Your “right” to choose

I try to temper myself on this blog.  Not that I think you can’t take it (readers, you can take pretty much anything we lob at you), but we reach a lot of readers and we have a responsibility to be open, and accepting of everyone’s views.

But on this  one?  I just can’t do it.  Sorry.

But I’m more than willing to be told I’m wrong. Really.  Free for all.  If I’m going to have my say, then you darn well can as well.

Catherine showed me this article recently.  In essence it relates the following; that Congresswoman and Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann introduced Pro-Life Heartbeat Legislation on 6 October to require that “abortion providers make the heartbeat of the unborn child visible and audible to its mother as part of her informed consent.” This, in essence, requires that abortion providers make the unborn child’s heartbeat visible through ultrasound, describe the cardiac activity, and make the baby’s heartbeat audible, if the child is old enough for it to be detected.

(NB: I wasn’t going to link to Bachmann, on principle, but then Catherine told me to link to her, just to show readers that she is actually dangerous and not just a joke, and that two nanoseconds on her site will put the fear of God into readers about how she is currently in Congress, voting on law.)

Bachmann’s rationale was that a pregnant woman who enters an abortion clinic is faced with a decision that will forever change two lives and that is why she must have the very best information with which to make that decision.  In Bachmann’s own words; “a study by Focus on the Family (a “global Christian ministry helping families thrive”, apparently) found that when women who were undecided about having an abortion were shown an ultrasound image of the baby, 78% chose life. An unborn baby’s heartbeat can be detected as early as five weeks after conception and ultrasound technology is an amazing medical advance that provides a window for a pregnant woman to see her unborn child. My legislation will not only enable this technology to be better used to protect life, but also to ensure that a woman who is considering abortion is finally able to give full and informed consent.”

My gut reaction is that this was dark, manipulative, and a useless piece of law designed to emotionally manipulate pregnant women into realising they are “murderers”.

It’s more deep-rooted than that, though, isn’t it?

If you listen to much of what Bachmann has to say on the subject of abortion, you’d believe that women are aborting left right and centre and affected by it not at all. I’ve yet to see any hard evidence that proves there is a movement of women using abortion as a birth control method, or who consider it to be nothing more serious that a bikini wax.

Many, many women go through the process of abortion.  There have been an estimated 50 million abortions since in the US since Roe v. Wade and 35% of women will have had an abortion by the time they reach 45 years of age.  The rationale for the decision to terminate a pregnancy is theirs and their alone.  According to the (pro-choice) Guttmeyer Institute, 93% of all abortions occur for “social reasons” such as a mother’s decision that the child is unwanted.

Whatever the rationale, these women know that by having an abortion, they are stopping a potential life from being lived.  They are under no illusions that they are pregnant, and, post-abortion, will not be pregnant.

That’s not the question, or the key issue here.  The real inanity of this whole charade is the following; that hearing a heartbeat isn’t going to make a women who simply can’t give her unborn child the love, life or commitment they deserve suddenly able to provide that, is it?
What’s next, showing a pregnant woman what their child will look like aged 5, 10, 18 to further deter them from “murder”?

I fully support educating young girls and women (and men!) about the ramifications of abortion, helping them understand what alternative options are available, and showing them that an abortion isn’t an easy solution even if it is the right solution.

Bachmann’s proposal, like so much abortion legislation, makes no distinction between situations. Whether you agree with this legislation or not, being forced to deal with it as a 29-year-old, affluent, educated woman who had some sort of contraception mishap is worlds apart from having to deal with it as a 15-year-old rape victim.  And here lies the problem of using legislation to push a moral agenda. 
I simply cannot think what the purpose of this proposed legislation is, other than the hope that this will be the beginning of a sponsored march towards making abortions illegal.  A carrot, if you will, to dangle in front of evangelical pro-lifers.  Something argued as reasonable, rational, something to ensure women are “absolutely sure” before they go ahead with this irrevocable decision.  Something that, if you don’t think about it too much, actually sounds tolerable.
More worryingly, if you take a look at some of the proposed legislation that individual states have in the pipeline, Bachmann’s proposal starts to sound reasonable.  Texas have a bill on their books that  “requires a doctor to conduct a sonogram at least 24 hours before an abortion and … the doctor must describe what the sonogram shows, including the existence of legs, arms and internal organs”.  It’s currently being held up in the court over arguments that it is not constitutional.  At least three other states have similar laws, and Oklahoma passed a bill last year requiring a doctor to provide a detailed oral description of the embryo, but a court has temporarily stayed that measure pending a lawsuit.   
There are many related issues to this; the fact that in America the “counselling” a woman will receive going through the abortion process is given by pro-life groups, that abortion is not covered under Obama’s healthcare plan, that Roe v. Wade is seen as an inconvenience and obstacle in many (particularly Southern) states to be done away with as soon as possible.  I can’t cover them all here, now.
I’m not here to tell you that abortion is right or wrong.  I’m not you, and I’m not living your life.  I will, however, say that I fear for a society where a choice is used as a tool to push a political and religious agenda, and where money and funding and power are used to fight a woman’s right to choose, rather than improving the social and economic circumstances which forced her to have to make that very decision.
Am I right, readers?  Have I missed the point completely?  Anyone else feeling some good, old-fashioned, moral indignation?    
Categories: Becoming a Mother, Politics and Feminism, Written By Anna, Your Favourite Posts
52 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted October 26, 2011 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    Absolutely right. Wonderful piece of writing.

