On October the 22nd, pro-choice amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill will hit the table again. Dr Evan Harris MP, who has been instrumental in forcing these amendments onto the bill, said on Monday that this is 'a once in a generation opportunity to modernise the law.' With it, it's time to modernise our attitudes.
A significant proportion of the UK believes that abortion is far more permissible if the pregnancy is the result of rape. In October 2007 a CBS News poll showed that 34% of the residents of the United states - the highest proportion of the sample- believed that abortion should only be permitted 'to save a woman's life, or in cases of rape or incest.' And in a survey of British students, over two-thirds of those who identified as 'pro-life' believed that abortion should be permitted in cases of rape. This single fact tears a savage hole in 'pro-life' reasoning.
Believe it or not, there's one area where the twisted logic of Governor Sarah Palin actually makes some sense: either abortion is murder, or it isn't. I happen to believe that it isn't, but let's suspend disbelief for a second and suppose, as some people do, that a foetus is an entire and sentient person from the moment of conception. Murder’s still murder, even if you do it with virgin, unsullied hands. The prominence of the viewpoint that abortion is okay as long as the woman has been raped tells us what the real issue is here.
The real issue is women daring to have sex at all. What people really mind isn’t women evacuating the poor little embryos, it’s women daring to exercise sexual self-determination and getting away with it. In other words – in fact, in the words of several pro-choice websites – women deserve to ‘suffer the consequences of sin’. Of course, if a woman’s been raped then it wasn’t her fault she had sexual intercourse, so she's excused.
It's easy to see why the pro-choice movement takes such pains to parrot this wildly hypocrytical piece of rhetoric, appealing, like at the parliamentary rally this week, on behalf of women who might be 'forced to have their rapist's baby.' But unless you subscribe to the misandrist Dworkinite premise that all penetrative sex is rape, there has to be more to it than that. A woman shouldn’t have to justify her decision to have an abortion in terms of her sexual purity.
If you truly believe that it’s alright for a woman to terminate a pregnancy when she has a good excuse for being pregnant -one that doesn’t involve the crime of consenting to sex - then you concede that it’s okay for some pregnancies to be terminated. In the pro-choice movement, we are convinced that nobody else should get to decide whether or not a woman ‘deserves’ an abortion. We believe that it should be her decision alone, not someone else’s blind sentimental call, and certainly not a question of sexual virtue. Let’s put aside this archaic reasoning and modernise abortion law to reflect 21st-century values.
Use Abortion Rights' online lobbying tool to lobby your MP ahead of the crucial vote on Tuesday, or come to the protest on Monday the 21st at 5.30pm outside parliament, Westminster tube.