I struggle to find a properly punchy intro to this review. Because all I really want to say is, if you have an interest in the history of the reproductive rights struggle in New Zealand, read this book.
If you don’t have an interest in the history of the reproductive rights struggle in New Zealand, also read this book. Because you’ll develop one.
Abortion has a long and dramatic history in NZ, but it’s not a history we talk about, or remember. And remembering that history is vital to our continuing push for reproductive rights today. We need to know how we’ve gotten into this bizarre situation, with a law passed in 1977 which makes pregnant people jump through hoops but functions just well enough that most people carry on under the misapprehension that we have abortion on demand.
Just check out Jami-Lee Ross’ speech on the third reading of the marriage equality bill, when he referred to abortion being legalised. It isn’t.
Why it isn’t, and who decided it wouldn’t be, and how activists fought hard for it to be, is what this book’s about. Alison McCulloch, Pulitzer-winning journo and general badass, lays it all out, plain and simple, and being pretty damn even-handed towards the antichoice movement in the process.
This book was a joy to read … and it made me angry. Angry at chickenshit politicians who folded at the first threat of Catholic voters’ ire. Angry at a Royal Commission who dared to produce an incoherent, inconsistent report which controls people’s lives to this day, who let antichoicers derail an important moment in our societal debate on reproductive rights. Angry at the condescension shown toward New Zealand people, particularly women, to this day.
Angry that we still have to fight for this.
But you know, it’s a good anger. A motivating anger.
And now I’ve added “release helium balloons into the House of Representatives” to my bucket list.
Overall rating: five out of five speculums.
Prochoicing on the Prochoice Highway
Alison McCulloch is taking the book on tour. Follow the Prochoice Highway for more information.
Videos from the launch, via the ALRANZ blog.
Tonight, dear readers, I am attending a most splendid event, the launch of Alison McCulloch’s amazing history of abortion in NZ. Seriously, get your copy now. Proper review coming soon!
In the meantime, over the next few days it’s going to be all abortions all the time at Ideologically Impure (but when isn’t it?) as we investigate the strange hateful not-our-Earth-logic propaganda of NZ’s own Right to Lies.
So, I’m just nodding furiously and occasionally throwing horns at Alison McCulloch’s latest post on the abortion debate in New Zealand (where “debate” = someone accurately describes the tactics of antichoice douchebags and Karl du Fresne whinges about it) when suddenly my brain hits the brakes:
Or how about this curious classic from the RTL site: “No woman wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg. No one has the right to choose to kill another human being.” (That first part about the ice cream and the Porsche is actually a quote from a U.S. anti-abortion activist. I don’t know if it says what RTL wants it to say, but then again I don’t really know exactly what it’s trying to say. Pregnant women as trapped animals? Porsches? Murder?)
The reason for my confusion was thus: I am instinctively loath to question McCulloch’s word on anything when it comes to the history of the abortion debate, because she’s a badass prochoice historian of awesomeness.
But … isn’t that a pro-choice quote?
Isn’t it a refutation of the common antichoice line that people “just” have abortions for “casual” reasons? Isn’t it saying “when a woman says she wants an abortion, she doesn’t mean it casually”?
Yet then I hit the Google, and lo and behold. That’s a quote from Frederica Mathewes-Green, past vice-president of (eyeroll, I always do) Feminists for Life America.
According to this antichoice site, Mathewes-Green is talking about “the despair which leads [people] to abort”. Um … and that isn’t meant to make us sympathize with them? And their situation?
Returning to Mathewes-Green’s analogy of an animal gnawing its leg off to escape a trap, we see that abortion is actually an act of self-destruction. When pro-abortionists view a [person] in this desperate situation, their solution is to offer the [person] a clean, legal way of cutting off the offending leg — after all, they believe there are too many unfit “legs” in the world already.
I don’t think antichoicers know how to construct an analogy. Because … yes. If I saw an animal with its leg caught in a trap, desperate to get out, I would consider surgically and safely removing the broken leg a completely valid choice, hell, the most compassionate choice, because for the vast majority of animals likely to get caught in traps, if the stress and shock of me trying to pry open the trap didn’t kill them, they wouldn’t survive very long in the wild on a broken leg. Infection, starvation or predators would get them pretty fucking quickly.
Apparently this is because, unlike antichoicers, I have rejected hope and turned to “one of Satan’s greatest weapons”, despair.
Oh, and also I automatically think there are too many “unfit” babies in the world, or something. I’m all about the baby-hating.
… yeah. I’m just confused. And yet, somewhat enlightened about how antichoicers view pregnant people, and how fucking clueless they insist on being about the harsh realities of life.
Alison McCulloch has it exactly right: those opposed to extending paid parental leave are pretty much just meanies.
Another side of the argument which always gets me is a pretty simple one: who exactly do the naysayers expect will be funding their superannuation?
Go into any article on paid parental leave and there’ll be screeds of judgemental wankers sounding off about how “if you can’t afford to take unpaid time off your career with no guarantee of being able to retain your job YOU JUST SHOULDN’T HAVE CHILDREN!!!”
If we limit all childbearing to the families who can afford to live permanently on one income … well, all I’m saying is that I hope you douchebags are pro-the immigration which’ll be necessary to keep our population up.