Thursday, March 15, 2012

This is not the post I planned for today

I was going to post the second of my two recipes tested from the Coeliac Australia cookbook today (parmesan, tomato and tuna risotto cake). I was going to write about cooking gluten free meals the whole family would eat. That's what's on my blog plan for this month, and in fact the post is already 3/4 written, sitting in draft, waiting to be completed and published.

It just seems that this post - fun, and useful (hopefully) as it will be - is not the post that needs to be written today.

Not when, like the rest of the world, I'm in shock over this. (16 dead Afghani people, most of them children, killed senseleslly in their homes. Unthinkable, yet, naturally, I lay awake last night thinking of it, imagining the terror and horror of it).

Or trembling with rage about this. Prosecution of women who suffer miscarriages? REALLY? The Handmaid's Tale is just around the corner; fiction and fact are about to collide, and I am still struggling to believe the depth and power of this anti-woman, anti-choice backlash. We do not live in progressive times.

Or incredulous about this. In Arizona, new legislation is on its way through the legislature that may allow doctors to not inform women of health problems affecting them or their babies while they are pregnant, IN CASE this might lead the woman to opt for termination. Women - infantilised, disempowered, child-bearing robots - are not, under this model, capable of being trusted with information about their own bodies - their own lives, for cripes' sake. As one commenter on that article put it, in Arizona, foetuses will now have more legal rights than BORN, ADULT WOMEN.

What I want to say is this -

Respecting life is a core and indivisible part of being an ethical human being, or an ethical society.

Respecting life does not mean that no lives - or lives-in-potential - can ever be ethically ended.

Respecting life means respecting the bodily autonomy of all people and their right to determine, insofar as disease and the rubs of life allow them to, what happens to their own bodies.

It does not mean that abortion is "good" or "desirable." It does not mean that I would choose it for myself (probably - but then I am lucky to have never been in the position where such a choice might become necessary).

It does mean that I respect the personhood - the full humanity - of women enough to say that "this is a choice that must be left to the individual to make, weighing all the circumstances and with all the relevant information."


Because women are human. They are not brood mares or robots. As human beings, they have the right not to have their lives determined by an ethos or philosophy they may not subscribe to, but is, in any case, external to themselves.

Because women matter. Their safety matters, their health (mental as well as physical) matters, their prospects for life matter. The putative desirability of an embryo potentially developing into a human being does not mean that women matter less, or magically vanish from the equation, because they are pregnant.

Because I do not want to live in a society that officiously controls the private lives, and intrudes with horrific legal penalties on the private griefs, of its citizens.

Because although I have never been touched by the need for reproductive intervention in either direction, precedents like this are awfully hard to control, and things that do directly affect people like me - health issues or autonomy issues that touch all women - may be next. (Martin Niemoller's famous words spring to mind).

Yes, it's Arizona, not Melbourne, Australia. Yes, the political climate here is very different, and it's hard to imagine these measures ever having legs in my country.

But that doesn't mean I should say nothing. That doesn't mean it's all OK, because it's not in my backyard.

Because one day it may be. And even if not, it's still not right, and women will suffer for it.

If women are human, treat them as such. If women are adults, treat them as such. Not every decision made by another person will be one that you (from your particular ethical vantage point) agree with or like. But that's life, or at least it should be.

Women are not incubators. And that is all I have to say about that.


  1. Yes! I am having trouble wrapping my head around the degree of hatred and fear and plain old misogyny there is towards women and their bodies. And of course the women who will be overwhelmingly impacted by these laws will be the most vulnerable.
    Great ranty post.

    1. It is really quite terrifying, isn't it? It makes me angry and scared at once, especially as the mother of three daughters. And of course you are right, it is the women who can't just choose to up sticks and go elsewhere for treatment that will suffer most. As usual.

  2. Great post! I can't believe that this is or can happen! We r humans n deserve the right of choice if our baby has problems, us not the Drs or anyone else!

    1. YES. Agree x 1,000! The right to choose is a human right.

  3. I find it baffling and terrifying to hear about the current discussion around women's bodies in the US, although having somewhat 'fought the system' to have 2 homebirths in Australia I fear many of the same attitudes are prevalent here also. Lots of "I'm a feminist blah blah blah BUT..." and then something about safety of my unborn etc (because geez I didn't have a stake in my unborn childs health and safe delivery!!)

    It also amazes me that the pro-life brigade seem so very minimally interested in the actual real lives that an unwanted pregnancy will affect, and are they there to support impoverished women who do go on to have a baby on their own?

    1. Yessssssss ... It's the callous indifference to ACTUAL, BORN PEOPLE that burns me the most.

  4. My take from the linked article was that the purpose of the Bill is to protect medical personnel from malpractice suits if they "miss" a prenatal diagnosis, and are then sued.

    It does seem like twisted logic to make it law that doctors are not obliged to diagnose abnormalities, but the intention appears to be to protect doctors: a CYA law (cover your ass...)

    I wonder though how many doctors would knowingly conceal this information due to a Pro-Life agenda? I'd like to say, "There is such a minimal chance of that happening" - Hippocratic oath and all ("I will not play at God.") But sadly, I do think it would, and will happen, with all the outcomes you refer to.

  5. I've had the other side of this coin, by the way, so I'm sure doctors do "play God" when they feel strongly enough about it.

    At 19 wks pregnant, we were told there was a (quote) "very high probability" of the fetus having a specific abnormality that causes deafness, blindness, organ failure, and severe physical and mental disabilities. We were given 3 days to work out what to do next, as we were right on the 20 week mark - the legal point in Victoria where the fetus requires a death certificate after termination.

    When I said we were unlikely to terminate no matter what the outcome, the discussion with the medical person involved got so heated it almost involved yelling ("you have NO IDEA what you are getting yourselves into...", "you are condemning this child to a life of pain" etc. etc.) And yes, now, I get it: we had what would have been involved.

    However, we didn't terminate and the baby (our now almost-8yo) was fine in the end. Looking back, the only thing worse than having to make that choice would have been the situation of having no choice at all.

    1. That is perfectly put: "The only thing worse than having to make that choice would have been the situation of having no choice at all." THIS x infinity.

      I am not "for" abortion - what a ridiculous position that would be. I don't think anyone is, or very few, anyway. What I AM for is choice, respect for other people making difficult decisions for themselves, and the provision of full and accurate information that enables people to make informed choices.

      Nothing will ever make it an easy or painless choice, but that's not the point, is it? It should be YOUR choice to make.

  6. Just read this. Simply heart-rending. How can this happen? Why aren't doctors pushing back more?

    1. I read that one too, and cried. What more is needed to show the inhumanity and sheer cruelty of this new crusade and all the measures that support it?

      As to why drs don't push back more - I imagine some are justifiably afraid of losing their licenses, and, given that is the US, some probably agree with the spirit of the laws anyway.