Monday 4 May 2009

Just another Monday evening.

I'm taking a test tonight.

I've been away from the blogosphere, trying to write a report for Red Pepper on the progress of abortion rights in Ireland and the new reproductive activist wave in London. I've also been nauseous, off my food and feeling generally off. It's probably nothing. It could be stress. It could be coughing pig death. Or, I could be pregnant.

Despite a rigorous contraceptive routine, despite taking every precaution, despite the fact that I'm still bleeding, I could be pregnant. No method is 100% failsafe. So tonight, I'm taking a test, and before I do, in order to break the silence and calm my nerves, I'm going to talk about it.

Since I started this blog, I've had three pregnancy scares, not counting the frisson of gut-knawing panic that precedes the monthly gut-crunching pain. And every time, I've thought about discussing the process, and every time, I've decided against it. Some things are just a bit TMI, aren't they? Some things you just don't talk about. Pissing on a little stick in an ecstasy of paranoia and worry in your bathroom is one of them. Nice girls aren't supposed to talk about needing to do things like that.

Well, bollocks to it. No more prissy little silences. When gender activists talk about the personal being political, this is what we mean.

If you have never been a female person of childbearing age, you cannot possibly understand what we mean when we say pregnancy scare - but I'd like you to try. Firstly, scare is precisely the right word. For the hours or days or weeks between having a hunch and knowing for certain one way or the other, you're rent by the possibility that your body is not your own. Personally, it's not so much the idea of actually having a growing embryo inside you that's terrifying. We've all had headlice. No, it's the knowledge that if you are pregnant, your very nethers are suddenly in the grip of forces outside your control: arbitrary social taboos, the machinations of a hypocritical state that hates female reproductive independence, the personal morals of not one but two total strangers who are meant to know best what you should be allowed to do with the best dreams of your one life just because they have medical degrees. Compared to that, a tadpole in my tummy is not scary.

Because if by some slim chance this test comes out positive, if it's the red cross this time, that portentous clowneye leering back at me, I know what I'm going to do. I'm going to have an abortion.

And in a rational, sensible world, that's all I should actually need to say. My decision over whether or not to incubate a fetus in my own belly for nine months and go through agonising labour should be justification enough. But of course, it's not like that, is it? If this test comes out positive, I will have to explain myself, like a criminal, like a naughty schoolgirl called in to the headmaster's office, if I want a perfectly reasonable medical procedure, a procedure that wasn't even a misdemeanour before 1803. Oh yes, abortion wasn't always illegal. Far from it. It's only recently that the state has seen fit to stamp its morals all over our bodies. But unless I want to be considered a criminal - like this poor girl - I'll have to explain myself. So here it is.

I want to have a child at some point in my life. Unlike quite a lot of my female friends, I *am* a maternal person. I'd love a little baby to take care of and bring up. And I want that child on my own time, when I'm confident in my own ability to bring it up in financial and emotional security. Right now I'm broke, broken, living in a house full of stoners with a fledgling career that may one day prove lucrative but right now has me working 12-hour days for a half-salary. I am determined to ground myself in my own life before I even think about having a baby. How can I raise a kid to be independent before I have the first clue who I am?

Right now, I'm finding it bloody difficult just to take care of myself, although I'm getting better at that. I'd be rubbish at taking care of a child. I'd be far, far worse at taking care of a disabled child. Oh, yes, that's the other thing: my partner has a genetic bone disorder. His main symptoms are physical incapacity and near-constant pain. There's a fifty percent chance that any child we have together will inherit the condition, and a slim chance that it would be born with a much more aggressive strain. Not to mention that the kid would almost certainly also inherit a tendency towards mental health difficulties of various flavours, from both of us. For this reason...well, we're young, but we've already had the baby talk. Our options when and if the time comes include screening or IVF, if we have the cash and tenacity; sperm donation; or adoption. Our options, my options, definitely do NOT include raising a severely disabled child, a child in constant pain, on my salary and his benefits, when we've got the whole world to explore before we make that decision, before I make that decision.

