Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Dropping the A-Bomb

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  • Russell Brown, in reply to Sacha,

    We could do a post..

    Ironically, Chelle was working on a post around these issues for Access, but hasn't been well enough to finish it.

    That might have been a more comfortable place for this discussion, but we're having it here, so if everyone can carry on being civil I think we'll manage.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to blindjackdog,

    (There’s so much talk about “choice” around here, it sounds more like a neoliberal think-tank than a supposedly left-leaning blog.

    Haven’t simplistic, positivist notions of choice been given the old heave-ho by, oh, I don’t know, a moment or two of critical reflection?)

    OK, let’s do some criticial reflection here. I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday, and just as an experiment I asked my GP about getting a vasectomy – which, if I wasn’t already sterile would affect “what the species should look like”. You know what didn’t happen? My doctor (who happens to be a woman, FWIW) didn’t try to impose her religious/ethical views on me. I didn’t have to convince her I was mentally ill. I live in a society where I have the enormous dick privilege of not being socialized to the same degree as #yesALLfuckingwomen to view myself as something broken and worthless if I don’t (or can’t) bear children. And I have the even greater social privilege of being a fairly articulate, well-educated person living in a city with the ability and confidence to argue with health professionals and access information and networks where I can find medical advice where my autonomy and personhood are respected.

    It’s easy to be brave with other people’s lives, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to look any woman in the eye and pull that shit on her. Not again. That's the great and brave thing Emma has done here -- written a reality check that abortion law affects women making brutally hard choices about their lives. They're not running thought experiments in a seminar room, and they're not tabs in a policy paper.

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

  • Hilary Stace,

    I'm going to make a sweeping assumption and say that I doubt that most of the sex-selection abortions (in which male babies are overwhelmingly favoured) are the free and autonomous choice of the mother.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3203 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    Agreed. You change the environment that shapes those choices; you don't pile further restrictions on.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg,

    In 1985 my girlfriend got pregnant because of us being young and not very experienced at this whole sex thing. We were both 17 and I don’t think having a baby was even considered. Since we were both at the same high-school, we went to see the school nurse who wrote her a referral to the women’s clinic at the local hospital. The following week we went there and she had the abortion.

    From an individual woman’s point of view, I don’t see why it needs to be more complicated that that. I’ve not had much reason to reflect over abortions on a personal level since then. However, now my daughter is a bit older than my girlfriend was back then and if she were to want an abortion I’d like it to be as easy for her here in 2014 as it was for my girlfriend in Sweden 30 years ago.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 802 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to blindjackdog,

    It’s pretty astonishing that you simply assume that there’s a self-evident hierarchy of interests here, coming down on the side of the individual woman. Doesn’t that make you reflect on the levels of your own acculturation, even a little bit?

    Here's what I think is pretty astonishing: that this is the approach you've taken in responding to my post. Do you think this is a winning strategy? Informing women who are trying to assert their own bodily autonomy that their choices are probably a corrupt product of neo-liberal false consciousness? (Hint: it's not.)

    Choice and free will are corrupted by social structures and circumstance. No one would deny that. But you improve the likelihood of informed and uncorrupted choice by improving those social structures, not by wittering on about how if ladies would only think about their *responsibilities* to the *species*, they'd totally be up for diversifying it.

    Fun factoid: 15 percent of women carrying a foetus to term have potentially life-threatening complications. I'm one of them: I nearly died twice to have my two children. Doesn't that make the hierarchy of interests *terribly* self-evident? Terribly immediate? Doesn't it make the question of whether any individual woman is appropriately questioning her own level of acculturation rather... insulting?

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Michie,

    15 percent of women carrying a foetus to term have potentially life-threatening complications.

    This. And perinatal-related death. It shouldn't be illegal to decide not to risk these outcomes.

    Auckward • Since Nov 2006 • 614 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Sacha,

    I found working on Down screening policy really challenging and complex

    I know a woman who's doing her PhD on that.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    The last person to call me a neo-liberal - Gail Dines - has publicly stated that she's okay with some women being "thrown under the bus" for the Greater Good. Sex workers, trans women, kinky women, etc. I am absolutely not okay with that. You can call me a libertarian for that, but you might want to check that some of these big words mean what you think they mean first.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Tim Michie,

    And with antibiotics losing their efficacy and no new ones on the horizon - child birth, abortion and miscarriage could once again be very dangerous.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3203 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Danielle,

    Doesn’t it make the question of whether any individual woman is appropriately questioning her own level of acculturation rather… insulting?

