Well this is a little heavy for Drunken Science, but fuck it – this is what’s making me drink tonight. I guess it’s been going on for some time, but it’s only graphs like this that bring it home:
Holy shit. According to the Guttmacher Institute, in the first six months of 2011, 19 states enacted 80 restrictions on abortion. Some of these are based on such bullshit reasons with no basis in science – the medical consensus is that the foetus is incapable of feeling pain prior to 24 weeks gestation, so laws using foetal pain as the crux of their arguments are flawed.
Ohio’s plan to ban abortion after the point at which foetal heartbeat is detected is almost as restrictive as banning abortion altogether. I’m not an embryologist, but I know that’s a tight window: according to the Mayo Clinic, the heart may be pumping blood from the sixth week of pregnancy (the fourth week since conception). The earliest a woman normally finds out she is pregnant is two weeks after conception (I know, some of these super early test kits can do it earlier than that). So that’s two weeks to make a decision, get funds and find an abortion provider. Fuck a duck, that’s not long.
It’s only marginally better the other side of the Atlantic. It’s a little easier to summarise because this shit is all being done nationally rather than at a state or county level. Nadine Dorries, Bedfordshire’s answer to Michelle Bachman (why are there so many anti-woman women?), is tabling amendments to restrict abortions, including the demand that women receive counselling from “independent” organisations (and you just know the UK branches of the CPC are lining up to provide that counselling), and that the RCOG (you know, the dudes I quoted on foetal pain) are removed from their position of authority on abortion guidance, because hey, all gynaecologists live for killing babies and so how could they possibly be unbiased?!
Add in to that her repeated attempts to lower the abortion limit (and don’t even get me started on her plans for abstinence-only sex education just for girls), and a survey carried out by the Department of Health saying 25% of medical students would not perform an abortion for failed contraception, and Britain is becoming a scary place to be a fertile woman.
This bothers me so much in part because I am one of the 33% of women who has had an abortion. And I’m sorry to say my experience is likely to be less and less common if these laws are passed and if fewer doctors learn how to perform abortions. I probably had the best possible abortion ever. I found I was pregnant on a Friday night. The following Monday I was able to see my doctor and be referred to a clinic. I had an appointment and ultrasound on the Tuesday (the ultrasound was purely for them to determine gestational age, and I was never told I had to see it, although there was very little to see), and I went back the following Friday and Saturday for the two stages of the medical abortion procedure. I had counselling – I was given as much information on continuing with the pregnancy as terminating it, and at every stage I was asked if I was still sure I wanted to go through the abortion. My clinic was two miles from my house, and it did not cost me a penny. I was damn lucky.
I’m most disappointed at the medical students. I teach a lot of students who go on to study medicine, and I am so sad that 20% of them would not perform an abortion on a child who had been raped. I had my own reasons for not wishing to continue with the pregnancy. So does every woman who seeks an abortion. It is a legal procedure, and sometimes a life-saving one. Hell, the 1967 Abortion Act in the UK was brought in as a response to the sheer number of women dying from backstreet abortions.
Women are being squeezed – the access restrictions being placed on abortions put a delay on women having the procedures, by adding in extra counselling requirements, demanding ultrasounds and allowing more and more doctors to opt out of performing abortions (and you can bet an awful lot of them will not fulfill their requirement to refer women to doctors who will perform abortions). And further restrictions lower the limit at which abortions can be performed, making the window narrower still. Presumably the aim is that the upper and lower limits eventually meet, and women and girls are again forced to endure unwanted pregnancies against their wills. But hell, I guess if you’re a child and you don’t want to be pregnant, then you shouldn’t go and get yourself raped.