So, new research tells us that abortion is not as traumatic as the anti-choicers like to claim. And, of course, some people are not pleased about this. The Times presents us with this charming piece by Melanie McDonagh which protests: "But risks! There must be risks! Because it's an abortion! You're killing a baby!"
It's been a while since I've done a smackdown, so let's go through this, shall we?
She starts off by going on about how there's no such thing as "value-free abortion research" or, indeed, "value-free interpreters of the research". What this translates to is: Bias! Bias! This and all previous and subsequent information about abortion is biased! You can't trust any of it! She goes on to reveal which side of this particular argument she's on by referring to the APA report as "meat and drink to the pro-choice lobby". Hey, we're a lobby! You know, she's probably right; I welcome anything that might lessen the potential for guilt-tripping and scaremongering. Odd, that. I bet she'd think I was value-free.
The APA has concluded that abortions do not really impact one's mental health. McDonagh has to throw in a quick scaremonger about multiple abortions. She then complains that this research will be used when the UK Parliament votes on a possible amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (how poncy are we?), which would require compulsory counselling for every woman wanting an abortion. She's not happy about this report being used, because the evidence is biased. Come on! We need something to counter the truly excellent research of Nadine Dorries! She then refers to journalists writing about their own experiences with abortion (as Caitlin Moran, among others, did) as "snuff journalism". Yeah, snuff journalism. Look at all these nasty murdering women, "bragging" about their abortions. Yes, Melanie, they're bragging. It's not as though they're doing it to break the taboo or reduce the censure that women get if they consider having an abortion. It's not as if they're writing because they aren't ashamed of their abortions and don't believe that any woman should be. Way to demonise women, though. Why aren't they ashamed of it? Shut up, bitches!
Ah, now we get to it: "My chief objection to abortion isn't the damage that it might cause the woman concerned; I mind that it kills the foetus." In case you missed that, she doesn't really care if abortion does cause huge amounts of mental distress - she just wants to exploit that line of reasoning to protect her own world view, and while we're at it, the imaginary babies. But if we are going to take the silly mental distress thing seriously, we must acknowledge some spurious studies that she's thrown in in order to make herself look academic. Apparently, there are a lot of variables. Who knew? Women are people! Excuse me while I pick myself up off the floor. It really irritates me that she then spends the rest of the article pretending to care about our mental health and how important it is to warn us of the risks, when she's already admitted she doesn't really care.
I have to admit to being highly confused by her next bit. She says that a study which concluded that there was increased risk of "depression, suicide and substance abuse" was criticised for not including information about the backgrounds of the women who had these abortions. She then informs us that some other researcher said: "there is consensus among most social and medical science scholars that a minimum of 10 to 30 per cent of women who abort suffer from serious negative psychological consequences". Oh, consensus, is there? That's what Nadine said. Surely if there was consensus, the APA wouldn't have just told us the opposite? What I really don't get about this is that she's just provided us with a handy rebuttal to that quote - what about the women involved? What are their backgrounds? Do they have a history of depression? She does say something about the APA study being criticised by pro-life groups for this and that, but I have yet to come across a pro-life group that doesn't rely on emotional blackmail and slut-shaming to get their points across.
Bizarrely, McDonagh then complains that MPs are susceptible to research from well-respected sources (well, she says "authoritative-sounding" because she is right and everyone else is wrong). And, y'know, I hate to bring up Nadine and her "reasons" again, but your side really doesn't have a leg to stand on at the moment, Mel. This stuff is coming from a highly-placed academic organisation, and countering that with the Daily Mail just isn't going to cut it. Sorry. She then says this:
"Before the recent Commons vote on whether to restrict the time limit on abortion, research was published that suggested the life chances of premature babies had not increased beyond 24 weeks, despite medical advances. This was extensively quoted in favour of keeping the limit at 24 weeks, even though babies born prematurely self-evidently have problems, or their mothers do. The study had no bearing on ordinary, healthy foetuses, yet was used to see off the attempt to change the time limit on abortion."
This really pisses me off. As I've said before, you cannot painlessly remove a foetus from a woman at 24 or 20 or 16 weeks and place it in an incubator for a few months until it's fully developed and is ready to be sent to an adoption agency. The woman has to carry that unwanted foetus inside her. She's stuck with it. She has to give birth to it, even though she doesn't want to. That's what this all boils down to - McDonagh and her ilk want to force women to give birth. Who cares, really? She's pregnant, not a person. You can opt out of any medical procedure. If you don't want it, you don't have to have it. Even if it would save another person's life, like a kidney transplant, you don't have to do it. We do not have to give birth. Leave us alone. It freaks me out that these forced-birth people think the limit should get lower and lower along with medical and scientific advances. I once had a very early miscarriage. Should the day come when I have to bring it into the hospital to see if they can "save" it?
McDonagh then protests that there must at least be a risk of depression following an abortion, mustn't there? All that other stuff is biased anyway. There must be a risk, and "isn't there a case for warning women of this?" ARGH. Jesus, Melanie, we're grown women. We know what abortion is, we know how we feel about it, and we can make our own damn decisions. Just because a woman has gained an unwanted foetus does not mean that she has lost her mind. We who support choice know what abortions involve, we know that we may or may not feel upset over having one. We do not need to be talked down to by some sanctimonious counsellor who wants to make sure that we really understand sadness. She also advocates a cooling-off period, because we all know that pregnant women are irrational, and also five years old. We shall place her on the naughty step until she sees the error of her ways. Then she chucks in a little more scaremongering, just for good measure. You'd better have this kid, you know, because if you don't, your next one might come slightly earlier than it should. Think about that! And, of course, if we have a slightly later abortion, we should definitely be talked down to by a sanctimonious counsellor, because we clearly haven't thought it through at all.
"Come to think of it, has anyone done any research on the effects on men when their wife or girlfriend has an abortion?"
GAH. Fuck off. Seriously, fuck the hell off. "You can't have an abortion because your husband might be sad"? Fuck off, Melanie. Frankly, if he doesn't support me he can go to hell, and it'll be the best place for him. It's my fucking body and no man has any say over what happens to it. Get lost.
Then McDonagh really frightens me by letting me in on her idea of counselling. Remember the guilt-tripping and scaremongering? Yeah, she doesn't want to help us.
"Of course, there is nothing magic about counselling. It depends how it's done. The best and most brutal example of pre-abortion counselling that I can think of is in the film Alfie (the original version, with Michael Caine) when the unfortunate illegal abortionist rattles through all the downsides of the procedure before pocketing his £25, mentioning, if memory serves me correctly, “the injustice to the unborn child”."
She thinks this is "counselling". She also says she'd make a bad counsellor because she'd say "Don't you realise the foetus is human too?" She wouldn't be able to stop herself. This is likely to be much more traumatic than the actual abortion, having some nasty woman call you a slut and a baby-murdering bitch, but what does she care? She has no interest in our mental health - the best form of counselling is the most brutal. If a woman left in tears, she'd be pleased. A job well done, she'd say, and possibly a baby has been saved today. Even though it's not a fucking baby. Hear that? Foetuses are not babies. And nor are pregnant women.