I'm telling you all this because I want you to understand what I mean when I say reproductive freedom. Reproductive freedom is the freedom to make choices like this without having them imposed on you by a misogynist state. Reproductive freedom is the freedom to choose your own destiny. Reproductive freedom is something that, at the moment, women in England, Scotland and Wales have in limited capacity, and women in Ireland and many, many other parts of the world have not at all. Even here in the People's Republic of Haringey I can't, for example, just pop down to my GP's surgery and ask for an abortion because I happen to want one. I'll have to beg and cry and point at my mental health record, declare myself an unfit mother when I know that in a few years' time, fates willing, I'll be no such thing.

The standard line is that every abortion is a hard decision, every abortion is a tragedy. Well, there's nothing hard for me about this decision. There's nothing tragic about this, in my mind. Tragedy would be three lives ruined by bringing an unwanted child into the world. Tragedy would be a child growing up raised by children, a child growing up in poverty and self-doubt. That's one tragedy I won't allow to happen, not to my kid, not to my partner, and not to me. I've too much self-respect, and too much to lose.

Soon now I'll be squatting scared over a ridiculous little stick, about as alone as any girl can be. My heart in my mouth, my own pee on my fingers. This happens regularly, actually, to most women. We just don't talk about it. Part of that is fear, part of it is a deliberate campaign of deception on the part of the right-wing media, a press bias whereby we hear regular stories of women bitterly regretting decisions to terminate pregnancy, and no stories at all of the many, many occasions where women choose to have abortions, and it's the right choice, and it turns out fine. Until we start being honest about it, until we start standing up (remembering to wash our hands first) to claim sovereignty over our own bodies, until we stop making these excuses, making cringing little justifications for what should be our right as human beings, then it's only going to get harder to hang on to the small freedoms we still have. The freedom to talk about reproductive choice openly and honestly can be a start, if we want it to be.

I'm writing this because I don't want to be part of the conspiracy of silence any more. I wish more than anything that there were positive stories for me to read, for me and my friends and sisters to read, stories of strong women making positive decisions about their own lives and the lives of their future and current children. Because if there were more of these honest stories out there, maybe I wouldn't be quite so scared right now. Wish me luck, guys.

ETA: Negative. Phew.


  1. Good luck! and yeah, well done for writing about it.

  2. Don't worry it's probably just swine flu

  3. Mary Whitehouse5 May 2009 at 00:15

    You haven't been having sex have you?

  4. Matsue, Japan 1993 in the middle of a psychotic episode I had a conversation with a Mormon bishop. I was contemplating becoming a Mormon and the bishop asked me if I had done anything seriously wrong. The only thing that came to mind was cheating on one of my girlfriends so I told him that. He said that it wasn't serious and what was serious was an abortion. I had partners who had abortions. I didn't answer him and our attention turned to a flower bed full of cats, partly wild. It was a strange time because it was just before the Kobe earthquake and I had also seen thousands of small mice in one area as well as large gatherings of snails.

    I only lasted a day or two as a Mormon as my psychosis moved to new fields.

    I hope this helps.

  5. I have to echo Anonymous up there... I wish you luck, and also say bravo for having the... well, unfortunately, 'bravery' to write about it. It shouldn't have to be something that requires 'courage' or 'bravery' to discuss... but it seems that it is, in this closeted, reactionary little society we live in.

  6. You do what you have to, Penny. It's nobody business but yours.

  7. God, this post is totally awesome. I'm so glad it worked out without you having to go through all that terrible shite with doctors etc, but thank you for having the principles and talent to write about this so brilliantly; it needs to be said, louder and more often and by more people. Ace.

  8. My faith in humanity has been restored a smidgeon by the fact that all these comments are positive (good luck if this article is posted on liberal conspiracy).

  9. As someone who has never been, and never will be, a "female person of childbearing age" my perspective on this is limited, but as far as it goes, I have always used a hypothetical very similar to your actual circumstances when arguing in favour of abortion on demand.

    On the "it's always a hard decision" thing - absolutely it's easy when one path means misery for everyone concerned (including the hypothetical child); but it is still a momentous decision. I think the key thing is that it's never a light-hearted decision, and the opponents of abortion often try to present the spectre of women just getting knocked-up and walking round the corner to the abortion clinic like it's nothing, and then going round again. whereas, of course, those who are interested in bodily autonomy tend to be those who are most well-versed in the use of contraception, and do what is required to minimise the chances of unwanted pregnancy.

