Last month, I had an evening to myself (I’m as shocked as you) so I decided to peruse iPlayer for something to watch. I love a good documentary or anything based on true events, so when I saw Abortion on Trial pop up, I was instantly intrigued.
It’s a taboo subject. A subject that causes mass debate. Protests. Questionable behaviour from those that oppose the thought of a woman having a mind and controlling her own body. A subject that I know affects people close to me.
In fact, if I was asked the question “Do you know anyone who has had an abortion?”, 9 beautifully strong women jump into my mind instantly.
The documentary, hosted by Anne Diamond, brought together a collection of men and women who have experienced abortion at some point in their lives. The mix of pro-lifers and pro-choicers were there to discuss whether the current laws are fit for purpose in a 2017 world, given that they haven’t changed much since the 1960s.
Where are we today?
Currently, a mother can terminate her pregnancy up to 24 weeks gestation, given that she has been assessed by two doctors who both agree she meets the requirements of the current Abortion Act 1967. This is where a lot of the disagreement comes from; isn’t 24 weeks far too late to terminate..? How can just the mother make the decision, what about the father?
Although I am pro choice, I do feel 24 weeks is too late, especially knowing babies can live outside of the womb before 30 weeks. In saying that, a termination can be carried out at any stage of the pregnancy if it is deemed to be a threat to the mother’s, or the child’s, life. So in this instance, is it ok? It’s such a tricky question to answer…but surely if you knew your child would be born with a life-threatening condition, who may not even make it past a few days of life…would you want your child to suffer that? I’m not sure I would.
In England and Wales in 2016, there were 190,000 abortions carried out on both UK and non UK residents, which was lower than the 2015 statistics. In fact, these are some of the lowest figures in recent years. 92% of these were carried out before 13 weeks gestation and only 2% were for medical reasons. You can read more on the statistics over on the Department of Health 2016 report.
Is it right or wrong?
Again, this is very personal. For me? I don’t feel abortion is wrong, I feel some of the reasons for abortion are wrong. Should a woman whose contraception has failed, something as reliable as The Pill, be demonised for not wanting, or be ready for, a child she didn’t plan? The woman who was raped, should she have to carry a baby that was created through hate? No. I don’t think think they should have to! What about the family who already have children but aren’t in the right place financially for another child? These women should be free to have the choice over what they do. Remember, the decision affects not just the mother, but the existing family too.
The women who see having a medical termination as a form of contraception are the ones in the ‘wrong’. I feel this is irresponsible as there are far better ways to prevent pregnancy.
Should a termination be carried out at home?
This was a topic heavily discussed in the documentary and I would have to agree that it should be allowed. Currently, if a woman opts for a medical termination (a pill that brings on an abortion) she is given the pill / pills and off she goes. One of the women on the documentary recounted how she was on the train home afterwards when she started to bleed heavily, effectively having her termination in public. How harrowing. How traumatising. How can this be right in 2017?! Honestly.
Yes, home abortions could see a rise and increase the risks involved, however if the mother was still required to see two doctors but be given the pills to take to take in the privacy and comfort of her own home, surely we’d be giving them a bit of dignity back? A bit of trust? After all, it’s her body.
What about the father?
Again, another tricky situation. In most cases, the fathers support the mother’s decision and continue to support her either way. However, in Abortion on Trial, one of the only men to be involved in the discussions told us how is ex partner had had a termination against his wishes and how hurt he had been. I did feel sorry for him at first as I could see it from his side; he’d had the opportunity to be a dad for the first time taken away. But after he started insulting everyone on their views on pro-choice, resulting in one of the women actually leaving in tears and refusing to take part anymore, I just became angry at him. But that’s grief; people deal with it in many ways. He was grieving so could I really be too angry at him..?
Let’s face it, I don’t think it’s a subject that many people will change their opinion on until they are faced with the situation themselves. I certainly feel like there needs to be more education around the subject, for both men and women. As I mentioned above, I know of 9 women who have been open enough to share their termination stories, either with me personally or on their own platforms. All of them had their own reasons for their decision, be them medical, financial or being too young to be a mother. Each of them have battled their demons surrounding their decisions and live with it everyday. But we all know the decisions were the right ones.