The overturning of Wade v Roe in America is astonishing. It is the most significant reversal of common sense in my lifetime. Last night, one of my Facebook friends, a wise and thoughtful woman - and a Roman Catholic - with whom I did my teacher training, posted her shock and anger over the Supreme Court's judgement, and expressing concern for her friends in America. This helped me to express my own thoughts. I am Christian but cannot accept the orthodox view that abortion is a sin.
I'm a lapsed Anglican and my sister is a converted Roman Catholic. Occasionally, I have attended her church, most recently when she renewed her wedding vows and for a family funeral. She has been active in the Catholic Church in the past, supporting the bereaved and helping out in other ways and is still quite regular in attendance, even now her kids are grown. I remember one time, after a confirmation service, a woman coming round trying to drum up support for a pro-life thing and my sister firmly saying 'No thank you.' When the woman had gone. My sister turned round to me saying' I am not into that shit. They have no idea! ' I was so proud of her at that moment.
My sister went on to work with young single mums who needed support and later with children at risk of sexual exploitation and she continues to have no illusions about how tough life is.
Abortion is an incredibly difficult thing. It should be a last resort within a nationally funded and supported contraception prgramme. Even though it should be the last resort, no one should feel guilty or be denied the right to a safe, legal abortion.
I remember reading an article by a female professor, who looked at abortion not simply from the perspective that women should have control over their own bodies - a given in my book - but also addressed the pro-lifers with some nuanced arguments, explaining that abortion was, in her view, a necessary evil in a deeply broken world. I have never forgotten this.
I remember, when I was a young teenager, my mother talking about how her own mother had had an abortion. Grandma's husband was disabled and had been ill for many years. My grandma was the main breadwinner. He died when my mother was in her late teens/early twenties. It seems at some point my grandmother also had a 'fancy man' called Joe. I don't know if this was before or after her husband died but, as a result of this affair, she ended up having a back street abortion, which my mother said was a very dangerous thing to do. I remember asking why and she replied 'because I think they inserted a coat hanger.' For years I had a mental picture of my grandmother sitting on her back step - which she used to make yellow with a donkey stone - dressed in her work-a-day apron waiting for a person with a coat hanger to sort her problem out.
I remember a little while after this, a friend telling me how abortion was a very wicked thing and thinking that could not be true, as the sweetest, kindest, least selfish person I had ever known was my late grandma and she'd had one, even though it could have killed her. I was glad that a woman couid now get an abortion on the NHS, despite the fact some people made a fuss about it.
On the overturning of Wade v Roe and the news that half of the states in America will now outlaw the right to an abortion, I feel the need to express how important our sisters, mothers and grandmothers are and how important is our right to decide for ourselves if abortion is a better option than giving birth.
The bottom line is this: abortion will exist as long as women exist, however offensive certain people find this. It will never be swept away by legislation and moral indignation. The overturning of Wade v Roe will lead to increased mental misery, even suicide; to increased poverty; to illegal, unsupervised and potentially dangerous interventions; to the criminalisation of those previously licensed practitioners who will carry on; to the criminalisation of women.
The righteousness of certain sections of America, who would outlaw reproductive rights, while, in some cases, advocating gun ownership is well know and well commented on. It is quite simply, unfathomable. And to those in any country, who wouid place the rights of the fetus above the needs of the mother, I wouid ask them to consider the bigger picture.