I have a guilty secret pertaining to abortion. Not that I’ve had a termination myself; I have a far worse confession to make. In those long-ago days when we paraded our objections on the streets instead of Twitter, my first ever protest march was against abortion. In my defence, I was a brainwashed Catholic teenager and I’ve been doing whatever I can to atone for that sin ever since.
Both issues are linked tangentially to my novel (South Africa being one of the narrator’s travel destinations) and, on the first official day of GDPR chaos and confusion, it’s great to mark something inspiring on Annecdotal. I’m hoping a YES vote for Ireland will shame the UK government into ensuring equal reproductive rights for British citizens with the misfortune to live in the north of that island.
Like many reformed characters, my views on abortion have shifted to the opposite extreme. While I appreciate the ethical issues around late terminations, and I’m happy for the experts to determine the exact point at which a foetus becomes an unborn baby, I believe decisions on early abortion should be completely the woman’s choice. No faffing about convincing two doctors that giving birth would be physically or psychologically harmful; treat the woman as a grown-up who knows what’s right for her. (Although nothing wrong with unbiased counselling to help her make up her mind.)
While abortion rights matter for gender equality, they also contribute to the well-being of the child that results if the option is denied. The fact that many women make a good adjustment to unplanned pregnancy doesn’t mean that all will, especially when the element of choice is removed. A reluctant, resentful or depressed mother might be unable to respond to her baby in the way it needs in order to thrive.
Steve, my novel’s antihero, had a lonely childhood on account of his mother’s depression, although I imagine he’d have been a wanted baby had his father not died before he was born. These family dynamics have made him reluctant to have children so it’s a relief when meets a woman who feels the same way (p20):
So many of the women I’d met lately had been more interested in the viability of my sperm than our having fun together.
On their very first meeting, Liesel tells him she’s having an abortion; as the author – and a people pleaser – I was concerned some readers might be alienated by her openness and absence of shame. (While none of the reviews referred to this explicitly, some readers judged her to be a much more unpleasant character – not necessarily in a bad way – than I did.) But as a reformed protester against abortion, I’m pleased to play this extremely small part in normalising the procedure.
Of course, fiction should leave the reader to make up their own mind, and I hope I’d have written Liesel in the same way even if I were strongly opposed to her views. Although I enjoy making my characters voice opinions contradictory to my own, if you write about what interests you – and who doesn’t? – there’s a risk of coming over as preachy about issues you hold dear. But if it’s a choice between that and banality, I’ll take that risk.
As usual, I’ve overdone the links but, if you have any remaining curiosity about my second novel, you can follow this one to other stories underneath.
At the time of writing, perhaps on account of GDPR chaos, the comment function isn’t working on Weebly blogs. That might be no bad thing, given the vitriol opinion pieces on abortion can attract. But I’m expecting the bug to be fixed soon and, when it is, I will leave the comments open unless I come under attack. Since Weebly also isn’t yet displaying the cookies opt-in banner, I refer you to my new privacy statement instead. (I’ve decided to go for the plain-language version rather than confusing myself with legalese, but please let me know if you think I’ve missed anything important.)
Update 2 June
Yay, my site is back on track with comments open and cookie warnings in place. But that’s not what’s brought me back to this post. A week on, I’m still tearing up at what Ireland achieved. So, despite having already posted one response to this week’s flash fiction prompt, I’ve been moved to compose another:
They fought in lipstick and five-inch heels; they fought in turf-stained jeans and wellies. They battled home via Stena Sealink and Ryanair for the desperate travelling in the opposite direction. They fought so no more Savitas would have to die because no surgeon would defy the law to save them. They fought with the ballot won a century before when women starved for basic freedoms. The warrior women of Ireland reclaimed the choice misogyny and church denied them. But the job’s not done until their sisters in the north can also decline to harbour an alien in their bodies.