  2. Posted October 26, 2011 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    I suspect you're preaching to the converted here, I'd really like to hear from somebody who's on the fence, or on the other side completely. This archaic attitude utterly terrifies me and (sorry to be blunt) just underlines the fact that we still live in a society that has the potential to HATE women.

    I loved (yes we're going on about it again) Caitlin Moran's take on this. Which life do you really think is more important? A fully grown woman, or an undeveloped foetus?

    And as Anna has said, I'm not for abortion as an easy option, just frightened that our right to choose (and I can't help feeling that it's entirely personal to women here) could potentially be taken away.


  3. Posted October 26, 2011 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Yes, totally right. Whatever your own thought about abortion (I honestly don't know what mine are), civilised society can't be anything but pro-choice. I fear this woman might actually get her way though.

    Excuse my ignorance of American politics but is this linked to the move to close family planning (planned parenthood I think)clinics?

  4. Posted October 26, 2011 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Absolutely agree. I'm not pro- or anti-abortion, but I'm definitely pro-the right to choose. What I hate about this us the implied insult to women's ability to make a rational and well-thought-through decision. As if the state thinks "ah, they're only women, they probably haven't REALLY considered what they're doing, if we give them the right information they'll make the right choice", arrogantly assuming they know better than any individual woman what is right for her. What they're really doing is using emotional blackmail to manipulate a very-often frightened and vulnerable group of people, and at the same time reinforcing long-held stereotypes about hysterical women and their inability to cope or choose 'correctly'. They might as well come out and say "don't worry your pretty little head about it, the nice Doctor will show you your cute little baby's heartbeat and then you'll definitely want to keep it like a good woman would". Shocking.

    If I were to find out today I was pregnant, there would be no-one in the world better placed than me to know how it would affect my life. That's why it should be MY decision whether to keep my baby.

    K x

  5. Posted October 26, 2011 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    I suppose if I had to define myself, I would be pro-life in that I couldn't have one myself, but pro-choice with regards to everyone else. But Penny, you bring up Caitlin Moran – I actually struggled with her book at that point, I don't think I got it the way she meant for it to be taken.

    Whatever my thoughts, I fear for American women (and the rest of us) if this is what is going to come to pass. Very scary indeed.

  6. Posted October 26, 2011 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    She wouldn't get my vote. What a nut-job!

  7. Anonymous
    Posted October 26, 2011 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    I had an abortion at 16, and although it wasn't a horrible rape situation it certainly wasn't me being irresponsible (condoms aren't 100% girls!).

    When I went for the ultrasound the nurses asked if I wanted to see the screen or hear the heartbeat and I said no. Seeing/hearing the heartbeat wouldn't have changed my decision at all, it just didn't cross my mind that I'd need/want to. What I found a bit weird is after I had said no they offered to show my mum.

    I think it's really wrong to mash up morals and science like this. Arms/legs/heartbeat doesn't make the foetus any more or less a person – that's a moral decision.

  8. Posted October 26, 2011 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Completely agree with you on this, Anna.

    I'm finding it pretty frightening just how right-leaning the world seems to be at the moment – and how much the extremes of that part of the political spectrum seem to be gaining a voice. And then of course it's not even limited to the US – you just have to look at Nadine Dorries' recent proposed NHS amendment to see things happening in our own back garden. Not to mention the fact that my local council has handed over sex education to a Christian charity. Don't get me started on the problems with religion-based sex ed!

    I remember reading an article in Just 17 or Sugar when I was in my first year or so of secondary school, about girls coming over to the UK from Ireland for an abortion. It horrified me, and I suppose has really influenced my own opinions on this – that abortion should not be criminalised, and that a woman should have the right to choose. There are so many unwanted and unloved children out there, and I struggle with the idea that people think that more children like this should be brought into the world – surely it is better for everyone concerned if a child is really actually wanted?

