The Bogeyman Of The 38-Week Abortion

In conversations about abortion, I keep on seeing interactions like this one:

A screenshot of several tweets between @jackmurphylive and @LeahNTorres.  First: @Jackmurphylive "@LeahNTorres you still can't answer me: 38 week abortion ok for you? Based on feels?". First reply  by Lean Torres is: "You view pregnant people as expendable objects, not as people. I doubt you'd value any answer I give.". Jack's next reply: "Your avoidance tells all. It's okay to misspeak, but retract and move on.". Leah'a final reply: "Is this 38 week baby going to suffer after being born, @Jackmurphylive? Is an abortion more humane than birth?"

When it comes to abortion, it seems like a certain number of anti-abortionists operate under quite a startling misunderstanding about what it actually is. Continue reading “The Bogeyman Of The 38-Week Abortion”

The Bogeyman Of The 38-Week Abortion

Six Abortion Movies I Want To See.

I’ve got a bone to pick with you, World. You see, I’ve seen a few abortion movies in my time. I’m getting tired of seeing the same old stories.

There’s the girl who gets pregnant, considers abortion, and then changes her mind at the last minute (Juno). There’s the tragic story set somewhere in a bleak, desaturated past where someone gets pregnant. Her cruel and backwards culture would never accept such a thing. So she has an abortion and it is terrible/painful/isolating/all of the above. She goes on with her life (or maybe dies) and everything looks like it’ll continue being bleak and secretive forever. And then there’s the story of the abortion provider- also living in Bleak, Desaturated Past- who does her work in hidden back rooms and probably something terrible happens to her too.

Not exactly light entertainment.

Drawing of a big red bus driving down a road. It's passing a sign saying "Ferries 200k"

Continue reading “Six Abortion Movies I Want To See.”

Six Abortion Movies I Want To See.

A guide to abortion services and information for people in Ireland.

This post is inspired by and adapted from a post originally published  at Feminism and Tea, also on the topic of abortion services. However: this is me saying all of it, and I take full responsibility for that.

Picture of a coathanger and the number "8th", crossed out in red.

Abortion is illegal in almost all circumstances in Ireland. In this post is information on the legal situation in the Republic, and how you can get the services you need. I’ll be sharing information on both legal and illegal methods of accessing safe abortions. If you need to use the latter, be careful! I’ll advise you on precautions that you can take to make sure everything goes smoothly and you get what you need. Continue reading “A guide to abortion services and information for people in Ireland.”

A guide to abortion services and information for people in Ireland.

Abortion: choice and the right to make our own mistakes.

Here’s a thing you hear a lot from anti-choicers: Pro-choices don’t care about women. You see, they’ve heard stories from women who had abortions- or maybe even had one themselves. Those women feel immense regret, guilt and heartbreak over what they did. Their abortions were traumatic. How can pro-choice people be so heartless as to encourage others to do something that hurt them so much?

It’s a good question. It’s a difficult one to look at. It’s also easy for us as pro-choice activists to view it as disengenuous. I know plenty people who have no regrets over their abortions. I’ve heard the other stories. The ones where women remember their abortions as a positive decision.

But if we’re going to be intellectually honest, I think we need to take on the idea of abortion regret. Head on. So let’s take a look at it.

Some people regret their abortions.

This is true. I wish it weren’t so- it must be heartbreaking to know that you made the wrong decision on something so important.

Everybody has regrets. Nobody gets through their lives without making a decision that they wish they hadn’t. I can think of dozens of things that I wish I’d done differently, from the simple (if only I had studied this instead of that. If only I hadn’t wolfed down my lunch today because oh god you can’t die of indigestion can you?) to the almost unbearable.

On one hand, it seems like it would be wonderful to protect people from the pain of regret. Who wouldn’t like a chance to take a time machine to a version of themselves twenty years younger?

Of course, none of us will ever get that chance. We never know for certain if we will regret something, or look back on it with relief. We weigh up our options and we do the best that we can.

Yes, there are people who regret having abortions, and whose hearts will always be a little broken by their decisions. There are also people- although it’s even harder for them to share their story- who know that the decision to have children was a mistake. And there are people who have made either choice who know that it was the right thing to do.
Why might people regret abortions? How can we prevent this?

