I went to the pro-choice rally on Saturday, and so did Labour MP Diane Abbott. We went for broadly similar reasons: we are both pro-choice, and we are both concerned about the vague, almost imperceptible chipping away of abortion rights. Abbott’s article rumbles along quite nicely right until two paragraphs from the end, where suddenly, as if from nowhere, a heron flies right into your face. It really is that jarring.
I believe every abortion is a tragedy. And I think that the number of teenage girls seeking abortion gives rise to concern. But the answer to teenage pregnancy is: better sexual health education and addressing these young women’s low sense of self-esteem.
Here, Abbott has bought wholesale into the rhetoric of the anti-choice crowd: abortions are horrible, psychologically traumatic things. They are tragedies. Like Hamlet. Bodies, bodies everywhere. It begins strewn with lilies and ends strewn with bodies.
Abbott is right when she says that it is good to provide better sex education to young people to prevent pregnancy. But what is inherently concerning about more young women seeking abortions if they do happen to get pregnant?
Surely, it is better that every child is a wanted child, and every mother a willing mother? Surely, then, it is better that more young women are seeking abortions rather than enduring pregnancy and childbirth and motherhood?
The only reason it is concerning is when it is framed in an anti-choice picture: that abortions are tragic. Yet there is nothing that is inherently tragic about abortion. As Caitlin Moran, and numerous other feminists have pointed out, one can be relieved by an abortion. Not all abortions are tragedies.
If I were to find myself pregnant at this stage in my life, I would have an abortion. My only qualm about having an abortion is that I don’t really fancy having an operation. It is not that I believe that I am killing a baby, or that I will put myself at risk of psychological trauma.
I should not even have to justify this choice. Nobody ever should. It is a right: the right to choose to govern one’s own body.
For some women, there is no doubt that an abortion is a tragedy. This is not the same as saying that all abortions are tragedies, for they are not.
An ostensibly pro-choice person buying into the classic anti-choice line? Now that’s a tragedy.