Charter for Choice


Most women don’t regret their abortions, let’s start trusting them

This US study which illustrates that 95% of women who have abortions don’t regret their decision shows us what we should already know – that women are capable of making the decisions that are right for them and their family at that moment in their life. Women however constantly feel that their decision making is undermined, as Marine Strinkovsky reflects on in the New Statesman.  If they aren’t being told by anti abortion activists outside clinics that they will regret their choice to end a pregnancy, the legal framework in this country (which means a woman must have the consent of two doctors before they she can have an abortion) sends out a clear message that women cannot be trusted.  This important study stands as clear evidence that women are quite capable of making the decisions that are right for them. As Rebecca Schiller points our in The Guardian – it’s time we started trusting women to make their own choices.

Birth statistics challenge fertility cliffs and rocketing teen pregnancies

You may, like us, have choked on your morning bagel when reading the headlines last week informing women that if they intend to have three children they should get on board the baby train at the age of 23. But birth statistics released earlier this month by the Office for National Statistics provide  some reassurance – last year there were more babies born to women aged over 40 than to those aged under 20 and the largest increase in live births was seen in women aged 35-40. So as Lynn Enright ponders for The Pool “maybe we can relax about fertility-falls-off-at-35 thinking?”  The pervasive myth that teen pregnancy is ever on the increase was also dispelled, with the data showing that teenage birth rates are at their lowest for 70 years.

Pregnancy and maternity-related discrimination on the rise

A new report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission estimated that around 54,000 new mothers are losing their jobs across Britain every year because of pregnancy and maternity-related discrimination. Justine Roberts of Mumsnet said this type of discrimination is seen on a “regular basis”, echoed in data which found one in five new mothers (that’s as many as 100,000 mothers a year) experienced harassment or negative comments from colleagues, employers or  a manager when pregnant or returning from maternity leave. The director of Maternity Action Rosalind Bragg highlighted a substantial deterioration in the situation of mothers in the workplace, with almost twice the number of new mothers losing their jobs now than in 2005 .

Barriers to abortion services still faced by Northern Irish women

Another disappointing result for abortion access in Northern Ireland as a mother and daughter lost their legal challenge to the policy of not allowing abortions on the NHS for women who travel to England and Wales. The fact that Northern Irish women cannot access abortion at home is intensely unfair in and of itself, but that they are forced to pay for the procedure once they have travelled to England only deepens the injustice.  Amnesty Northern Ireland rightly noted, this “only adds to the barriers women in Northern Ireland face when trying to access abortion services”.

Poll shows Ireland is in favour of decriminalisation 

But let’s end on a positive note: A recent Amnesty International poll shows that despite the draconian abortion laws in Ireland, two thirds of the country would be in favour of decriminalisation, with 8 out of 10 favouring some sort of liberalisation of the law which. This, as Henry McDonald reports, signals a major shift in views surrounding a women’s right to choose. Abortion is currently a criminal offence in Ireland, for the woman having the termination and the doctor who carries it out, yet the results from the poll showed that the majority of people questioned did not realise that it is a crime to end a pregnancy unless the woman’s life is at risk. Additionally 70% of the respondents stated that classifying abortion as a crime contributes to the distress and stigma felt by women who have had abortions, a view shared by Dr Mark Murphy, a GP and spokesman for Doctors for Choice. Colm O’Gorman, Amnesty’s executive director in Ireland points out that this poll shows us that on abortion “Ireland’s people are clearly ahead of their government leader.”  We do hope the government catches up soon.