[Content note: pregnancy, nonconsensual medical treatment]
Recap: an Italian woman in Britain had a mental health issue. She was pregnant. The state, for reasons so far unknown, performed a C-section on her without her consent and put her child in care. This is approximately every level of fucked up.
But now, because more details have become clear, it sounds like a lot of progressive people think it’s not as big a deal, because it was doctors who made the decision to perform the C-section which has now led to this woman’s child potentially being permanently adopted without her consent.
I have a question.
What the fuck are you even doing?
Even the most able-bodied in-full-health no-medical-issues-ever progressive should be able to comprehend that doctors are not gods, and are not infallible, and are certainly capable of making fucked up decisions for fucked up reasons.
Like Dr Joseph Lee who refused to prescribe contraception to a young woman because “his conscience” told him to lecture her about The Duties Of Women instead.
Like the numerous doctors who refuse to perform basic diagnosis on patients who are fat. (Degenerative spine condition?
Like the doctors who performed the Unfortunate Experiment on New Zealand women.
[EXTREME TRIGGER WARNING for abusive medical practice, genital mutilation] Or Dr Graeme Reeves who deliberately mutilated women’s genitals while performing surgery on them.
How about the amount of research which shows doctors are more likely to label people of colour as “non-compliant”? Or prison medical staff coercing incarcerated women to be sterilised?
This isn’t an argument that all doctors are evil and none are to be trusted. Just as pointing out the utterly shitty culture the NZ Police have towards victims of sexual violence, especially sexual violence committed by members of the NZ Police, isn’t an argument that all police officers are rapists.
But frankly, enough of them are that you should not feel comfortable just assuming that doctors – or police officers – are acting with integrity. Especially when the person on the receiving end of their treatment has the black marks of mental illness, migrant status, and gender against her.
No, not quite.
The good news: NuvaRing is in New Zealand! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY
The bad news: $75 for a three month supply! BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Sometimes our glorious socialised healthcare really drops the ball, and this is one of those times. A number of the most effective, least side-effect-y contraceptive methods aren’t subsidised the way the good old Pill or Jab are, so it’s bloody prohibitively expensive, especially for long-term use – and a lot of people will spend a huge proportion of their life using contraception.
Of course there’s the cost of research and development and production and all that jazz, but I think there’s another really obvious reason for the good shit being expensive: the manufacturers know that their customers will pay for the good shit. Because contraception is vital for a lot of people. It could be the difference between getting through university and having a better-paid job before starting to have a family … or not. The difference between protecting your mental health by avoiding the physical and psychological costs of pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood … or not. The difference between having a comfortable life raising your three kids … or struggling to feed six. The difference between learning to live with violent mood swings, irregular or even constant bleeding, nausea and cramping because it’s worth it not to get pregnant … or not.
Access to sustainable, affordable contraception is a huge part in allowing people, especially women, to take control of their lives. It pays back huge dividends to society. In our current capitalist model, of course someone’s going to try to make a buck from that, and in New Zealand we do already take steps to mitigate that for some forms of contraception. I just wish we did more.
Found while looking for other things in the dark, judgey hole in the soul of the Internet that is the Voice for Life NZ site: an article – copy-pasted from American antichoice sites, because that’s how religious extremists roll – entitled
I was actually kind of interested, because it’s a bold proposition: ending all abortion before Christmas.
Turns out it’s a lie on two counts, because it’s not about ending all abortions, and most of the 25 items will have no effect on abortion whatsoever. The others aren’t really things ethical people should do, but that’s obviously not going to bother antichoicers.
The list breaks down like this:
- Generic activist stuff, much of which will probably target abortion clinics: 14
- Specifically harass clinic workers and their patients: 4
- Volunteer at lying, bullying crisis pregnancy centres: 3
- Idolize dead foetal tissue (probably in front of clinics): 1
- Fund antichoice groups: 1
- Feel totally smug about being antichoice: 1
- Actually support people who choose to continue pregnancy: 1
No support for comprehensive sex education, which is proven to reduce unwanted pregnancies. No donations to Planned Parenthood to provide contraception for people, which is proven to reduce unwanted pregnancies. Nope, just more of the same bullying and lobbying and pats-on-the-back for the upstanding warriors fighting the good fight to punish people for sex they don’t approve of.