    Thanks for bringing your personal into the political with this, and hurrah that the test was negative.

  10. Glad to hear it was negative. With any luck there will be no more scares in future.

  11. Thanks for posting this Penny. You're right, I doubt there are many women out there who won't be horribly familiar with this situation (I know I've been there) but we don't talk about it. thanks for trying to change that.

  12. I'm pleased you got the result you wanted.

    I've not had a pregnancy scare in about 5 years. Which either means my girlfriend hasn't been telling me stuff or I'm infertile.

    Probably the latter I suspect.

  13. SnowdropExplodes: "it is still a momentous decision. I think the key thing is that it's never a light-hearted decision"I'm not sure that I agree, because for me there would be nothing more momentous about an abortion than about have an ingrowing toenail removed. The only thing that would stop me experiencing it as a tiresome necessity born of an unfortunate accident would be the attitudes of other people.

    Good post, Penny Red.

  14. This is a fantastic post and I totally applaud its sentiment. I have had my share of pregnancy scares and never, thank god, had to brave the NHS waiting list hell (or beg, borrow, scab money off friends or partners to go private) that would have resulted from a positive test. (These days my life is stable enough, my finances robust enough and my hormones persistently broody enough that I would probably go ahead and have it, which is in some ways even scarier. Knowing I'd need to abort is the fear of humiliation and unpleasant medical procedures and angst and spending too much money on something that should, surely, be free. Knowing I'd want to keep it? Oh god, that is a whole other level of scary.)

    Speaking of reproductive freedom, there was an article on the front page of the Metro today about the results from the last two years of testing on the male contraceptive injection, which is apparently 99% effective. Not ready for release yet as they're worried about heart and prostate health risks. But still, it's the first time I've seen it on the front page of a mainstream paper rather than in the back of New Scientist; we've been waiting for this one for over a decade, and I always thought that it simply wasn't a saleable idea, because it's easier to keep women in thrall than convince men to take some reproductive responsibility. (I've also heard it argued that women wouldn't trust men to take it, but I see nothing wrong with a model where everyone who doesn't want kids is on hormonal contraception. I'd love some of that burden to be taken off women.)

    Btw, it's not really relevant to this post but to save you some worry next time - if you're actually bleeding then not only is it nearly impossible that you're pregnant - you don't have an egg to fertilise and your body's already got rid of the last one - but a test result wouldn't be useful anyway; it's about 3-4 weeks before the results are trustworthy. Regardless, I'm glad taking this one helped your peace of mind.

    Helen x

  15. Found the link:

  16. Tobias Meacher5 May 2009 at 17:04

    How effective is the withdrawl method?

  17. @Tobias: It isn't.

  18. Tobias, put it this way, I don't think it would be the most appropriate family-planning method to use if you really don't want to conceive.

    According to this it may have a failure rate of up to 25%, though it concedes failure rates are difficult to ascertain.

    Coming from the other side of the argument as it were, what stood out for me was Penny's vivid description of the tooth-grinding terror of a pregnancy scare. Paras 9 and 10 should be read by all Pro Lifers in a spirit of humility; far too many of them fail to grasp obvious points about the reality of women's lives, of there not being enough money to raise a child, of housing space being at a premium and so forth.

    Good news that Penny's pregnancy scare turned out to be just that ie a scare and not the real thing. I must just quibble about one point, that is her description of labour as "agonising". Yeeees it is up to a stage but that's before you get to suck gas and air into your lungs and avail yourself of pethidine and an epidural.

  19. This happens regularly, actually, to most womenOverall, I think this is a (really) great post, but the more I read the above claim, the more I take issue with it.

    I realise it’s rhetorically effective. I realise pregnancy scares happen often, but it just does not happen "regularly" to "most women". By saying that, you’re excluding so many women who don’t fit inside your own heterosexual experience – your particular kind of experience.

