Feminism and Abortion – The Silent Treatment
Shhh… Let’s talk about feminism and abortion. Why are women who have had abortions not getting grievance counselling? Why is society so quick to blame, and to place that blame on the woman, when it should be geared towards healing victims of unfair anti-abortion laws to encourage them to suffer and self-harm in silence?
There are many reasons I am writing this article, an issue very close to my heart and for women, girls and couples who may have experienced an abortion. For all of you ladies that have maybe had a pregnancy scare, miscarriage, baby, abortion, or just curious. Abortion is a topic that is still taboo in the UK, and even though Northern Ireland, is part of the UK, it’s unheard of to speak of abortion there, where the procedure is still not legalized under the NHS. So, many distraught and scared Northern Irish women flock to England for the paying procedure, head home on a boat in pain and usually take their secret to the grave. As I am from Northern Ireland I find it very sad to think that in 2005, 1,164 women from Northern Ireland traveled to England for the procedure.
Recently in the British news, Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg has voted against women receiving counselling after abortion. It doesn’t surprise me that Nick Clegg has deemed after care and counselling for abortion unnecessary. Maybe its the fact he is male, and that seventy seven percent of anti- abortion leaders are men, although 100% of them will never become pregnant. Therefore, why would they see counselling necessary?.
Many women have different views on abortion, and no one should force their beliefs on you. It’s your decision. In my opinion, if you are against abortion? Don’t have one. Whether you’re a teen pregnancy “statistic” who’s ready and willing to see the pregnancy through and have a baby, or whether you’ve made an active decision to stay child free, or whether you’ve become pregnant by accident but would rather have a baby than an abortion… it’s all your choice. Isn’t that the point?
It takes two to tango, yet – when it comes to unplanned and unwanted pregnancy – blame is thrown around, and the blame in the media seems to fall solely on the woman. No women sets out to become pregnant and then terminate that pregnancy. I’m sure any woman who has gone through the invasive procedure will assure you they did not go through the physical and mental pain “for fun”. Over the centuries, millions of women have had abortions, and millions more will, regardless of social, religious or political opinion.
A woman often has at least thirty years of potentially fertile sex: that’s a long time to go without a single slip-up. It could happen to anyone, no matter how safe they were being. No contraception is 100% effective. This is why abortion being legalized has prevented thousands of unsafe ‘backstreet or back alley abortions’.
If counselling was available before the woman made her decision, maybe there would be fewer procedures each year. A chance to talk through the women’s options, to provide support that they may not be receiving from family and friends, or are too scared to ask their support system for. Going it alone, and keeping the pregnancy a secret can feel like a sickness in itself. It’s a scary decision for any woman, in particular if it’s their first time being pregnant. However, counselling (if asked for after the abortion) should be a must. Grievance counselling is, after all, available for those who have lost relatives or children through miscarriage. Yes, abortion is by choice, but does that mean the woman or couple will not grieve? Do they not deserve the same after care?
The reasons for choosing abortion are often financial, or lack of support from family and the father of the baby, or based on desiring to focus at that point in time on study / career, or fear. To me, these are all fair reasons. There are so many children that have been brought into the world in poor conditions, with parents mentally and financially not ready to provide. Its a hard choice to make whether you’re single, dating, married, young or older. Sure, a woman can choose to give birth and offer her baby up for adoption. But this isn’t an option to take lightly; it can magnify the feeling of loss, the feeling of giving birth, but not getting to be a parent.
Counselling is needed, as many women suffer in silence after opting to have an abortion, and thousands can’t afford the counselling they so desperately need. If there was counselling provided in the UK, the government would have fewer cases of depression, addiction, self harm, suicide, eating disorders,loneliness and isolation that effects many afterwards.
Overall, current UK Government policy boils down to this: for those with money, abortion is still a right. For those without, deal with it on your own. Healing is a luxury for the wealthy, it would seem. Another case in Britain of where a person is expected to keep it hush, sweep it under the carpet and ‘move on’.
I am truly sick of this. Are you?
Politics is still a mainly male profession and it tells us we don’t need help. Abortion is then filed under the socially sanctioned and ‘awkward’ file along with divorce, death of a loved one and miscarriage. It is left buried in the person’s mental underground. In a world where people gladly talk about all kinds of former taboos on TV, radio & internet – taboos like rape, carnally transmitted badness’s, incest and sexuality – then isn’t it time for victims of unfair anti-abortion laws to feel like they can be acknowledged and speak out too?
Women that have had an abortion may feel relief, but it is unlikely you will see them celebrate. They do not need posters of fetuses on picket signs everywhere to enhance this sad period in their life. Many are already wracked with religious guilt, or shame from their family. This is so unfair. These women need to heal and regain their life, and to recognize the changes that have happened to their body they need support. Even if a woman has received emotional support from her partner, she still walks through the pregnancy alone. The changes happen to her body. She’s going through a pregnancy but she can’t celebrate, have a baby shower or get a ‘congratulations’.
In the lead-up to the surgery, most women will emotionally shut down and check out mentally – it’s a survival technique to numb the decision they are never sure of. That’s why many women after abortion will mask their grief and delay in coming to terms with it with an addiction that makes them feel in control again, whether it be alcohol or binge eating. Some women feel too undesirable or scared to have sex again, attempting to regain a sense of innocence they feel they have lost due to the stigma around abortion.
This can be a life-changing time for a women, and some take a while to return to who they used to be, feeling they have lost their old identity. Their body reminds them of a time they would rather forget.
We need more powerful women in our society, and being critics will not help these woman heal and grow. If the government won’t provide us ladies with appropriate counselling, then counsel each other. Share your stories, be supportive and help women get their identity back. If you’ve been through abortion, or know someone who is going to have one, then let them feel supported. Remember, It’s your life, no one else’s. If this isn’t the right time for you to have a baby, then so be it. Speak up and lets stop the silent treatment.
We can’t change the past, but we can change the future. It will get easier…
Lots of Love,