The Mail thinks abortion law should be reformed — and we agree
The Daily Mail has started its International Women’s Day celebrations early, with a wholesale attack on abortion provider Marie Stopes.
According to the tabloid’s intrepid investigations unit, Marie Stopes clinics are — astonishingly — providing abortions to women who ask for them, without forcing them to endure lengthy grillings about their motivations.
“Twenty-two seconds. That’s how little time it can take for a call-centre worker at Marie Stopes, Britain’s second largest abortion provider, to seal the fate of an unborn life and effectively rubber-stamp a decision that some women regret for the rest of their days.”
Firstly, the 22-second claim is inaccurate. A Marie Stopes spokesperson has clarified that the call was in fact 16 minutes long, but the Mail journalists judged that only 22 seconds dealt adequately with the woman’s motivations.
Secondly, and more importantly, this is a textbook example of the sort of language used to undermine women’s choice and deny them reproductive healthcare. It’s the norm in Trump’s America, where Republican leaders are doing all they can to roll back abortion rights both at home and abroad, or in Northern Ireland, which refuses to provide abortion and continues to prosecute women who attempt home terminations using pills.
In both cases, legislators know they can’t stop abortions altogether, so they settle for making them as difficult and traumatic as possible for the women involved.
And the Mail wants England, Scotland and Wales to do the same, insisting that:
“With hundreds of abortions in Britain every day – and medical advances meaning babies born before the 24-week time limit can survive and thrive – Parliament must surely consider this matter again.”
As it happens, most feminists agree that it’s time for parliament to consider this matter again.
At present, abortion in Britain still falls within the remit of criminal law, requiring women to get sign-off from a pair of doctors on the grounds that the pregnancy presents a risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman. Technically, a woman who procures an abortion procured outside these limits, or a doctor who provides one, is considered a criminal.
Feminist campaigners have repeatedly argued that, since abortion law does not reflect the reality of medical practice or the views of the public, it should be updated. Introducing fully legal abortion would align Britain with most European countries, which have long offered abortion on demand.
However, demands for legal change tend to get brushed off with the argument that the law as it stands is merely a technicality, which doesn’t have any tangible impact.
Today’s Daily Mail shows exactly what the tangible impact is — the current law gives reactionary, right-wing voices and opportunity to attack abortion providers who are acting entirely within the spirit of the law.
Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow her on TwitterSign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.