    Your ‘most’, your majority doesn’t include any of the following, unless they’re (God forbid – unfortunately some of them are, but please God not regularly) the victims of rape: gay women. Bisexual women in a relationship only with a woman, or polyamorous only with women. Single women. Women celibate by choice or circumstance. Asexual women. Women who are infertile through age, surgery, or condition (or women whose partners are). And actually, women who’d love to conceive, or just wouldn’t mind – not experiencing the terror that you’ve described. Women who don’t practice penetrative sex, women who always practice good contraception (and don't fall victim to bad luck); any woman, in fact, who doesn’t have poorly protected sex. In fact, let’s add your own ‘regularly’ to the mix and say – this is only happening regularly to women who regularly have poorly-protected sex with men, who don’t want children, and whose response to it rarely or never includes proper practice of the morning after pill. Oh, and whose periods are subsequently late enough to give cause for concern and a test, time after time.

    Most women who consent to sex usually know if they have had poorly-protected sex, and there’s time to go and do something about it, for most who have the minimum mental and financial health to get down to the chemist. If I’d had occasion to use the morning after pill, I’d gladly offer myself as an example of such a woman (accidents happen), but I haven’t – not through huge virtue or good luck, but because I’m, well, gay. But we both have friends who have, you may have gone yourself (I don't know if you have), it’s not pleasant but it’s perfectly possible and isn’t there the dreadful urban myth that if you buy it three times Boots gives you a money-off voucher?

    I agree that unwanted stick-squatting is a horrible place to be, but most women aren’t regularly there. How many women do you know who have taken four or more pregnancy tests in the last twelve months? That’s calling once every three months ‘regular’, which I think is bloody generous.

    You said the other day that activism wasn’t just about London, and I applauded you – but sex and reproduction isn’t just about straight women with boyfriends who (rightly or wrongly) conclude now’s not the right time for children. I know you know this. So don’t exaggerate the problem to a (presumably mostly male? I don’t know why you’d tell an audience you saw as significantly female that ‘most women’ do x or y, unless you assumed we were somehow less socialised than our sisters) readership you hope to win over with rhetoric. You don't need to, it's beneath you, and beneath this otherwise very good post.

    Basically, we’re not all weeing on our fingers (incidentally, I understand that if you wee in a cup, then put the stick in the cup, it works just as well) in terror of the patriarchal state.

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  21. Clamorousvoice: I think you are bang on with the groups that Penny's statement excluded, and I cringed a little at the heteronormativity of that sentence myself.

    However, I would contest your idea that simply having protected sex is enough to save you from this fear. No form of contraception is reliable. Even if you take your pill at exactly the time every day, never take any other drugs or medication, never have a tummy upset or hangover; even if the condom never splits - if your period is late (which many women's are, regularly) - then that fear is still there. It's not logical. If you've had heterosexual sex at all, that fear is there. Even if you've been taking your pills. Even if you used a condom AS WELL (and I know I don't with my long-term partners). Yes, even if he didn't come inside you this time. Because there is still a chance.

    I think if you don't sleep with men, you don't really know what that feels like.

  22. Clamorousvoice: I'd echo what Helen says. Pregnancy is not just a risk for women who have 'poorly protected' sex with men. Pregnancy is a risk for ANYONE female and fertile who has sex with men, at all, like ever. We just don't live in a world where contraception is foolproof yet. I myself never ever have unprotected or 'poorly protected' sex, but pregnancy is still a real possibility.

    Yes, this a post that excludes exclusively gay and asexual women (apart from victims of rape, as you say). But I don't think that means it's not a point that needs to be made. Statistically speaking, most women sleep with men at some point in their lives - not all of them, but yes, most. This is why I deliberately said 'most'. If I'd said 'this is something that all women experience', I'd have been entirely wrong. But I stand by my 'most'.

    In answer to your question, I know a great deal of women who have taken pregnancy tests within the last few months - maybe we have different definitions of 'regularly', but I think that's okay. Some women, moreover, who are on forms of contraception that take away their periods, *have* to test every month or so to check they're not pregnant.

    And even for women who do want children, taking a pregnancy test can be scary. I've counselled friends through the process of test-taking when they just weren't sure what result they wanted more.

