Abortion a Feminist Issue?

During both my pregnancies, there came a point where we had to talk about the possibility of abortion. You know, these days they do a blood test, and depending on the results, your child has a greater or lesser chance of being born with certain genetic problems. If the chances are considered high, they follow up with an amniocentesis but can only test for some genetic problems and they can only say “yes, the child has x” or “no, the child doesn’t”. They can’t say the degree of seriousness.

My husband was adamant that if it came back as “yes”, we had to be well informed about what we were headed into and we had to consider whether we wanted to spend the rest of our lives caring for a seriously disabled human. It’s not a stupid question to ask yourself. I hope people can empathise with his viewpoint. Before these tests were available, people only found out after the birth and they didn’t get the choice. Choice is a two-faced thing but I think we have a responsibility to take it seriously. I absolutely think P was right to think ahead and be rational about it.

Luckily for us, both results came back negative after the amniocentesis.

But I can tell you from the deepest part of myself that my gut instinct, as a pregnant woman, was to fight tooth and nail for the life inside me. All the reason in the world didn’t seem reason enough to interfere with what we’d consciously begun.

So firstly, I am so so so so so so so so so grateful that we didn’t have to make that decision.

And secondly, I feel such heartfelt empathy for anybody who has to make that decision, whatever the situation.

Last night I watched a couple of episodes of “Mock the Week” – the British current affairs comedy show hosted by Dara O’Briain. There was a woman on the panel called Angela Barnes who is a declared feminist. The panel had to guess what the question was (for that week) to which the answer was 29 days. Ms Barnes piped up and said “How long would a man need to be in a woman’s body before he would be pro choice?” or something like that.

I guess human choices are always about consequences, right? Every action has a reaction and, as we get older, hopefully we learn to worry more about what the reaction will be. (Now I’m thinking that this is one of the definitions of wisdom.)

Abortion is just one decision in a series. Like most things on this planet, it doesn’t stand on its own. It is dependent on a whole host of other circumstances, choices and interactions. And all those decisions and circumstances are part of the abortion decision and need to be understood and reflected on. But equally, to not have an abortion has consequences. And those consequences involve bringing another human life into the world, which, as I have learned, is among the most massive responsibilities you can ever undertake.

The woman’s body is definitely a factor in the decision. As is the woman’s role as mother. As is the baby’s life. As is the father’s input or lack thereof. As are the circumstances around how the pregnancy came to be. It’s all important and relevant and adds to the wisdom.

So is it a feminist issue? Or is it a human issue in which women are irretrievably involved?

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