Just over fifty years ago I stood up in a teachers’ union meeting and made a speech arguing for a woman’s right choose to have an abortion. The meeting was one of the best attended we had had for a while. The agenda had, of course, gone out to schools in advance. The local primary school teachers had turned out in force, in numbers rarely seen at the time, to boo and hiss when I stood up to speak. I don’t think I could stereotype primary school teachers in the same way nowadays but this was the early 1970s.
On last night’s TV news I saw footage of young women, still young enough to react to things by squealing with delight, jumping up and down and hugging each other, doing exactly that - squealing with delight, jumping up and down and hugging each other. They were well dressed, quite affluent-looking young women, clearly not homeless or worried about where their next meal was coming from. I assume they have all been able to complete their education, although I wonder what kind of education they have had. They were celebrating the overturning of Roe v Wade by the Supreme Court of the USA.
Some states of the USA had legislation waiting for that decision so that they could put it into force immediately and ban abortion from that point on. Others will follow suit, no doubt!
Apparently the constitution of the United States does not say anywhere that a woman has the right to choose to have an abortion. Therefore Roe v Wade was unconstitutional. The constitution does say that everyone has the right to bear arms. So it is perfectly fine to have an automatic weapon and shoot a bunch of school children. Unborn children seemingly deserve more protection than the already born!
Next under threat could be contraception and gay marriage - I bet they’re not protected by the constitution. What else? The right to travel to another state for a medical procedure? A woman’s right to have open a bank account, have a credit card, have a job without the permission of her husband or father? The age of consent?
It all sounds a little farfetched but most of us have seen the Handmaid’s Tale - some of us have read the book, long ago and again since the TV series came out - and a lot of their troubles began with women finding their bank accounts closed on them and their jobs disappearing!
If those celebrating young women ever find themselves ‘in trouble’ (there’s a euphemism for us) no doubt a solution will be found. If they stand by their principles and have the resulting baby there will almost certainly be a supportive family to help them along, to ensure that there is childcare if they want to continue with their studies or their careers. They are not likely to find themselves going to food-banks and charity organisations to feed and clothe their babies. They will probably be able to afford the health care needed as well.
Of course, I may be doing them an injustice. They may all be young women of modest means and deeply held religious beliefs.
It does seem to me though that throughout history so-called Christian organisations intended to “help” the poor have been austere at best and cruel at the worst. Think of workhouses, where elderly couples who had been married for donkeys’ years were separated in extreme old age, as described by Laurie Lee in Cider with Rosie. Think of the homes for unmarried mothers where the expectant mothers had to work, had their babies taken from them and in some cases remained locked up for the rest their lives. Think of the single mothers shunned by respectable society. All those things should be left in the past.
I’m not going to write about the cost and difficulty of finding good child care.
I’m not going write about families overwhelmed by the problems of feeding their children.
I’m not going to write about abuse of unwanted children.
And I’m not going to rant about a return to back-street abortions.
All I’ll say on that last is that you can’t actually ban abortion, only safe abortion.
Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!