Recently a friend described abortion as a Marmite issue to me. She confidently asserted that people are either for or against abortion, love it or hate it. Her assertion was that it divided people as much as Marmite. I couldn’t agree with her for several reasons (only one of which is that I belong to that awkward group of people the advertisers have conveniently ignored who quite like Marmite and choose to have it occasionally).
Seriously though, I really don’t see abortion as a Marmite issue. It’s such a normal part of women’s lives that it’s really more our bread and butter than a mere condiment. 1 in 3 women in the UK will have an abortion in their lifetime and it is now considered by most people, including health professionals, as an essential element of the family planning toolkit, which confirms that it is more analogous to a staple of our diet rather than a luxury toast topping (to spread the metaphor thinly).
Even those using contraception conscientiously, consistently and correctly may experience contraceptive failure. Given our long, fertile and sexually active adult lives, it is amazing how well we all do really at preventing unwanted pregnancy. A fertile woman ovulates approximately 450 times in her life – that’s 450 potential opportunities to conceive. This means that a woman having one abortion in her lifetime has experienced a 0.22% contraceptive failure rate and even a woman having three abortions only a 0.66% contraceptive failure rate over her reproductive life time.
Another reason the Marmite analogy doesn’t really work is that while some people definitely hate abortion no one really loves it. They might love its availability, the crucial role it has played in promoting public health, the part it plays in promoting women’s reproductive – and by extension economic and cultural freedom and more, but like good quality dental care, we’re glad it’s there, but it doesn’t mean we actually enjoy having it or ‘love it’.
I’m sure that there are far more Marmite-haters than anti-abortionists in the UK. The main difference between the two is that much as they may loathe the brown, tarry, sticky, salty weirdness that is Marmite, most Marmite-haters don’t have an agenda to stop me eating it.