I want to encourage you to read and think about this piece about public scorn and ‘acceptable’ and unacceptable reasons for the exercise of reproductive rights for women – in this case abortion.
This story is a British story but the questions it asks are universal. The writer is Trevin Wax whose blog I have followed for years. Click on his name to go to the original source.
A woman in the United Kingdom faces an unplanned pregnancy that prevents her from taking the next step in her career. She makes the choice to abort.
And Great Britain erupts in judgment and anger toward the woman.
Why the outrage toward a woman exercising her “reproductive rights?”
In this case, the woman is Josie Cunningham, a model who was given the opportunity to appear on Big Brother. Her 18-week pregnancy would keep her out of the show and stifle her career plans. So she made a choice, and when asked, explained her rationale to The Sunday Mirror:
I’m finally on the verge of becoming famous and I’m not going to ruin it now. An abortion will further my career. This time next year I won’t have a baby. Instead, I’ll be famous, driving a bright pink Range Rover and buying a big house. Nothing will get in my way.
The subsequent torrent of tweets and personal attacks toward Josie Cunningham is surprising… and sickening. Here’s why:
What’s surprising about the response is how much of the judgment is coming from self-professed pro-choice people. In other words, it’s the people who argue for a woman’s right to choose an abortion who are heaping ridicule and scorn on a woman who has done just that. A number of viewers have said they will boycott Big Brother if Cunningham is a contestant.
I don’t expect any of this outrage to translate into legal battles to make abortion less of an option, but I wonder what it tells us about the turning tide of cultural sensibilities. Is the pro-choice movement being chiseled away from the inside out? Does pro-choice now mean “abortion in extreme circumstances should be legal” rather than “abortion in any circumstance should be legal?”
In The Guardian, Martin Robbins, while not giving moral approval to Cunningham’s choice, defended her right and encouraged his readers to see the bigger issues at stake. He writes:
In reality, her actions are no different from those of thousands of women who exercise their reproductive rights in order to make informed choices about their future careers and families, yet because she uses the wrong language, because she talks “common”, and wants to be on Big Brother instead of working in a call centre, she has been subjected to a torrent of vile abuse and bullying. Much of it incited by the very newspapers that promote the celebrity lifestyle in the first place.
Robbins then goes on to explain the logical progression away from abortion rights:
What makes the “debate” around Josie Cunningham so disturbing is that it refuses to even acknowledge the idea that access to abortion is a basic human right, or that women are entitled to choose what they do with their own bodies. If we fail to defend Cunningham, then we accept that only those women who are “deserving” enough should be allowed to have an abortion. And if we accept that, then it’s only a matter of time before others are deemed undeserving as well.
Robbins is right about the consequences, of course, even while he is on the wrong side of the debate. Abortion is indeed about human rights, but not because abortion access is a human right (like Robbins asserts) but because abortion itself is an attack on the humanity of the unborn. Look at what online pregnancy journals tell us about the 18-week baby whose life was snuffed out in Cunningham’s womb:
He now may be large enough for you to feel him twisting, rolling, kicking, and punching his way around the womb. Plus, he’s developing yawning and hiccupping skills (you may feel those soon, too!) and his own unique set of toe and fingerprints.
Human rights are indeed at stake. Just not in the way Robbins thinks.
The surprising response is also sickening. British society reacted with revulsion toward a woman who decided to sacrifice another human in order to further her career. (I use sacrificial terminology deliberately, since all idols demand sacrifices, and a career can function as an idol.)
What’s sickening is to see how society bullies and shames a woman who is following the script that society itself has given her. Over and over again, we are told that women’s rights hinge on access to abortion, that women can be equal to men only if they have full freedom over their reproductive choices, that women need to put themselves and their careers first. One woman follows the logic, and all hell breaks loose against her.
Other news outlets have reported on the vitriol, so I won’t link to the comments made about this woman, many too vile to print here. Abortion is dehumanizing toward the unborn. The treatment of Josie Cunningham is dehumanizing too. It makes her a monster, when in fact, the monstrous act of abortion is something we as a society have created and promoted. (I wonder if there is a reverse sacrifice going on here. Josie Cunningham sacrifices her child on the altar of her career ambitions, and then British society sacrifices Cunningham as a collective easing of the conscience of a society with blood on its hands.)
Absent from this discussion, sadly, is the baby’s father. Where is he? Who is he? We are quick to heap scorn and judgment on a woman, as if she is the only person responsible for this debacle. How is it that a society that promotes woman’s rights can so quickly demonize a woman? Meanwhile, the man walks away after his romantic fling without consequence. Far from elevating our view of women, the abortion culture has led to a sickening double standard.
So, yes, the outrage over Josie Cunningham’s abortion is both surprising and sickening. As Christians, we should weep for the baby who was lost and be encouraged by society’s shock at abortion for selfish gain, even as we shake our heads at the double standard on display in society’s demonization of a woman.