Keeping Abortion On The NHS

You may have heard of the petition for removing abortions from the NHS. Emanuel Ngochinya doesn’t believe that women should be able to access safe, legal, and free abortions through our National Health Service, regardless of whether we pay into it or not.

Emanuel, sadly, lives about fifteen minutes from me. His face and vile words are splashed across the local papers. He attends the same university that my husband did. He definitely seems to be enjoying his fifteen minutes of fame as a misogynist.

His initial Facebook post reads:

Guys I am not doing this because I hate women or want to intrude on their body. But I do not believe abortion to be anyones right. No one should have the right to end the life of another, all humans either have equal worth or none at all. Science proves that human development begins at conception, it is the start of the human life. I work two jobs and pay taxes, I love this health service but I don’t want my money going towards these type of procedures. If you disagree with abortion then please sign and share this and see if we can make a difference here in the UK.

Ladies, calm down. Emanuel doesn’t want to intrude on our bodies! He just wants… to intrude on our bodies by taking a decision about our own reproductive health away! Put down the pitchforks, let’s go home and knit or bake or something.

The reaction to this petition has, thankfully, been mostly negative. People of all genders and sexual orientation have been reacting with anger and disbelief. Yet, over 3000 people have signed this petition. 3000 people who are engaging in a war against women. Does that sound melodramatic? I suppose it does. I’m a woman, after all, prone to emotional outbursts. But making abortion illegal or harder to access will only result in more unsafe abortions. So, yeah, it kinda is a war against women (and anyone who can fall pregnant).

When discussing abortion, certain viewpoints always seem to pop up. “Too many women are using abortion as contraception!” “Silly little girls can’t take responsibility for their actions!” “Keep your legs closed if you don’t want to get pregnant!” And so on and so misogynistic. So let’s take a look at some statistics, shall we?

According to the 2015 abortion statistics, the total number of abortions performed in England and Wales was 185,824. Of that number:

  • 98% were funded by the NHS
  • The abortion rate was highest for women ages 21 (at 28.7 per 1,000 women)
  • The under-16 abortion rate was 2.0 per 1,000 women, and the under-18 rate was 9.9 per 1,000 women
  • 92% of abortions were carried out at under 13 weeks gestation, 80% were at under 10 weeks
  • 2% were carried out under ground E (risk that the child would be born ‘seriously handicapped’)

(For more statistics and information, visit the Department of Health’s summary here.)

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Emanuel Ngochinya doesn’t believe in abortion in any circumstance. His Facebook page is covered in posts about Jesus, and he even shared an article about a woman who was conceived in rape, but she is “infinitely grateful that my mom refused an abortion”. Well, of course she is, she’s alive. But what about her mum’s perspective?

What we need to ask ourselves is this: would happen if abortions were removed from the NHS? We need only look across the water to our Irish sisters, and see what they face when they find themselves pregnant. The Abortion Support Network helps women from the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the Isle of Man, where abortion is illegal in almost all circumstances. Their 2015 statistics state:

  • They heard from 648 women
  • 12 were pregnant from rape
  • 29 had medical issues
  • 5 tried to self-harm or self-abort
  • 29 were dealing with domestic violence
  • 5 were homeless
  • 12 were suicidal

(For more statistics and information, click here. You can also visit the ASN website to learn how you can help.)

I’ll just let those statistics sink in for a moment. 29 women revealed to the ASN that they were dealing with domestic violence. 29 women were pregnant with their abuser’s child. And 29 women made the decision to not bring a child into that environment (and were hopefully successful). The real number of women in such a situation but unable to access abortion is, I imagine, chilling. My dad started physically abusing my mum when she was pregnant with me. While I am, of course, happy to be alive now, it didn’t take long for my dad to start abusing me. Were there times that I wished she’d aborted me? Yes. And if she said now that she wishes she had done, I’d support her. Because I believe in choice.

In 2015, 3,451 women and girls travelled from Ireland to England for an abortion. That’s just over nine women a day. The work that the ASN does is so incredibly important, but they can only help so many women. On 8th March 2017, women in Ireland are striking in an attempt to convince the government to repeal the 8th amendment. You can read more about that here.

So, in practical terms, what would the fallout be if abortions were no longer available on the NHS? This would, of course, disproportionately affect poorer women. If abortion is only available to those who can pay for it, those women who are living at or below the poverty line will be the ones who suffer. If a woman can’t afford to pay for an abortion, what makes you think she can afford to have a child? We cannot have a rich/poor divide when it comes to women’s health.

The ability to access safe, legal, and free abortion is a hard-won right, and it is not a right we’ll let go of easily. As you can see from the statistics on abortion in England & Wales in 2015, 92% of abortions were carried out at under 13 weeks gestation. Doesn’t this tell you that the vast majority of these women have experienced birth control failure?

The most recent UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey in 2008/09 found that 75 per cent of women aged 16-49 years and men aged 16-69 years were using a form of contraception, with the contraceptive pill and the male condom each accounting for 25 per cent of the total use.

Population Matters: UK Comparative Contraceptive Choices

Contraceptive methods fail. Rape happens. You can do everything right, and still end up pregnant. So if we could stop assuming that all women are falling pregnant simply because they’re irresponsible, that’d be great. SO many pro-lifers are actually just pro-birthers. How many children do you support, Emanuel? How many have you fostered, adopted? Your desire to remove abortion from the NHS is only fuelled by a hatred of women, but you’re dressing it up as concern for unborn children. But please, tell me, how many living children do you support? According to CoramBAAF, 70,440 children were in the care of local authorities on 31st March 2016. I can guarantee you there’d be more if abortion was made inaccessible.

And, while we’re at it, why is abortion classed as a women’s issue? Yes, women have abortions (but, don’t forget that not all women can fall pregnant, and not all those who can fall pregnant are women), but it also takes male sperm. Why are women demonised for making a decision for their own bodies? Oh, but wait, women lose the right to their bodies when they become pregnant. Silly me! A lawmaker in Oklahoma, US, recently referred to women as hosts. I’ll just give you the full quote here, because I can’t even:

“I understand that they feel like that is their body,” he said of women. “I feel like it is a separate — what I call them is, is you’re a ‘host.’ And you know when you enter into a relationship you’re going to be that host and so, you know, if you pre-know that then take all precautions and don’t get pregnant,” he explained. “So that’s where I’m at. I’m like, hey, your body is your body and be responsible with it. But after you’re irresponsible then don’t claim, well, I can just go and do this with another body, when you’re the host and you invited that in.”

Let me be clear. Women are PEOPLE, not “hosts”. Seriously, why does this need to be said? This dehumanisation of women is misogyny in all its glory. We are already objectified, have spent years, centuries, fighting for rights that should be a given. And now we are simply hosts. I don’t think I have the strength to address this in full right now, but let me just say: fuck that noise.

While all of the above is relevant, I want to end this post on the most important point of all: it’s not your body.

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Some of Emanuel’s allies are telling him to keep fighting. Yes, Emanuel, keep fighting the war against women. Because if our government listens to people like you, more women will die. But we will keep fighting, too, and we won’t stop until every woman is free. So bring it on.

*I’m aware that this post is very cis-orientated, and I apologise to our trans sisters & brothers for not being more inclusive, but I wasn’t sure how to address this particular issue without referring to those who can carry children as “women”. I’m always happy to be corrected and to learn, so if you can spare the emotional labour, please do feel free to educate me, either in the comments below, or privately via email, thebandwagonreviews@gmail.com. Your information will never be shared without your permission.
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