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When I was 19, my then boyfriend's sister got pregnant. Younger than me, she had a boyfriend who I did not like. He was controlling, arrogant, possessive. Immature. Quite what exactly the full circumstances surrounding the conception were, I will never know. But she told my boyfriend, who told me, that he had demanded she prove that she love him - and to do this by having unprotected sex with him. How true that is and was is unclear but, needless to say, she ended up pregnant and he disappeared off into the night. Rebecca ended the summer between A levels and university having an abortion and being taken on an expensive holiday to "recover". Quite the summer.
I was furious. Already angry with myself, with her brother with whom I knew our relationship was disintegrating but I couldn't quite extricate myself from, battling with recovering from depression, irritated by the world in general, I raged. To my mother, mainly. Furious with Rebecca for putting herself in such a position, furious with Dan, her arsehole boyfriend and for the system which "allowed" her to have an abortion because she asked for one.
Ten years ago, which is how long ago this was, my views were - rightly or wrongly - drawn out in black and white. Based mainly on abstract points of view and two years of a philosophy A-level. Whilst I supported abortion in some circumstances, I rather felt that if you chose to have sex, you chose the risk, and with that risk the responsibility. That if you accepted the risk and responsibility, you dealt with the consequences. Don't like it? Don't have sex. It does still pain me that there are teenagers using abortions like contraception and other women desperate for babies but unable to conceive, but I think my 19 year old self was a little (a lot?) naive.
Recently, I have read a bit about the House of Representatives (in the US) attempts to reform laws which relate to pregnancy and abortion (although of course, just because the House of Representatives thinks it is ok, doesn't mean it will actually become law) and realised, to my shame, my 19 year old self thought in a comparably similar way [about abortion in black and white terms, not about rape]. Essentially, I thought I knew better than Rebecca. That someone other than her should be able to dictate what her decisions should be. I still struggle with the concept that the 'father' has no rights over the an unborn child but I cannot see any other decision being ok than being pro-choice. To suggest that before any abortion is allowed that the mother must have a sonogram (like the Texas House has passed) before signing a document agreeing that she has seen the foetus and heard it's heart beat [even if that foetus is a product of a rape] and that she *still* agrees to it's termination. To declare the equivalent of our family planning clinics 'hospitals' so that they are unable to raise the funding to comply with statutory regulations for hospitals. To deny women the opportunity to have confidential family planning advice. That's not going to reduce abortion. It's going to force women into illegal and dangerous situations.
But for Rebecca, what did I really think the alternative would have been? That having the baby would have been better for both her and the baby? That instead of going to university she would have become a single mother, limiting her earning potential? Did I not feel similarly judgemental when, after breaking up with that then boyfriend, he went on to have 2 children with his much younger girlfriend, a girlfriend whose mother and grandmother have never worked, and with whom he and the girlfriend live with the children in a council house, claiming benefits. That would have been Rebecca's alternative. Forcing her to have the child at any cost - to the mother, to the family, to the state. [That, or an illegal abortion].
I'm not saying Rebecca made the right choice. Or even that she made the wrong choice. I suspect she didn't even feel she had a choice. But she did. And I judged her for making it. And to think that a free thinking country is even considering removing that choice, well, that feels as naive as my 19 year old self was. I really hope that 'they' realise that, like I did, before it's too late.
[all names have been changed]
"In Her Own Words: In Celebration of International Women's Day 2011" was created to share and celebrate the experiences of women from many walks of life. All day Tuesday, March 8th Any Other Wedding and One Cat Per Person will feature posts written by a collective of intelligent, passionate and opinionated women bloggers from the United States and the United Kingdom. We encourage you to comment and create dialouge as well as visit their respective blogs. The conversation starts here, but it does not need to end here. Be sure to stop by Any Other Wedding and One Cat Per Person throughout the day to read all of the posts in the series. For more information about International Women's Day, visit http://www.internationalwomensday.com/
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