That one item about supporting people – specifically, single mothers, because couples never have a hard time providing for a child – is number 24 on the list, and actually reads “Be a witness to the joy of life by helping out single moms who chose life.” Because why would you help a struggling parent if you weren’t getting a good smug-vibe from it?
The best bit? VFL illustrates the article with a photo of a headless pregnant person with their tummy wrapped in a bow. Because pregnant people aren’t just non-people with no face, identity, or autonomy, they’re also just the giftwrap for a ~sacred unborn child~.
And we all know what happens to giftwrap after the present arrives, right?
Antichoicers: treating pregnant people like trash.
‘I’ve got four years’ good conduct, I have-’
‘No, that was four years’ Not Found Out,’ said Vimes.
- Terry Pratchett, Night Watch
An unnamed teacher at an unnamed Catholic high school has been disciplined after calling one of her students a “slut” and – in a move which really doesn’t seem to be outraging people as much as it should – scornfully referring to that student having an abortion.
As Coley put it,
It’s interesting that a lot of the commentary about the teacher who called her student a slut hasn’t mentioned that the teacher was holding /
A class on abortion being evil knowing at least one of her students had terminated a pregnancy. And made her stand on a chair 4 not behaving
The teacher has not been barred from teaching again, because apparently we excuse gross breaches of people’s privacy if they’re tired and emotional and have:
a previously unblemished record.
The above quote from Pratchett’s excellent novel Night Watch sprang to mind, for obvious reasons.
Let me illuminate the point with some personal anecdata. At my Catholic high school – and if I ever find out this is the same one I’m going to have some fucking unladylike words to say – some girls were told in an RE class that if they didn’t believe in God they would go to hell. And when they told another teacher that – several of them with the exact same story, mind – they were told “no, [X] wouldn’t have said that.” Never mind that several girls from the same class were all saying they’d been told the same thing, it was simply hand-waved away on the basis that it couldn’t possibly have happened.
It probably helps that no one left the class in tears, or – and I have to guess here because the story has very few details – has parents who won’t accept that kind of shit, or an ally on the staff.
The opening paragraph of the Herald article says the teacher “[referred] to her having an abortion in front of classmates”. Think about that framing. It’s as though the problem is she let some little secret slip, or that it was only problematic because other people were there. And let’s compare that with what the teacher actually said:
The teacher said words similar to “stop acting like a S-L-U-T” …The teacher then referred to the girl being pregnant and said words to the effect of “if you think having an abortion makes you an adult then it doesn’t”
And let’s remember that this is a Year 10 class, and let’s think the fact that the pupils in that class are 14-to-15-years old, and let’s consider how vicious and unethical a person you have to be to:
- Know a pupil in your charge who is under the age of consent has had an abortion
- Force her to sit through a lesson about “Pope John Paul II’s stance on abortion” (spoiler: used the phrase “culture of death” a lot) – or not even have enough empathy to think about how it would affect her
- When she (strangely enough) gets disruptive, punish her and – because you really want to demean her – not only call her a slut but spell it out like she’s a toddler having a B-A-T-H
- Throw the fact she’s had an abortion back in her face – right after a class which has happily laid the ground for everyone to feel moral and righteous about judging and persecuting people who have abortions
I feel quite comfortable stating that this person shouldn’t be allowed near young women, much less in charge of them.
But all she gets is a slap on the wrist and a ruling to “inform” any future employers about what she did. Like that’s going to hurt her employment chances.
Remember, it’s the antichoicers who are the compassionate, moral ones, and us nasty feminists who actually hate women.
First things first: lump of coal to Stuff for publishing an article with an alarmist headline based on shitty research into abortion and mental health, which I’ve blogged about before. (A tinier lump of coal labelled “old news, much?” will be delivered in five months’ time.)
But today’s post is not about that shitty research. It’s about the comments of Dame Linda Holloway, chair of the Abortion Supervisory Committee, and apparently no fucking ally to pregnant people.
Dame Linda Holloway, the chairwoman of the committee, said any move towards liberalisation would be a “difficult political argument and from a pro choice position it doesn’t really matter”.
Doesn’t really matter? It doesn’t really matter than pregnant people are treated like they’re incapable of making their own decisions, that they have to get permission like they’re schoolchildren on a field trip, that they may not have accessible services in their own area and have to travel, sometimes overnight, to get a very safe and very normal medical procedure done?
I don’t know how Dame Linda Holloway defines “a pro choice position” but it’s not one I’d sign up to.
