In the Blog

Why I’m not just pro-choice

October 10th, 2007     by Zoe Cormier     Comments

Ah, statistics. There was no course I hated more at university. And yet, sometimes, if you want to make a point, all you need is some good, clear numbers.


Number of countries that ban abortion (except in cases of rape/incest/life of the mother is threatened): 69

Percentage of the world’s population that live in those countries: 26

Percentage of the world’s population that live in countries that restrict abortion in some way: over 60

Fun, huh?

Let’s all take a moment to be glad for Canada’s liberal attitude towards abortion. There are no questions asked, and it’s free (except if you are unfortunate enough to live in pockets of this country where access is difficult/nonexistent, such as New Brunswick).

If you live in the US you have to pay - and it is not easy to secure in many states.

If you live in the UK you require the written approval of TWO doctors.

If you live in New Zealand, believe it or not, you are only able to get one if you can prove it will protect your “mental health,” such as in cases of rape, or if your economic circumstances are too dire.

But if you live in any of those 69 countries, you probably won’t be able to get one without flying discreetly away (certainly impossible for the vast, vast majority of the world’s women).

And if you are unlucky enough to live in one of the world’s three countries that will not even allow you an abortion if your life is threatened - Nicaragua, Chile and El Salvador - well, then you’re S.O.L.

Click here for a truly gut-wrenching piece from The Guardian about the sorry state of women in Nicaragua, where women are forced into back-alleys if they wish to terminate. Even worse, women are dying from ectopic pregnancies, which are legal to remove, but in “the climate of fear and confusion the protocols are widely ignored and misunderstood.” Advocacy groups say at least 82 women have died since the blanket ban was brought in.

Moreover, writes the author: “It is a grim irony that this is happening under a Sandanista government - a movement whose ranks once included advocates for feminism and abortion rights.”


It’s also pretty depressing when you see an influential and important feminist like Naomi Wolf write “the abortion-rights movement [must be] willing publicly to mourn the evil - necessary evil though it might be - that is abortion.” (This was back in 1995 in The New Republic and is not posted online, but this quote is very widely cited.)

No thanks. I am pro-choice and I’m not mourning anything.

And you know what? I am going to put my cards right on the table:

I am not just pro-choice. I am pro-abortion.

Access to free and safe abortions is good for women. It is good for us to be able to choose when we are best able to have children (if at all). And it is good for society to have more empowered, working women, and to be burdened with fewer emotionally and economically disadvantaged children. And ultimately it is better for the planet to have less people trying to live off its already strained resources.

Nobody knows what the right choice is except for the woman carrying the pregnancy. And since statistics generally say that about one in three women in western countries will have an abortion at some point, I’d say most of them agree with me - though many are unwilling to say so.

Unfortunately, if you live State-side, the need for women to speak up is becoming more and more urgent, what with the recent ban on partial birth abortion. It has long been a Republican dream to overturn Roe V Wade, and if they get enough conservative judges in the Supreme Court, they very well may. Click here for a piece in Observer Woman about the roll-back of reproductive rights in the US, and musings on how the same could happen in the UK - where already “pro-life” groups are pushing to lower the time limit for abortions from 24 to 13.

One activist quoted in the piece, believes “an attack on late abortion is an attack on all abortion. ‘Know your enemy,’ she says. ‘The pro-lifers have spotted the weak link - the moderates who think abortion up to 12 weeks is OK. Everybody has to wake up and understand that in this country we don’t want the kind of culture wars they have had in the US. Don’t imagine it won’t happen. The anti groups will try to do it, by whatever means necessary.’”

We can only hope the same does not threaten Canada. I don’t imagine it will - but you never know.

In the meantime, all of us who treasure our right to choose shouldn’t be afraid to be thankful for it and defend it. Like all good things in life, it should not be taken for granted - or else we’ll lose it.

Tags: body politics, in my opinion...

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