    Fundamentally, there are some experiences which will only affect women who sleep with men, just like there are some experiences which will be unique to gay women. This is one of them. I think it's important to acknowledge that taking a pregnancy test is not an universal female experience, and thank you for raising that - but I don't think that invalidates the sentiment.

  23. oookay...having re-checked my stats, I refuse to believe that as little as 1.4% of the world's female population is gay, which is what current estimates are saying, so let's go with Kinsey's research. Kinsey says that 5 to 6% of women are 'exclusively or predominantly' gay.

    For safest estimates, let's add on another 10% for women who are asexual or celibate (for whatever reason), or just not sexually active yet. That still leaves us with 85% of women who will have this experience, quite possibly on a regular basis.

    I realise I'm possibly protesting too much here, but I just wanted you to know that I have thought about this.

  24. Good luck, Penny.

    It doesn't seem appropriate to comment, but I have to. As a point about this post - I have to disagree with Helen and Clamorousvoice. It's your story; you are clearly writing what you feel. Turning it into some all-encompassing political tract would lessen the anguish so evident in the post.

    Not everything has to be about "everyone" - some writing can be purely about the personal. (It's often better; it helps you see the person behind the political.) Even when they touch on the political. Personally, I think it quite insensitive for anyone to say "you didn't include me!" (or this group, or that statistic) in a post about something so difficult, so personal. Such inclusion would turn an highly personal story into a book length exposition of pregnancy, abortion and national politics! The reader, and writer, would lose the personal, if such demands were always abided to. The writing would be abstract, not personal. It would be informative, without telling anything of the person writing. The reader would lose so much; the writer, probably more.

    Sorry, Penny. I'm not trying to defend you, or your writing! I just thought, in this instance, the personal needed some defending.

    Good luck.

    Carolyn Ann

  25. Helen: I agree with your point that no form of contraception is 100% reliable, on the other hand, would you agree that no form of contraception is reliable enough to keep most women from regularly taking pregnancy tests in terror of an unwanted pregnancy?

    Penny Red: If I'd said 'this is something that all women experience', I'd have been entirely wrong. But I stand by my 'most'.You didn't say 'this is something that all women experience' (far be it from you to make such a sweeping and ridiculous statemen), you said 'this happens regularly, actually, to most women'.

    I don't think 'most' women are in the group who 'regularly' take pregnancy tests, and having taken one in the last few months isn't the same thing as 'regularly'. 'Most' of the women I know who sleep with men aren't regularly taking pregnancy tests.

    Also, what happened to your abortion fund?

  26. Still got that - why do you ask?

  27., well, because your post implied that you hadn't --

    I can't, for example, just pop down to my GP's surgery and ask for an abortion because I happen to want one.may be true, but

    I'll have to beg and cry and point at my mental health record, declare myself an unfit mother when I know that in a few years' time, fates willing, I'll be no such thing.

    isn't really the whole story, is it. You would have to do that if you couldn't afford to pay, but you can. You can't just pop down to your GP and get an abortion, but if you still have your fund, you don't have to - you can go and get a self-referred private abortion. I am really glad you do still have the fund, because the GP circumstances you describe would be dreadful if you actually had to go through them (and of course plenty of people do, obviously). I wish more women had said funds.

    Also, interesting & pretty cool fact I didn't know - Marie Stopes gives some of its fees to related work in developping countries. Impressive.

  28. I think that no form of contraception is reliable enough to keep most women from regularly having pregnancy scares.

    I haven't taken a test in years, because my period is regulated by my pill so I only have to live with the tension and fear and anxiety and uncertainty for a maximum of 2-3 weeks before getting an answer, and I see no point in taking a test before I've actually missed a period because I know how unreliable they are that early. So I agree with you that Penny's statement is probably untrue re. the experience of taking an actual pregnancy test. However, I think it is absolutely true re. the experience of having a pregnancy scare, which is what I read the post as being about. The test was her personal experience that day; scares in general were the general topic of the post.

    I can see how you'd read it differently, but that's why I didn't feel alienated by her statements, despite not having taken a test myself lately.