  9. Posted October 26, 2011 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I totally agree with you Anna and as a lot of ladies have said on here it seems to me an attack on woman's rights.

    It's a very personal choice to make and not an easy one being made to feel guilty and guilt you into keeping the baby could potentially ruin not only the life of the mother but of the child as well.

  10. Zan
    Posted October 26, 2011 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Fantastic article Anna – even inspired me (normally a bit of an AOW lurker) to comment…

    I think Katielease has hit the nail exactly for me – it's the assumption that we're not capable of making this kind of decision for ourselves, that we need 'guiding' by medical professionals and politicians who obviously know our best interests better than we do. The perception of the 'little woman' who needs someone to help make her make a decision. I can make my own decisions thank you very much!

    I have friends who have had abortions, for different reasons but in each case it was NEVER the easy option. But ultimately it was the right decision for them at the time and I'm thankful that we live in a country where they have choice. My blood literally turns cold everytime I read another article about new legislation in yet another US state that attempts to remove this choice for American women.

    Because that's the issue ultimately. You may believe that abortion is wrong or that it's acceptable, but whose right is it to decide whether you even get a choice? Why should anyone be allowed that control over your body, your life and your future other than you?

  11. Mahj
    Posted October 26, 2011 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    I've been keeping track of Bachmann on an American lifestyle blog that I visit regularly and the comments there have echoed what is being said here.

    Like someone else above, I am neither pro-life or anti but above all I am pro-choice. I believe in a woman's right to choose for the path she feels is best for her. Havent we earned that right? And I also believe in a woman not being shamed, made to feel guilty or manipulated by hearing her fetus's heartbeat when she decides to have an abortion. This legislation is utterly shameful.


  12. Posted October 26, 2011 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Great piece of writing. Thankyou for sharing this. :-) x

  13. Anonymous
    Posted October 26, 2011 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Regular going incognito.

    My aunt had an abortion. She was 44 and her husband 53. They had an accident on holiday. They already had three teenagers, and did not want nor could afford (they were helping oldest through university, with the others to follow) another child. In addition to this my uncle does not have the best of health, and I just don't think would have coped. My aunt found the decision horrendous, but has never regretted it.

    I am very pro-choice.

    I personally find some of the american far right views over abortion, gay marriage, right to arm, and no public health service abhorrent. To any americans reading, it is some right wing views that I dislike, not you personally.

    Brilliant post Anna. May I suggest an AOW book? I prefer your writing to Caitlin Moran.


  14. Posted October 26, 2011 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    I think this is part of a wider fundamental difference between British and American politics. The fact that abortion is even on the legislative agenda there, and that deeply personal moral issues like this are being used for political advantage, is something that still staggers me. I feel the same way whenever I hear politicians and pundits over there who are ideologically opposed to subsidised healthcare. I can understand being opposed to it for cost reasons, or reasons of practicality, but morally, how can you call yourself a Christian (and, unfortunately for nice, normal Christians like my husband, many of them do) and support policies that force the most vulnerable people in society to live in fear of poverty, in fear of judgement and ultimately in fear of death?

    The worst part about Michelle Bachmann and her precursor, the delightful Sarah Palin, is that they are women, engaging in what stirkes me as deeply sexist women-bashing. It's always the pregnant woman who is pilloried for having an abortion, never the man. It takes two people to get into that situation, yet men seem to escape any criticism whatsoever. YOU'RE LETTING THE SIDE DOWN, MICHELLE!!

  15. Jessie
    Posted October 26, 2011 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    On facebook recently someone I used to know who is a respected member of the church in America wrote the following thing:

    'You cannot be anti-capital punishment and pro-abortion. The greatest sacrifice is when a mother sacrifices her life for her child as this is the love that Mary showed for her son Jesus Christ'

    This was written by a man.

    Having recently supported my friend who decided to have an abortion this comment made me feel so full of rage. I am so pro-choice about everything in life, people fought so hard for there to be choice available – really, who better is there to decide what's best for yourself than you??

    Children shouldn't be used as a punishment or emotional blackmail which is really what would be happening if this legislation was passed.

  16. Jessie
    Posted October 26, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Sorry – when I said 'respected member of the Church' I should have said, he's a Priest, a leader, rather than a 'nice, normal Christian' as Kirsty differentiates. Even if he'd been an atheist leader of some sort I would have told you that quote – it's the fear that someone in such a position of influence to others can voice that suggestion of a woman's role!

