Pro choice and pro life?

If you ask me about abortion today I would tell you that I hate it, I hate what it involves, and I bet many other pro choice supporters feel the same way.

But I didn’t always think like that.

As a teenager growing up in the 1970s I saw friends getting pregnant. Some had abortions. Others married the father. Just a few became lone parents. And seeing the lives of mothers at that time, I knew which option I would choose.

My first pregnancy did not alter my opinion in any way, I even took part in the X case protest march over the Supreme Court’s refusal to allow a raped 14 year old to travel abroad for an abortion.

But once I held my firstborn in my arms, my strong views began to soften. It was as though I had not made the connection between foetus and baby until that point.

Then my second daughter was born at 26 weeks in 1996, and against all the odds she survived and continues to thrive even though she has severe disabilities. But always in the back of my mind is the thought that until 1990, babies like her could be legally aborted in the UK, and I do find that upsetting, I can’t help it.

I have other doubts too.

Remembering the teenager I once was, I certainly think that counselling should be a requirement before abortion is granted. If I had had an abortion when I was younger, I’m fairly certain I would regret it now.

I definitely don’t want any woman to feel ashamed of having an abortion, but nor do I want anyone to feel pressured to do so – by their partner, their employer, their parents. All these things happen here, and in other countries. I can think of actual examples, but I can’t tell you about them.

It should be a serious decision, and it should also be a personal decision, made with knowledge and understanding, but not as a result of outside forces or pressure.

There are many reasons for having abortions, and many of the issues discussed in the media like fatal foetal abnormality and saving the life of the mother are no brainers for me. I find it disgusting that anyone could deny an abortion to a woman in these and similar situations.

There are also downsides to wider availability of abortion.

If it became available on demand, what could that do to supports for families? Would all the ‘hard-working’ tax payers look for further cuts to child benefit, supports for those with disabilities etc etc on the grounds that the mother ‘should have had an abortion’?

Those worries equally apply to the organisations that want no abortion in Ireland, whether you call them pro life or anti choice. Because how many so-called pro lifers…

Support cuts to child benefit?

Support the legislation that removed lone parent allowance once a child reaches age 7?

Believe that parents should be jailed if their kids miss too much school?

Believe in corporal punishment?

Say you shouldn’t have kids unless you can afford them, but also don’t believe in sex education or the living wage?

Vote in governments that promise tax cuts, not parties that want to provide services.

Subtract those pro lifers from the total and would there be anybody left?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I believe that most so called pro lifers are only pro life until birth.

After that mothers and babies are on their own.

Only this morning, there was a comment on an Irish radio show about work shy single mothers living off the state: and as long as there are people who think that way, there will be lots of women looking for abortions.

Abortion is not the ideal solution to many crisis pregnancies, but sometimes it may feel like the easiest one, at least until attitudes change and support for families increases.

So society bears a lot of responsibility for the demand for abortion, and while I would love to see fewer abortions, the way to achieve that is not by banning them. Better sex education and cheap or free contraceptives are also only part of the answer. Society needs to believe in the importance of babies, of children, of families, and especially of parents and their role in raising the next generation. And it must provide whatever supports are needed. If prospective mothers know that they or their partners can get secure well paid jobs, free or subsidised childcare and stable accommodation, wouldn’t that go a long way towards reducing the need for abortion? But how many people are really willing to pay more to ensure that being pro life, means being in favour of a good life for all, and a chance for every child to fulfil their potential.

There are two more very good reasons why I am pro choice and I love both of them very much: my daughters. And there is another issue. My middle child B is severely physically and intellectually disabled. What if the unthinkable happened and someone took advantage of her vulnerability? She would not even understand what is happening, and while I support the wish of people with learning disabilities to choose to be parents, I don’t believe that my daughter would be capable of making that choice. Should she be made to go through a pregnancy and birth, when her mind and body might not be able to cope?

Nor do I want either of my girls to ever have to make that lonely trek across the Irish Sea. If they need an abortion, I want them to be able to have it here, on the island of Ireland. Because I am pro choice and pro life, I am pro their lives first and foremost, because I’m their mum.

Further reading:

https://minisandmum.com/2016/08/24/the-down-syndrome-paradox/

http://www.badmammy.com/dear-rte-sydney-rose/

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16 thoughts on “Pro choice and pro life?

