I used to think things were simple. You remove barriers to people’s rights and they behave like grown ups. And for most of us this is true, most of the time, under most circumstances. But let’s paint a little picture, tell a story – one that’s only too real for many young women.
A 17 year-old girl gets pregnant. She know who the Dad is but isn’t in a relationship with him any more, she’s going out with a different bloke who isn’t all than keen on his woman carrying some other man’s child – especially when that man is the spotty Darren from Eccles Street.
Now the girl – let’s call her Carol – tells her Mum and her best friend Shazza that she’s going to keep the baby. They’re happy with this, just as they’d have been happy if Carol had chosen to have an abortion. Happy in her choice and supported by friends and family, Carol trogs off to tell her boyfriend – we’ll call him Karl. Who hits the roof. And Carol.
The police are called. And, because Carol’s pregnant, unmarried and under 18, social services get involved – after all Carol has decided to keep the baby and that is the proper concern of social services.
Social services tell Carol that, because of her circumstances and her boyfriend’s violence, it’s very likely that the baby will be taken into care straight after birth. Understandably Carol’s pretty distraught and confused. She thought she was going to have a lovely baby to care for but instead she’s become just breeder – having a baby for somebody else.
And Karl’s on the phone, on Facebook. Begging forgiveness saying he’ll not hit her again. So she goes to meet him. And he says again that she should get rid of the baby.
So she goes to the doctor…
I’m making no moral judgments here about abortion merely pointing out how ignorant it is to say abortion is as simple as this:
…if a woman seeks an abortion within the first 24 weeks of her pregnancy, it is surely then a matter for her alone, subject only to medical advice and approval.
That may be a stripped down description of the law. It may be the case for some women – even for many women. But the reality out there is that plenty of ‘unwanted’ pregnancies are simply not that simple. Young women don’t arrive at the decision to terminate on their own (with their doctors) but do so after speaking with mum, with friends and with others involved in their life. This may not fit that simple picture but it is the real world - and we should deal with the real world rather than one stripped of social interaction where decisions are taken in isolation.
Is it really such a bad thing to say that the NHS should make impartial counselling and advice available to young women in such circumstances? Is it such a bad thing that women contemplating termination should receive the information about their options allowing that “informed choice” the law speaks of?
Personally I don’t think so.