  17. Esme
    Posted October 26, 2011 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Whatever our views are on abortion (although I think it's great that most people on here seem to agree with my pro-choice stance), I think the best thing about this post is that we are talking about abortion. We SHOULD talk about it – the reasons why women have them, why they might regret them, why it was right for them etc. It shouldn't be a taboo subject because we should give our support to all women (and men) going through the difficult decision of what to do with an unwanted pregnancy. And even if they don't find it a difficult decision (as Caitlin Moran says), we should listen and support them.

    This legislation is shocking, truely shocking.


  18. Posted October 26, 2011 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    What amazing comments. I said to Aisling last night that I was worried this piece was too moral highground and whiny and would disinterest or alienate our readers. Note to self, K, don't underestimate our readers.

    Pensky, agree, it would be fascinating to hear from someone with another view. We do have a really interesting piece linked to this coming soon, which will flip over your preconceptions. Anyone else who may be nervous to post another view….please please do…as long as its respectful, we want to hear from everyone!

    Amy F – I will have to turn to our American correspondent (Catherine) to answer your question. Gut feeling is yes but that's based on no fact. I'll get back to you!

    TBW – we've got some thoughts on Caitlin Moran's book coming up soon. There were bits I disagreed with and felt uncomfortable with as well, and I think she meant for that to happen.

    Anon 1 – they offered to show it to your MUM? Sorry for the outrage but that's riled me. For many reasons.

    Zan – absolutely – that's the nub of it, isn't it. The pregnant woman who can't make the best decision. It harks back to the days when women were deemed "hysterical".

    Mahj – shameful is the right word. Shameful that it should even get airtime, shameful that it takes advantage of women at their most vulnerable. What's the blog you follow?

    Kirsty – Bam. It is, isn't it. Are they doing it because the right-wing religious vote is worth more than the left-wing women's vote? It's so screwed up.

    Jessie, do you know what, I was thinking of this exact issue as I was writing this piece – can I be opposed to the death penalty but pro-choice? But that's horribly simplifying the issue, isn't it. The issue isn't "death = bad". The issue is that we are supposed to be a humane society that gives women opportunities and power to make decisions for her own wellbeing.

  19. Posted October 26, 2011 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    I read a blog recently (sorry can't remember where, will try to find it) where a US woman has had to defend herself over and over again for allowing the doctors to terminate her unborn child at around 22 weeks because of a fatal medical condition that occurred that meant if she'd not terminated she would herself have died.

    DIED. A breathing, walking, talking, wife and mother of two children already.

    The so-called 'pro-lifers' believe that she should have given up her own life to give the chance to that baby, who at that stage in pregnancy was so so unlikely to make it anyway, and even if it did somehow miraculously make it, would grow up without its mother.

    I just can't get my head around the logic there. I really can't. How is that pro-life?

  20. Posted October 26, 2011 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Sorry, I realise that was kind of off topic, but the whole 'pro-life' term is something I just cannot abide.

  21. Posted October 26, 2011 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Clare that has just made me feel sick. And this is supposed to be the most powerful nation in the world? Utterly. Petrifying. We may as well be back in the dark ages. The Nadine Dorries stuff makes me shiver too.

  22. Mahj
    Posted October 26, 2011 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Anna K, the blog is called Aside from having the usual fashion, celeb, current affairs stuff, its very on top of not only US politics but worldwide stuff too.
    And interestingly enough, when I was just searching for Bachmann on there, a commentor on one of the MANY posts about her, left this as their comment:

    This month, she introduced a bill requiring any woman considering an abortion to undergo an ultrasound that pinpoints the heartbeat of the fetus.

    "A study by Focus on the Family found that when women who were undecided about having an abortion were shown an ultrasound image of the baby, 78% chose life," Bachmann said.

    That prompted a news release from the conservative organization, which said that while it supported the legislation, it had produced no such report.

    "We don't have any 'studies,' and we don't publish any percentages like that," Kelly Rosati, Focus on the Family's vice president of community outreach, said in a statement.

    So basically she is a big, fat liar.


  23. Posted October 26, 2011 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    MAHJ. Ruddy. Hell. Props to you for finding this. If this was an offhand comment that's one thing. But it's the principal justification for MB's joke of a legislative proposal!

  24. Posted October 26, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Very good post!

    Ah, US Politics. They do make me squirm in my seat and worry for the future of civilisation.

    The issue of Abortion aside;

    I dont know if you are interested to know, but over the years I have realised one thing in my line of work.

    What the US says in their own country and what the US does in other countries is completely different.

