A guest post from Charlie Dunlavey on the latest round of the time limit debate
So, Conservative MP and health secretary Jeremy Hunt would like to see a reduction in the legal abortion time limit from 24 weeks to 12 weeks, based on the vague assertion that ‘[he] looks at the evidence and comes to a view about when [the legal cut-off point should be].’ What evidence is that, then? Oh, never mind. I wholeheartedly and without reservation enstrust my womb to you, Jeremy. Not that I seem to have much say in the matter.
My instant reaction whenever I read something like this is anger. I wonder why it is that more and more (mostly male) politicians are taking such an interest in a female reproductive issue. Actually, that’s not quite true. I know why they are. They’ve watched the politicisation of abortion in America, and their actions are a cynical attempt to do the same thing here. And this makes me even angrier. The right to choose how and when we have children is, to me, fundamental – if women aren’t even permitted control over their own bodies, how can we expect to have equal footing with men when it comes to matters that directly affect all of us?
I wonder how much Jeremy actually knows about the reasons for abortion. I wonder how far he is able to empathise with a woman who undergoes one at 22, 23 or 24 weeks. Does he know that actually just 1% of terminations are carried out post-20 weeks? Could he even begin to understand how difficult this can be for the woman involved, or why she might come to decide that this is the best course of action for herself and the foetus?
Perhaps Jeremy thinks that it’s a question of laziness. This person can’t be bothered to use contraception, so it follows that she can’t be bothered to notice that she’s missed five periods, either. No abortion for you, missy! Is Jeremy, our secretary of state for health, really so searingly and embarrassingly ignorant of the facts around later abortions that he thinks criminalising women who have them is the way forwards? Surely it can’t be that? Health is his specialist subject, and he has a duty to us, the people he represents, to know and understand the evidence he says he bases his opinion on.
We know what happens when women need terminations and can’t access them. They turn to backstreet abortion clinics, or they buy drugs over the internet, and they hurt themselves. Does Jeremy really think that reducing the procedure’s legal timeframe will simply make these women reconsider their options? How about the woman living in poverty who already has four children? Or the woman who’s found out that her foetus is seriously disabled? Or the woman who was raped and has simply taken this long to come to terms with the fact that her attacker not only violated her in an unimaginably awful way, but impregnated her, too?
If this is what Jeremy really believes, he’s dangerously naive at best, and wilfully obtuse at worst. There can’t be many people who would proudly and publicly display such traits, but a politician has absolutely no business aligning himself with either.
I hope that Jeremy’s previous form sees his ‘evidence-based opinion’ dismissed as ignorant mouthing-off. I think that it probably will, this time – the public seem to have a better grip on the need for a safe, secure abortion act than some of our MPs do. But we need to keep saying it: we don’t accept any abridgement of our right to reproduce how and when we choose, and we will fight those who try to enforce any such change in the law.