The Unreliable Guide To… De-termination
The Unreliable Guide doubts any woman who chooses to terminate her pregnancy does so lightly, but many women have no legal right to choose at all. Recently, nine US states successfully challenged the American constitution and have restricted a woman’s right to decide on this emotive issue. A woman in Georgia who chooses abortion can now be given life imprisonment or the death penalty, even if her pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. By contrast, a Georgian court gave Michael Wysolovski – a rapist who kept a 16 year-old girl in a cage for a year – just 8 months.
And don’t think this attitude won’t affect us here – where the US leads, Australia frequently follows. Our “miraculously” re-elected Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has stated that his Pentecostalist beliefs “inform” his world view. The beliefs of that fundamentalist church are firmly anti-abortion. Our ex-prime minister, Tony Abbott, termed Australia’s abortion rate as a “national tragedy”. There are no easy answers to this emotive issue, but The Unreliable Guide would like to offer some perspectives.
What is life?
Many anti-abortionists base their arguments in a religious context – if God has chosen to create life, we have no right to take that life. But where does life begin? Is every sperm sacred? Is a condom, as a means to prevent conception, a tool of the devil? If we must obey God’s plans for our existence, surely we should not use technology to go against the things He, in His infinite wisdom, sends to shorten our lives, such as disease. How can it be okay to interfere at the end of life and not at the beginning? And what about quality of life? If anti-abortionists really cared about babies they would lobby for free child healthcare. The US has the highest rate of infant mortality of any developed country. If they survive birth, one in seven US babies will live in poverty. Where are the demonstrations against that?
Your body is a legislated territory
Your body is the only thing you really own, but there are many laws about what you can and can’t do to it. You can’t put certain drugs in it, you can’t drive without strapping a seat belt round it, you can’t euthanise it, even if you’re suffering from terrible, incurable pain. The anti-abortionists exhibit this same colonial dominance over pregnant women’s bodies, the right to choose is irrelevant. Women in Ecuador, where abortion carries a heavy penalty, are subject to arrest and examination if they suffer a miscarriage. Ladies, once you are pregnant your body is no longer yours. You are now a designated baby oven. To quote Australian comedian Mandy Nolan, “The Handmaid’s Tale is becoming more documentary than dystopian fiction.”
Is this a war on women?
Yes, I really think it might be. Even some anti-abortionists recognise that draconian legislation does nothing to lower the rate of abortions. In places where abortion is illegal women are still having them. Global statistics indicate that the abortion rate is actually higher where abortion is criminalised. What this means is that instead of safer, medical terminations, women are risking their lives by having dangerous backstreet abortions or trying to self-abort. Think this doesn’t affect you? Think again. Abortion is still a crime in NSW unless it can be proved to be essential for maintaining a woman’s physical or mental health. A recent attempt to update this 100 year-old law failed in the Upper House. 21 of the 25 politicians who voted against it were men. To quote writer John Irving, “Making abortion illegal (is) simply a sanctimonious, self-righteous form of violence against women.”
Finally, The Unreliable Guide suggests we stand up and say “Women matter”. We value them and their right to make decisions about what happens to their own bodies.