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[Guest Post] A Little Begging Letter About Reproductive Rights

2011 October 6

Reader Sinead M sent us the following short post last week. If you’re part of the Pro-Choice Push Back, we think it raises a point or two that we shouldn’t forget. Read and spread around if you can – we’ll owe you one.

As a right-thinking feminist, or an engaged human being, or a person who occasionally glances at the news, you may recently have heard about Nadine Dorries’ proposed amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill. It would have provided something deemed ‘independent counselling’ for women seeking an abortion. It may well have made you feel irritable for a while.

Logo of Abortion Support Network showing three interlinked black and grey 'woman' symbols which also look a bit like question marks. Image copyright Abortion Support Network, used under Fair Use guidelines.It was an amendment so controversial it succeeded in distracting rather a lot of attention from the substantive bill, which could probably have borne a little scrutiny itself. The public reaction in the UK to the Dorries amendment was loud and it was largely scathing. A woman shouldn’t have to argue or debate with independent counsellors before availing herself of her legal rights, and any move towards such a position must be opposed.

The amendment was soundly defeated, and we all continued to live in a country where women are permitted to have reproductive rights without begging for them. Hurrah.

But imagine a world where Dorries’ amendment was passed, and then, if you’re brave, imagine a world where reproductive rights were rolled back entirely. It’s like a John Lennon song, but completely different. Now imagine living in a theocracy, or the remnants of one. Imagine finding out you were pregnant and knowing you didn’t want a child and having to accept that legally, the only thing you could do is leave your country and find one that could provide a safe and legal abortion, carried out by people who have had medical training. What sort of dystopia is this, you ask?

This is Ireland, of course, a one hour flight away. It’s where I grew up.

Abortion is illegal in Ireland. If you want one, you will need to obtain one in Britain. Simple as that.

It is a law, like so many, that discriminates on the basis of personal wealth and privilege. If you have options, education, confidence, access to a computer and a credit card, you can book an appointment for a private abortion in the UK and then you can book a flight. But if you don’t have these things you will struggle. Let’s be clear about this – you will require money. A return flight is the better part of one hundred pounds. An early abortion will cost about four hundred pounds. A later term abortion, all the more likely if you have struggled to access services or figure out how to book or fund an appointment without assistance or support of any kind, will cost significantly more.

Photo showing frayed-edged green white and orange Irish flag blowing in the wind with the sea in the background on a narrow wooden flagpole as if attached to a boat. Photo by Flickr user RedKoala1, shared under Creative Commons licenceMy pet charity is the Abortion Support Network, which I discovered eighteen months ago during the inconvenient eruption of Eyjafjallajökull and the subsequent Great Ash Cloud of 2010. The resulting disruption of flights was a nuisance to many, but to those who had booked a private abortion in the UK, it was potentially disastrous. Forced to rebook their appointment and their flights, and in some cases forced to now book a later term – and therefore more expensive – abortion, many found themselves in desperate need of financial assistance. The Abortion Support Network supplies a non-judgemental ear, but more importantly, practical help: a place to stay in a foreign country, assistance with booking flights and appointments, and, crucially, money. It is hard, in a country with legal abortion and a national health service, free at point of delivery, to comprehend how important this can be.

I have always thought that maybe someday I will get to raise a quiet glass to Irish independence, should they choose to stop relying on Britain to supply basic medical services to Irish women. In the meantime I’ll toast the ASN. If you believe in reproductive choice and that a woman shouldn’t be
forced to pick between carrying an unwanted pregnancy and a backstreet abortion, please consider supporting them.

4 Responses leave one →
  1. October 6, 2011

    This was awesome – thank you so much for promoting our work, it’s greatly appreciated.

    Hope to see you at our birthday party on the 26th :-)

  2. October 6, 2011

    Thanks for your support and this fabulous post. As an all-volunteer organisation ASN welcomes any and all supporters. Please visit our website to learn more or sign up for our monthly eBulletin. We are very excited to have just turned 2 (and to have tripled the number of women we helped in the last year) and welcome any and all to our “birthday” party in London later this month. Thanks for spreading the word about the injustice suffered by the women of Ireland!

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  1. Why I Am Pro-Choice. | Here. In My Head.
  2. Published: Revolting Women @ Bad Reputation | Clamorous Voice

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