Happy International Womens’ Day 2012!
On days like today, we could all write a list of the many things we need to achieve in society. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the needs of those women who are dealing with poverty, violence, depression and difficulty on a daily basis. To say that they need the continued help and support of our society is an understatement.
From a pro-life, pro-woman perspective too, much more remains to be done. I think today however is a great opportunity to celebrate the many important developments which have made a positive difference to women. I just want to mention five of them:-
1. The growing resistance to Gendercide.
Since the Economist magazine ran their cover story in March 2010, the unease about this practice has been steadily increasing. Questions are being asked. Why should cultural beliefs be accepted if they mean an increase in the number of baby girls aborted? How do we encourage the countries in question to start seeing men and women as equal members of the human race, both entitled to enter society and make their own, unique contribution? How can governments deal with the problem? And what pressure can be placed on governments who refuse to address it?
Little by little, a groundswell of support is rising, helped by the growing awareness that while we might have different creeds and nationalities, women should be protected throughout the world regardless of their age, status or stage of development.
2. Ireland’s excellent maternal mortality rate record.
I think this one is worth celebrating everyday, but today it’s especially important. To listen to some commentators, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Ireland must surely languish at the bottom of international ratings in this area. Thankfully, nothing could be further from the truth.
According to the most recent Report carried out by the World Health Organisation in 2010, Ireland has the lowest MMR in the world. Irish doctors give such good care to women while they’re pregnant that their record can barely be improved upon. It’s worth noting too that the MMR of countries like the UK and Holland is much higher than in Ireland. These are of course countries where abortion is freely available, so it’s availability is certainly no guarantee that a pregnant woman won’t die.
Just recently we saw the results of the Daily Telegraph’s undercover operation in the UK, showing doctors who were willing to end life because the baby on the way was the “wrong” gender. They showed a real detachment from the value of what was at stake. In Ireland, this simply can’t happen. Irish doctors don’t just treat the pregnant woman they can see; they treat the hidden patient whose right to life is protected by law. Bound to consider both patients, they have achieved a record in the area of MMR that is second to none. We’re a world leader in this area and today is a good day to say Thank You to our doctors for the excellent care they give on a daily basis.
3. The women who share.
How does it feel to have an abortion? Go through the experience – physical and emotional?
One aspect of the debates which is always of concern is the question of whether or not abortion has a negative effect on the woman concerned. I don’t want to go into the various studies here because it’s not in the nature of this “celebration” post, (and I’ll certainly deal with it in later posts). What I will say is that if abortion has a negative experience on even one woman, then it’s one woman too many.
Inflict guilt on a woman? Make her feel depressed, worried, anxious, suicidal, bereft, useless? These are all feelings reported by post-abortive women at one time or another. And I have to wonder – why do we as women allow something so destructive to have any place in our society? The argument is often put that pro-life campaigners invoke these feelings; that the stigma arises due to opposition to abortion. But that’s just not true.
Abortion is one of the most insidious, destructive forces there is. It doesn’t need any help from either side of the debate because the most destructive effect of all – guilt – comes from the woman herself. It only dissipates through compassion from other people, people prepared to make the time and space to help post-abortive women realise that they’re every bit as much a victim of the abortion culture. It takes people who are willing to listen, accept and validate the feelings of the woman. Most importantly of all, it takes people who are determined to make her feel that she is not alone and that there is a future for every woman after abortion. In short, it takes people like the courageous and generous women who set up the WomenHurt group last year. Regardless of how desperate a woman may be feeling, she can be assured that they will treat her with compassion and respect.
Everyone with an interest in women’s welfare owes them a massive debt and it is only right that they should be highlighted today.
4. The women who care
For any woman facing an unplanned pregnancy, the future is a scary place. It’s hard to have your plans disrupted, realise that something life-altering has happened. Things seem even worse if poverty or a difficult/broken relationship are added to the mix.
The LIFE Pregnancy Care service has been offering help and support to women who find themselves in this situation for the past 30 years. It is that rare gem in our society – a group which has worked mostly out of the limelight for all that time, providing a priceless service to women and their families at a time when they are at their most vulnerable.
All counselling services are free and the LIFE motto is “Life cares for you both”. Nonetheless, post-abortive counselling is also freely availed of by many women who choose to go ahead and have an abortion.
The Irish Independent ran a feature on LIFE earlier this week (read it here). In such a changing society, LIFE has truly been a rock of security for many women. It’s only fitting that they should share in the celebrations leading up to today, having helped an unknown number of women throughout the years.
5. The ongoing debate!
I make no secret of the fact that I’m opposed to abortion. I don’t think it’s an experience that is ever in the best interests of the woman involved. I truly believe that women deserve better than the fraudulent “choice” offered by abortion – one that seems to end up all too often in misery and sadness. For this reason alone, I will always believe that we shouldn’t consider introducing it to our country. Instead, we should be putting our energies into the things that will genuinely benefit women – dealing with poverty, childcare, maternity leave. How many abortions take place, not because the woman in question doesn’t want to keep her child, but because she feels unable to do so because of some external pressure? Isn’t this the real scandal, the real battle?
As feminists, why do we waste so much time on a procedure that doesn’t benefit women but may cause them harm?
Why do we support an industry which acquiesces in the targeting of baby girls on a global basis?
Why don’t we recognise the arguments in support of abortion for what they are – red herrings, trying to deflect us from our duty to ensure that every woman who considers an abortion is fully briefed on the potentially devastating effects that might follow?
Why don’t we just insist that our societies find some other way around the issue of unplanned pregnancies, something that will serve women better in the long run?
In spite of everything though, I’m hopeful about the ongoing debate. There might be many voices with differing views, but the fact that we’re actually debating this issue can only be a good thing. Debate leads to information which leads to knowledge. Women don’t want any of the facts hidden from them. Good or bad, they have a right to know exactly what abortion might mean for them. An uninformed choice is no choice at all.
And thankfully too, the old myths surrounding abortion and feminism have long since evaporated. Thanks to the work of groups like Feminists For Life, it’s becoming more obvious that pro-life is pro-woman. The earliest feminists recognised abortion for what it was – just another means of placing an unacceptable burden on a woman’s shoulders; something that unjustly ended the life of her unborn child, and a procedure which should never be supported by anyone working towards the equality of women.
On this International Women’s Day, let’s hope that we can continue their great legacy and end the threat of abortion to women everywhere.