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

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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.

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.

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!

 

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?

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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.

Silent Protest to Counter Anti-Choice Demo TOMORROW


Signal boosting from Unlike Youth Defence, I trust women to decide their lives for themselves:

On Saturday January 19th, a group called ‘vigil for life’ are demonstrating at Merrion Square at 16.30. We’re asking that a number of our followers join us in a counter-demonstration close by.

These people (whether they realise it or not) are protesting against the introduction of legislation that would save the lives of women living in Ireland.

They’re protesting against legislation that the majority have voted for in a referendum.

They’re protesting against a supreme court decision.

They’re protesting directly against what the ECHR says Ireland needs to do to protect the human rights of pregnant women.

We intend to protest silently, without the use of chants or shouting, with signs and pictures of women who have been denied their right to life and health because of this country’s antiquated abortion laws. We have lives too, and its time our government stepped up to protect us.

Please join us in our silent counter-protest. Please bring a sign if you can (it’s as simple as asking a local shop for one of their cardboard stock boxes and using paints or markers) to help get our message across without the need to attempt to shout the other side down.

We will be meeting at Merrion Square South between 4.30 and 4.45. We ask that people coming from town to meet walk across Baggot St, up Lower Fitzwilliam Street and over Merrion Square South (see map below). We ask that people not walk via Merrion Street Upper and past the government buildings, as adversarial confrontation with the Vigil For Life is not our aim in this and they will likely be gathered there. At least one of our members will be waiting at the meeting place early with a large pro-choice sign, so look out for her!

*Image taken from flyposters in Smithfield, December 2012 which were created to highlight the restrictive abortion laws which force women in Ireland to travel abroad while suffering in silence for fear of stigmatisation

 

My country kills women.


I woke up this morning in a hostel in Glasgow. The phone was ringing. Sleepy passing the phone to my partner, burying my head in a pillow while she talked. We’d slept through breakfast time. She went downstairs to meet a friend across the road for tea. Failing to get back to sleep and not wanting to leave my duvet, I propped myself up to check my phone.

I have never felt so disgusted by my state as I am today. That is, by the way, a big statement. I come from a land of Magdalen laundries and cover-ups by supposed moral authorities of child abusers. Funding cuts to the most vulnerable while the people who got us into this mess get off free and disabled people and immigrants are scapegoated. These realities become callouses. It takes a lot to be shocked.

I spent the last week of October visiting my family. Catching up with my cousin after her honeymoon. Calling over to friends from back home. Dinners with family and friends, full of that wonderful bustling laughter and warmth of sharing with the people you love.

While I was passing the potatoes and poking around the kitchen for a bottle of wine, a few hours drive away Savita Praveen Halappanavar was dying.

Savita did not need to die.

She was pregnant. On 21st October, she went to hospital suffering from severe back pain. She was suffering a miscarriage. 21st October was the Sunday just after the Trans* Rally for Recognition. A lazy day at home for me, recovering from the week before. According to my journal I spent the afternoon on the sofa watching One Born Every Minute. Ironic, that I would watch a show about giving birth in the UK as a woman in Ireland was about to find out what happens here when pregnancy goes wrong.

Savita was having a miscarriage, but her foetus still had a heartbeat. She asked for the foetus to be removed, to bring this ordeal to an end. She was refused. She was in agonising pain. Ireland is a Catholic country. She asked again. She was refused. She asked again. She was refused.

It took three days for the foetal heartbeat to stop. Three days of unrelenting agony. Until Wednesday. Once the heartbeat stopped, her foetus was removed. Wednesday, by the way, when I was complaining about sitting next to a rather stinky loo on the bus down to Cork, after spending the morning sating a craving for Alpen. In the meantime, Savita had developed septicaemia- almost certainly caused by those three days with her cervix fully dilated and nothing to protect her from the outside world. She was taken to intensive care. On Saturday night- when I was kicking the cat out of my room so I could get some damn sleep- she died.

She was 31.

This isn’t far away. This isn’t a long time ago. This is here and this is now. This is hours or minutes away from our everyday lives. This is what Ireland is. We are a country that forces women to die preventable deaths in agony. We are a country that calls this ‘pro-life’.

I’m writing this from a cafe in Glasgow. Tomorrow morning I’ll fly home to Ireland. The flight over here took about 40 minutes. Forty short minutes that are the difference between life and death. If Savita had walked into a hospital here she would still be alive. Because she was a few hundred kilometers southwest, she died.

I don’t want to say that we must all be Savita. We’re not. We’re alive and she’s dead. But it’s about time that every single one of us became her friend. Became her family. Stood in solidarity and grief beside those who loved her. Beside her husband and her family and everyone who loved her and now has to wake every day knowing that, in the name of life, we took hers away. It’s high time we make sure that every one of our voices is heard and that what is heard is NO. We will not stand idly by while this happens. We will not allow our politicians to hide and put off legislation for decades while women die.

We need to take back the moral high ground. Need to wrench it back from every sneering ‘pro-lifer’ who says that abortion is never necessary to save a life. Need to stop talking about abortion as if it were a necessary evil and remember that a few weeks ago abortion would have been the absolute unquestionable right thing to do. We need to always, always remember that these are the people who hear a woman in agony begging for her pain to be taken away and say no. These are the people who leave a woman to hurt and die and refuse to make it stop. The next time that someone tells you that you are a murderer for supporting a women’s right to choose, remember this. Remember Savita.

Savita died an unnecessary, horrible death. Let us take that death and our grief and shame and let us stop this. She cannot have died in vain. Let us make sure that this never happens again and let us make sure that Savita’s name is never forgotten.