21/05/2016 by socialistfight
By Ella Downing
Abortion was back on the political agenda recently when it emerged that a young woman who procured for herself medication to induce an abortion was handed down a suspended sentence. You would be forgiven for thinking this happened in America but the reality is that this is in the UK. Northern Ireland still has a near blanket ban on abortion, even in cases of rape, incest and foetal abnormality which is putting women who find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy in a very harsh situation indeed. This 21 year old woman plead guilty to inducing her own abortion and to the outrage of many women rights campaigners was given a three months suspended sentence.
Abortion rights are of exceptional importance to working class women as an child, wanted or otherwise, comes with huge expense. Women of means have historically been able to access abortion when it was illegal, but poorer women found themselves in the hands of extortionate backstreet abortionist, with all the risks which that entails. We take for granted in the United Kingdom that we have safe and inexpensive access but in America the rules are similar in many states to Northern Ireland.
In March of this year another young women, Purvi Patel, was sentenced to twenty years in prison by the US state of Indiana on flimsy evidence for procuring her own abortion. There is some question over whether she miscarried or used chemicals she’d bought to induce an abortion, but this isn’t the problem. It is the punitive approach to women in this situation which is at fault that was highlighted by the fact that Donald Trump, now presumptive Republican nominee for President, said women who have illegal abortions should be punished. He famously changed his position on abortion five times in three day. His utter misogyny and megalomania on this matter is cause for concern for all reasonable people who appreciate that issues surrounding abortion would be treated sensitively and supportively.
This reminds us of the case of Savita Halappanavar who died in the Republic of Ireland in 2012 when complications from a septic miscarriage should have been treated with a termination and were not. Instead a moral approach to this woman took over from a medical one, and she was told by a doctor at the time that ‘this is a Christian country’. It was the case of a medically necessary abortion not being performed and it costing the potential mother her life. A foetus was seen as more important and with more right to life than that of an adult human, but more importantly seen as worth more than a woman.
It is this moral appreciation of abortion over a medical or socioeconomic one which is at fault. An unwanted infant could cripple a woman, and whist we don’t want to go the opposite direction and smear women who’ve had children early in life, there has to be a choice. America and the Republic of Ireland are shockingly backward in their punitive approach to this women’s health issue, but now we know the courts in Northern Ireland are willing to hand down sentences to women for inducing their own abortions also.
This must be resisted because for a women to have to undergo any medical procedure alone is unacceptable, but for her then to be punished for it is nothing short of shameful. ▲