  29. The thing is, though, that even if you *can* afford to get it done privately, you still have to give reasons, and you still have to get two doctors' signatures. What you pay for is a faster, more understanding service. And to be honest, my first port of call would probably be my GP anyway - the fund is for emergencies, if I find myself facing a waiting list long enough to trigger my anxiety to horrific levels, if it turns out that Haringey is at the bottom of a local postcode lottery, or if by some slender chance I find myself unexpectedly pregnant at more than ten weeks.

    I wish more women had such funds, too - but more than that, I wish they didn't need to. I wish the NHS provided a decent service.

    Marie Stopes (along with many other private providers) also offer discounted rates for women coming across from Northern Ireland.

  30. Also, clamorousvoice: lots of women have irregular periods, or frequently miss periods, for medical reasons. I know a significant sample of women who were malnourished as children or adolescents for all sorts of reasons. Intense poverty, abuse, homelessness, eating disorders or other mental healthy issues on the part of them or their parents. There are a number of common physical conditions that affect your periods as well. Even if you have a late or missed period most months, if you've had sex with a man that month, protected or not, pregnancy will be a real and valid fear.

  31. Penny Red is also - please append to list of self-congratulating epithets at top of this page - predictably right-on and therefore old-fashioned, not very bright, hypocritical, look-at-me-ish, and a bit cruel. Odd how these nasty qualities so frequently seem to run in tandem.
    Yes, I should imagine any child that has to live with a bitch like her WILL have its little life rotted up, but there's still hope for it, as long as it finds some decent foster-parents and doesn't get stuck with Baby P type social workers who are also left-wing types after penny's own heart.

  32. And there we go. Thought the lack of trolls was a bit too good to be true.

    Great post Penny. I only sleep with women, but spent a good deal of my late teens terrified of being pregnant, despite practicing safe sex with my one boyfriend. That horrible fear is familiar to a large majority of us- even if we don't take a test every month, and it is something that deserves to be written about.

  33. I've had a few pregnancy scares, they've been bad enough, and I'm a man. The worst was when I was in my 20s with my partner in a country which had only recently legalised abortion, trying to work out how to get a morning-after pill, or indeed whether we could without leaving the country. Suddenly, the abortion law had ceased to be an abstract thing about which we definite opinions but only a vague idea, and became something vitally important.

  34. Don't be so stupid, Alabama. Telling off some grubby little red tick isn't NEARLY as bad as poisoning a baby or having it hacked to pieces.
    YOu have fun: YOU act like a silly self-indulgent whore (OK, some of them claim they're pressured into it, but privileged idiots like you obviously aren't) and WE pay for your fun.
    So does your child.
    As Helen said, "fantastic". In other words, nightmarish.
    Yours, a troll.

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  36. Wither thy voice!

    Whether thou be mad
    at me,
    or th' world,
    or arn yon else for that matter,
    I bid thee a fair life
    and a decided one, too

    A considerate lover
    (perhaps one or ti?)
    and an abiding by thy
    own nature
    whatever thee decide

    we are our nature
    whate'er our past may bring
    into our future
    e'er no'

    life ain't so har'
    no' if yer livin'
    it's the dead that ha' a trouble
    with it
    (an' there's plenty provin' themselv' dead, hereabou'!)

    that which affects us
    perfects us in some
    damnable way,
    no doubt

    although it would be easier
    if the trials
    weren't as hard
    and the decisions
    not as acute

    may thy gods smile upon thee
    whether they be heathen
    secular or deity
    or none

    may your troubles
    be a source of strength
    and your reason
    for fightin'

    whate'er ye decide
    I'll be by ye
    at yer side

    Carolyn Ann

    PS Sorry, it will have to be metaphorically by your side. At least you won't need binoculars - I'm not behind you! :-) I don't know you, Penny. But your words in your post, well, they were, ... They are.

    PPS I did play with some words that said "may your lover be your reason for being", but while that's true for me, I couldn't make it fit for you. Sorry.

    Edit: I didn't like one piece of this. I was contrite. (I make no claims to the overall poem, however...) :-) So I changed it. I hope you don't mind. /CA

  37. Sebastienne:

    I think my brain did a logic-fart there: the logic-far being that if deciding to carry a pregnancy to term is a momentous decision, then so is deciding not to (which doesn't follow at all).