To be pro choice is to acknowledge one principle: that we are the people most qualified to make decisions about our bodies and lives. And yet, we know that none of our decisions are made in a vacuum. Our life circumstances play a role. So do our own biases. These affect not only the decisions we make, but also how we feel about them. So let’s look at why people might have abortions that they regretted, and see if there’s anything they we can do about it. (Spoilers: there is)

What choice?

I have something in common with anti-choicers. Neither of us want anyone to feel forced into abortion.

You see, pro-choice is not pro-abortion. Not specifically, anyway. We can say this without disparaging abortion. Let me be clear: I think that abortion should be safe, legal, freely available and rare happen precisely as often as it needs to. If that means it is rare? Great. If that means that every pregnant person has a dozen? Great. That is infinitely preferable to everyone having a handful of children they never wanted.

But pro-choice is not about abortion. We don’t advocate for abortion rights because the procedure is special. We do so because it is both necessary and denied. Ireland’s constitution states clearly that it is perfectly acceptable to force a pregnant person to become a parent against their will. I disagree.

And yet even in Ireland many people terminate pregnancies that they would have loved to continue. No wonder they have regrets. And no wonder it happens. Parenthood is an immense commitment, and it’s one that we expect people to do with little support. We act like love is enough- but all the love in the world doesn’t put food on the table. It doesn’t clothe a child, or buy their schoolbooks. And it definitely doesn’t give a parent the ability to be in two places at once. Becoming a parent is always going to require commitment and devotion. All too often, it also means giving up on your own life. No wonder people feel like they don’t have a choice.

Of course, there is a solution to this. It’s a simple one, but it’s not easy. If we don’t want people to have to terminate wanted pregnancies, we have to support parents and children. We need to give parents the financial support they need to provide for their children. We need affordable, accessible daycare facilities so that people- mostly women- don’t have to choose between parenthood and education or a fulfilling career. We need adequate parental leave. We need to create a culture where parents of all genders are encouraged to take an equal role in raising children.

Shame and Regret

I read a story recently. A woman, talking about an abortion that she had when she was younger. She said that she could never tell her family about what she had done. But the reason for her termination? Her family would have disowned her if they knew she was pregnant in the first place.

I’m not sure how she felt about her decision. But let’s imagine that she regretted it. I’m sure people in that situation have.

If we want to prevent this? We need to never, ever shame people for being pregnant. Or for being mothers too young (or too poor, or too single). The idea that there is only one respectable way to parent is toxic. It doesn’t prevent pregnancies- for that you need contraception, which people are far less likely to use if they are shamed. All it does is make life more difficult for people parenting in different situations. And makes it far more likely that people who might have wanted to have a kid will feel pressure to terminate. Often from the same people who would call them murderers if they heard about what they’d done.

If you want people not to do a thing? You have to make the alternative feel possible.

Regret Happens

Let’s picture a more ideal world. In this world, pregnant people and parents are supported unconditionally. The best reproductive medical care is freely available. Parents have all the supports they need from the moment their child is born. Parental leave is generous and fully-paid. Daycare is the best quality, easily affordable, heavily subsidised for low-income parents, and easy to get to no matter where you work or study. As well as this? Everyone’s grown up with fantastic sex and relationships education. The society has gotten over its hangups about sex and pregnancy. And any kind of birth control that you might want is free and accessible.

(Aside: I want to live in that world. Now, please.)

That world, by the way, is one that people on all sides of the abortion-rights spectrum should be gunning for. And if you’re not? Then I’m really not sure why you’re here.

Even in that world, some people will make decisions they regret. It’ll happen less, of course. But humans are profoundly imperfect. Sometimes we mess up. We never act with perfect information. There are always things that we don’t know.

There will always be regrets. And you know something? That’s okay.

In every other area of life, we acknowledge that people don’t always have to be perfect. None of us gets through life without making mistakes sometimes. And even when we did the best we could and things worked out wonderfully, there’ll always be a small part of us that wonders what could have been. We understand this, don’t we?

With the right to make our own choices, will some people wish they chose differently? Of course. Will that ever be worth taking those choices away from us? Never.

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Abortion: choice and the right to make our own mistakes.

Irish women are now incubators. Even in death.

