Writing a column about abortion for Mother’s Day was not the plan.
Then some prankster with access to the US Supreme Court went and leaked its draft decision to overturn the historic 1973 Roe v Wade decision — which has enshrined abortion rights in the US — and, well, here we are.
Counterintuitive as it may sound, motherhood and the right to a safe and legal abortion are intertwined because abortions allow women to be mothers — good ones, the sort of mothers who want their kid and have the capacity to raise it.
Safe and legal abortions let a mother with two kids who cannot afford a third, be it financially or mentally, to be a mother to those two kids.
They allow a child who gets pregnant at 13 and wants a baby, but not as an early teen, to be a mother — one day.
They allow a woman who might desperately want a baby but whose life is threatened by an ectopic pregnancy to have a chance at being a mother — a living one.
Of course, just as importantly, an abortion allows a woman who doesn’t want to be a mother to say “no, thanks”, and that’s just as important because what good can possibly come of forcing a mother to have a child she doesn’t want? Or, forcing her to have an illegal and unsafe abortion that might kill her?
Horrifying though the prospect is that Roe vs Wade might wind up in the trash alongside the US’ claim to be a bastion of women’s rights, the verdict won’t have any legal implications for WA.
Even all the way over here in Australia we can feel the aftershocks from this seismic event.
It’s a reminder that there will always be people who don’t think a woman’s body belongs to herself. People who think that motherhood — which is brilliant, by the way, I probably should mention that today of all days — is a state that can be forced upon us, not something we get to choose.
It’s a reminder that some of those people are closer to home and closer to power than we might like to think.
People like Australia’s assistant minister for women, Amanda Stoker, who recently spoke at an anti-abortion rally. It’s a free country and she’s entitled to do so, as Prime Minister Scott Morrison pointed out, but, gosh, what an interesting choice she is for assistant minister for women.
Or Victorian MP Bernie Finn, who said this week he was “praying” for Victoria to follow the US lead on banning abortion rights.
Most of the time we get to ignore these fringe views and convince ourselves that abortion is a legal right.
Then something like a draft US Supreme Court decision comes along and we feel the ground underneath us shake and realise it’s not quite so stable as we’d been led to belief.
It’s a reminder that women’s bodies can still be seen as public property and that the life of a theoretical child — or a cluster or cells, depending on your view about when life begins — can be rated more highly than our own.
It’s a reminder that the progress of women’s rights is not always forward, that it is entirely possible for a girl in 2022 to have fewer rights over her body than her mother did.
If anti-abortionists truly care about women and babies, why aren’t they out there campaigning (or praying) for free birth control, free IVF and better sex education than whatever the hell it was that happened in my Year 6 classroom?
If they care about saving lives, why is there a dream to reduce women to seeking illegal and dangerous abortions? Poor women, that is. Rich women, with the resources to seek out a safe termination elsewhere, will be fine.
Motherhood is great. Il, 10/10 would recommend to a friend.
But it can also be hard and boring and expensive and life-defining and career-limiting and in no way should it be mandatory.
Happy Mother’s Day.