Former Labour MP = big ol’ antichoicer

Admittedly, Lesley Soper doesn’t exactly come top of the list when you think “former Labour MPs”, but she was one of our elected representatives, and she was, probably more importantly, the Labour Party Women’s Vice President from 1995 to 2006.

She’s also a concern-troll style antichoicer.

Via ALRANZ, who are keeping tabs on the Southland Times letters page:

I was saddened to read the Southern District Health Board decision to begin an abortion service at Kew Hospital, especially at a time when boards are being forced to trim millions from budgets and when the Government Budget did not even cover health inflation.
During my tenure as an elected board member we received a non-clinical staff recommendation to institute this service.
We rejected it on the grounds of financial affordability, and because, along with several other competing new service proposals, it was not seen as a priority in public health or population terms.

Abortion services for people who are going to have abortions anyway but face a day’s travel and the associated costs of accommodation, childcare, time off work, and increased medical complications if they have to delay the procedure:  “just not a priority”.

At a time when the board is threatening local maternity services like Tuatapere with closure, and following on from the cuts to aged care, I would have thought the announcement of this new service was particularly inappropriate.
There are several other much-requested clinical services that would seem a priority to offer or expand first.

Your unwanted pregnancy:  totally less important than old people or Women Who Are Better Than You.

If there is additional money to spare I would also have thought it was better directed to positive action such as the prevention of unwanted pregnancies (for example, free provision of contraceptive choices) and support programmes for those who choose to keep their babies.

So if there is spare money, can we at least spend it on things Lesley Soper doesn’t find icky?  Like contraception, which may create its own series of health issues for you, or which might increase your risk of domestic violence, or which might not work so you still have to have that abortion you were going to have anyway.

The board should be consulting with the Southland community on this decision, and on what the community sees as health priorities.
I urge it to do so.

And by “consult with the community” Lesley of course means “listen to the people who agree with me.”  Just like her apparent buddy, Dr McLean.

It’s a bit fucking concerning to me that a person who for 11 years had – one assumes – a pretty substantial influence over the Labour Party’s policy around women’s issues (and although abortion doesn’t just affect women it is always stuck in the “women’s issues” box) is quite clearly anti-choice.  Or at least willing to play the anti-choice violin if it allows her to get in some digs about a decision being undertaken by a DHB under a government led by the sitting MP’s party.

How many antichoice tropes can Lesley hit in one letter?  Well, there’s “these silly women’s issues can wait until Serious Issues are dealt with” – entirely too reminiscent of Jim Hopkins’ utterly pathetic “ask the womenfolk, Bill, they’ll sacrifice their silly pay equality for the kiddies” (and how did I NOT blog that shit?).

Then there’s “ew, abortion is icky, spend the money on fluffy bunnies instead” logic.  One recurring argument in feminist discussion of abortion is about whether we should ever talk about “wanting a world where there is no abortion”.  Because to some – including me – we can never have that world.  There’s always going to be “valid” reasons for abortions – saving the life of the pregnant person, for example – and there’s also the fact that the only “valid” reason I think a person needs is that they don’t want to be pregnant.

Nevertheless, we’re not talking utopias here.  We’re talking about

positive action such as the prevention of unwanted pregnancies (for example, free provision of contraceptive choices) and support programmes for those who choose to keep their babies

Contraception fails.  People should get support when they’ve had babies whether they ~chose life~ or not.  And the unwillingly pregnant people of Southland will still being having abortions.

Third up, how about the creepy eugenics implications of this?

We rejected it … because … it was not seen as a priority in … population terms.

Yes, I’ve cut out some of the irrelevant chaff, but the original’s right up there if you want to question it.  Fact is, this is one clear part of what Soper says.  Part of the reason to deny Southland people easy access to the abortions they’re going to have anyway was because there wasn’t a pressing issue “in population terms”.

If anyone can find an interpretation of that which doesn’t boil down to “abortion would be totally cool if we were being overrun with undesirables ruining the gorgeous vistas” I am all ears.

But what I really want to take from this is the following, which seems to nicely fit in with what I suspected above.  This actually has very little to do with Lesley Soper’s personal views on abortion, which (beyond obviously thinking it’s icky) she neatly avoids in her letter.

This is shallow, amoral, political point-scoring.  She’s spotted a potential groundswell of opposition to Southern DHB’s plan, Eric Roy has presumably been silent on the topic, so here comes Lesley “I Love Southland SO MUCH” Soper, reminding us all how she’s Played Her Part in Stopping The Abortion Menace before, covering both the “unnecessary spending” and “but I’m still kinda liberal, so spend it over here instead” cards, and finally declaring that They Must Consult With The Community.

Lesley Soper:  a former Women’s Vice-President of the Labour Party.  Throwing women under the bus to try to chip away at Eric Roy’s thumping majority.  Is it merely sad, or abhorrent?  I’m going with both.


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  2. sm

    Wow. I hadn’t thought of it, but I think you’re onto something with the political point-scoring theory. Eric Roy has indeed been completely silent on the issue. Bill English was reported through Norman McLean thus: “Mr English confirmed the absence of mandatory national standards, legal obligation, or Government directive for the board to provide an abortion service in any particular geographic area, Mr McLean said”. But otherwise he’s been silent too. So Lesley Soper is throwing herself into the gap.