  1. This is a very intelligently written piece. I’ve always been pro choice, but I think there should be far better sex education, so that the choice isn’t required. Too many young people honestly don’t see the consequences of their actions, which leads to abortion being ‘convenient’, which I don’t agree with. But then the alternative is unwanted, unloved, children.
    It’s always going to be a difficult one x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It always is, which I suppose is why I wrote this, because normally we only hear the voices who see it as a black and white issue, which I don’t think it is at all. Thanks so much for your comment x

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  2. I had a miscarriage at 21 1/2 weeks. It was a bit of a trauma but not devastating like it seems to be for some other women. I think my lack of emotion was because I didn’t connect to the pregnancy as a baby because it had not been born yet. With my later successful pregnancy I also didn’t relate to the foetus as a baby until she was born – at which point I instantly fell in love with her. For me it’s no-brainer. Definitely pro choice. In my mind there is nothing sadder than a baby coming into the world unwanted, unloved, and given away.

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    1. I have been lucky enough not to have had a miscarriage, but I have also witnessed many friends distraught after it happened to them, especially when it was multiple times.

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  3. Very good nuanced post. I think it reflects the reality that we can’t be neatly divided into “pro-life” and “pro-choice” camps and there is a plurality of views on abortion. The phrase “abortion on demand” is particularly off-putting to many people. They say things like “I’m not a pro-lifer but I’m against abortion on demand” or “I think women who’re pregnant as a result of rape should be allowed have abortions”, so we end up with discussion about what kinds of women would we allow to have choice, or under what kind of circumstances would we allow them to have it. I think the phrase “universal access” might be more appropriate. I would support legalising universal access to medical abortions in the early stages of pregnancy. After that it becomes a grey area. On the one hand I’d be queasy about the late limit in places like the UK and the Netherlands, on the other I can see how some vulnerable women and girls may present at a later stage and this would have to be looked at. There are difficult decisions ahead and it’s important we feel free to discuss abortion without fear of brickbats from either “side”.

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  4. Excellent piece Candi. You have said things that never even occurred to me. No-one knows why a person might believe that an abortion is their only choice, except the person in that situation. I know there is another life involved and I find the whole issue very upsetting.
    I think pro-choice for me too. How am I to tell someone else what they can and cannot do?
    And you are of course correct – the solution (or part of it) is support. The one thing we’re really not very good at in Ireland. xx

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    1. Lack of support is not just a problem in Ireland, it’s just that here we have the combination of almost no abortion, but lack of support and interest in the problems of raising children too. xx

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  5. In the UK a baby with a far more trivial impairment than Smiley’s would be eligible to be aborted (and the issue is the 24-month time limit, which is waived in such cases). The time limit is waived in cases of “severe disability” which is undefined, which it was warned when this was passed that it could lead to abortions on such trivial grounds as a club foot. There was a case of a baby aborted at 28 weeks on the grounds of a cleft palate, which led to a legal challenge by a female vicar who had been born with facial abnormalities which required surgery when she was a child. It later turned out that the motive for the abortion was that the father, on learning of the child’s condition, withdrew his support.

    I believe doctors shouldn’t be telling parents about such details, unless it indicates a condition that is incompatible with life. The whole reason abortion was legalised in the first place was so that women (and young girls particularly) wouldn’t have to go through pregnancy and birth for an unwanted baby, particularly when it would entail social stigma, rejection by family etc.; that doesn’t apply in these cases. Abortion shouldn’t be available just because the child would be more costly or less of a credit to their parents than a ‘normal’ one. And it certainly shouldn’t be available at late stages of pregnancy when a “foetus” is definitely a child, and could survive with the right medical care.

    I’m not in favour of banning abortion entirely; that would lead to the criminalisation of miscarriage, as has already happened in parts of the Americas (including the USA) where bans on abortion or “fetal personhood” type laws exist. But it ought to be in the first few months and information about less than very serious impairments and the sex of the child should be withheld until the abortion ship has well and truly sailed. If we allow babies to be aborted in late pregnancy because of an impairment that could be lived with, we must think disabled people’s lives are worth nothing.

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  6. This makes for really interesting reading and has given me lots of food for thought. I suppose I am pro choice as I think it is often situational, like you say if someone took advantage of Smiley (heaven forbid), could she be expected to go through with the pregnancy? Thanks, Mich x

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  7. Interesting and brave piece. You’ve obviously reflected deeply on the issue, and make good points. Similar issues surround euthanasia (especially concerns over possible external pressure) and in that case, too, if society supported people better, there would be less (but probably not zero) demand for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. As with most things there will always be extreme cases that call for extreme measures no matter how well society supports people, so there is also always a need for flexibility and compassion imo

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