Wednesday, January 26, 2011

We Should Be Angry.

I criticise the United States of America, probably more often than I should. Their healthcare policies shock and appal me. Their taxation levels surprise me. Their public education system is, well, broken. (Why does it take four years to get a bachelor's degree over there? Inquiring minds want to know.) But in America, still, despite a great war upon it from the religious right, abortion is legal.

It is also legal in Turkey, Tunisia, Bangladesh, ALL of Europe except for Ireland, Germany and Poland, all the -stans except for Pakistan and Afghanistan*, Cambodia, Cuba, India and a dozen other countries besides.** It is not legal in my country.

My country is New Zealand, and it's got a lot going for it. On most issues, I can hold my head high as a New Zealander. We have some of the world's most liberal laws regarding prostitution, we are nuclear-free, we love the whales and all that. But when it comes to abortion, our laws are an international embarrassment. I am ashamed of them. And I am angry.

To get an abortion, women here have to show that the pregnancy is causing serious harm to her physical or mental health. Two specialists have to sign her off. She has to jump through hoops in order to obtain an abortion in ways that are stressful and upsetting, particularly if the pregnancy itself is distressing to her.

I am pro-choice, childfree, and a little tokophobic. I believe strongly that a woman should have ownership of her own body, and be able to choose what happens to it while she's living and after death. And I believe men should have those same rights for their own bodies (which means I'm not terribly keen on circumcision before the boy is informed and able to choose for himself whether or not he wants one). I don't want children, and never have done. I don't mind children... actually I quite like them, as they tend to be more interesting than adults with better things to say. Adults tend to talk about work, which is odd because they rarely enjoy it while they're there. Children talk about Batman, which is totally something I can get behind. I love my cousins. When I have them, I'll dote upon my nieces and nephews. I simply don't wany any children of my own.

Tokophobia, for those unaware, is a fear of childbirth or pregnancy. I say I'm "a little" tokophobic because I don't have a problem being around pregnant women, I don't suffer nightmares or anxiety attacks when thinking about pregnancy. I do, however, feel a bit anxious. Actually, I feel a bit anxious now. The thought of being pregnant myself is repulsive to me; I genuinely don't understand why other women enjoy it. (Although "enjoy" may be a bit strong, depending on woman and pregnancy.)

While I'm careful about contraception (I'd be a fool if I wasn't), it's pretty clear that my reasons for wanting a change in abortion laws in New Zealand are partly selfish. I want to ensure that, should the worst happen, I needn't fear that I'd have to carry a baby to term. I want to ensure that I - and other women throughout the country - are able to obtain abortions without needing to go through further distress. Partly selfish, I say - even were I sterile, I'd want this right for the women of New Zealand. Hell, even were I personally opposed to having an abortion, I would still want this right for other women. That right to choose. And right now, the laws we have suggest we are not capable of making that choice ourselves.

Abortions aren't nice. In a better world, one would always conceive only when one wanted to. Even when a conception is happily accepted, though, circumstances can change. Jobs are lost, partnerships are broken. Mutations happen - and no woman should be forced to carry a baby with anencephaly or cyclopia to term. (Images of such children are disturbing enough in themselves. Birthing one would be heartbreaking.) In a better world, every foetus would be wanted. Every baby loved. Every child properly raised, well-fed, well-taught, clothed, loved, supported. But - shock! - we do not live in this ideal world. And this is a sad thing. Abortions are a sad thing. But they are, unfortunately, a necessary thing. Oh! for a 100% guaranteed form of contraception.

The whole "she should just have kept her legs shut" argument is a post in and of itself, so I won't go into it here. It will be a post of vitriolic anger. Topics will include "women can be sexual beings without being whores" and "babies shouldn't be punishments".

Finally, one asks oneself - if abortion isn't legal, if one has to jump through so many hoops to obtain one, why are sterilization operations so expensive? So difficult to get? So impossible if you're young and childless? A woman with her tubes tied isn't going to need an abortion (well, one hopes); one would think cheaper, easier sterilization operations would be a better option.

Further reading: ALRANZ, for abortion law reform in New Zealand.

*There's five of them: Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
** Gathered from here. Dark blue indicates "Legal on request".


  1. What people get so caught up in is the whole "destroying an innocent life" crap. The truth behind restrictions on abortion, I believe, and that has been taught throughout many women's studies courses is that in truth, when we take the wool from our eyes, it's not about the children at all. It's about controlling a woman's sexuality. It is our "gift" from right-wing patriarchal rule and is often cleverly disguised by religions that still hold people in a state of fear. It's not about the children.

    I feel your rage!

  2. Yeah, I absolutely agree. I'm going to wax lyrical on that point at a later date ^_^

  3. Being pregnant is a wonderful thing. I have a child of my own and the feeling of him once kicking around inside is something special. pregnancy isn't for everyone. and that's ok.but I do have to agree on the whole abortion thing. its a woman's choice.i honestly think that if a woman goes the lengths to lay down with a man then she should go through full term pregnancy and have the child and give the child up for adoption to those who want children but can't have any.