My right to an abortion without shame

I know I have previous when it comes to abortion, but I couldn’t let this go. Zoe Williams writes a column on breaking the taboo around abortion, and I was shocked at some of the responses (why, I don’t know, it’s about par for the course). So, in case there is anyone out there reading this, who does think like some of those commenters that if a woman is "stupid" enough to get pregnant, she should live in shame as "irresponsible" and keep quiet, here’s Contraception for Idiots: Failure Rates.

Based on ‘perfect use‘ (never miss a pill, never get a bit of semen on the outside of the condom etc)…

  • Using implants, up to 11 women in every 1,000 are likely to become pregnant
  • Using the combined pill, up to 3 women in every 1,000 are likely to become pregnant
  • Using the mini-pill, up to 50 women in every 1,000 are likely to become pregnant
  • Using male condoms, up to 150 women in every 1,000 are likely to become pregnant

Based on ‘typical use‘, ie, what actually happens…

  • Using implants or contraceptive injections, up to 40 women in every 1,000 are likely to become pregnant
  • Using oral contraceptives, up to 90 women in every 1,000 are likely to become pregnant (this falls significantly when restricted to just the combined pill; however, many women, myself included, cannot take it)
  • Using male condoms, up to 150 women in every 1,000 are likely to become pregnant

(Edited to add: these figures are per year.)

Are these women irresponsible? Are they the only ones there at the moment of conception? Or is the implication buried beneath all these comments about ‘shame’ that women should feel guilty about having sex full stop? We all know about the "stud/whore" double standard, why does it always seem to get trotted out at moments like this? Why can there not be a debate about abortion that doesn’t, at some point, end up with people dishing out judgements on women they’ve never met and have no idea of the circumstances surrounding the abortion? Or has the Daily Mail permeated our lives so thoroughly that a certain portion of the population can’t hear "abortion" without thinking "mini skirted drunken slapper"?

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6 responses to “My right to an abortion without shame

  1. kate July 6, 2006 at 10:54 pm

    agree with your post, but, an addendum – my right to an abortion has absolutely nothing to do with whether i am a mini skirted drunken slapper, or not. it has nothing to do with who i’ve slept with, how many times, where, or what i was wearing.
    nor does it have anything to do with my sexual peccadilloes, upbringing, or choice of friends.
    in fact, my right to an abortion is an absolute. my body, my choice, that simple.

  2. Rachel July 6, 2006 at 11:11 pm

    Oh absolutely; abortion isn’t something one ‘deserves’. It would just be nice to hear the diversity of circumstance acknowledged every now and again *sigh*

  3. Will July 6, 2006 at 11:17 pm

    Abortion is something everyone should be entitled to, should they feel that they need it. But I think it’s dangerous to class it as just another form of birth control. If you have any understanding of how it makes people feel first hand, then you’ll realise that it does need to be seen as the last resort.
    Why aren’t pills or macs effective 100% of the time? What’s the point if they’re not?

  4. Rachel July 6, 2006 at 11:38 pm

    Fucking hell, shouldn’t everyone be in bed?
    Does anyone really consider abortion a form of birth control? Sure, there’s always people who get drunk and aren’t on the pill, but at the same time we should be saying “dude, where was your condom?” Even early chemical abortion isn’t simple or without complication – which is why it would be useful if abortion could be discussed without someone somewhere resorting to “slapper! baby murderer!”
    But again, everyone’s different. Some women will feel ashamed naturally, and don’t need to have it cast up to them in public. Several women posting on the Guardian say they felt overwhelmingly relieved. Your own feelings towards abortion will shape your reaction.
    Why doesn’t contraception always work? Not every woman’s hormone level is the same all the time, or the same as the next woman on the same brand and strength; accidents happen (condoms split/a little bit of ejaculate gets on a finger or the outside of the condom/a pill is forgotton/you’re caught away from home without it 24-48 hours after having sex/other medication interacts and negates the effects). Nothing provides 100% protection, it’s written on all the packaging! Every time you have sex during a woman’s fertile period, there’s always a chance – however tiny (the combined pill is the safest method and only has an official failure rate of 0.2-0.3%, but that still equates to 2 or 3 women in every thousand every year, and that’s using it without anything fucking up. Quite literally). Example: a few years ago I found myself having excruciating pain in my abdomen around the time of what should have been my ovulation, but I was on the pill (so there should be no ovulation). Took the doctors four months to figure out what it was – I’d ‘outgrown’ the current strength of pill and my ovaries were straining to ovulate instead of remaining dormant. Shit happens. That’s why there needs to be a back-up plan…

  5. Amy July 7, 2006 at 11:57 pm

    “If you have any understanding of how it makes people feel first hand, then you’ll realise that it does need to be seen as the last resort.”
    Well, yes, no one really shags about thinking “Oh if i get pregnant I will just abort. HOWEVER having had a close personal friend go through it, despite being indoctrinate by the likes of Eastenders etc to think that “oh my god, she’l never get over this”, actually, if you abort early enough then it is just cells. Which may never get past that vital 3 month stage anyway. And actually, what is a period, but for the expelling of an un-used ovum, i.e potential person, if you want to look at it in those terms. Every sperm is sacred, and all that. Do you have any experience of periods at first hand Will?
    “Why aren’t pills or macs effective 100% of the time? What’s the point if they’re not?”
    Um, the point is that statistically you improve your chances. If you are a bloke Will, can you with a clear conscience say that you always use a rubber? If you do, are you aware they are only 90% effective? If it fails, whose fault is that? Do you share blame 5% each, male and female? The fact that things like eating grapefruit, drinking pineapple juice, and taking antibiotics can hinder your ability to absorb the hormones you are artifically pumping yourself full of via the pill to avoid pregnancy really aint that widely publicised, but tis true, such things happen. Indeed as a better person than myself once said “shit happens, deal with it.”

  6. Rachel July 8, 2006 at 11:10 am

    Now, I did not know about high acidity foods (is that what it is?). Another reason why pills can not work as well as they should, is that often doctors aren’t as rigorous in deciding the best type for their patient – I’ve yet to find a female friend of mine who hasn’t had an experience of a doctor sticking them on something inappropriate and/or leaving them on a type for longer than the recommended time. For something so important, some doctors show a shockingly cavalier attitude.

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