I've been getting pretty pissed recently over the question of 'choice'. For some reason, I keep experiencing a wave of rage every time somebody says something to me about what I *should* or *shouldn't* do. I appreciate that a lot of the comments I've been dealing with are well-meaning, even motivated by concern for me, but whether it's from a friend, or a stranger, or even just reading opinions online or in a newspaper, it frustrates me. I cannot comprehend how so many people feel that they have the right to tell me what I can or cannot do with my own body, my own life. I have fairly hard-line views on the right to choose, not only in a pro-choice abortion-debate POV, but just in general decisions. I am a smoking, child-free, bisexual libertarian, fiercely pro-choice, and I treasure my independence. The fact that other people try to decide my life for me sends me into an incandescent, incoherent fury; what right do these people have to make these choices for me? I deeply resent being told not to smoke, although frequently it is the result of a friend or relation's care for me that motivates the lecture. The snide remarks, the cancer jokes, the looks from total strangers when I light up in the street... I have already been forced to smoke outside, to be segregated and punished for what I choose to do with my own health and body, and I've been financially punished as well by the stupid fuckwit nanny government who continue to push up the taxes on cigarettes but don't have the cajones to ban it entirely because it relies on that revenue. If I choose to give up, it will be a decision based on my own feelings, not influenced by government campaigns or peer pressure. All that happens if somebody tells me not to smoke is them getting a faceful of my exhaled cancer.
As for children, if I have to be told one more time by some smug, holier-than-thou asswipe that I'll "change my mind when I'm older", I will scream. How dare somebody inform me that my own decision is not valid because it fails to comply with their values? How fucking dare they? This is one of the few areas where it is apparently perfectly acceptable for people to dismiss my choices because it is so cunting absurd for me to not want to procreate. Propagate the species! Save the human! My decision to not have children is NOBODY'S BUSINESS BUT MY OWN. I deeply resent the idea that I am not somehow qualified to make this decision about my OWN LIFE and my OWN BODY, because I'm too young, or female and therefore stupid and irrational. The feminist side of this issue is one that particularly cuts me deep, because the implications from most of the arguments I've had about this is 'You are a woman, therefore you will have to abandon all of your carefully thought-out choices as soon as that biological clock starts ticking... tick tock! Time is running out- and your main duty as a female is to push out more crotch-droppings! You're a failure if you don't!'. It's so, so patronising that it makes me gag. I have never wanted children. I don't mind kids as long as they are at a safe distance from me, but I have never experienced a wave of longing for one of my own. I doubt I ever will, but even if I do, I hope that I'll recognise it for the hormonal mind-control that it is and safely ignore it. Besides, even if I do have a sprog, that in itself will be my choice, and social pressure is not going to make me suddenly change my mind. I have had a lot of trouble with this particular aspect of my life; one memorable incident involved a work-related team meal where, through idle conversation, one of my co-workers discovered I did not plan on having children. She proceeded to lecture, harangue and wheedle with me by turns, red in the face and breathless in shock that I didn't want to experience the miracle of baby-taming. Our discussion eventually dragged the entire team in, and I ended up with twelve people, all of whom had varying degrees of familiarity with me, of every creed, colour, gender and age, trying to literally brow-beat me into reversing my decision and hypothetically agree to procreate. Quite why it was so important to get me to join the side of the future parents of Britain I'm not certain, but they sure got passionate about it.