“The chance of changing the abortion laws in New Zealand at this time are sub-zero. At the moment we have assured successive ministers of justice that we can operate under the law as it is.
It’s so fantastic that these two sentences are right next to each other. Gee, do you think maybe the lack of political will to change our archaic, condescending abortions laws might have anything to do with those “assurances”? Think you might be playing the smallest part in ensuring that pregnant New Zealanders are
“If we start opening the whole thing up to do new legislation my concern is that we might end up with something that is worse than what we have got. The chances of that are quite high.”
I guess I have to give this much: Dame Linda Holloway, as chair of the ASC, is under constant attack from the likes of Right to
Control Your Life. So maybe this has given her the impression that the antichoice feeling in New Zealand is overwhelming.
I talk about abortion a lot, and my perspective is that while a lot of people think it’s icky and don’t want to talk about it, as soon as you say “did you know that abortion is still a crime in New Zealand?” much less “did you know pregnant people are still regularly travelling to Australia to get abortions?” they’re very much on board with updating our laws. Sometimes you literally have to argue with people who insist we have abortion-on-demand – and articles like this one don’t really fucking help, so another lump of coal to Stuff for propagating bullshit myths which oppress pregnant people. But once the facts are explained? The majority of people still don’t really want to think about it, but they are, at a basic level, prochoice.
Holloway said she would prefer to “soldier on”.
“If I thought we could get a perfect world I would be all for it.”
Bully for you, person-who-doesn’t-have-to-raise-money-to-fly-to-Australia-for-an-abortion. Perfection or nothing, that’s a fantastic way to approach things. The staggering irony is that the antichoice movement, especially in the US but also here, have demonstrated the terrible effectiveness of not demanding perfection or nothing. They (or at least, the moderately-douchey ones) don’t say “illegalise abortion, nothing else will do”. They start with “oh, parents should be notified, you’d want to know if it was your child!” and “maybe you should have to wait a week to properly consider things” and “oh you really should have to have an ultrasound beforehand so you really understand what you’re doing.”
We probably can’t get free universally-accessible holistic-care abortions-for-all in one go. But we can at least start by taking abortion out of the Crimes Act and removing the need to get Mummy and Daddy to sign your permission slip.
At the very fucking least, let’s stop making it easier for antichoicers to lie about the situation in NZ, could we?
This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 25 July 2013.
The state of California has seen teen pregnancy rates drop to a 20-year low, across all ethnicities.
You would, to the surprise of no one who understands what being a teenager is like, be wrong. From a linked article:
Public health experts say state laws are responsible for the decline because they require public schools that offer sex education classes to provide scientifically reliable instructions on how contraceptives work along with information about abstinence.
What’s that? Scientifically reliable information together with “information about abstinence”, which might involve supporting teens’ individual choices and instilling the idea that they can resist social pressure to have sex if they’re not ready? How the fuck could that possibly be effective?
Especially when compared to the amazing results delivered by the “abstinence-only education, scaremongering, and general judgyness” approach.
Over the past decade, teen pregnancy rates have consistently been higher in Southern states that don’t provide students with adequate sexual health instruction. Since abstinence-only courses often present misleading information about contraception, a full 60 percent of young adults underestimate birth control’s effectiveness and are more likely to skip it because they don’t believe it will make a difference. And teens in rural areas still struggle to access contraception, partly because there are fewer health clinics in less populous places and partly because a societal stigma surrounding teen sexuality still pervades conservative communities.
California has also come up with innovative concepts like “getting bilingual moderators when dealing with bilingual teens”. And check out this fucking sexy graphic from the CDC about how to design “teen-friendly” health visits.
The facts are plain and simple. Giving young people actual full information – not “you’re going to get cancer every time you give head” information – and the power or esteem or respect to make their own decisions works. It doesn’t mean there’ll never be any teen pregnancy, it doesn’t mean we’ll eradicate STDs, it doesn’t mean teenagers will stop being emotional hormonal creatures struggling to find their identity and place in society.
But it does mean they’re far better equipped to deal with that than lying to them.
If you’re of a conspiratorial mind, you might ask why lying abstinence-pushers are so insistent on a strategy which empirically does not work. You might think about modern capitalism’s need for a less-empowered class of worker drones, and its use of racism and patriarchy to keep certain groups of people in line when it comes to doing the shitty underpaid jobs which and making the babies which are necessary for the elite’s continued lives of luxury.