Consent is not for Irish women: once a person in Ireland becomes pregnant, their right to refuse or to choose medical treatment is null and void. Self-determination is not for Irish women: once a person in Ireland becomes pregnant, they may no longer choose the direction of their lives within our borders, and if they do not have the right to leave their borders their lives become the property of our state. And as of today, even the right to be laid to rest after our deaths is not for any pregnant person in this country.

At first glance, it doesn’t seem that way. December 26th marked a High Court ruling on the case of a brain-dead woman who has been kept on life somatic support since her death on December 3rd. She has been kept breathing, despite the unanimous wishes of her partner and family, because at the time of her death she was ~14 weeks pregnant, and Ireland’s constitution demands that the right to life of a foetus must be protected. Because of this constitutional provision- which I’ll go into in more detail in a moment, don’t you worry- none of her doctors would allow her life support to be turned off. Her family- including her two young children- have been forced to watch as the condition of her still-breathing corpse deteriorated grotesquely, waiting for the High Court to deliberate and make its decision.

It’s a hell of a way to spend Christmas. Continue reading “Irish women are now incubators. Even in death.”

Irish women are now incubators. Even in death.

Should “potential fathers” have any say in abortion?

Of course women should have the right to choose. But.. shouldn’t the potential father have the right to be consulted, too?”

If you talk about abortion a lot, and you’re coming from the pro-choice side of the spectrum, you’ve probably heard this- or maybe even said it- a few times. The reasons people give for saying it tend to boil down to two basic ideas: that both people are parents of the potential child and so both should have a say, and that it can be incredibly hurtful to men who want to be parents, if their partners abort the pregnancy that they still want.

Both of those points refer to very real, significant things, and it’s only natural to empathise with people in that situation. However, I’m going to argue that, despite these, there should be no obligation on the part of a pregnant person to consult with, or even inform, their partner about their intent to terminate a pregnancy.

We Don’t Have The Right To Become Parents

Nobody- not you, not me, not your ma- has the right to be someone’s parent. We have the right to act, with consenting others, in ways that we hope will result in becoming parents. We can decide that we’d like to have kids, we can have oodles of unprotected PIV with people who’d like to have kids with us, we can- if we can afford it- have all kinds of fertility treatments to make pregnancy more likely, and, depending on our state’s regulations, we can seek to foster or adopt.

We have the right to seek to be parents. We do not have the inalienable right to become parents. Each of the ways in which we can become parents is subject to gatekeeping and the consent of others. If we wish to foster or adopt, we must satisfy adoption agencies that we are suitable parents (and, yes, in some countries, including my own, this depends on a shedload of factors, such as sexual orientation of parents, that are unfair, irrelevant and discriminatory). If we want to be biological parents? We need someone else’s consent for that, too, especially if we’re not equipped with a fully-functioning uterus to do the gestating in.

You could say that this isn’t fair. You would be right. It’s not fair that there are many, many people in the world who would love to have kids and who would make amazing parents who’ll never get to do that. But if something requires the consent of someone else to happen, and if for any reason, no matter how arbitrary, they do not grant or withdraw that consent? It doesn’t happen.

It’s not fair. But the alternative is far, far less fair.

Feelings vs Bodily Autonomy

Let’s go over one of the two major reasons given above for why partners of pregnant people should have a say in whether an abortion happens: that it can be incredibly hurtful to men who want to be parents, if their partners abort the pregnancy that they still want.

It can.

It’s not tough, really, to put yourself in the shoes of someone in this situation, even if it’s something you haven’t experienced. You want to be a parent- you long to be a parent. Hearing that your partner is pregnant, you’re overjoyed. All of the things you’ve dreamed of about being someone’s mum or someone’s dad suddenly seem real, because there’s a potential future person right there, growing. In your mind they’re already taking their first steps, you’re already teaching them all about dinosaurs and how to cycle their first bike and they’re already becoming a Nobel prize winning Olympic gymnast astronaut who never, ever forgets to call home. And in your mind they already have your eyes and your partner’s smile and they sit in that funny way all of your cousins do. And then? Your partner says that it’s not going to happen. And you? You’re expected to hold their goddamn hand through it all, and it hurts.

Yeah. I can imagine that hurting. I can imagine that tearing me apart. I can imagine it being genuinely, honest-to-goodness traumatic.