    The "not light-hearted" part was more to the point; I think (as Penny adequately explains) the decision not to have a baby yet is always a considered one, not a blasé one: in your terms, it is "a tiresome necessity born of an unfortunate accident".

  38. Carolyn - wow thank you! I am incredibly touched, that's made my morning. :)

  39. Anonymous 2:

    Where we disagree is over what, precisely, constitutes 'human life'. The idea that an embryo is a 'baby' from the moment of conception, the idea that human essence is somehow nascent before the thing is more than a clutch of cells, doesn't make any sense to me - or, indeed, to many people I know who don't have strong religious beliefs. A potential person is not the same thing as an actual person. A clutch of cells that might be a child, one day, if I take the decision to feed it for almost a year from my own body, is not the same as a child. If it were, you'd never wank again.

    Of course, an embryo is alive. So is, for example, a flea. I'm quite happy to co-exist with fleas, but as soon as one starts sucking my blood I'm quite willing to squish it.

    What I do take issue with is the idea that if I'm not 'pressured into' sex then I'm a 'whore'. Because that's what it's really about, isn't it? It's about punishing women for daring to have sexual autonomy at all.

    But I agree with sentiments expressed above: with only one 'bitch' and one 'whore' since Tuesday, I'm heartened by the responses to this post.

    (P.S thank you alabama and Carolyn Ann for leaping to my defence like valiant knights of the intertubes. Seriously, appreciated).

  40. Penny Red
    What do you reckon should be the cut-off date? I kind of think 10 weeks but's not definite .. how about you?

  41. I'm fully in support of the time limit on legal abortion being kept at 24 weeks, or until the fetus has a reasonable chance of survival outside the womb. I'd also support it being raised back to 28 weeks, as in the original Act. See my '24 Reasons for 24 weeks' campaign for more on this.

  42. @Anonymous
    YOu have fun: YOU act like a silly self-indulgent whore (OK, some of them claim they're pressured into it, but privileged idiots like you obviously aren't) and WE pay for your fun.

    If you think that women who exercise sexual freedom are whores and that sex is just about fun then you would appear to be in need of some sort of psychiatric help.

  43. Yes. Even within the pro-abortion media, there's still an overwhelming amount of assertions thrown about on how 'abortion is a tragedy'; it's about time somebody actually looked at this claim and threw it down as the nonsense it is. Abortion should be as easy as any other similarly difficult medical procedure.

    A friend of mine wrote a paper recently taking the premise of 'suppose we grant full moral status to a foetus' - one of the major conclusions was that if you do accept that, abortion's almost a non-issue - the total number of deaths from unexplained symptoms during pregnancy should be getting about the same attention as cancer, given the number of people it kills. Anybody who truly believes that a foetus should have the same moral status as an adult human either hasn't thought their beliefs through well enough, is lying through their teeth, or is mysteriously unconcerned about a major cause of death amongst one of the most vulnerable groups of this expanded human population base.

    Anyway, excellent article.

  44. "I'm fully in support of the time limit on legal abortion being kept at 24 weeks, or until the fetus has a reasonable chance of survival outside the womb. I'd also support it being raised back to 28 weeks, as in the original Act. See my '24 Reasons for 24 weeks' campaign for more on this."

    So you think there should be a limit, then? If so, why? It's still a woman's body no matter how many weeks the foetus has been growing, right?

    My view is that human life comes at first breath and not before.

  45. Great post: you're right, it's astonishing how, even as a pro-choice feminist who's seen plenty of female friends through abortions, a pregnancy scare can throw up profound feelings of isolation and fear. I know what I'd chose to do if I found out I was pregnant now - I know that there are a lot of things I need to do before I have children, if at all, but still, there's something about the thought of having an abortion that in stomach clench-terrifying in the extreme. And I think it mostly comes down to fear of the unknown: which number would I call? How long would I need to wait? How many different doctors and 'experts' would I need to talk to before I'd be 'allowed' to get my body back to the way I want it? There's a frightening social silence on the practicalities of abortion, although enough commentators have something to say about the moral issues. It's considered controversial when public health advertisements are used to provide information on abortion clinics, and yet this might be the only access vulnerable women, or even not-vulnerable women who just don't happen to be experts in medical health organisation, have to up to date information that could change a pregnancy scare into an informed choice to undergo necessary medical procedure.

