Friday 23 October 2015

Devolution of abortion in Scotland - Words to watch out for

Thanks to the marvellous Ellie Hutchinson for this brilliant guest post!

Calling all pro-choicers! In case you missed it, a potential shift of power happened in the UK this week. But as it only concerns women’s bodies, it didn’t quite get the coverage it should have done. Blink and you’ll miss it, but Scotland may take control of a women’s right to choose. Abortion law may be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. This is huge. HUGE. 

The process of this and the reasons for this have been covered elsewhere, so now we know what some of the pitfalls might be, and whilst we acknowledge that women’s bodies are yet again a political football, let’s put that aside for one moment and get cracking and get organised. We can't afford to wait for it to happen, and sit and watch our law makers debate whether or not they will make laws about our bodies and the bodies of people we love/work with/know in passing/share a sense of humanity with, we have to start lobbying now.

We know those anti-choicers are sneaky, what with their bad science, manipulation of language and their dodgy ethics (sure, why *not* force someone to continue an unwanted pregnancy as punishment. Seems legit).  As such, we need to keep a close eye on what they are saying and who they are saying it to. In other words, we need to be ON. IT.

So I present to you a handy cheat sheet of words to watch out for and my own personal responses.

Pro-life - I am pro-choice, and I am also pro life. Confusing?!!! Not at all. I really like life. I have a good, fulfilling one, with people I love and good food to eat, and music to dance to. I have a daughter who is the best person in the world and I have a rewarding job meeting interesting people. I have a partner who makes me laugh and brings me wine. Life sure is good. I love life. You know what’s the best about life? The ability to choose what I do with it. (see where I’m going with this?) It is not about life, it is about choice. We need to keep reframing the debate and repeating the pro-choice mantra “it is not pro-life, it is anti-choice” because it is- it has nothing to do with life, and it has everything to do with control. 

Anti- child - As I’ve said, I have a daughter who is amazing and the best and oh my days so cute and funny, and I have lots of children in my life. I was one once! I am not anti-child. But I am anti forcing someone to continue a pregnancy that they don’t want. To give birth when they don’t want to. To raise a child when they don’t want to. What is anti-child is forcing someone (sometimes children themselves) to live a life of punishment, of regret because of your personal interpretation of science. No. That is not ethical. It’s also not how science works.

Protecting children - I’m all for protecting children, in fact I’ve spent most of my working life working towards making the world safer for children. Whether it’s been domestic abuse, poor housing and child sexual abuse, I’ve been there banging my pro-child drum- children deserve a good life. But spoiler alert- Fetuses aren’t children. That’s why they’re called fetuses. Or embryos. But they are not children.  When an anti-choicers talks about protecting children , let’s talk about decent sex and relationships education and money towards support services. Because they are the things that protect children.

Anti-family - I may have mentioned this but I have a family. I have a toddler, a partner, parents, a sister, a large extended family, a load of sort of in-laws, nieces who are all lovely and lively, a community of friends and a cat. I am really into my family. I love family! I grew up in a family with young parents, lone parents, traditional 2.4 families- the whole shebang, and it was amazing. We all choose different paths and different ways to have and raise our families, but we are all bound by love. And the buffet table. I really enjoy a family party. Family is the heart of my life. I will always, always support my daughter and my families right to make decisions about their lives and their bodies, even if I don’t agree with it. I don’t judge them (out loud anyway) and I certainly wouldn’t expect them to make the choices I’ve made. Because that right to choose your own path, go on your own journey, with people cheering you on- now that is family, that is love. I am 100 % pro-family, 100% pro choice.

The debate in Scotland is just beginning, and we have a lot of work to do.  So even though we weren’t asked, and even though it’s come as a wee bit of a shock, let’s do this debate. If abortion is to be devolved, what do we want to see? let’s get rid of gatekeeping, let’s review women’s access to non-surgical procedures, let’s talk about women’s access to services across the country- where can people go, and how much does it cost them to get there.  Let’s get organised and let’s get focused. Abortion, as always , remains a “matter of conscience”*  so who are our friends in Parliament? What support do they need?  

There are lots of groups across Scotland working on this issue locally and nationally, so if you’d like to get involved and support the right to choose, find them on Facebook or by emailing Abortion Rights, write to your MSP and get active.
If we are to have control over our own laws, then women surely should have control over their own bodies too. 

*like any other health care issue. Oh wait