But a thing hurting our feelings- even in a way that tears us apart and leaves us traumatised and scarred- doesn’t mean that we have the right to infringe on someone else’s bodily autonomy.

Taking a moment to make a comparison- and understanding that all comparisons are incomplete- let’s liken this to breakups. Breakups and divorces can be amicable, they can be painful, or they can be gut-wrenchingly horrible. We all know people who’ve suffered for months or years after the particularly unpleasant ending of a relationship. It’s a horrible thing, it really is, and my heart goes out to people enduring it.

And yet, even with that, we understand that the right of a person to leave a relationship trumps the desire of another to continue it. We know that there is no obligation on the part of a dumper to let the dumpee attempt to change their mind and to take their (real, hurt) feelings into account when deciding whether or not to end a relationship. And y’know what else we know? That a lot of the time that would be a terrible idea.

We choose who to be partnered with.

Relationships aren’t even a binary proposition- there are countless shades of grey between strangers and partners. There’s no shade of grey between pregnant and not-pregnant. We each have the sovereign right to decide what we are willing to have happen inside our own bodies. We have the right to choose the people who we talk and consult with about that decision. And we have the right to make that decision on our own.

When it comes to abortion, our right to choose to carry a pregnancy to term or to terminate does not exist because of our genetic relationship to the fetus inside us- forcing a surrogate mother, say, to carry to term is abhorrent. Our right to choose exists solely because the pregnancy is in our body, is part of our body, sharing our blood, our food, water and oxygen. The right to choose is, at the end of the day, nothing to do with pregnancy. Pregnancy is simply a time when that right is contested. The right to choose is about our right to self-determination, nothing more.

Our desire for a certain outcome- and our desire to advocate for that outcome- can never trump another person’s right to self-determination.

She Has The Final Say, But..

People often counter what I’ve said earlier with what I like to call “She Has The Final Say, But..“. They acknowledge that a pregnant person has the right to make the decision over whether to terminate, but stress that she should have a moral obligation to, at the very least, talk to her partner.

She has the final say, but she should hear him out. She has the final say, but having a conversation is the only decent thing to do. She has the final say, but she should take his feelings into account. She has the final say, but..

She has the final say, but..” is nothing more than an attempt to give one person’s desires priority over another’s rights. So here’s the question I can’t but ask: why are we talking about this again? If my rights trump your desires regarding me (and vice-versa), then why are we getting sidetracked from a conversation about rights with a plea to think about what rights others would, or would not, like us to exercise?

It’s difficult to see “She has the final say, but..” as anything other than a last-ditch effort to get someone to change her mind and influence her decision. What it betrays, at heart, is where a person’s empathy lies- in this case, not with the pregnant person, but with her partner. They’re not thinking about how she would feel, or how feeling obligated to have the conversation could make a potentially difficult situation that much harder. They’re thinking solely about how her partner might feel. And also? They’re betraying a profound mistrust of women’s ability to make the decisions we need to make, in the ways that are best for us.

Either She Will, Or She Won’t.

When people plead with women to discuss our reproductive choices with the men in our lives, they do so with certain assumptions in mind. When you challenge those assumptions, the answer is that of course they weren’t talking about those situations.

When people say that women discussing our abortions with our partners is, as one person said to me last week, the “only decent thing to do”, they’re thinking of a particular kind of woman, and a particular kind of partner. They’re not thinking of women in abusive relationships, or women who aren’t in relationships at all. They’re not thinking- a surprise really, given a lot of the other rhetoric about abortion- about women who mightn’t be sure of who the father of the fetus is. They’re not thinking of relationships that, for one reason or another, might be intimate in some ways but not others. There’s no talk of, say, the person I dated who told me once that if I ever had an abortion we’d never speak again. Or of the person who longed for a child, but who also regularly spent days on end unable to leave the house. The image is always of women in loving, mutually supportive relationships who for no particular reason decide not to inform their partners that they’re pregnant and planning to terminate.

That idea? Is frankly ridiculous. If people are in a relationship where conversations on abortion would be welcome, where they feel safe and comfortable sharing intimate details with each other, and where they’ll support each other? They’ll talk about it. The pregnant person will talk about it. If, however, her partner is not someone she feels safe sharing with? Or if they’re simply not the person she thinks to go to, if there’s someone else who she is closer to?