Of course it’s possible that they’re honestly such self-absorbed, hateful douchecanoes that they’ll happily throw teenagers under the bus if they don’t conform to said douchecanoes’ personal beliefs about How Things Should Be.
But moral, upstanding compassionate folks? They are not.
This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 19 July 2013.
On Back Benches this week, Holly Walker cemented her position as one of the most badass MPs in the House by saying the following:
I’ve been thinking…as I approach the end of my pregnancy that I’m really lucky to have a lot of choices about what’s best for me and my body and my baby. Unfortunately a lot of women at the beginning of an unwanted pregnancy don’t have the same degree of choice and control. Now recently Wendy Davis stood up for 13 hours in the Texas senate to stand up for a woman’s right to choose. And we’ve shown in New Zealand that we can work together cross-party on these sensitive issues to update the law and I think it’s time to start the cross-party conversation on modernising our abortion law in New Zealand.
H/T ALRANZ for the transcript.
It’s a huge step forward for the prochoice movement, having a vocal, unashamed, and – because really, it’s a hugely powerful symbol – pregnant advocate for abortion law reform.
The downer is that more and more we’re coming to see how absolutely fucked up our archaic, judgey abortion laws are, and how they endanger the health of pregnant people.
Because it’s not enough to know that abortion is a crime in New Zealand, with strict procedures around when it’s permissible.
It’s not enough that pregnant people aren’t trusted to make their own decisions, and have to justify and plead with multiple consultants in order to get the procedure signed off. (Imagine if they implemented the same process for vasectomies.)
It’s not enough that rape isn’t considered sufficient grounds for an abortion – and it’s not enough that the reason for that is our 1970s, almost-entirely-white-male, Parliament thought women would just lie about rape to get abortions.
No, this week another shoe dropped, thanks to the tireless work of ALRANZ, who revealed that most pregnant people seeking abortions in New Zealand, after jumping through all the hoops, will still be forced to undergo an ultrasound. An ultrasound which may not even be medically necessary (and would be even less necessary if we didn’t have all those hoops, which mean abortions are being performed later in pregnancy.)
So if you’re a pregnant teen in Westport, not only do you have to find two certifying consultants you trust to talk to about abortion, then convince them that you tick all the boxes set down by men who were old and judgemental before you were even born, not only do you have to travel to Christchurch for your procedure (time off work or out of school and god help you if the clinic’s shut that day) but you also have to undergo a scan. And you have to be told that you may look at the scan. Because what you really really need at that point is to have an entire society’s baggage about pregnancy and ultrasound and the ~miracle of life~ dropped on your head.
There’s only one solution: clear, straight up reform of our abortion laws. Get abortion out of the Crimes Act. Scrap the humiliating justifications. Let pregnant people make their own decisions.
Don’t like it? Don’t get an abortion when you’re pregnant.
(Unless of course it’s different when you need it.)
This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 31 May 2013.
Today, 31/3/13, marks the fourth anniversary of the murder of Dr George Tiller, a man who despite very real threats to his own life and safety provided safe, legal late-term abortions to the women of Kansas.
Late-term abortion is one of the contentious issues even within prochoice discussions. People just inherently find it “icky” – even more so than abortion in general. A lot of that probably has to do with the way the abortion debate has been framed for so long in an attempt to make it as palatable as possible – focusing on the very early, non-baby-like stages of pregnancy.
Yet that’s not a misrepresentation. The vast majority of abortions do occur early in pregnancy.
New Zealand has a soft limit on how late abortions can be performed – after 20 weeks, a fairly typical cut-off for defining “late-term”, it is only legal to save the life of the mother, or to prevent serious permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the mother. And it’s a very small number – according to Statistics New Zealand, in 2011 only 908 abortions, or 5.7% of the total, were performed after 14 weeks’ gestation (they don’t get specific after that). In 2009, only 14 abortions were performed after 24 weeks – which is the legal cut-off in places like Great Britain.
I don’t know of any research in New Zealand on why pregnant people need later-term abortions, but there’s been a lot done in the United States. It’s pretty simple: people who are less privileged, by being young, less educated, or women of colour, are far more likely to access abortion later in pregnancy.
