CW: This post covers abortion and its discourse, mentioning rape, incest, and state legislation regarding this in the state of Texas. I am by no means out to trash talk the Lone Star State itself. I think Texas is a beautiful state with a rich history, culture and lovely people. I am stating the issues I have with legislation within the state, enacted by elected officials. Reader discretion is advised.
I’m trying to write this post in a way this a coherent and not just an anger fuelled, word salad laden rant. But one thing is for certain: I am mad.
If you’ve not seen in the news recently, you’ll have seen that Texas governor Greg Abbot has signed a restrictive abortion law, banning abortion after six weeks, including in cases of rape and incest. This is one of many ‘heartbeat laws’ various US states have enacted, banning abortion after the detection of a foetal heartbeat at six weeks, something medical experts say is misleading.
This time point is usually before folks with a uterus know they are pregnant. For context, to be dated as six weeks pregnant, you would have to be two weeks late for your period, if they are regular. If not blocked by a court, this law will come into effect this coming September.
To preface this: I don’t live in Texas. I don’t even live in the United States. I live in the UK, was born and raised here and am as British as you can imagine. The UK on abortion is a little different to that in Texas. So you might wonder: why Violet, are you so invested and angry at a law that is halfway across the world and doesn’t affect you?
Because it does. It affects anyone with a uterus. I have a uterus, as do billions of others. And one law like this anywhere, affects us everywhere. It’s important for those of us, I believe, who have more reproductive autonomy, to speak out when it’s being taken away from others. I don’t believe restrictive laws on reproduction are ones we can be blasé and quiet about. While abortion laws are different here in the UK, I firmly believe in speaking up for others in other parts of the world.
Now here is my summed up take: If you find yourself unexpectedly pregnant, however the cause, and do not wish to go through with an abortion, that’s perfectly fine. No one should force you to have one or not. If it’s for religious reasons, fine. It’s not something to be decided lightly, religious or not. But it is important to have that: Choice.
YOU DON’T FULLY KNOW UNTIL IT HAPPENS TO YOU
Now, I’ve always been pro-choice ever since finding out what an abortion was, when I was a kid from an episode of the British TV medical series Casualty. I knew it wasn’t a pleasant thing, but sometimes it happened and was necessary when needed. Contraception was always presented to me as a way to not only keep safe from STIs and unplanned pregnancy in general, but from a position no one wants to be in: deciding whether or not to continue with a pregnancy.
Having gone through an early miscarriage, upon discovering I was pregnant while on birth control, this very scenario crossed my mind. My pregnancy was unplanned and my pill had failed. I wasn’t sleeping around as some might assume, but in a committed monogamous relationship. I had just had a mental breakdown and was starting medication. I could barely leave the house and do everyday tasks without getting severely anxious and staving off panic and anxiety attacks daily.
I was in no position to bring a child into the world then. When deep down I knew I was pregnant, but was too early to test, I would ask myself: What am I going to do if/when I see that confirmation on a test? I can’t do this. We did everything right. What am I going to do?
But the thought of an abortion, I just couldn’t do it. It was out of the question for me. But that’s just it: for me.
My reaction caught me completely off guard. I always thought I would be able to go through with it, if that situation, God forbid, happened. But I couldn’t and I wouldn’t. But even if I had decided to, the miscarriage, (I’d formed that strong bond between parent and child happened so soon for me), happened, and broke me.
Others understandably might react differently under those circumstances, some with no regrets whatsoever. I don’t judge them for their decision, or their reactions after. I don’t wish to judge those who choose not to have an abortion either.
But this is exactly what I am saying: It is a choice and decision, based on personal, environmental and medical factors.
It’s all well and good saying, ‘I’ll do this. I’ll do that.’ But from someone who did exactly that, and found themselves doing the complete opposite, you cannot truly know until you’re in that position yourself. And I sincerely hope you never are.
TACKLING MISINFORMATION PRO-BIRTH RELIES ON
From the ongoing reading and reasons of pro-life (though a more accurate term, in my opinion, is pro-birth) to enact these restrictions, it is laced with misinformation, regularly debunked by women’s groups and the medical community.
Some arguments include but are not limited to:
- Most people who have abortions do it out of convenience, because it doesn’t fit in with their plans. – Public record states that majority of abortion in the United States are undertaken by people who already have children and are usually from low income.
- People have unprotected sex willy nilly and just can’t keep their legs closed. – While there are some that do have unprotected sex with prior knowledge of birth control, unplanned pregnancy can take place in many forms. Usually, it is a case of birth control failing, such as the pill failing or a condom splitting. It can be an unplanned pregnancy in a menopausal, devout Catholic woman who has been married for thirty years. It can be someone who has had no knowledge of birth control through lack of proper sex education. It can be someone who was raped.
- Late term abortions are just about people who leave it late on, even contemplating killing a baby after it’s born. – This is a flat out lie, perpetuated by the former American President to rile up the religious right as a voter base. This act is infanticide (the murder of an infant) and is illegal. Late term abortion is for medical cases and only if it is necessary i.e. the baby has died in the womb, the baby’s organs are not developed properly and will not survive, severe disability, the mother’s life is in danger if the pregnancy continues etc. These are parents who have decorated nurseries and chosen names, not someone who has decided to do a cop out late into the pregnancy.
- Abortion is more dangerous than is said and it’s being covered up. – There is no known evidence for this. Any medical procedure carries a certain amount of risk. Abortion providers, i.e. the NHS, are transparent with any risks that come with abortion. In safe, medical environments, they are undertaken by qualified medical professionals. Unsafe abortions (or backstreet abortions, as they’re commonly known) carry a high risk for infection and death. Various unsafe abortion methods include coat hangers, knives, flushing out the uterus with water and/or soap water etc.
- Abortion is murder, either due to personal or religious belief. – You are more than entitled to have that belief, and others are more than entitled to disagree with you. However, our personal beliefs on the matter have no right to dictate that to others who may need an abortion, or those who choose not to have one.
- You just like killing babies. – If you genuinely believe this, I have nothing to say to you. You know this is not true.
So most of these arguments are not only lacking in factual evidence, but outright insulting to the people concerned.
IS IT REALLY PRO-LIFE?
The ongoing anti-abortion legislation taking shape in America, with the larger goal of overturning Roe v Wade in the Supreme Court, has gained some traction in the UK. We have our pro-birth groups just like any other country. However, this is usually met with, ‘If you don’t want an abortion, don’t have one. It’s as simple as that.’ and rightly so.
Here is what really gets a bee in people’s bonnets when it comes to these anti-abortion laws in the name of ‘protecting life’:
These are the same elected officials that actively oppose legislation to help the poor, help create more accessible healthcare and childcare etc. along with the terrible events of this winter’s storms in Texas, where people, including children, froze to death and/or went without power, fresh water and food. As well, the state having high maternal mortality rates in comparison to other states, and being known as the ‘execution capital of America’ for the death penalty. State of Grace by Refinery29 covers these themes in Texas very well.
A big contributing factor in these laws is the accompanying abstinence-only education, championing abstinence until marriage as opposed to fully comprehensive sex education. This has directly correlated with higher teen pregnancy rates, higher rates of abortion, as well as higher rates of STI contraction. Pro-choice legislation however, which includes comprehensive sex education, proper access to healthcare and birth control, lowers these rates significantly.
So, in means of protecting and cherishing life, from what I can see, there doesn’t seem to be much of it. As well as allowing a pregnant person to potentially die due to signing a law that prevents them from getting the healthcare they need.
So this is why I am firmly against these laws. It leads to more anguish, more adversity and more death, which is the total opposite of being pro-life.