Two stories have cropped up this week, both being examples of a shift towards anti-choice rhetoric. They are both part of the quieter war on choice.
The first is overt, unreasonable and will doubtlessly succeed at anchoring the debate closer to the anti-choice position. A letter was written to the Telegraph, demanding a ban on abortions if the foetus would have disabilities as a person. The Telegraph have given position prominence. Oh, and apparently this is important because otherwise YOU’D BE ABORTING THE PARALYMPICS YOU MONSTER or something. Basically, it’s a desperate attempt to piggyback on the success of something that was on telly.
There’s a lot wrong with the letter. Most notably, it was not signed by any groups led by people with disabilities. Most of the signatories were the usual suspects for anti-choicers: groups like Life and the Pro-Life Alliance, and Catholic bishops. The one disability group mentioned was a research group for Down’s Syndrome, which is not led by people with Down’s Syndrome. The voices of people with disabilities in this matter have not been represented, which is rather distasteful since they’re the ones who would be affected by this, rather than a gang of uterus-obsessed fascists.
Perhaps people with disabilities don’t think this is the way forward because they’re busy campaigning to make life better for people with disabilities and fighting against a government that is determined to destroy their futures–a far more pressing concern. The thing is, that’s how the anti-choice lobby works. They don’t give a flying fuck about people, just control of women’s bodies.
As much as the anti-choice lobby may scream about eugenics, it is in fact they who still subscribe to this medical model of disability, while disability rights activists are focusing more on the social model. We need a society that is set up to make life easier for people with disabilities, not harder. We don’t have that yet, and it’s a long way off. If the anti-choice lobby really wanted to stop abortions of foetuses that might turn into disabled people, they need to work with the people who are already alive. And they won’t do that, because it’s all a smokescreen for what they really believe: destroy bodily autonomy.
The second story is less overtly anti-choice on the face of it. A woman has been jailed for eight years for self-inducing an abortion at 39 weeks of pregnancy. The reporting of this has been absolutely terrible, screaming lurid details about the woman’s life: her previous pregnancies, her affair. As Twitterer @MarthaRRobinson put it, if one changed the gestation dates, all of the news stories could have easily been from 1910.
And even people who would normally call themselves pro-choice are falling over themselves to demonise the woman, using logical somersaults to try to justify themselves by saying it wasn’t really abortion because of the dates, or whatever. Yet it was abortion, and it was a desperate woman with no other options and no support. She is now in prison, serving a longer sentence than many serve for molesting a real, living child.
To be truly pro-choice, we must empathise with her, rejecting jail sentences for what happened to her, and working to build better services so nobody has to go through what she did. We must not hang her out to dry.
We pro-choice people must stand firmer than ever against these assaults from the anti-choice camp. The two ministers responsible for women’s reproductive health are both already moderately anti-choice, and will likely use any shift in discourse away from choice as an excuse to legislate their way into our uteruses. We must not let this happen, and we must be loud and united in our support of the right to bodily autonomy.