Why Pro-Life is Really Pro-Patriarchyby Kate Tunstall
Abortion is big news at the moment - namely because a lot of old white men around the world are making ignorant decisions which will never directly affect them, but could literally be the difference between life and death for women in some cases. Naturally, any pro-lifers reading will jump on that first sentence with glee, prepared to wax lyrical about the life of the foetus. But - that doesn’t wash.
Until the day I see those political leaders putting their own money with mouths are, rolling up their sleeves and personally getting their hands dirty, I won’t be convinced that they’re anything more than pro-pregnancy. Some of the women they are legislating about and against were once the very foetuses they were so impassioned must live! And yet here we are a decade or three later and the wellbeing of those now women is secondary to ego and agenda. That’s not pro-life - it’s pro-control, pro-repression, pro-patriarchy.
What’s happening in the world right now is frightening - it’s 2019 and yet in many ways we’re more socially backwards now that when I was born. At least back in the eighties we were in the middle of progressive change, even if women’s rights were not yet where they ought to be. To watch our hard-fought rights being slowly stripped away in certain parts of the world leaves a very bitter taste in my mouth and a genuine fear for my daughters’ futures.
My personal view of abortion is that it’s not something any woman would undertake lightly. Perhaps that’s naive, but I simply cannot believe that any woman could easily choose to go through something so traumatic without very good cause. It’s a deeply, deeply personal choice to make - unless, of course, there is no choice.
For my own part, I’m fortunate to have never been in a situation where I’ve required access to abortion; but make no mistake - I’m glad the option is available to me.
Despite how that may sound I can’t imagine myself, at this point in my life, ever utilising the service - despite being certain my family is complete. As a mature woman with two children, right now today, I believe that if I discovered I was unintentionally pregnant, I’d be making provisions to have another baby.
If you were to ask me next week or next year, for a myriad of reasons, it’s possible I’d give a different answer, and I’m incredibly privileged to have the freedom to do so.
But can we just unpack that last sentence for a minute? I’m incredibly lucky to have the freedom to choose whether or not to give my body over to another human being; to grow a mass of cells which would change my body significantly; which would hugely impact my hormones, and in turn my mood and maybe my marriage; which would necessarily change the way I live physically for the subsequent nine months, but also forever. Which would change our family’s dynamic and impact our finances, our time together, our home. Nothing would be the same.
I’d have to make provisions for giving birth, both in terms of childcare for our girls, and mentally preparing myself. I’d have to ensure I was mentally fit, despite being in a position I’d not planned for, so that my vulnerability would not manifest as or develop into illness.
I would have to be there in so many capacities, to so many people. My husband would need reassurance that our family could survive this again, even if we were to find ourselves in the same situation as we did with our youngest, barely hanging on by a thread during the darkest days of her relentless colic. My girls would need to know that they are still every bit as important, even if their needs couldn’t be my top priority with a new baby in the house.
And of course, I’d need to give 100% of myself to a new baby too. I would breastfeed, as I have done previously, and continue to do. Which reminds me I’d need to find a way to wean my youngest in the meantime, or else tandem feed. But having had little autonomy for years now, I’m not sure I could commit to that.
The trouble I have is that the maths doesn’t work: if I split myself all ways then I’m not giving any of my family members 100%, and that’s the least they each deserve.
Already I’m spread too thin. I’m fully invested in my entire family and I fear that it’s not enough. Introducing a new baby would only further complicate matters and make the situation more difficult. And therefore, despite my heart feeling almost unbearably heavy if I think too hard about it, it’s not something I plan to do.
And yet. If it were to happen, we would embrace it. How could I do anything else? Having held in my arms two babies I’ve carried within me, I knew we would find a way. It would be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and it would likely push us to the breaking point (again). But I’d most likely do it all the same because I feel sure that though another baby would test my mental health, the guilt of terminating when I’m in the fortunate position of having everything else required to offer a baby a good life would be more harmful for me.
Would I ever brand a new baby in our family an accident? Of course not. If a new baby inexplicably found it’s way into our home and our hearts, they would become the beautifully chaotic, delightful surprise to complete our family.
And still, I’m pro-choice. I may miss having autonomy over my own body, but that’s a conscious decision I’ve made for myself. And that’s a right we should all have.