According to a study in 1987 of people in the US who had had late-term abortions:
- 71% did not recognize [they were] pregnant or misjudged gestation
- 48% found it hard to make arrangements for abortion
- 33% [were] afraid to tell [their] partner or parents
- 24% took time to decide to have an abortion
And I just have to include this one:
- 8% Someone pressured [them] not to have abortion
When there are obstacles in the way of pregnant people accessing abortion, it takes longer to get an abortion. And the further into pregnancy you get, the fewer, and less safe, and in many places more expensive, your options are. That’s why so many anti-choice campaigns are aimed at delaying abortion – through patronising “waiting periods”, which presume that pregnant people simply can’t be trusted to know their own wishes, or forced trans-vaginal ultrasound scans, which add the fun element of coerced medical penetration into the mix.
In New Zealand, having to see at least two certifying consultants, plus getting an appointment at a clinic which may be a day’s journey away, while needing to take time off work and find someone to take care of the kids (over half the people who have abortions have already given birth to at least one baby) creates delays.
Add a frankly bullshit system of sex and sexuality education, add the huge social stigma around abortion, add being poor and panicked and just trying to ignore the problem away … and you have people getting later-term abortions.
Late-term abortions are not a problem in of themselves – they’re a problem because they reflect the shitty situations a lot of pregnant people find themselves in, with a lack of education, a lack of support, and a system set up to make it as hard as possible for them to get quick, safe access to abortions.
We’ll always need late-term abortions, because sometimes things go wrong.
But we also need a complete overhaul of bullshit social attitudes which deny people the knowledge and ability and support to make the decisions that are right for them.
Pregnant people deserve to be trusted to make their own medical decisions. They deserve to have information on their bodies and reproductive systems. They deserve access to early, affordable, safe abortions. And when they need them – because when you need them, you really, really need them – they deserve access to late-term abortions.
More posts remembering Dr Tiller will be collated at Abortion Gang – once the Americans wake up, of course!
Like it says in the title, September 28 (TOMORROW!) will be a global day of action for abortion and reproductive rights.
And given our timezone, it’s up to Kiwi prochoicers to get things off to a ripping start.
ALRANZ has the details for events in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin, and they want to know if anything else is happening in your neck of the woods.
You should also tweet and Facebook your support using #prochoicenz and #28sept, and get yourself on the virtual mural.
Abortion: it should be safe, legal, and unless you’re the one having it, none of your fucking business.
This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 21 March 2013.
I’m returning to an old theme of mine, on this shiny new platform, not only because it’s an issue which I think is important, but one which needs to be discussed.
It needs to be discussed because it’s a matter of basic human rights.
It needs to be discussed because a lot of people – politically-savvy people who are interested in law and rights and progressiveness – really don’t have a good basic knowledge of it.
It needs to be discussed because treating it like an icky scary gross vagina-related issue is one of the reasons New Zealand, a country so bloody smug about its achievements in other areas (*cough*givingwomenthevote*cough*), continues to have condescending, paternalistic, backwards, health-endangering laws around abortion.
Abortion, as part of a whole big wibbly-wobbly thing called “reproductive rights”, is a human right because no one else has the power to commandeer your internal organs for their own purposes. It’s a health issue because, no matter what restrictions have been placed on it historically, pregnant people have always found ways to end pregnancies they do not want. Some of these ways are a lot safer than others.
It’s a public health/social welfare issue because forcing people in difficult circumstances to go through pregnancy – not, in fact, a picnic – and then raise a child they do not want, on the generous support of a Paula Bennett-run social welfare system, may just lead to bad outcomes: hungry kids. Abused kids. Unemployed parents.
And abortion in New Zealand is not on demand, no matter how often people who pretend to “love life” insist that we “practically” have abortion on demand. The hoops pregnant people have to jump through are ridiculous, even when they’re accessible (note: Southland DHB has now begun offering abortion services in Invercargill, despite the best intimidation efforts of “pro-lifers”). It’s patronising. It only delays the inevitable – because pregnant people who don’t want to be pregnant will find a way to end that pregnancy, and the longer they are forced to wait, the more dangerous it becomes for them.
Abortion is still a crime under the Crimes Act in New Zealand – with a big messed-up process to get around it, like a labyrinthine self-defence defence. New Zealanders deserve better. They deserve the right to control their own bodies and fertility, without petty obstacles. They deserve the right to make their own medical decisions in private (and yep, that also includes pregnant people who want to remain pregnant).
Now do go on and tell me I’m a soulless baby-killer while I get a cuppa. If the leftwing men would form a backup chorus for the “why aren’t you focusing on issues that matter” number later this evening that’d be great too.