Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Dropping the A-Bomb

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  • Emma Hart,

    I am aware that my last two columns have been No Fun. Next time, I promise we'll have some fun.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Kate Hannah,

    Thanks Emma. Absolutely spot on.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2010 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • Sue,

    sometimes to access an abortion you will fly on a plane with your 1 support person from your small city to the large metropolis of auckland in a plane filled with other women from the small city and surrounding rural areas also needing and abortion along with their 1 support person.

    sometimes you won’t have the physical and mental after effects explained and then weird things happen to your body after your abortion and you will be shit scared and feel like this is the universe punishing you so you just suck it in and cry.

    Sometimes you will grieve for that life for the rest of yours.

    Even with all that I've yet to know anyone who has seriously long term considered going back and reversing that decision to have an abortion. It's the one thing that has held true for all.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 527 posts Report Reply

  • Nigel McNie,

    I remember boggling when I found out that abortion was illegal in NZ, and that you had to get yourself declared mentally unfit for pregnancy to get one.

    A previous partner forgot to take the pill on two occasions. We had agreed, perhaps naively, that the pill was what we would rely on. On those two occasions, she had to take the emergency contraceptive pill, just in case. This was stressful, but I can't imagine how much worse it would have been for us if she'd have actually gotten pregnant. We didn't want a child, that's why we used the contraception. But we would have been faced with something akin to getting her declared mentally unwell (on top of the rest of the sorry process). She wasn't mentally unwell at all.

    Were we silly for just relying on the pill? Perhaps. Feel free to judge, if it makes you feel better. But it doesn't change the fact that we were two rational, sensible human beings, making a choice that was right for us - no children right now please. The abortion law as it stands doesn't allow us to make that choice without "society" effectively blaming us if an accident occurs.

    New Zealand • Since Oct 2012 • 15 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Sue,

    It's the one thing that has held true for all.

    Oh, Sue. I think that's one of the hardest things to say, that it sucked and it was awful, and we'd still do it over again.

    (We drove from the small town, and I was the support person, but going through all that in a strange place? Yeah.)

    Were we silly for just relying on the pill? Perhaps. Feel free to judge, if it makes you feel better.

    That ALRANZ link says 53% of women having abortions weren't using contraception. That means 47% were. Sometimes contraception fails. You don't have to be stupid to have an unplanned pregnancy.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • James W,

    Preventing unwanted pregnancies, and dealing with them once they’ve happened, are two quite separate things

    Man, can we display this as a disclaimer before every abortion debate? It seems to be entirely ignored. You can be against killing babies but for making abortion not as farcical and painful as it is now.

    Since Jul 2008 • 136 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones, in reply to James W,

    Can we be a bit careful of language here? Just about everyone is against killing babies; I'm sure you wouldn't want to imply that some of us are not. Embryos =/= babies.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to B Jones,

    Can we be a bit careful of language here?

    With the proviso that a woman who has had a pregnancy terminate for whatever reason, gets to refer to that pregnancy using whatever fucking language she wants.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • blindjackdog,

    The guy who now does The Civilian used to write these long-winded bits for the student rag at Canterbury, most of which seemed to be nothing more than protracted proofs of his mastery of the subordinate clause.

    But this one time he got all earnest and confronted the “A-bomb issue”, attempting an “objective analysis” of the debate. Yep, seriously.

    The question, he mused, stroking his writerly beard, came down to whether or not abortion did in fact consist in killing an unborn child.

    I’m working from memory here, so I may be slightly mis-recalling his argument, but that was the basic thrust.

    Certainly, what I took away from reading his insights was that it seemed a bit questionable to pose as “objective” when you’re uncritically adopting a term of the debate – “unborn child” – and employing it as a simple, value-less referent, as a mere tool of analysis (a scalpel for the dissection of the issues, if you like), despite the said term being in fact the invention, rallying cry and fantasy of one (particularly hysterical) side of the argument.

    Strangely, I was moved to write a letter to the editor outlining my concerns at such intellectual slobbery. Very strangely, the magazine never published my letter, but it did publish Mr Uffindel’s response to my letter, which I thought was unfair treatment indeed. (His response was to point out that I was wrong and to repeat his argument, thankfully in summarised form.)

