Saturday, 11 October 2014

My Body, My Decision

I've just read an article in this weeks Stylist magazine (8/10/14 - guest edited by Lena Dunham) and am so frustrated and angry at the state of women's rights and healthcare in America that I just had to take to the blog.

While I am a strong believer in women's rights for women all over the world, particularly in less developed countries where women are treated like second class citizens and have almost no rights, I was frankly shocked at the state of women's rights in highly developed countries such as America and Ireland.

I've been following the contraception  and abortion debate in America for some time now and am well aware of the struggle women are facing there. I'm afraid I'm not fully educated on everything but this article spelled a lot of it out for me and highlighted what I already knew - that many republican politicians are trying and succeeding at controlling women's rights to contraception and abortion.

As US activist Sarah Sophie Flicker highlights in her article - In the past four years, more than 200 laws restricting abortion rights were put into practice in the US. As we all know, America doesn't have a system like the NHS and most access to healthcare is via insurance or Medicaid for low-income families. This means that birth control is costly and not as readily available as it is here in the UK.

Sarah highlights that birth control pills can vary from $15-$150 per month depending on insurance cover and where you live. Under The Affordable Care Act - some plans provide birth control free but if the plan falls under any religious exclusions or is associated with a non-profit organisation then it doesn't apply.

To put the situation into perspective, here are some shocking statistics from the article:

  • In 31 American states, a rapist can sue a woman for custody or visitation rights of a child birthed from rape, 
  • 87% of all US counties have no abortion provider
  • In 13 states a pharmacist can legally refuse to dispense birth control despite a prescription
  • 26 states have waiting periods for abortion
  • In the first six months of 2014, Republican state houses introduced 468 bills to regulate women's bodies. Surprise, surprise - no such laws for men. 
  • Last month, every single Republican senator voted against a bill to help women get equal pay
How these statistics can exist in 2014 in a developed country such as America is baffling to me. What these politicians and laws are saying is that women who have unplanned pregnancies have uncontrollable libidos and that if we want birth control it's because we're easy and want to have lots of casual sex (which there is nothing wrong with). They also imply that if we were raped that we must have been drunk or wearing something provocative and that it was our own fault. That women shouldn't have sex unless we want it to result in a baby.

My understanding is that many of these beliefs in America come from the far right religious Republicans and that they are letting their far outdated Catholic or Christian beliefs take over. You can't impose these religious beliefs on an entire country. Follow the religious beliefs that you want, but to impose them on the women of an entire country is wrong. If you're going to be as militant Christian to that degree, how are you any less worse than the extreme terrorists we are currently fighting against?

But I don't want to get into an argument about religion, personally I'm an atheist. But just like I don't push my atheism on those who are religious, I don't expect them to push their beliefs on something as serious as law and healthcare.

Even those who aren't religious have their own strong believes on abortion. I am pro-choice and believe women should have access to free abortion and be supported through this process but I of course believe it should by no means be used as a form of contraception (which is possibly more of a fabricated lie from the media than something that actually happens). Abortion is by no means an easy decision for a woman to make, but for some, pregnancy is just not a viable option because of various circumstances. Whatever your beliefs or experiences, all women need access to abortion and birth control to allow them to take control of their own bodies. You can't force women to go through with pregnancies they don't want or aren't ready for - this is both unhealthy for the mother and baby. 

I am so thankful to live in the UK, where thanks to the NHS, women to have access to these services and that we are provided with free birth control and access to abortion. This is so important. But you may be shocked to know that in Northern Ireland and Ireland, abortion is still illegal, even in instances of rape and is punishable by a life sentence. The only time it is permitted is if a women's life is in danger but as a recent news story revealed - this doesn't always work out either when it resulted in the death of a woman who was refused an abortion. These women have to travel to countries where it is legal, such as the UK, to access these services.

Demonise women who seek abortions all you want, but I think access to these rights is so so important and I hope my country and countries around the world will provide these services to women and allow them to make their own decisions about their body.

To find out more about the campaign Lady Parts Justice, click here. 

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Life in Your Early Twenties vs Life in Your Mid Twenties

When you're in your teens, it never really seems as if life would change much between your early twenties to mid twenties but in reality - you might do more growing than you think. Your twenties are when you do some of the most growing you ever will, and maturity might reap it's ugly head sooner than you think.

1. Going Out Every Weekend vs Rarely Going Out At All

In your early twenties, almost every weekend is filled with plans with your friends to hit the town and get extremely drunk in the process. However, once full time jobs get in the way, you're grateful of any rest you can get and making plans just to see your friends at all is hard enough, let alone plan a night out everybody can do. Soon you learn to appreciate the sweet relief of a night on the sofa with a glass of wine or a mug of tea and a nice early night. Before you know it, it's been months since your last night out and you're wondering what happened to any form of social life. Then, when you do go out - you're lucky to make it past 1am.

2. Super Noodles vs A Home Cooked Round Meal

If you were a student or even just a growing adult looking to fill your stomach, convenience was everything and you were happy to stuff your face as long as it was quick and easy. Cue a diet of super noodles, pasta or frozen food. Of course this is still prevalent in your mid twenties, but you've learnt to appreciate the value of a square meal and have a few home cooked meals in your arsenal to pull out on a lazy sunday or when you can't blag an invite to a family roast dinner.

3. Spending All Your Money vs Trying to Form Some Kind of Budget

This is one I'm still struggling with as I can't budget for toffee, but compared to the days when you would spend all your money on drinking, fast food and clothes - you've acquired a few more responsibilities and have to account for those with your monthly wage such a rent, food and bills. Unlike in your early twenties, it soon becomes rather tiresome and humiliating to run to your parents for money every time.

4. Buying Budget vs Learning You Get What You Pay For

As much as you love a good supermarket value bargain or a quick dash in Primark, as you reach your mid twenties you begin to learn that sometimes you get what you pay for. That perhaps, sometimes it pays to spend a little more on staple pieces such as jeans and trousers because they last longer. That high-end make up might just be worth it and that you really can taste the difference when you spend a bit more on food and drink. No more boxed wine for you.

5. Ignoring Your Health vs Caring About Your Health

Previously you'd either ignore or try and sleep off any illness but now you've discovered the wonder of pharmaceuticals and the difference between a cold and flu. Cold - you need to drag yourself to work. Flu - you literally would have to drag yourself to work because your energy has vanished and you can't remember feeling this bad. Or the difference between a hangover and food poisoning. Hangover - cured with food. Food poisoning - literally no food will stay down. You begin to appreciate your health a lot more and actually go the doctors if you spot symptoms - well if you can get an appointment around work that is. This also transfers to your diet and lifestyle too. Soon you get a nagging guilt if you eat coco pops, chocolate or a big pizza too many times in a week and instead you actually WANT to eat vegetables. You debate the merits of dairy and carbs and you actually get a gym pass and TRY and go.

6. Giving People a Chance vs Looking After No.1

You used to give people or significant others a few chances, but after a few years of putting up with other people's rubbish you soon realise there's only so many chances you can give and that sometimes people aren't worth your time. Be it friends or dates - your mid twenties are when the cull begins.

7. A Level Playing Field vs Marriage and Babies

By your mid twenties, you actually know people who are getting married, having babies and buying property. Suddenly everyone is very grown up and you're conscious of growing up yourself and just how impending your thirties really are.

8. A Late Night vs An Early Night

Before you'd be up until the early hours, either drinking with friends or wasting time on the internet - sometimes until it started getting light. Now you can't get enough of sleep and appreciate nothing more than being in bed by 10am. In fact - it's a luxury - as is at least eight hours sleep.