: : crazybrave has moved to <a href="http://crazybrave.net">http://crazybrave.net/</a>: Getting personal. And political.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Getting personal. And political.

(long post warning)

I am not surprised that abortion has emerged as an issue following the re-election of the Coalition. And like some others, I’m not disappointed that it has resurfaced. Today Kevin Rudd has asked the Government to 'fess up any plans they have to legislate. (And as an aside, does anyone else remember that the idea of this Governor General seemed to be that he wasn't going to say anything much outside a fete?)

Before I start, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I met a man when I was an exchange student in Brazil. I was 17, he an 18 year old American. We fell in love, and he went home after six months. I spent three days in bed, sobbing. My Brazilian family comforted me by saying that I would probably never see him again.

After nearly four years of very irregular correspondence he sent me a marvellous letter saying that he’d never met a woman who could hold a candle to me and that he couldn’t really move on in his life if he didn’t come and see me to find out if I felt the same way. Six months later, he arrived. Two weeks later, I was pregnant. I was 21, with two years to go to complete my degree.

I had an abortion at 7 weeks gestation. It was hard. The decision was the easiest part. For me, at that time and in those circumstances, I felt unable to cope with any other alternative. I had violent morning sickness, and can remember having vomited so many times that I could feel the sides of my stomach slap together as I retched air. I was terrified about what would become of my life.

I lived in Canberra then (as I do now, 12 years later). At that time, this meant I had to catch a bus to Sydney to have the abortion. My two best friends were sharing a tiny house in Newtown; one came with me, the other cooked us dinner (tomato and spinach soup. It was very good.) I remember a nurse at the clinic talking about the number of women from Canberra that came there, and how they should run a minibus. I said that it might be OK on the way there, but I would like independent transport home. I am lucky that my mother drove from Newcastle to bring me back home because she needed a practical way to demonstrate she supported me.

I have a two year old son now. I knew years before I fell pregnant (accidentally) with him, that I would not have another abortion. I believe that life begins at conception. For me, the question is not about life or death. Life and death decisions are made all the time. For me, the question is about who is allowed to make life and death decisions.

I think that those - such as Family First - who encourage “cooling off” periods, more mandatory counselling and the compulsory demonstration of pictures of foetal development, or an ultrasound of that woman's foetus, misunderstand women who are considering abortion. Those women aren't ignorant.

I have done a lot of thinking and reading about this issue for a long time. Not to assuage any demons – for a work project a few years ago researching the availability of late term abortion and its moral, ethical and legal status.

I think it’s a good thing that women considering abortion can talk through their options and their circumstances with an educated professional, but I don't see why it should be compulsory. I don't understand why Family First think the issue of decreasing the number of abortions can be adequately considered in isolation from questions of education and contraceptive access and efficacy.

I agree with Naomi, a commenter on Back Pages (no direct link, so keep scrolling down), that Tony Abbot is acting consistently with his principles in raising the issue. Of course, he is a vile Tory (scroll to "Who is Tony Abbott?) and has maintained a suspicious silence on what his Department might be doing on the subject, along with throwing around some dodgy statistics. For the record, I had a D&C this year for a miscarriage of another unplanned but welcome pregnancy. So scratch that 100 000 "lost neo nates" De-Anne Kelly, and make it 100 000 instances of dilatation and curettage.

I am not going to go into ridiculous academic lengths about the substance of the moral arguments around abortion here. What I want to do is outline the things that I think should be uppermost in our minds as we debate this idea in our civil society:

- Who can make a decision about life and death? To turn the machine off, have the abortion, “prosecute” the war? Tell me which decisions are made by men? Which decisions are made by women?

- I am perfectly happy that a person who lives their whole life by non violent principles maintains an opposition to all abortions. See you at the next anti-war rally. Or tell me how the inevitable loss of innocent life via the “collateral damage” of conventional and terrorist wars is different.

- Remember it’s not only teenage sluts who have abortions. It’s also nice aspirational women who need two incomes for their bills to get paid and their families to survive. Or women who just can’t cope with a child, or another child, or another child now. Even Liberal student activists currently enduring leftist blog induced notoriety can understand what it might mean to be in a position to contemplate it.

- Is there a blurring of fundamental principles when there is a diagnosis of foetal disability? Why?

- Some Coalition and Family First identities are trying to cast this argument as a matter of what is paid for from the “public purse”. Explain to me why this issue of morals is so profound that it can be defeated by the principle of “user pays”. (For extra points, omit mention of adoption.)

Update: News Limited is reporting today that:

Sources close to the Liberal Party say work is proceeding on two private members bills, although it is not clear whether a torchbearer has been found to sponsor them.

Neither of these bills would tackle Medicare funding. One would restrict access to late-term abortions in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, where the Commonwealth has jurisdiction. It would allow exceptions in cases where the mother's health was on jeopardy.

The other would require women seeking an abortion to obtain counselling that was independent of the clinic providing the service.

Another update: Completely Biased has a round-up, and the views of the thinking lefty's conservative blogger, Currency Lad, are here.