That’s why, at the end of the day, the question of whether pregnant people “should” discuss their plans to have abortions- or not- with their partners is a meaningless one. If they have the kind of relationship where they talk about those things, then they will, and admonitions to do so are unnecessary. If they don’t? Then it’s nothing more than shaming women into doing something contrary to their best interests, in a situation which could be hurtful at best and dangerous at worst.

Which is why we say “trust women”.

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Should “potential fathers” have any say in abortion?

Abortion: Is it safe? Who decides? And what about birth control?

An interesting comment showed up in my filter the other day. It’s a reply to a guest post from Penny Gets Lucky back in February, Pro-Life vs Pro-Choice: Missing the Point, where Penny argues that if you want to prevent abortions, there are far better ways that criminalising and demonising the people who have them. Here’s the comment, from Jemalacane:

The thing I don’t like about abortion the most is that sometimes, both the mother and child will die during. If I were a husband or boyfriend, I would rather you spare my wife or girlfriend though. I’d rather the unborn child die than her. If someone can come up with a way which makes it nearly impossible for a woman to die while going through an abortion, I would be much less hostile to abortions.

I also do not think abortion is a necessary form of birth control. That’s what contraception is for. It’s better to prevent the pregnancy than to terminate it.

This comment raises several important questions. Is abortion dangerous? What is the role of partners in deciding whether someone can have an abortion? And, of course, the question of whether abortion is a preferable method of birth control.

Let’s get the last two out of the way first.

It’s better to prevent the pregnancy than terminate it.

Yes! Yes, it is. With the exception of cases of fatal fetal abnormality and threats to the health or life of the pregnant person, people who seek abortions generally don’t want to be pregnant. Pregnancy was not part of the plan, and even if the pregnant person knew immediately that abortion was what they wanted to do and didn’t have any difficulty with that decision, a certain amount of stress is almost inevitable. In Ireland, where abortions involve travelling overseas, this is doubly the case. Even without that, it seems silly to suggest that someone would, all else being equal, prefer to undergo an uncomfortable medical procedure instead of preventing it. Medical abortion pills cause painful cramps, and who actually enjoys being trussed up in stirrups for any kind of gyno visit? Contraception is normally a hell of a lot easier, and there are enough different methods around that most people can find something that suits them fairly well.

There’s just a few problems. We haven’t yet invented an infallible method of contraception (aside from having the kinds of sex where there’s no more than one kind of gamete around. I gather that a lot of people don’t swing that way, though). We do a terrible job of educating young people about sex and birth control. And people commit rape and sexual assault every day.

It is, in most cases, better to prevent a pregnancy than to terminate it. But once you’re pregnant, you don’t have the option of going back in time and changing what happened weeks or months ago. Once you’re pregnant, the decisions left to you are to carry to term, or to terminate. While sometimes it might feel like both of those options, quite frankly, suck? It’s what you’re stuck with.

And yes, we should do a lot more work around preventing people from getting pregnant when they don’t want to. And around empowering people to make all kinds of informed decisions about their bodies. Let’s do that too!

If I were a husband or boyfriend, I would rather you spare my wife or girlfriend though. I’d rather the unborn child die than her.

That’s… nice? I’m glad you think that way? I’d like to be honest about one thing before I go further: this was the only part of this comment that annoyed me. If you’re reading this, Jemalacane- and I do hope you are- then I’d like to state for the record that I can see that you’re probably not trying to say anything hurtful or damaging here. And I’d ask you to read this next part carefully.

There’s just one thing, though. If I were a girlfriend or wife, and you were a doctor, I would rather you ask me about what medical procedures you carry out on my body. I’d rather you ask me if I would want you to risk my life to save my pregnancy, or if I would choose for you to do everything necessary to save my life.

If I were a girlfriend or a wife of someone who would prefer to put me in danger to continue a pregnancy, against my will? I would want a doctor to take absolutely no notice whatsoever of what that person, who is not me, said. And if I were to be unconscious and unable to have those conversations with my doctor? I would want that doctor to act in the best interests of their patient- me– and not listen to anyone who tells them otherwise.

