The hypocrisy of choice

I read this article with sadness today.  A couple told their unborn child had a lethal condition that would mean he or she would survive no more than an hour after birth are now advocating for change to Ireland's abortion laws.  On the surface their arguments seem convincing.  The were shocked to discover that had they wanted this abortion in Ireland she would have faced a prison sentence and would therefore have been forced to carry the pregnancy to term'. 

The article goes on to say that Ireland is a dangerous place to be pregnant without the availability of this 'important medical procedure'; abortion.  He further states, 'a place without abortion puts two lives in danger, not one'.

Of course congenital abnormalities of unborn children do not mean the life of the woman is at risk so this statement doesn't even apply in their case.   We also know that abortions for the purpose of life saving treatment of the mother are so rare that in the UK in 2012, not one of the more than 185,000 abortions was needed for this purpose.

One of the disturbing parts of this article for me was the inconsistency in the couple's view and their own experience, an inconsistency that even they seem unaware of, but one which reflects the experiences of many women we talk to.

They state that she was advised to have an immediate termination and that the '...doctors were clear that termination was the only option'.    She then goes on to talk about the lack of 'choice' provided by Ireland's abortion laws to be a form of abuse.

 “It is a form of abuse against women. We need to have our own choices,” she said. “If men had babies, the laws would be very different.”

It is extraordinary to me that this couple could believe that when a doctor tells them they have no option, that this constitutes 'choice'.   However, this is precisely the news that many women receive when they also receive news of an adverse foetal diagnosis.  Not only will they be told that abortion is kinder, easier, but they will be continually asked and told right through a pregnancy if they choose to decline a termination.

Of course there is also the other scarier possibility; the doctor's may have been wrong.  Melinda Tankard Reist's book, Defiant Birth chronicles many stories of women who received an adverse diagnosis only to have a healthy baby.  Social media is also full of similar stories.  How many unwitting women are told with certainty that they have no option, that their baby will definitely die, trust the health professionals in charge of their care and never know that mistakes happen, often?

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