    At the moment the LARGEST global investor in family planning, anticontraceptive drugs and, heres the massive secret, abortion equipment and training (although mostly disguised as something else) is the US. They bankroll family planning in nearly every developing country in the world.

    The foreign policy in the US seems to be:
    "We are going to have all the children we want, even if they are not wanted. You, the poor of the world, should protect yourselves from pregnancy and abort your children. You just cant look after them and there is a world crisis on "OVER POPULATION -you know?"

    Makes me sick.

  25. Posted October 26, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Anna-as I said last night, this piece is fucking awesome. So incredibly well written.

    C, that story nearly made my eyeballs fall out. It's horrific.

    Katy-that's an amazing fact and such a good point. One rule for the U.S and another for the rest of the world? It's a frightening concept.

    And Jezebel is a great site-thank you Mahj. Thank you to all of you wise and amazing ladies for your comments and all that you've taught me today.


  26. Posted October 26, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    At my (all girls catholic) school they made us watch a video of aborted foetuses being thrown away by nurses. It was horrific, designed to (literally) put the fear of God into us, and the fact I can remember it vividly 12 years on is really something. I was sent out of class and to the principal's office for saying, at 15, that if I was raped and got pregnant I'd no question have a termination. For also saying that I thought we deserved to hear both sides of the argument. The response was to show our class a video which had been filmed at our school 5 years earlier, of a girl whose mother had undertaken a termination that hadn't worked, so the girl was born with physical deformities as well as myriad other problems, and as a grown woman travelled around the world to give anti-abortion speeches. I've always been pro-choice. No one can make a decision of behalf of a pregnant woman, even if they've been in that situation before. All any of us can ever do is seek balanced counsel and decide for ourselves. Well done Anna

  27. Posted October 26, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    First of all, I love this blog. As much as I love reading about weddings, (and I do, I really do)days like this when we talk about some proper serious sh*t are so interesting and mind-opening (might have made that term up)!

    Anna this is a great post, you defnitely shouldn't have worried about posting it. The post was shocking enough, then reading through all the comments I'm now even more open-mouthed in amazement at some of the stories. And Mahj, to top it all off, you've proved that the whole of Bachmann's proposal is based on a bs statistic! Excellent detective work.

    Not only is the whole thing appalling but like Kirsty says, the fact that it's being lead by a woman makes it all the more terrifying! It all feels a bit like a Louis Theroux episode, expect it's happening in actual US government rather than some weird town in the backend of nowhere!

    I feel like we should have pro-choice placards and go march outside somwehere important!


  28. Posted October 26, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Great piece, Anna. I'm in agreement with all who have commented so far.

    Why make a difficult choice even harder? It beggars belief.

  29. Posted October 26, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Oh my goodness, Gemma! A video of aborted foetuses being thrown away? That's horrendous! I can't believe they made you watch that. Think I might throw up at the thought.

  30. Christie
    Posted October 26, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Anna, that is a brilliant bit of writing.

    I've thankfully never been in a situation where I've had to make that decision but I have no problem with saying that if I'd have got pregnant at a time when I could not provide a quality life for a child then I would have had an abortion.

    This is nothing more than manipulative crap and it's massively patronising to assume that a woman wouldn't have put an awful lot of thought into the right decision for her and the baby prior to the actualy appointment!

    What exactly would it do to someone's mental health if they'd been raped which resulted in a pregnancy and then had to go through this if, God forbid, they decided to terminate?

    Completely ridiculous

  31. Posted October 26, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Jenny, I know. It was horrendous. I will never forget it. And totally pointless, it didn't add anything constructive to the class, and at least one girl (Ie, I knew about it) had a termination in her final year of school.

  32. Anonymous
    Posted October 26, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Another incognito commenter here.

    My cousin had to have a termination about five years ago because of serious health complications with the fetus.
    I won't go into the gory detail, but it was really, really bad. She was in and out of the hospital for weeks trying, hoping that something could be done to help her and the baby.

    In the end, nothing could be done and she had to do what she had to do.

    Any suggestion that this was not an agonising decision for her completely infuriates me. The knowledge that she was harassed and berated as she walked into the clinic to have the procedure makes me want to punch something.

    And there would still be those that would tell her she should have had the baby. That she should have taken on the burden that it was about 90% likely that it would have been stillborn and if it wasn't would almost surely die within a few hours of birth.

    She couldn't do that. To herself, her husband and her three gorgeous children.

    But if these people don't believe she looks at those beautiful faces and think there's something missing, they'd be wrong.

    Let's call a spade a spade. Bachmann and her ilk are dangerous, vicious animals, who truly seem to hate being women.