In short, I do not want my life to be dependant on whether or not I’m currently making wise decisions about dating. I would really prefer if the worst consequences of bad dating decisions were epic facepalming, having my friends sit me down and ask me if I don’t think I might do better, and some embarrassing memories. I’d like to be alive to have those, thanks.

With that question firmly sorted out, let’s go to the last- but by no means least- question. Here we go:

The thing I don’t like about abortion the most is that sometimes, both the mother and child will die during.

That sure is a point. It’s a scary one at that. If you feel that abortion risks the pregnant person’s life, then I can see how it would disturb you! I would never want to advocate something that would hurt and endanger people.

Looking at statistics, though, we find that abortion is safer for a pregnant person than carrying to term. Much safer, in fact. A person is fourteen times more likely to die during or after giving birth than they are of any complications following abortion! I’m going to say that again, because it’s a staggering figure- you’re fourteen times more likely to die from giving birth than abortion.

This doesn’t mean that I’m going to go picket antenatal units and GPs offices around the country, begging women not to have babies because of the risk to their lives. The vast majority of women survive pregnancy and birth, and they have the right to make informed choices and bear and raise children. It simply means that, of all the reasons that a person could choose to oppose abortion, the minuscule risk of life-threatening complications simply doesn’t add up.


Except where abortion is illegal. While only one person in 167,000 will die from a legal and safe abortion, death rates for unsafe abortions- which are what pregnant people will and do turn to when they have no legal alternative- are, according to the WHO, 350 times higher. Three hundred and fifty times higher. And that’s just counting the women who actually die. Add to that the incidence of complications that don’t kill outright, and you have a massive, preventable health crisis on your hands.

If the thing that you don’t like most about abortion is risking the lives of the people who have them? The single best way to prevent that and save lives is to make abortion legal and accessible to everyone who needs one.

Abortion: Is it safe? Who decides? And what about birth control?

FTBConscience Reproductive Rights

Last Saturday evening, I took a few hours off from BiCon to pop over to an entirely different kind of conference- FTBConscience, Freethought Blogs’s first ever annual conference, located right here on these internets. While the bar was a little lacking (or would have been, if I didn’t have another con bar to go to right after), the conference was anything but.

I spoke on a panel on Reproductive Rights, alongside Brianne Bilyeu, Greg Laden, Bree Pearsall, Fausta Luchini, Robin Marty and Nicole Harris– an intimidatingly brilliant bunch of choice activists, bloggers and scientists if ever I saw one. Check out the full footage here:

If you like that, then you’ll definitely want to take a look at, y’know, all the other sessions. Internets are magic!


FTBConscience Reproductive Rights

Pro-Life Vs. Pro-Choice: Missing The Point?

Today’s guest post comes from Penny. Blogging at Penny Gets Lucky about things like feminism and sexuality, Penny’s comments have been featured here before and I was delighted that she was willing to write a post for the Tea Cosy. 

A Difficult Topic

Abortion. It’s an ugly topic. Emotionally charged, difficult to sort out, and fraught with hyperbole on either side.

So I’m not writing this to discuss my views on abortion, per se. I consider myself both pro-life and pro-choice; the two are not mutually exclusive, regardless of what the rhetoric in each camp may say. I believe that every wanted baby should be given the best possible chance to make it into this world; and I believe every woman should be allowed to make a fully-informed decision as to whether she wants children or not. No one should enforce having babies; and certainly no one should enforce not having babies.

Right now, though, I think there’s a piece of the abortion-debate puzzle that’s largely getting ignored. We’re all so worried about what happens if abortion were made legal, or what happens if abortion were abolished, we’re forgetting to ask a fundamental question… What if we simply made abortion obsolete?

Making Abortion Obsolete?

It doesn’t matter, in the end, if we fall in the rhetorically pro-life or pro-choice side of the debate – I think we can all agree that, in a perfect utopian world, abortion wouldn’t need to exist. In this magical fairyland, children would only be born to families that really, truly wanted them; becoming pregnant would always be a choice, one made with excitement and joy, and those pregnancies would never threaten the life or health of those who were pregnant.

But, of course, we don’t live in that world. So how do we approximate it? What steps can we take to make abortion as unnecessary as possible?

