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.