  33. J
    Posted October 26, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Anna, I echo the many before me who have thanked you for this post. I have been peeking back all day, egging myself on to read the article. I was afraid that a blog I follow and enjoy so dearly was about to……alienate me (I would in fact have been alienating myself had I read what I did not want to read). You have only strengthened my faith in you guys! I fell pregnant at 15 and had an abortion (or termination as the nurses referred to it at the time). Only other person that knows now is my fiancé, who has the same pro-choice views and respect for the time as I do. It is something that was SO private, personal and important (even at that young age I respected the decision I was making was going to affect the rest of my life) that I almost can’t bear to hear anyone pass judgement on it. So I really just don’t tell anyone. If a discussion comes up, I sit back and nod and don’t get involved. I feel like I am so close to feeling ashamed of what happened, I can’t risk any other point of view getting in my head. It was the right thing to do, at the time I had nothing to give, and I am comfortable with my decision. I think it is my unwavering desire to have a family that I struggle with the most. I think – do I deserve it? Have I missed my chance? Reading the comments here has made me feel stronger about my beliefs that just being pro CHOICE does not mean you are pro-abortion! The thought that some ridiculously ignorant people could imagine that it is not a hard enough decision to make already, and that we are not capable of making it on our own is sickening. If I do go on to have family, be it through pregnancy, adoption, whatever, I worry for the world I could be bringing family into. Sorry for the essay but I just wanted to let you know the MASSIVE realisation your article has helped me come to.

  34. Anonymous
    Posted October 26, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    I have decided to be anonymous for this post, which is sort of weird really, because I really want this 'taboo' to be talked about openly and honestly and perhaps hiding behind 'anonymous' doesnt help with this! But for now I shall hide behind 'anon'…

    I had an abortion, I am grateful that I live in a country where our politics are secular (mostly) and religious/spiritual beliefs do not get in the way of allowing people to make choices, particular as many people who find themselves in this situation are young and vulnerable.

    I am shocked to hear that the nurse tried to make Anon 1 see the foetus/baby and my heart goes out to you, as I found the staff where I went amazingly supportive (in a quiet way which seemed suitable). However, had they shown me? My decision would have been same but they would have made the situation much more of an emotional ordeal than it necessarly needs to be.

    I will always be pro-choice, and not just because I had to make that choice, but because you never know what situation you, your family, perhaps a future daughter might find themselves in, and I would hope that they would have the same options I had.

  35. Posted October 26, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Anna, Clare and Aisling – you are all brilliant. I can't imagine another place on the internet where such honest, open and varied discussion would take place!

    Gemma – I can't believe they made you watch that, how awful.

    I'll admit, when I was younger I was very much pro-life. I saw girls at school get pregnant, some kept the babies and others didn't, and I just couldn't see it any way other than black and white. Then (when I was at Uni) I had a pregnancy scare with my (psychotic) ex, and knew without question that if I'd been pregnant (I wasn't) there is no way I'd have had that baby. That might make me a hypocrite, or it might make me someone who was able to realise that you never ever know how you'll act in any situation until you encounter it.

  36. Posted October 26, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    The sad fact of the matter is that it doesn't matter that Bachmann isn't really a serious Presidential candidate, it doesn't matter that I'm sure her legislation won't get past the House, it doesn't matter who eventually gets the Republican nomination; access to abortion is under terrible threat in the US through systematic restrictions in state legislation.

    I live in Pennsylvania, a state in the North East (it's too simplistic to paint the pro-choice/pro-life divide along a North-South divide) and it has some pretty restrictive anti-choice laws. Anyone under the age of 18 must have the permission of a parent or guardian to obtain and abortion (or they must get permission from a judge or travel out of state), anyone wanting an abortion must received biased (pro-life counselling)and endure a mandatory 24 hour delay in obtaining the procedure, women who receive state medical assistance can only use this public money for an abortion if her life is at risk or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest (and in the latter two cases, she better report it to the police first!)and 82% of all counties in Pennsylvania (which is geographically equivalent to approximately the size of England) have no abortion provider.

    I am insured. My health insurance does not cover abortion. Obama's Affordable Care Act does not cover abortions. The President told those who were worried: "I'm Pro-choice, but I think we also have the tradition in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government-funded healthcare".

    Well, this town sucks. The restrictions that exist all over America are not just anti-choice, they are anti-women. This is a women's health issue and I will not be told that I cannot decide what is best for my body, best for my mental and physical well-being.

    Sorry, that was quite a rant. I could write about this topic all day long!

  37. Posted October 26, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    "The restrictions that exist all over America are not just anti-choice, they are anti-women. This is a women's health issue and I will not be told that I cannot decide what is best for my body, best for my mental and physical well-being."

