Diary of a busy practitioner, juggling work and family somewhere in England
I have found myself in the position of writing about the law and about being a mum, so I think I should comment - and would like to comment - on the overturning of Roe v Wade.
Why does it matter on this side of the Atlantic? My mum always used to say that when America sneezes, we catch a cold. And that was 30 years before we both got fluffy-haired populist TV personalities for leaders, before the death-by-social-media of fair elections/referendums, before my daughters started saying 'ball-ET' and 'past-EL' (emphasis on the second syllable) because they are Mostly Educated By YouTubers.
Because, in this country, we don’t like human rights (a fact that has always confused me). Personally, I’m all for them. I love a human right. I like to know that if my brother was found carrying drugs he would get a fair trial, that my gay friend gets a right to privacy and family life, that I get to read books that rubbish religion at the same time that man in the town centre gets to stand with his placard saying we are all going to burn in hell for not devoting ourselves to God. And I like to know that my daughters will have control over their own bodies.
Roe v Wade, of course, is a US Supreme Court case which ruled that the US constitution conferred a right to an abortion. In June of this year, it was overturned.
I’m not really sure how we got here. How can women’s rights increase steadily for decades only to start being stripped back? Were we getting a bit loud and venturing too far from the kitchen? The immediate cry that went up on social media for women to delete their period tracking apps in case they inadvertently create some evidence against themselves was chilling.
And let us be clear: this kind of thinking is on its way over here. A statement resulting from the International Ministerial Freedom of Religion or Belief Conference, hosted by the UK, was due to have a commitment to repeal laws that 'allow harmful practices, or restrict women’s and girls’ … sexual and reproductive health and rights and bodily autonomy'. These words were later removed. Nadine Dorries, emboldened no doubt by the US situation, recently took a break from her horrendously poor fiction writing (and the other things she does no better) to advocate for abortions to be illegal from 20 instead of 24 weeks. Bear in mind that on the day your period is due you are officially four weeks pregnant. I challenge you to read some of Dorries’ fiction and still think she is someone who should even be allowed to comment on society at all, let alone human rights.
I’ve been lucky with just some emergency contraception in my distant past. But you have to remember that I was the most serious child there ever was, save of course for Deceptively Angelic Child 1 (DALC 1). My friend Louise, on the other hand, realised her period was late a couple of weeks after her waste-of-space boyfriend’s condom failed at university. It didn’t fail because he was a waste of space, these things just happen. But thank goodness she was able to get an abortion and not be tied to him for the rest of her life.
Louise was quite far away from me, geographically, at university. The abortion was on my 21st birthday. She was due to see Oasis that night in London and she gave me the ticket as a birthday present. We talked a lot about the awkwardness of this, but she had her boyfriend there with her and she didn’t want the ticket to go to waste.
When Louise got married (to a lovely, lovely man) they tried to conceive for quite a while and then suffered a miscarriage when they did. Even in this day and age, she blamed herself for the miscarriage - either that the abortion had wrecked her insides or that she was being punished.
Louise and her lovely husband have two little boys now and a house they can just about afford in a commutable distance from their rewarding but average paid jobs in London.
You will have read much worse stories than Louise’s - stories of unborn babies with life threatening disabilities, pregnancies resulting from rape and incest and so on. But it is the more common Louise-type situations that we are really fighting for here. Those are the rights that will go first. Louise had a choice. But the choice was between finishing her degree, ditching the terrible boyfriend, finding a job she loved and a decent bloke who loved her, getting on the housing ladder, being happy and paying taxes, and…well, we all know the loser boyfriend wouldn’t have stayed around, don’t we? We know that it wouldn’t have been his body that would practically have been ripped in two in childbirth. We know that she would have shouldered the financial obligation. For those who care about such things, we know she would have been more of a financial burden to the state than she is now.
At this point I think I should tell you about something that happened a couple of summers ago in hot weather. We don’t have wheelie bins where we live and we had various bags of nappy waste, dog waste, lovingly-cooked-but-uneaten dinner waste in the garden. That evening, it poured with rain. When I went to let the dog out before going to bed, there were approximately a million maggots crawling from the bags to the house and up the back door. When we opened the door, they started crawling inside. It was like something out of a horror movie. For the next hour, we poured boiling water and salt and bleach over the beasts. It didn’t matter that my husband wanted to watch the rest of Match of the Day, or that our children hadn’t slept in a week and I was exhausted. We just worked and worked until they were all gone. My point is this: parenting/serious adulting is hard enough when you desperately wanted your children. No one should be made to do it if they don’t want to.
And that really is the crux of it. Boys never really have to do it if they don’t want to. If Americans were concerned with family life they would be pushing the boys to marry the girls they get pregnant. To be fair, if Americans were concerned with family life they would be protecting children from gunmen in classrooms the same way they are trying to protect them in the womb, and provide free healthcare.
I’ve said it before but the best piece of advice I have been given as a mum is that kids aren’t born as fully-formed adults. They are kids. They will eat too many sweets. And teenagers? From time to time, they will get drunk and have sex. Shocking, I know. DALC2 will do it, I’m sure (not DALC1 - see above - too serious). Probably with someone called 'Harry' or 'Ted' or 'Finn' and they will think they know it all because they are sixteen. And when Harry or Ted or Finn gets up and walks away, if all our talk about equality, discrimination, diversity in the profession and pay gaps is to mean anything, we must ensure that she can walk away too.
*Some facts and identities have been altered in the above article
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