Leading on from this comes the major irritant to my finely-tuned 'choice' antennae. Abortion is a tricky subject, a positive minefield of potential offence, and I recognise that my own views may not be those held by many. I respect that each individual has their own moral compass and differing values when it comes to this topic, and they are all valid- yes, even rabid pro-lifers- in that as far as I'm concerned, it is an INDIVIDUAL. CHOICE. That means that if you are pro-life and choose not to have an abortion, fine. I will defend your right to see that pregnancy to term to the death. Equally, if you need or want an abortion, I will defend that decision. The part where this topic gets offensive to me is when other people try to force their opinions onto a general, one-size-fits-all frame, and produce an absolute rule. It's impossible to do. I identify as pro-choice because although I fully support a woman's decision to keep a fetus, I also fully support a woman's decision not to. The clue is in the name. I do not produce caveats or restrictions on this right to choose; I may not morally agree with a woman who uses abortion as birth control, but by God will I defend her right to make that choice. No exceptions. Equally I appreciate and understand the stance of several of my friends, who say that although they themselves would not have a termination, they support the idea that a woman should have the option. The way that this view is presented to me is often meekly, with an undercurrent of defiance; as if these women feel that they are not quite right in their decision but not sure why. They are, in fact, totally pro-choice, as all they are saying is that if they themselves had the choice, they would not opt for an abortion. The lines have become so obscure, however, that it seems almost to be a battle between 'you MUST abort' or 'you MUST NEVER abort'. Which is not what this debate is about at all. The perception is all skewed.
This subject has been explored in the media recently due to the defeat of the amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill that would have reduced the upper limit of 24 weeks for abortion and ensured that IVF clinics would have to consider the need for 'supportive parenting and a father or male role model'. Now, considering the blogs and forums I haunt online and my usual choice of media, most of the responses I have read have been positive. However, I do read the Spectator, purely out of curiousity, and the 24th May editorial that the magazine opened with made me so angry that I had to read it in stages, chain-smoking in between. Here is a direct quote;
"Statistics and counter-statistics on survival rates do not strike at the heart of the matter, which is that, at 20 weeks, a baby in the womb is unmistakably a person, an individual with facial expressions, the capacity to feel pain, and most of the characteristics of 'personhood'. Again, this test does not address the more fundamental criterion posed by many Christians, that all life, at whatever stage of a pregnancy, is sacred. But the Commons chose to ignore the dramatic transformation in what we know about a 20-week-old unborn child, in lazy deference to feminist doctrines forged in the 1960's. Most MPs - grey, tired and fearful - still quake before the moral despotism of a 'woman's right to choose'. "
What poison. What a vile, insidious, pompous, pretentious, ignorant spew of bile. Moral despotism? The fundamental criterion posed by many Christians? What, pray, does religion have to do with the scientific argument you are trying to present? And later on in the article, the author (whose name was not on the page) turns to the idea that IVF clinics should not allow treatment to a couple unless the potential child will have a father figure;
"Progress today means accepting that families need fathers: not for religious reasons or in homage to the Victorians, but because all the empirical evidence tells us that it is so. Progress means recognising that redistribution by the Treasury has not solved the problem of endemic poverty: that the root causes of broken families, addiction, debt, illiteracy and powerlessness must be addressed if our society is not to become fatally divided."
What a long list of dire consequences! If only we had looked at the empirical evidence of the consequences of not having a father figure sooner! Debt would be non-existent, as all those little children who had gaping holes where their daddy should be will stop spending frivolously to try to heal their psychological wounds! Nobody will suffer from addictions any more, because with a father to punch them on the arm and boom, "buck up, kid, stiff upper lip and all that!" the child will instantly recover and never touch substances again! Illiteracy! Oh, yes, I would certainly never have learnt to read if my father hadn't sat me down and taught me! Mothers are useless creatures, only good for breast-feeding and baking pies. God forbid they should take on a masculine role like, uh, interacting with their own children and helping them to develop educationally and emotionally!
What utter tripe. I seem to have veered off my original point slightly, which was that essentially I strenuously object to the idea that a 'woman's right to choose' is moral despotism, that leaves our pathetic MPs both quaking and lazily deferent. A woman's right to choose is not some quaint leftover ideal from the 1960's, impractical, absurd, and outdated. It is real, and it will continue to be the most important factor in the pro-choice movement, and in my own views on the subject. Sexist, reactionary diatribes like that article will not stop it.