Thursday, August 5, 2010


I just don’t get the fuss about abortion. I really don’t. For much of its existence, a foetus is simply potential. Heartstoppingly real enough, when you discover you have one, but no more than a potential nevertheless. We are all potential killers, but nobody locks us up because of our potential. Treating a potential state or trait as if it were reality sets my alarm bells ringing. Imagine arresting people drinking in bars or in their homes, just in case they had cars and got into them later to drive away. Or Muslims, just in case they turned out to be terrorists. Where does the potential for human life end? In a sperm, in an egg? In desire? Could refusing a fuck be considered denying potential human life?

Then there are the protesters, the ones flinging abuse and urine at real people, theoretically in an attempt to protect people who do not yet exist. As Ruby Tuesday quite rightly points out, their efforts might be better rewarded ensuring that women do not have to choose between studies and childrearing, work and childrearing, economic viability and childrearing. But I don’t think that supporting single mothers or female autonomy comes very high on their agenda, no matter how big the crop of foetuses might be. And remember, it’s a short step from protecting foetuses – who are only potential – to banning contraception because every fuck is a potential foetus.

And how about the “If you’re old enough to have sex, you’re old enough to live with the consequences” school of thought. Wow. Who are these people? The Institute for Parenthood as Punishment? The authors of “Resentment and Frustration as key qualities in childrearing”? Not people with a child’s best interests at heart, that’s for sure.

I can only understand the fuss over abortion in terms of control over women’s bodies and lives. Dressed up as religion, or morality or humanity, abortion is condemned because we NEED babies. We need them to pay our social security systems, to operate our manufacturing processes, to fill out the ranks in our armies, to compete in the global market, to farm our fields. And women are still the only source of babies. So women get a lifelong training in learning to want them and we get fancy guilt trips for failing our training and not wanting them, or not having them.

Then, there’s the additional advantage that whilst we are busy raising children free for ourselves, our partners, our families, and ultimately, our country, we are often too busy to compete with men on the job market, protest about our condition, make waves.

In Spain, the falling birthrate and consequent rise in the ageing population has made the State’s dependence on women’s free provision of mothering starkly evident. I, for example, am unlikely to ever receive a pension unless some wonderful altruistic young women out there rapidly start dedicating themselves to the breeding and rearing of numerous tax-paying citizens. But what is the State doing about this? What rewards do mothers receive for their fundamental contribution to the existence of the nation’s population, let alone the State? Sweet FA is the answer: there is still no widely and freely available childcare provision or support, anywhere. Nation States in general are still reluctant to fund something that they have always managed to acquire for free, although it’s changing, slowly. In Austria, for example, I could earn as much staying at home rearing my child as I do working for a wage. This has got to be the future.

Killer fact: Statistics show that as women’s educational level rises, the number of children they have drops.

My personal experience with the National Health Service in the UK was that it was easier to get an abortion (just one potential human life lost) than to be sterilized (my entire reproductive services to queen and country lost forever). And, as feared, instead of being tied up with childrearing, I spent my 20s and 30s getting an education and economic independence, campaigning against nuclear arms at Greenham Common, finding safe housing for battered women (and thus “breaking up” families), campaigning for women’s rights and generally being a nuisance to society. I am everything that the anti-choicers are fighting against.
You’d never guess it if you met me. I like gardening.


  1. I waited until I was in my thirties to have children and I am beyond glad I had my 20's and part of my thirties to figure out who I was without them.

    I also agree Cat that we are so socialized from day one to want them, to idealize them that it become hard to figure out when you get the baby gimmees if you really want one or you have been conditioned to think you want them.

    Sometime I feel like I have developed a really severe case of Stockholm syndrome. I have been in the machine so long, I identify with my captors.

    For me, no matter what, because my body bears the brunt of housing the potential child, I must have full control of my reproductive rights to be an equal in our society.

    I dont think anyone views abortion lightly or flip but maybe we should start to see it more as routine medical care for women than the shame-ridden, secretive thing it is for so many people.

  2. I tried to get my doctor to tie my tubes years ago, after having my first kiddo. He refused on the assumption that "I may want to have kids later, even though I say I'm done now". I was so angry. And even though I have my newest baby (12 weeks old), she wasn't planned by any means and I would have been fine not having more.

  3. Mongo - I place myself at your feet and anoint you with oils. Please consider letting me write for this forum. It would be my honor.

  4. I've never had an abortion. Hell, I don't even think I'm fertile, so I've never actually found myself in the position to decide how I REALLY feel about what exactly a fetus is.

    I do know that the only way to diminish abortion rates, if that is what a political group is really going for, is by educating people about and providing dirt cheap birth control and giving single and poor women support when they decide not to abort . Anyone that claims to be anti-abortion but is not fighting for those things is a total fucking hypocrite. I cannot for the life of me get my head around folks that are anti-abortion, anti-sex ed.

    Making abortion illegal doesn't stop it from happening. It just means that people with the means to travel abroad will get abortions when they like and people that work at McDonalds and barely make rent simply won't.

  5. Before I had my punk? I felt relieved. After I had my punk; I felt sad but knew it was the right choice at the time.

    It's never an easy thing and I can't say that I was just being irresponsible. Birth control doesn't work well for me. Each time I've gotten pregnant, I've been on birth control. And I've tried almost every kind. The shot made me bleed continuously for 7 months. The IUD I got ended up getting embedded in my uterine wall. The patch gave me a blood clot...

  6. How did I miss this post?
    Don't answer that.
    One of my best friends is 76-years-old and is one of the best advocate FOR keeping abortion legal that I know of.
    Her words:
    "Why can't we all just be honest the act of aborting a child is wrong, but that making it illegal will only put our daughters in the desperate position of trying to perform them themselves and creating a window for doctors who graduated at the bottom of their class to open back alley clinics with rusty instruments and ever rustier motives?"

  7. PS - Zen Mama. I'm not in charge around this piece.

  8. My (now 7 year old) asked me when I knew I loved him. And I answered, without hesitation, that I loved him from the moment I got the positive test result from the doctor. But I didn't. Couldn't have. He wasn't "him". What I loved was the potential of him. And I don't think I ever fully realized that until I read the first paragraph of this post. Well done, cat.

  9. This is a brilliant perspective, Cat. Thank you.