I think no one wants to ask that question, because the answer involves more than a few pieces of legislation and some slapdash measures. The answer to that question involves cultural change, the spreading of information, the readjusting of attitudes and beliefs. It means accepting a different way of thinking about women, sex, and reproduction, and no one’s comfortable with that. It means understanding what motivations people have for wanting or needing an abortion in the first place. I want to point out some of these motivations and outline ways we, as a society, could address these issues without infringing on the rights of pregnant people – or, in many cases, the unborn child.

Abortion as a means of birth control.

It seems like this, especially, is a favorite for the rhetorically pro-life side to point to and scream, “Murder! How can you approve of this?” It’s a facet of the debate that, from what I’ve seen, makes even rhetorically pro-choice folks a little uneasy. After all, we want to support the right of every woman to do what’s right for her, but there’s no denying that the process of abortion comes with significant physical and emotional risks. I don’t think there are many people that truly want to see a friend going in to the clinic for her tenth abortion.

So how do we avoid that? Well, first of all, there needs to be better sex education. Young people need to understand what types of sex lead to pregnancy, and how. Along with that needs to come education on how to avoid pregnancy when engaging in those activities. Teach young people other methods of being sexual that don’t result in pregnancy. Teach contraceptives. And, yes, teach abstinence.

Part of that education should be methods for talking about sex and contraceptives. We need to learn how to discuss these things with prospective partners in a way that is healthy, open, and unabashed. We need to create a culture that is comfortable talking about sex.

There also need to be reliable, accessible, stigma-free sources for contraceptives. In fact, studies have shown that access to free contraceptives significantly cuts down on the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions. People should not be ashamed to take whatever measures they need to take to avoid becoming pregnant. Every sexually active person should know how to use a condom, how to use hormonal birth control, and what their backup plan is if any of their methods fail or fall through. Every sexually active person should be able to talk with their partner about the risk of pregnancy and, ideally, come to a consensus on what the expectations are if a pregnancy does occur. By blocking access to contraceptives and education, society is in essence perpetuating the issues that lead to many abortions in the first place.

Abortion in cases of rape or incest.

I’ve seen reactions range from “Of course an exception should be made” to “I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” (And, thus, abortion should be outlawed even in these cases.)

Unlike the “abortion as birth control” situation, the solution to this is not in the hands of those who might become pregnant, but rather those who might impregnate them. The only way to eliminate abortion in the case of rape and incest is, naturally, to eliminate rape and incest.

The steps we need to take to achieve that goal are numerous and far-reaching. They do, however, break down into some relatively simple key components; things like “Allowing individuals autonomy over their own bodies,” “Creating a culture of consent,” “Creating a culture of equality and egalitarianism,” and “Removing moral values from sex and sexual activity.” By systematically examining and re-evaluating the attitudes and thought processes that contribute to rape culture, it would be possible to create a society where rape was all but eliminated, and with it the incidence of rape-related pregnancy and abortions.

I could go into much more detail about eradicating rape culture, but others have covered it much more intelligently, wittily, and in greater detail than I probably can here. I will say that it starts with us; that it’s a conversation that should be happening on a global scale and that it’s one that goes hand-in-hand with the abortion debate. It starts when we make our voices heard.

Abortion to save the life of the mother.

I… actually don’t have an answer for this one. I can’t come up with a way, off the top of my head, to stop these situations from happening. More to the point, I’m not sure there is a way to stop these situations from happening. What I have noticed, though, is that all but the most rhetorically extreme pro-life camp still leave space in their ideology for people whose lives would be endangered by carrying a pregnancy to term. In fact, if one advocates the enforced death of one human is good and necessary on the off-chance that the life of a fetus might be saved by it… I find it hard to accept that one is still pro-life. It seems more like pro-fetus at that point, and that really should be a separate debate.

However: if other types of abortion were made unnecessary through better sex education, access to and destigmatization of contraceptives and family planning methods, and respect for individual autonomy… I have the feeling that perhaps medically necessary abortions wouldn’t carry the moral value they currently do. They would be considered a life-saving medical technique much like a lung transplant or open-heart surgery.

If the goal is to truly reduce or eliminate the number of pregnancies that end in abortion, there are ways to make that happen. Creating and enforcing legislature that limits people’s freedoms and takes away human rights is not the answer. This is not a problem that can – or even should – be solved with a signing of a bill and the pounding of a gavel. This is an issue that needs to be addressed through a change in cultural attitudes toward sexuality, pregnancy, contraception, and consent.