    I mostly agree with you, but blindjackdog seemed to be more taking exception to the question of whether choice should extend as far as making particular choices about the nature of the child - disabled or not, boy or girl etc.

    I think this question muddies the water somewhat and should be treated separately. We could think abortion is OK, while thinking abortion to avoid a Downs child isn't. I personally don't think that, but the comments blindjackdog is making are in that context.

    I'd agree the point could have been made in a way that seems less offensive, but this is a debate in which offense is pretty common at every step. There is a case to answer about why making a choice not to have a particular kind of child should be allowed. But equally there's a case to answer about why it shouldn't. I'd like to hear both cases. Hilary seems to have feelings about that which are hard to express.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    I found working on Down screening policy really challenging and complex

    I know a woman who’s doing her PhD on that.

    She certainly hasn't picked the easy path, then.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    do put her in touch. I may be able to add things others can't.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    I’d agree the point could have been made in a way that seems less offensive, but this is a debate in which offense is pretty common at every step. There is a case to answer about why making a choice not to have a particular kind of child should be allowed. But equally there’s a case to answer about why it shouldn’t. I’d like to hear both cases. Hilary seems to have feelings about that which are hard to express.

    There are personal, family elements of this I simply don’t feel able discuss here. It’s perilous territory. I would ask everyone on whatever “side” to show restraint and respect, please.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    I’d agree the point could have been made in a way that seems less offensive

    I think anyone who has the brass neck to tell a woman she needs to "reflect" on her insufficiently "profound" (for want of a better word) argument for being pro-choice is... probably going to come up against some resistance. Shall we say.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    Word.

    There's a long and messy history of women's bodily autonomy being considered less important than some greater good. Once upon a time that greater good was racial hygiene. It was a rubbish tool for achieving eugenics, and it's a rubbish tool for dismantling eugenics as well.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    To throw a counterfactual out there: do the issues raised about disability apply equally to abortion as they do to interventions like folic acid supplements that reduce neural tube problems without terminating pregnancies? If so, it's about how we feel about disability in society; if not, then it's more about how we feel about abortion.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to B Jones,

    There is some very strong opposition in some segments of the disability community to compulsory folic acid supplementation, eg in bread, as it can be interpreted as being eugenic to (growing new) people with neural tube impairments. There is also some opposition to it on racial grounds as it assumes that poor brown people don't know about good health care. However, the public health argument is that it is cheap and efficient.

    Nothing is straightforward.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3203 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    Another public health argument is that interventions should even out inequalities rather than entrench them.

    Education campaigns imply knowledge gaps; universal provision implies access gaps. See fluoride.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    Hilary seems to have feelings about that which are hard to express.

    She is not the only person. The thoughts and emotions around these issues are not easy. And that's made even harder in the written word where tone of voice and the nod of the head are lost.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    There is some very strong opposition in some segments of the disability community to compulsory folic acid supplementation, eg in bread, as it can be interpreted as being eugenic to (growing new) people with neural tube impairments.

    Surely nobody actually thinks we should intentionally cause disability (either by action, or through inaction, as is the case with folic acid)?

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    There are some troubling destinations down that particular road of logic, that's for sure.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    PS I have a disability. I don't think it makes my life not worth living, but if there were some way it could have been avoided?

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    I personally believe abortion in general should not be illegal, and nor should women be forced into being unwilling incubators.

    Last evidence I saw said over 90% of Down syndrome diagnoses result in an abortion.

    Despite some improvements, the information available to parents making that difficult decision still does not include people with Down syndrome and their families talking about what the experience has actully been like – just doctors trotting out the clinical fears they learned in med school and making all sorts of assumptions about what that means well beyond their scope of expertise.

    Making and distributing some carefully-produced videos and information resources is just too hard for the Ministry, it seems. Or the cost can’t be ‘justified’ which says more about what they and their masters value. I’m done being polite about this.

    do the issues raised about disability apply equally to abortion as they do to interventions like folic acid supplements that reduce neural tube problems without terminating pregnancies? If so, it’s about how we feel about disability in society; if not, then it’s more about how we feel about abortion.

    Beyond the differences in life experience, it might be interesting to compare responses if you asked people with neural tube defects and people with Down syndrome whether they would miss seeing other people like them in society.

    Belonging is an important part of being human. Societies have always found different ways over time to balance individual autonomy with the interests of the group. Some of the cultures that make up New Zealand have more collectively-oriented decisionmaking than others.

    Nothing is straightforward.

    Verily.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Lilith __,

    There are some great ethical minefields about using the food supply to fix what we don't like.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

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