Our legislators need to be reminded abortion not some kind of magic wand

Sat, Dec 22, 2012, 00:00

When someone wants to take her own life, we do everything possible to prevent her doing so. Like many others, I have personal experience of trying to persuade someone that she was loved and precious, and that, even though the pain was unbearable, there were better days ahead.

Thank God, the person that I love listened to the voices of family and professionals urging her to choose life, and she is still with us today.

Did I trust the judgment of the suicidal person that she would make the right decision in her pain-racked state? No, I didn’t. Would I have been furious with any medic who agreed with her that suicide was the least bad option? Yes, I would.

Yet our Government is seriously proposing to legislate for suicide as a ground for abortion. In other words, although we normally accept that the judgment of a person seeking suicide is impaired, our Government is suggesting that the judgment of a suicidal mother seeking to end the life of her own child is perfectly sound and should be facilitated.

Politicians do not live in bubbles. They hold constituency clinics, where they listen to shocked and grieving parents who have just lost a beloved child to suicide. They attend funerals, and see the devastation wrought by suicide.

There is a real worry among medical professionals that society has inadvertently and unintentionally normalised suicide as one option among a range of possible responses to extreme stress. This legislation will only add to that normalisation.

The legislation will ignore all that is known about the complex roots of suicidal ideation, and instead imply that removing the pregnancy will “cure” the desire to die. It will ignore the reality that in Britain, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists guidelines state, “Women with an unintended pregnancy and a past history of mental health problems should be advised that they may experience further problems whether they choose to have an abortion or to continue with the pregnancy.” In short, abortion is not some kind of magic wand.

What about someone who is suicidal after a rape? Is that sufficient grounds for abortion on the grounds of suicide?

The judges in the X case thought so. Rape is violence, an abuse of both sexuality and power. When a woman or a girl conceives through rape, it is so far from what she would wish for herself, it multiplies the impact of the original horrific act of violence.

However, if a baby is conceived through rape, she will be in the equally devastating situation that she will be stigmatised forever, not because of anything she has done, but because of the actions of her father. Even people who are normally anti-abortion will turn their faces against her, on the grounds that her father’s actions negate her right even to live.

She will be referred to as a “rapist’s baby”, never her mother’s baby, as though women were only receptacles for sperm. She will be classified a “daily reminder” of her father’s actions, never as a person in her own right.

A young woman called Amanda blogs as the “Declassified Adoptee”. She was laughing at a Jon Stewart show satirising Rick Santorum, a potential Republican Party presidential candidate.

Stewart was laughing so hard, he could barely squeeze out his punchline: “Santorum wants women to have their rapists’ babies!”

Amanda, who happens to be pro-choice, stopped laughing, because she was conceived through rape. She wrote an open letter to Stewart in which she said: “One other thing that we pro-choicers forget is the fact that there are living, breathing people out there in the world who are the products of rape . . . I am a 26-year-old wife, mother, student, and case manager. My favorite colour is blue, and my favorite food is cheese . . . I am not a ‘rape baby’ or ‘her rapist’s baby’. I am not ‘his’ property in any shape or form. I am my own person . . . Your statement did nothing to promote ‘choice’. You merely implied that there’s something awful about ‘rape babies’. A lot of people, maybe even you, think it must be really awful to be me. I’d like to challenge that opinion.”

Amanda is around to speak up for other people conceived in rape, because her mother chose to see her not as the enemy, but as a fellow victim of the abuser who raped her.

Our legislators, and a few medical advocates who support legislation for X, assure us that abortion on the grounds of possible suicide will be rare. Let us ignore, for a moment, the wilful blindness that refuses to see that once you accept abortion for any reason, over time the grounds will widen and widen, just as it has in virtually every other country.

Let us assume that it will be rare. Let us assume just one other Amanda each year will never get the chance to breathe, to experience unconditional love, to develop the skill of articulately defending despised categories of human beings. How will politicians live with themselves for sanctioning that act?

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