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!
So, Right to Own You Life has objected to ALRANZ’s criticism of the latest attack against healthcare providers in New Zealand, because, as I’ve literally never mentioned before, there is absolutely no connection between the antichoice movement and violence.
But ignoring those pesky little facts, I want to demonstrate today just how much they are taking the piss, by referring to RTL’s own defensive little media release on the topic.
In just one text, RTL:
- Refers to the Auckland Medical Aid Centre as “a private killing centre“
- Tries to excuse the recent attack as an act of “frustration” (gee, where have we heard that before?)
- Says abortion is “inflicted” on women (and ordinarily I’d correct that to “pregnant people”, but bear with me)
- States ALRANZ is using the attack to “distract attention away from … very real violence“
Why should the community value and support those who in violation of their medical ethics inflict violence against helpless women and a violent death to their precious unborn?
- Says doctors and nurses working at AMAC have “the blood of the innocent on their hands” and are “involved with the killing of the innocent”
… all while claiming they “deplore” the attack and simply cannot fathom how anyone could possibly be inspired to acts of violence by their rhetoric.
The antichoice movement specialises in hitting cultural buttons like “women need to be protected” and “everyone loves babies”. They consistently dehumanize medical professionals as evil, lying, immoral people bent on “killing the innocent” for shits and giggles. They try to make you sympathize with someone who has cut the fuel line of a nurse’s car by saying maybe he just felt like he had no choice.
Given the propositions:
- Human life is the most sacred thing ever
- People who perform/have abortions aren’t really human at all
They really want to act surprised when someone reaches the conclusion, “It’s not really a crime to hurt abortion providers” or indeed “It’s morally good to hurt abortion providers”?
Pull the other one, Ken.
Abortion services are now available to the people of Invercargill, despite the moralising bullshit of old white men like Dr Norm Maclean who pretend to care about women but really only care about the women (and other pregnant people) who make the choices Dr Maclean wants them to make.
How are the antis going to combat this? By intimidating healthcare workers. By bullying and threatening to “out” people who are providing necessary medical care to people.
Oh, sorry, I mean “naming and shaming”. Sounds so much more righteous than “threatening to publish people’s name and personal details because they’re performing a [somewhat] legal medical procedure”.
But hey, they’re on the side of good. They know “if you’re pregnant you have a right to know if your midwife performs abortions as well” – so says Father Vaughan Leslie, who has a surprising amount of insight into how pregnant people feel.
I guess Father Leslie just doesn’t know that 55% of people who have abortions already have at least one child. So it would probably actually be super-helpful for them to know they could receive care from a medical practitioner who they’ve got a pre-existing relationship with. But somehow I don’t think that’s his actual motivation.
(I’m also unclear as to whether or not midwives can even perform medical or surgical abortions in the first place. I don’t think it’s safe to assume an antichoicer is going to be accurate on pretty much anything.)
Here’s the main point, summarised most excellently by Dr Morgan Healey:
Abortion Law Reform Association NZ president Morgan Healey said protesters who labelled women baby-killers were causing more emotional damage than the actual abortion. “It completely misses the whole concept of caring for women.”
Remember, antichoicers are meant to be the really compassionate ones, the ones on the side of morality and justice. And yet they will happily endanger the health and wellbeing of pregnant women, they will harass and abuse them as they go to see their doctor, and directly threaten the safety of medical practitioners, because some people are making choices they don’t like.
Let’s be really fucking honest about where this kind of thinking leads, people.
Dr. George Tiller, whose Kansas women’s clinic frequently took center stage in the U.S. debate over abortion, was shot and killed while serving as an usher at his Wichita church Sunday morning, police said.
Dr Tiller had previously survived a shooting in 1993; his clinic was bombed in 1985.
A suspect has been arrested
“Pro-lifers” have been quick to say that this is horrible and honest, they totes just want to use peaceful and legal methods to take away women’s reproductive rights. But you don’t get to label people as murderers, compare their actions to those of the Nazis, wind people up with bullshit images of Butchered Innocent Widdle Baybeeeeeees, and constantly invoke the wrath and judgement of God and then act like this isn’t going to affect people’s views and actions. You don’t get to all-but-say “this guy deserves the death penalty” and then act all quelle surprise when one of YOUR GUYS decides to take matters into his own hands.
Mike Hendricks at kansascity.com puts it well:
And if we’re right about [the motive for Dr Tiller’s murder], then we know the identities of his accomplices.
They include everyone who has ever called Tiller’s late-term abortion clinic a murder mill.
Whoever called Tiller “Tiller the Killer.”
Groups that fomented hate toward a man who, rightly or wrongly, believed he was serving a noble purpose by being one of the few doctors in the country who performed late-term abortions.
Hate. Not heated opposition. Not strong disagreement.
But blind hatred.
The kind of hate that would prompt some maniac to take a gun into a church and shoot a man to death in front of friends and family.
And that kind of hate sure ain’t pro-life.