Friday, 27 January 2017

I choose.... not to judge

I was sickened by photos of President Trump signing orders to ban money going to international groups that fund, or offer advice on, abortions. I was sickened because this is a man who thinks it is OK to brag about sexual assault, surrounded by privileged men, signing an order about things that happen to women in far away lands where people are poor - so many orders of magnitude poorer than himself - and invisible to him. In far away lands where young women are routinely raped by soldiers, where the stigma of unwanted pregnancy lies heavily on a whole family and can be a death sentence for the mother. Where disability is unsupported. Where even today childbirth itself is terrifying and can kill, especially very young women.

But I'm also sickened by risk-free foetal testing methods developed now which allow parents to decide to abort a child with Downs' Syndrome.. and what next? Low IQ? I am appalled by the double standards that allow professionals to sign up to statements of equality, including for those with disability, yet for some reason this disability equality does not extend to a foetus. Why is it OK to dispose of an unborn baby with a different number of chromosomes to me - who could live life to the full and bring joy to those around? I am also aware of how hard work it can be bringing up a child who has Down's Syndrome (or any other disability) with insufficient support.

I am also quite sickened by pictures of women with placards claiming that abortion is just about their bodies and their rights.

The big problem behind this whole debate is not so much about a woman's right to choose what happens to her body. Usually pregnancy and childbirth, whilst having an enormous effect on a body in the short term, have relatively little long-term impact. It's rarely the woman's body that is the issue, it is far more usually the impact of a new baby on the woman's life, finances, independence, prospects and acceptance in society.

If we lived in a society where all pregnancy was celebrated as the potential for a new person with equal value irrespective of the age, marital or financial status of the mother - or the physical or mental capacity of the new person... If we lived in a society where whole communities, extended families and neighbours came together to help teenage mums instead of judging...  If we lived in a society where equal responsibility for pregnancy was applied to both parents.... If we lived in a society where disabled children were truly valued as equal members of society and provided with the practical and moral support and funding needed for them and their parents to thrive...  If we lived in a society where it's the norm for wider family members to take on the care of children if parents are unable to fulfil this role (and I know many wonderful families that do just that)... If we lived in a society where having a baby before 30 did not mean saying goodbye to career prospects or being able to save for some security for the future.... If more of us were prepared to adopt a child that cannot be cared for by her or his parents...

... then maybe there'd be fewer abortions and more life.

But we don't live in that society. And in poorer parts of the world the stigma of unmarried motherhood (not so much fatherhood) is more severe, financial support for parenthood is non-existent, and disability is a poverty life-sentence for child and parents. Who am I to judge?

As I go through life increasingly conscious of my privilege, and painfully aware of my own failings, I feel less and less inclined to pass judgement on other people. A decision to abort is rarely taken lightly, and can be profoundly difficult and leave long-term emotional scars. Caring for a child without the necessary support can be extremely challenging. Watching a severely disabled baby struggle to survive through numerous painful surgeries and interventions is horrendous. Who am I to judge?

I am pro life

I am pro equality - the equal value of every human

I am pro caring for people who are struggling

I am not anti abortion in all circumstances

I am anti judging