    Years before, I’d also tried to put together a coherent extended piece on this topic (with no pretense at even-handedness), but never got it down properly or to my satisfaction. The keystone reflection in that putative discussion was, however, the enormous extent to which modern imaginings of the meaning of the fetus are influencing the terms of discussion and the possibilities for understanding it.

    Canvassed would have been the obscene over-use of ultra-sound, wherein a conflation of rowdy discourses has convinced so many that the image rendered by this technology – often the footprint of no more than a few cells growing on a woman’s body (just as a mole or tumour might grow) – represents in fact something akin to a human life. Such a wonderful leap of the imagination; such evidence of our capacity for sentimental extensions.

    The personifying language used by the medical staff (that I’ve witnessed) operating this technology is disgraceful. It sends an anti-abortionist message with every utterance.

    The meaning of any given fetus is the meaning attributed by the human being in closest proximity.

    ETA: A few posts got in before this, covering similar ground (though less space), so it now appears redundant. And maybe I should’ve said embryo, too, not fetus, but I’m not changing it…

    Since Nov 2007 • 40 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to B Jones,

    Just about everyone is against killing babies; I'm sure you wouldn't want to imply that some of us are not.

    That's actually an almost unrelated debate, and in the minds of many it is completely disjunct. Killing babies who might grow up to be terrorists, for example, is seen by some as positive. And right now we have New Zealand soldiers overseas doing things that are too terrible to be disclosed to the public.

    The context in NZ seems to be less "should we permit abortion" and more "how do we shift politicians away from cowering before SPUC and towards majority opinion". And frankly, I am happy to see The Greens moving onward and upward from same sex marriage to abortion. Given time I hope they will work through the whole list of frankly stupid legislation, but starting with these two egregiously harmful items does seem smart.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1198 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Nigel McNie,

    Were we silly for just relying on the pill?

    I'd say less silly than I was for relying on only a condom. We did actually get the abortion (this was in Oz, where it's legal). It was traumatic as hell even then, I can hardly imagine what it's like here.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • MikeB,

    First of all, its good, grand in fact, to see a blog post on this topic that hasn't yet had its response section filled with hatred and lies.

    Second, thank you for posting this. No matter what, this law MUST be changed. Kia kaha.

    Southland • Since Jun 2014 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Emma Hart,

    You don't have to be stupid to have an unplanned pregnancy.

    Word.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    It was traumatic as hell even then, I can hardly imagine what it’s like here.

    The people in the system are generally decent and caring, but it's still the wrong system.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    This is often a difficult topic for the disability community because of their concern that society/the medical profession etc has an entrenched view that termination is the only rational option when there is any diagnosis of an impairment. And I guess this becomes a bigger issue the earlier testing is available, and how strong is the neoliberal assumption of individual self-actualisation, rather than an acceptance that it is the responsibility of us all collectively to raise a diverse group of children.

    Many parents of disabled children such as those with Down Syndrome, feel strongly that making it any easier to get testing and a resulting termination will therefore be eugenic. So there is currently a grossly misrepresentative version of the Greens policy going around claiming this as an anti-disability policy, when the policy actually calls for better disability support.

    So as a long time pro-choicer, I would also like better public support of disabled children generally, and therefore better support and information for those women who find their foetus has an impairment - so they can make an informed choice for themselves about what to do.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3203 posts Report Reply

  • Helen Paterson, in reply to Emma Hart,

    It is really important we talk about contraception failure - the pill which is regularly chosen as an effective contraceptive has a failure rate of 8% per year that means 8% of women using the pill, thinking they are being responsible, will fall pregnant per year - not because they did anything wrong just because they (and the contraceptive they chose and were prescribed by a medical practioner) are not perfect.

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2014 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • leelee,

    Righton Hillary.
    The Greens policy actually provides for that better information and support for womnen who find their foetus has a potential disability.
    And thanks Emma for the brave post.

    Wellington • Since Mar 2014 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Emma Hart,

    With the proviso that a woman who has had a pregnancy terminate for whatever reason, gets to refer to that pregnancy using whatever fucking language she wants.