  46. Firstly, "misogynist state"? There are some feminists in charge of it, y'know? How come it pays for abortions if it hates women and doesn't want them to be free? I can understand you perceiving the two doctors thing as an indignity, but it's also your route to a free medical procedure you desire.

    I think you are underestimating the privilege it is to have access to the NHS & getting rather overly wrapped up with libertarian rhetoric, here.

  47. gah, I always come across as so negative.Comes from thinking about what I don't agree with (which is usually a real struggle) and putting just that up, I suppose. No idea why it works out that way. To amend: very strong post, it is indeed something which is hard to detach yourself from when you are not in that position. A rare instance of a truly biological sex dichotomy (although not entirely unalterable, of course). Very fine post, thanks for being so open.

    (TMI no longer exists, btw. Killed by 4Chan.)

  48. oh, to post-natally abort the nutjobs... good article.

    oh and by the way, dammitall, she's brighter than most people - most probably (if not certainly) including you.

  49. Wheels on Miscarriages12 May 2009 at 13:46


    If you stuck to same-sex sex you couldn't get pregnant! Fingers, tongues and toys are always less dangerous than cocks. Homosexual activity is invariably a sterile pastime.


    If you are up the duff why not have the sprog and sell the poor little bastard to Madonna? You may have to polish it with boot black to seal the deal.


    As far as you're concerned abortion would definitely be the wisest move if you do find yourself gravid. You know you'd be an absolutely terrible mother! Best to put the welfare of the unborn first IMO!

  50. If people like yourself did not write like this then the ignorance that runs through the minds of the (largely male) people who think they can make these decisions will continue to be passed on to subsequent generations of ignorant guys. I am male and bisexual and a pot-smoker, and I can get annoyed about the government's laws and attitudes to queerness and the legality of pot. But I can still get pot pretty easily and even if the government made it a crime for me to sleep with people of my gender, it wouldn't stop me. This really is a more immediate problem, and a basic violation of someone's rights over their own bodies. If we have any rights at all in life the single most important, I feel, is the right to make decisions about your own body. Your article made me realise that I have never really taken the time to attempt really to understand what this feels like to a female person - not just a pregnant one, but someone who thinks they may be pregnant. I would happily never talk about my sexuality if it weren't for the fact that I don't think most (particularly straight, but sometimes gay and even bi) people are openminded enough in the terms in which they view the sexuality of themselves and others. Women NEED to speak openly like this no matter what knee-jerk responses it inspires in men who expect them to live up to their notions of gender.

    I cannot say that I can or ever could fully understand the thought processes and emotions that someone goes through experiencing something like this, but I certainly feel, having just read this, that I understand better than I ever have before.

  51. @Adam
    If people like yourself did not write like this then the ignorance that runs through the minds of the (largely male) people who think they can make these decisions will continue to be passed on to subsequent generations of ignorant guys.

    Quite - although such a person makes a very good pro-abortion case...

  52. Could murder be considered to be an act of retrospective abortion?

  53. Back Door Fanatic14 May 2009 at 08:29

    General rule for condomless intercourse

    First hole from the back of the neck: no baby.
    Second hole from the back of the neck: DANGER!

    I may be a bit of a bugger but I don't get women with child!


  55. Penny Red - look unless you are at 20 weeks it is not as difficult as you presume to get an abortion. Once you hit 20 weeks you are screwed (for various reasons including the number of surgeons with the skills to perform late abortions), but before 20 weeks it is incredibly easy to get doctors to agree to one. No doctor can try and prevent you from having one so if the first doctor you see about it does not wish to sign they have to refer you to another doctor. And if you're having a surgical abortion you only need one doctor as the surgeon can be the second. You do not have to make anything up about your mental health either. Simply stating you want one and that you've considered it carefully will be good enough.


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