A few weeks ago the Observer published a story UK baby shortage will cost £11 billion.
I wrote, but abandoned a blogpost about what a silly thing it was. I wrote
When newspapers report that women are delaying having children until, in some cases, it's too late, it conjures up to me an image of a twenty-four year old woman sitting down and writing a manifesto which reads something like "1) Achieve career goals; 2) find suitable sperm donor; 3) breed"
I abandoned the post because although I knew what I wanted to say, I was unable to express myself sufficiently eloquently and it was boring.
No doubt smug driven women - and men - do exist who are able to decide in their early Twenties exactly how their professional and private lives will unfold, and have the drive and the luck to meet that, and to fulfill a stereotype, most of us tend to take life as it comes, often the involuntary tools of happenstance. The existence of a stereotype doesn't mean that every relevant person fits into it.
I read into the Observer piece a berating and an attempt to induce guilt in people - or let's be straight here, women - who put off having children until they have sorted their career out and then find out they can't have children. The logical rejoinder would be a society that arranges a marriage for every sixteen year old and instructs her to abandon her education in order to breed. Or women who drop serial sprogs by random fathers and expect to be supported by taxpayers. Which are clearly ridiculous.
Not satisfied with scolding people - or, rather, women - who do not have children, it barely stops before it scolds those who do have some, but not enough. Apparently, most people end up having fewer children than they might have wished for in their childhood. Never mind practicality, wisdom, and common sense. Very few people can really cope with more than a few children unless very spread out in age. I think we can all find plenty of anecdotal evidence to find children from large families who suffered from a lack of parental attention even when there was no shortage of parental love.
I never posted but today appears another Observer article 'I never chose to be childless. I just never reached the let's-make-babies stage with anyone. Even when I was married' where the writer explains how, because she behaved in a sensible and responsible way she did not have children. Not because of some sinister arrogant plan as dishonestly caricatured in the same paper last month, but because she never felt it sensible to have a child with a father who was not interested or unwilling or unlikely to stick around. How terribly old fashioned.
Earlier this week we had the story of Natalie Evans A woman left infertile after cancer treatment cannot use frozen embryos to have a baby, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled.
A terribly sad story for her personally and for any woman who may be affected by any legal precedent that may be established. As far as I understand it, the case hinges on the refusal of her ex-boyfriend to give consent to the frozen embryos being used for fertility treatment.
My first reaction was that the man is a Selfish Bastard. He is quoted as saying "The key thing for me was just to be able to decide when, and if, I would start a family." How nice. He still has that choice and will continue to do so for another half a century or so. She does not have that choice. Except by unfreezing the embryos. He is denying her that choice.
Then being a balanced reasonable person, I thought, hold on, should this be forced upon him, without his consent, not least because he may be pursued for financial support.
But even when I see both sides of the story, I like to take the right, rather than wrong. That is the reality of life. Many men surrender the right to decide when to start a family and risk being pursued for child support when they take the decision to seduce a woman. The creation of embryos to be frozen must surely have been a decision taken with considerably more thought, discussion and research than the average decision to fall into bed. If he was not prepared to accept the consequences, he should never have committed himself in the first place. Most parents don't have the option to change their minds five years later. He insists on his rights yet he already exercised that right and made his decision when he contributed his part of the frozen embryos.
I was annoyed by the involvement of
Josephine Quintavalle of the pro-life group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, who said of the court's ruling: "It's an inevitable judgement, but a very sad one." She said Mr Johnston had "become a father" when the embryos were created, and should have compassion for Ms Evans.
In this particular instant our views happen to coincide, but she is also the person who a few years ago supported a legal bid by a man who was trying to prevent his ex-girlfriend from having an abortion. Quintavalle's argument at the time seemed to be that the man had rights over the women's fertility.
A few days ago for some inexplicable reason the BBC Radio Four Today programme covered attempts by some backwoods US state to outlaw abortion, attempts by the Right Wing Christian Misogynists to impose their agenda onto women.
Blue Witch covered this in a bit more detail a couple of weeks back. In the comments box, some anti-abortionist wrote:
...many girls are encouraged to have an abortion. Yet afterwards they can feel very disturbed mentally and may never completely get over it. And there are many people wanting to adopt who for one reason or another cannot have children. It seems to me encouraging the girls to have the baby and then put it up for adoption where they could continue to have some contact later in life would be a better solution all round. But I certainly agree that rape, incest and danger to the mother should always be included as valid reasons, I cannot see why that is not the case here.
I do not understand these anti-abortionists, or Pro-Lifers as they call themselves. If they believe in the right to life of the foetus, they cannot support any position that makes exceptions on the basis of their judgement that the foetus is inferior. Who are they to play god and decide that one foetus has the absolute right to life and the other should be condemned to 'death', just because its father happens to be a rapist or an incestist. And who is this "Debster" to determine what is 'danger' to the mother? Someone else suggested that the adoption argument is not as simple as this Debster made out.
I felt obliged to highlight the ludicrousness of allowing 'rape' as an exceptional circumstance for abortion, and I commented
How would you define rape? Is it when the woman claims she was raped? Or would it be allowed only after the perpetrator - alleged perpetrator, I should say - is arrested, charged, tried and convicted?
Do you know the (low) proportion of cases in which that happens? Do you know how long it takes to get the perpetrator to court, if at all? What about the numerous cases where the woman chooses not to pursue the case because of the trauma involved in the judicial process? What about cases where the woman genuinely and honestly believes she was raped, and the man equally genuinely and honestly believes the woman consented? How many women would claim they were raped in order to get an abortion, and how many innocent men would end up in jail and with a lifetime on the Sex Offenders register as a result?
In practical terms, it simply wouldn't work. And all policy-making and legislating should be concerned only with what is possible. The simple fact is that the anti-abortionists will try every tactic to abolish abortion. They know that they can't get away with outright abolition, so they try every tactic to erode availability of it. The fact is, and this is evidenced by what happened long before the 1967 Abortion Act, women will continue to abort regardless of legality. Except, when it's done legally, it's done safely.
If I were to leave this post as it stands I would probably get a comment saying "When I was x weeks pregnant I truly felt that my baby was a living being and therefore I cannot understand how anybody could abort a baby of that age..." to which I would reply - no one is suggesting that you should have aborted your baby, (which was either planned, a happy accident, or an initially unhappy accident that you were able to accept and welcome); in an ideal world most abortions would occur in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, on demand.
Very many of the anti-abortionists also oppose wide availability of contraception and oppose the provision of adequate sex education in schools.
What all these articles and events suggest is that way too many people believe it is their right to control the fertility of individual women. The only person who can do that is the woman herself.