So, today, I read a very moving story about a mother who tried to procure an abortion in the UK but when the procedure failed, and she finally gave birth to her little boy, Jack, she admitted to seeing him as a ‘beautiful gift’ and she ‘wouldn’t change it for the world’. It is a strange story of blunder and exacerbating mistakes whereby she chose to undergo a surgical procedure to have her baby aborted because, with two children already, and barely making ends meet, she felt that a third would just push her over the edge. The procedure failed and after a further two months without a period and multiple positive pregnancy tests the midwife finally agreed to give her a new scan. Sure enough, the baby was still alive and growing in her womb. Faced with a much more dangerous procedure at a much later date, she finally decided she had no choice but to go ahead and see the pregnancy through.
Now, I realize this subject is fraught with emotional landmines and if I seem to be supporting a certain stance, I will only alienate those who seem to support the opposite stance. However, this issue is just not that simple and what struck me about this story was the conclusion and the message it carried to any woman potentially considering abortion as an option. Let’s get real here, with the best will in the world, abortion is not about to be made illegal again either in the US or here in the UK, though there is still a battle raging over legalizing in The Republic of Ireland, largely because of the influence of the Catholic Church. I am not sure the criminalizing of abortion would actually achieve the aims of those who support such measures. One thing I do know is that before abortion was made legal in the UK in 1967, the number of women who died during illegal procedures was entirely unacceptable.
In the US, many evangelical Christians voted for George W Bush on the basis that he was supportive of making abortion illegal, but after eight years in office, there was no change to the law. What is unfortunate on both sides of the Pro Life, Pro Choice debate is the lack of understanding for those with whom we disagree. When pressed, many supporters of the right to choose abortion would say they believe abortion is morally wrong but should still be legal. The majority of the pro-life camp believe that it is morally wrong and that legislation should somehow impose that moral imperative. The problem with this stance is that we opt for a democratic system of government, and the majority of those who live in the US for instance, support legal abortion.
Going back to our story above, what struck me were two important observations that bring me to the thought I want to share today. Firstly, when our mother was being counseled about the procedure to remove her baby, the term that was used was ‘pregnancy material’. To me, this is a deliberate masking of what is actually about to be performed. At the very least, a pregnant mother should be well educated about such an important decision and terms such as ‘pregnancy material’ and ‘foetal parts’ are just euphemisms for the real live baby that is to become. I am only suggesting that education on a surgical procedure should be honest and open, particularly in the light of this story, where the mother concerned is now absolutely committed to raising her new son, Jack.
On the other side of the coin, it would serve those who oppose the practice of abortion to truly understand the plight of the pregnant woman who feels compelled to make the decision to abort. In this story, this was not a case of willful lack of care, but a genuine mistake in forgetting to take the pill. Faced with the financial commitment involved, she was overwhelmed and felt she had no choice. Clearly, she will still need to support this third child along with her partner and I have a feeling she will manage to make a way.
The very positive outcome of this story illustrates the rather ambiguous issue presented by this debate. Here was a woman who was intent on destroying the potential life inside her because she just could not cope with the implications. In the end, she embraces her new born son as a beautiful gift. I for one would urge a greater level of understanding on both sides, as this issue is not going away and we would do well to engage in meaningful dialogue instead of the vitriolic stance engendered by many on both sides.