Wednesday will see the forty third anniversary of the Abortion Act, which gave women access to legal abortions. Christian Concern for our Nation is marking this day with adverts on London buses urging people to “Stop and think”, other events, including a prayer vigil are being planned.
I hesitated to blog on this issue as it is one which I find so harrowing and on which I have such mixed feelings. I think that it is a terrible thing to end the life of an unborn child; equally I think it is a terrible thing to compel a woman to give birth to a child against her wishes. I sometimes wish all moral issues were black and white, but so often they are not, they are grey areas, full of complexity and also full of human pain. There are of course those who wish to reduce such matters to a simple case of black and white, but that is another issue.
A teacher friend once told me about a student in her class who was bleeding heavily as a result of a termination and was frightened that she was haemorrhaging. She had been accompanied to the clinic by another student in the class. The first student had kept the termination from her parents, she had told them she was staying the night at her friend’s house. A medical examination reassured the girl that she was not in danger, she was advised to go home and rest, but would not do so for fear of discovery. Neither girl could be persuaded to confide in a parent; both girls were in a state of absolute terror.
I think this is a tragic, harrowing story. It gives a glimpse of the pain, terror, fear, guilt and shame surrounding the issue of unwanted pregnancy and abortion, and, although it was told to me some twenty years ago, I guess such scenarios do still occur – abortion is still taboo, women do not discuss it openly, even among themselves. Those who are pro life can tell horrific stories of what abortion involves, but there are also horror stories of botched back street abortions and I for one would not want to return to those days.
I can understand that the subject of abortion raises strong feelings, it does for me. However, I do not understand the mindset of anyone who can judge others when they have never been in that situation themselves. I can understand that the slogan of this campaign is “Stop and think” because the high number of terminations carried out does give grounds for grave reflection, but at the same time I worry that the implication might be that women who terminate do not “stop and think.”
Perhaps there are women who end a pregnancy with little thought or concern, but I suspect that there are many more for whom it is a source of intense anguish and one of the most painful, if not the most painful decision they will ever face. Someone once said to me that abortions are often carried out for trivial reasons; I can understand it might seem that way, but carrying a baby, giving birth and supporting a child for eighteen years is itself not a trivial matter either.
I wish I had an easy answer or conclusion to this blog post, but I don’t. I wish I could resolve the moral dilemmas, but I can’t. The truly awful numbers of abortions performed should make us stop and think, but behind those statistics there are many different stories; the fact that we never can and never will know all those stories should also make us stop and think.