It’s time to re-frame the debate. Rather than squabbling about “Should it be legal or not?” we should be asking ourselves “How do we make it unnecessary in the first place?”

Penny Posh is the writer of Penny Gets Lucky, a blog mostly focused on feminism and social justice, with occasional poetry thrown in among dashes of this and that. She has trouble adhering to labels, and since her recent move to the Pacific Northwest has been happily and energetically engaged in the process of becoming more who she is and less who others expect her to be. It all began when she learned that “Because I want to” is a perfectly valid reason to do something.


Pro-Life Vs. Pro-Choice: Missing The Point?

Youth Defence: Loving them Both?

When I say that I am not sure what Youth Defence’s definition of love is, it’s not just a statement I’m making for rhetorical effect. It’s an honest expression of bafflement. If you’ve been anywhere in Ireland in the past week or so, it’s unlikely you’ve missed the posters- they’re everywhere. A large handprint with a smaller one inside it and the phrase “the only solution is to love them both?”.

I’m not sure what they mean by the question mark either. Youth Defence are not a group I’ve ever known to ask an honest question or give a straight answer. It could be that they’re appealing to the (imaginary) idea that we will see this as obvious or self evident. “Obviously, the only solution is to love them both?”, asked with a sense of wondering why on earth we’re having this conversation to start with.

I’m not sure what Youth Defence mean by love, but I’m almost certain that I don’t want it.

I don’t want the love of strangers. Love is a thing that I share with my closest friends, family, and partners. I love my parents, my Ladyfriend, some of my friends, my cat. I love the people who I am closest to. I figure that you probably do too. Love is a big word with big implications. It’s not a word that should be thrown around. Love is a word that describes something more than the everyday. Love states that this is a person with whom I feel a unique kind of connection and closeness. My love for a person isn’t something that’s inherent to them. It is the bond between us.

Love isn’t just a bond, though. It also asks things of us. If I say that I love someone I don’t just mean that I hold them in high regard and that I have strong feelings of affection for them. Love demands respect. I’ve found that no matter how warmly I feel towards a person there is no way I can call my feelings love unless I also respect them and their perspectives. Love is also about empathy, you see, and it’s difficult to take the point of view of a person you hold in contempt.

And love is about taking those feelings of closeness, affection and respect and becoming the ally of the person you love. We stand beside those we love. We’re their cheerleaders when the need it, we’re the people to take them aside and have a friendly and circumspect word with them when they are, as we’d say ‘round these parts, acting the maggot*.

I don’t love Youth Defence. No matter what they claim, they don’t love me.

What they call love, I call something else. Youth Defence don’t seem to understand that love is a special and particular thing. They don’t get that it comes with respect, dignity and listening to the other’s point of view. Their idea of love feels like a cloying thing. It’s the ‘love’ of an abuser who cries that you can never live without them, that if you walk out the door and leave them you’ll be nothing.

I don’t want love from strangers. I’m willing to bet that neither do you. What I want from strangers- what I’d be willing to bet that we all want- is an understanding of my equal dignity. I want strangers to accept that I, like them, am a person with the right to determine my own destiny. I want strangers to uphold my rights and expect me to uphold theirs. I want us to have an understanding that we work together to create a society where we all have these rights to support, self-determination and bodily integrity, and what we let love fall where it may.

I don’t want their love. I want respect not because of my unique human DNA or magical ‘soul’, but because I am a person. I have thoughts, wishes, dreams and fears and the ability to articulate them- something I share with every other person, a hell of a lot of members of different species (if you disagree with this I must introduce you to my cat), and no embryo on the planet.

There is no ‘Only Solution’, Youth Defence. There are millions of solutions to millions of issues faced by millions of people. Time for you to grow up and accept that.

edited to add: Oh my sweet & savoury Spaghetti Monster, I just realised how flippin’ creepy it is that they’re using the phrase “only solution”. I’ve managed to get through this so far without swearing but.. holy shiiiit, YD. What the everloving fuck do you think you’re doing?

*Free Hiberno-English lesson: that means being a douchebag. That’s right- a douchebag.

Youth Defence: Loving them Both?