Sebastian Lewis reflects on abortion rights after hearing Barbara Chandler speak on reproductive health
Perhaps it is time that we stopped aborting the abortion topic. Thousands of women ranging in their teens, twenties, thirties and even forties, married and unmarried, bravely decide to terminate their pregnancy every year. You would think that this emotional experience would already be daunting enough, including the risk of being challenged by opponents of abortion (pro-life supporters) who stand outside abortion clinics handing out leaflets. Leaflets which describe abortion as ‘murder,’ interwoven with the psychological impact of the after effects that a woman can endure, but no, there are more obstacles to be addressed in today’s society.
A Humanist speaks out
At the October meeting, SELHuG member and long-time human rights campaigner Barbara Chandler pinpointed the current obstacles that women face arising from the 1967 legislation that applies in the UK.
One commonly experienced obstacle is that of doctors. A woman seeking abortion in England, Scotland or Wales requires two doctors to agree that the continued pregnancy would risk her physical or mental health. That means that one or both of the doctors can refuse to agree to the abortion if they don’t think there is a risk, forcing the woman to go elsewhere. In the Humanist meeting, Barbara stated that she felt this situation was morally wrong, as it gives the right to decide to the doctors rather than the patient.
What is the effect on a woman’s mental health of being forced to carry and give birth to a baby when she has decided the pregnancy should be terminated?
Barbara mentioned the ongoing controversy in Northern Ireland. There, it is a fact that even in the case of rape a woman is not allowed by law to have an abortion; this legislation dates back to 1861. However she can if her life is at risk. Only a few abortions take place legally in Northern Ireland each year.
Despite the general election result ending in an alliance between the DUP and the Tories, Theresa May’s government has pledged that women from Northern Ireland who travel to the UK will also be allowed to have a free abortion procedure. This will help curb the illegal risks that women in Northern Ireland are taking upon themselves through smuggling pills, or the burden of having to raise money to travel to England, Scotland or Wales and fund the cost of a private procedure.
The debate on abortion in the UK is not over: legislation is one thing, society and stigma is another and in a country where the risks of mental illness are talked about more and more, maybe in the future there will not be any reason or excuse one could give, to prevent a woman carrying out an abortion.