    Catherine, this is the exact sentiment I've been trying to verbalise all day. This is *exactly* right and you are *completely* fantastic.


  38. Posted October 26, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    J, I am so pleased that this article was a help to you, and you are so strong, having to go through that at such a young age. So pleased we didn't alienate you!

    Catherine, I'm all for Obama but now THAT is a disappointment. I wonder what other women's health issues are becoming more and more restricted through state leg?

    Amy F…not a hypocrite, just wise enough to know that musing on something and acting on it are two entirely different things!

    Anon 3…your final lines…that's what we all hope for, isn't it. And the essence of this issue. Women died to give us the rights we have now. We deserve to use our right to choose, and retain that for our children and their children.

  39. Posted October 26, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Anna – I think we grow up seeing everything black and white, and largely in the way society wants us to, and it's as we grow as people that we start to both develop our own thoughts and understand our fellow human beings. That's precisely why this kind of thinking from a 'grown up' is so scary!

  40. Posted October 26, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    "The restrictions that exist all over America are not just anti-choice, they are anti-women. This is a women's health issue and I will not be told that I cannot decide what is best for my body, best for my mental and physical well-being."

    THIS. Restricting access to abortions, and implying that we cannot make our own choices, for our own bodies, just leaves me flabbergasted.

    There should be no-one on this earth that can dictate that you have to endure an unwanted pregnancy, or to stop you from kindly ending a pregnancy where the outcome for the child or mother would be detrimental to their lives or worse.

    If this was a 'mens health' issue, we wouldn't be having this conversation, would we?

  41. Posted October 26, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Anna, I'm not sure what issues are becoming more restricted, but being a woman in America is tough! So much is dependent on where you live and who you work for. Maternity leave and benefits? Forget about anything like what we are used to in the UK and Europe. If you have worked long enough for a private company that employs enough people you are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Depending on your employer, you may get some form of paid maternity leave, but there is no law entitling you it.

    I believe the whole healthcare system in the US, as it stands, discriminates against women. Women are less likely to have insurance provided by their employers (because they're more likely to work part-time and not qualify, or to raise children/be caregivers), they're more likely to be dependents on someone else's plan and so subject to losing the insurance (say in the case of divorce).

    Planned Parenthood was mentioned earlier. Planned parenthood receives federal funding from the US government. It is against the law to use federal funds for abortion services, so Planned Parenthood uses public contributions to maintain its abortion services. Republicans and some Democrats says there's no way of effectively separating these two sources of income and the US government should not be funding a body that provides abortion services anyway. Any defunding of Planned Parenthood hurts everyone, but it hurts women, poorer women, most of all. Just 3% of PP's services are abortions, most of its services centre around pregnancy prevention, cervical screenings and breast exams!

  42. Posted October 26, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Gemma- your post has reminded me of a video we watched as part of Sex Education in Year 10 or 11 at my (Catholic) school. It was called 'The Silent Scream' and showed abortion-type apparatus (it looked like a needle) penetrating the amniotic sack. It was accompanied with a voiceover that made comments such as, 'See how the unborn child writhes and desperately tries to move away from the doctor's instrument'. The name 'The Silent Scream' came from the fact that the blurry image of the foetus appeared to open its mouth at one point. 'Behold, the silent scream!' I imagine the voiceover said.

    Even as a wide-eyed 15 year old virgin I knew that was a heavy-handed propoganda tool. I'm going to Google it now and see if I can find.

    Abortion troubles me. I know it's the result of years of dogmatic teaching, but I can't help but associate it (as a concept – not my own personal experience) with terrible guilt. And I know that guilt is an example of everything that's wrong in the world and it's inflicted by a society that still hangs onto a relic of women-as-lesser-beings and I believe that a woman who's been cornered into an often exceedingly difficult choice deserves nothing but sympathy (and lots of wine, probably) – but I still find it terribly tricky.

    That was a very long sentence.

  43. Posted October 26, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Just to follow on from my earlier comment, picking up on something a few others have alluded to – ANOTHER thing that infuriates me is that Bachmann and her ilk have absolutely no interest in what happens to the child the moment after it's born. Where is the maternity leave? Where are the benefits? Where are the jobs? Where is the affordable childcare? Where is the accessible healthcare? Nowhere. If they devoted a fraction of the time they spend banging on about Planned Parenthood to finding answers to those quesetions – the real, physical hardships that are literally killing people every day – maybe some of those women wouldn't *need* to have abortions in the first place.