    Yes, I have never wanted kids, never wanted the huge responsibility. That's probably why I became a nanny. I never wanted to get pregnant . Have been three times. First time, I thought "what a fantastic lil' pill". Second time, the Family Planning Association (just love them) gave me all the info, lingo, and warnings of what was to come, starting at the front gates. I was prepared, that made things a lot easier.I walked past a bunch of protesters and told them all to piss off and mind their own business, to go home and concentrate on their own children and leave me to make my own decisions about my life. They sort of shut up. The next and last time was full of complications, and became one of my close to death experiences but I was pleased a guy I knew was visiting and noticed I looked white (being Mexican makes that strange, believe you me ,you can put your wallet away) Him and his mate bundled me into his car, drove back to where they had picked me up from 3 days earlier, told the first person they saw in no uncertain terms that I was going to be seen immediately,( I had lost a lot of blood). Needless to say I didn't go to work for a week, "think the term was retained product of abortion". So that one hurt, I cried and then got better and carried on. As you do, must.
    FWIW, The Family Planning Association are fantastic for anyone wanting help with termination. they are not just about having babies.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    their concern that society/the medical profession etc has an entrenched view that termination is the only rational option when there is any diagnosis of an impairment.

    Although this is not about termination, it is about a disabled woman giving birth. I remember Shelly was in that situation and I know one of the Specialists who actually pointed out to the review panel (all men but herself) that although Shelley had a few issues, she was completely able to give birth, when all the men on the panel at the Auck Hospital said that her disability required that she terminate. I haven't seen her for a long time, but they have made docos about her ,her man and their healthy child. She got quite famous. She was strong to say the least, in mind even if not physically

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    Oh, and not that it matters but it really helps having parents support. Somehow it gave me strength to know I could mention I had a hospital visit coming up.I am lucky that they always have said decisions about my life is my choice.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie, in reply to blindjackdog,

    Oh yeah I remember that issue of Canta. In fact, depressingly, I think I may have a copy of it somewhere. Canta was going through some weird issues at the time, I think there were some very poor editorial decisions made. It wasn't the only or the last time Uffindell revealed a striking tin ear for that kind of issue.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    I am lucky (and it truly is luck as much as anything else) not to have needed an abortion so far but I have supported several friends through deciding what to do with an unplanned pregnancy. I was horrified to discover that some doctors will outright lie to their patients , for example, telling them abortion is far more risky for them than carrying to term (because pregnancy complications, difficult births and post natal depression don't ever harm women obvs). I really hope that if the law changes it spells an end to GPs being able to be gatekeepers.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 719 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    This is often a difficult topic for the disability community because of their concern that society/the medical profession etc has an entrenched view that termination is the only rational option when there is any diagnosis of an impairment. And I guess this becomes a bigger issue the earlier testing is available, and how strong is the neoliberal assumption of individual self-actualisation, rather than an acceptance that it is the responsibility of us all collectively to raise a diverse group of children.

    Many parents of disabled children such as those with Down Syndrome, feel strongly that making it any easier to get testing and a resulting termination will therefore be eugenic.

    And I totally get and respect where that's coming from, but I've got to admit I've done a 180 degree turn over the last twenty years or so to being pro-abortion and actually taking "pro-choice" at face value; which means I get absolutely no auditing rights over any woman's decision whether or not to seek a termination. And we're got to keep women in the center of the frame here, not abstractions like "society" or "the medical profession".

    And, yes, let's have the conversation about better public support of children with disabilities and their parents/caregivers because someone bloody has to bother. But where I get terribly uncomfortable is having another go-around where where all women are entitled to control their own bodies (or at least not be treated like brood mares on a stud farm), but some are more entitled than others.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    You're in peril of mansplaining there, Craig. Hilary is a woman and she is firmly pro-choice. But this does have really difficult resonances for people with disabilities and their parents. You get into the territory of determining what lives are valid, which is a terrible place.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Te Ara has a good not-too-long history of abortion rights in New Zealand.

    I'm sure I'm not alone in mistakenly remembering the 1977 Abortion, Contraception and Sterilisation Act as a victory, when in fact it actually made abortion more difficult to access. But its almighty fudge did seem to draw a line under what had often been an pleasant public debate.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

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