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. 

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