    [END RANT]

  44. Posted October 26, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Ah, a difficult one for me…I am "pro-life", whatever that means, in that I know that, unless it was absolutely necessary for my health or because the foetus itself would not survive/would live a short and painful life, I wouldn't have an abortion. But at the same time, I can understand the many, many reasons why other women would make that choice. And it is a difficult one to make. I would never want to take that choice away from them, or indeed, make it more difficult. I guess, like thebabywife says, I'm pro-choice for everyone else.

    I wasn't always like this. I was very black and white anti-abortion. Until a friend of the family had to make the difficult decision to abort after being told that the foetus was seriously disabled. The pain and anguish they went through in making that decision made me realise that it is in no way easy.

    And then a friend of mine got pregnant in our final year of university, and her family were pushing her to have an abortion when she really didn't want to. I realised then that it's not up to anyone to choose for someone else. It's not up to us to force someone into aborting or not aborting, its up to the individual to make the decision. And at the same time that individual should be supported in whatever decision they make. Just because I would choose differently doesn't make their decision wrong.

    The proposals are incredibly illogical. Not only do they make a difficult situation far worse, but, yes, as others have said, what happens after the child is born? What about maternity leave, benefits and childcare? It also forgets that there's more than one reason for an abortion.

    Never mind the fact that for years the same people who are advocating such policies have been supporting abstinence only programs, which are proven to increase teen pregnancy rates. My suggestion to her would be support adequate sex-education, including advocating the use of contraception, and stop demonising women. This is perhaps the only way to reduce abortion rates: fewer unwanted pregnancies means fewer women having to make the difficult decision of whether or not to have a baby they cannot possibly look after.

  45. Catherine
    Posted October 26, 2011 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    I understand what people mean when they say "I'm pro-life for myself but pro-choice for everyone else" but I think it's important to note that such a statement means a person is pro-choice. Even if you know that there is no circumstance in which you would get an abortion, recognizing that other people may wish or need to, and acknowledging that they should be provided with a safe, legal and accessible recourse to do so is a pro-choice argument. Being pro-life equates very directly with a desire to end the legalization of abortion.

  46. Posted October 27, 2011 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    Great point Catherine. Being pro-choice is exactly that – supporting the right to choose. It doesn't necessarily mean "pro-abortions" or "anti-babies". The choice to have a baby is just as valid as the choice not to and, as others have said, just because one person would choose differently from someone else in the same position doesn't make either of them right or wrong.

    So heartening to read such thoughtful, non-judgemental comments on here today. It makes me proud to be a part of this community :)

  47. L
    Posted October 27, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    I went to a catholic school and we got shown a video of a lady giving birth. Not pretty.

    the way I see it the reason for being against abortion is that you see the baby as a person with a soul and that ending that persons life is wrong (so you can't then be pro capital punishment as otherwise there could be reasons to end baby life too). but I don't see how that gives you the right to decide for other people who may or may not share your belief

    However from a science point of view baby no matter how much of heartbeat or limbs or whatever else they have can't be a separate person until they can survive outside of mum, but until then its your choice.

  48. Anonymous
    Posted October 29, 2011 at 11:36 am | Permalink


    So much about this is so effing wrong, on so many levels. I feel extremely sad and anxious for women who could be subjected to this utterly hideous manipulation.

    So 16 year old 'women' who are emotionally niaive, scared, and find themselves with an planned and/or unwanted pregnancy would be subjected to this to?

    Ive birthed two beautiful babies in to this world, I have also had to make a terrible choice in a long and distant past, though I will never, ever forget it. I cannot imagine anything more distressing than hearing a foetal heartbeat when you desire to end the pregnancy for whatever reason.

  49. Posted November 16, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    So, a year later, I come to this post on random-ising my AOW life and enjoying the amazing breadth and depth of content on this site.

    This is the only article I feel really compelled to comment on. Not because, Anna, I believe you are wrong. I defend the right to choose abortion, definitely. And your point of view on this particular case.

    I think I’m just really really surprised that, on this blog, where the majority of people reading and writing and commenting are married or in long-term relationships, the other partner isn’t mentioned by anyone. I read all of the comments, and no one says “yes, it’s my right to choose. But it’s also his right. It’s happening to my body but it’s our baby”.

    I think if I’d been pregnant any time throughout uni I’d have seriously considered an abortion. But it’s not just my decision, and I know that D is against abortion unless it is life-threatening for the mother to continue with the pregnancy. That is his belief. And as any baby would have been ours I’m not sure I could have gone through with an abortion.

    But then I realise that it happens to you and not a man.

    So there is no easy answer to express what I’m trying to express. I am just surprised ( and a little dismayed?) by the omission.


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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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