Why has the “debate” on abortion decriminalisation in Victoria turned, again and again, to late-term abortion? Late term abortions are less than 1% of the total at present. So why is it that the coverage is all about abortion after twenty weeks? It crops up in just about every article on the Victorian Bill. I’ve been trying to avoid writing about it, because, well, then I’m just giving oxygen to the damn thing and becoming part of the problem. Like feeding the trolls. Late term abortion is really irrelevant to the discussion of the legislation, because the way it works will be virtually unchanged, and if we stop putting barriers in front of people who want an early abortion, it might even decline a bit. So why are the media and the anti-choice elements leaning on it so hard?
My initial guesses were, first, that late term abortion has a higher ick factor than early abortion, so that by focusing on gory pictures of foetuses and graphic descriptions of “partial birth” abortions (jargon imported, of course, from the US), the Tell the Truth crowd can play more effectively on emotion and uninformed reactions. Second, that by hammering the late-term abortion topic so relentlessly, they can make people assume wrongly that the proportion is higher than it really is.
Commenter Bingo Bango Boingo at LP offered a third possibility: that the battle for decriminalisation of abortion up to 24 weeks is pretty much lost now for the forced-birthers. Recognising that fact, they’re concentrating all their efforts on late-term abortion, as it is the part that will be more restricted under the proposed Bill and is therefore more susceptible to tightening amendments. (Anna Winter also remarked that those abortions, being so rare, are easier to make shit up about.)
I hope BBB’s right, as that is a relatively optimistic outlook. But still, the media obsession with late-term abortion prompts a few questions, for me. I think most rational people are aware that late-term abortions happen rarely in very tragic cases, mostly to do with foetuses which won’t be viable outside the womb, mothers whose lives are at risk, and very rarely for psychosocial cases which in themselves are very traumatic. But to read most newspaper accounts and comments from anti-choicers, you’d think that once abortion is removed from the criminal code, women will be thoughtlessly aborting for any trivial reason right up to the moment of birth. We’ll even be doing it just to get the baby bonus!
It’s such a jaundiced view of women. So many people seem to think that we’ll have abortions, even late term abortions, because we suddenly decide we want to fit into our Melbourne Cup frocks or some shit. OK, let me play their game for a minute or two. Let’s suppose that I’m a completely shallow party animal who just wants to look good, avoid personal issues and not lose my gym-toned sixpack or my partying lifestyle. Am I likely to have a late term abortion? Think about it.
Will I wait until I’ve got a grossly distended stomach (there goes the gym-toned sixpack, already) and have had to buy a second wardrobe of elastic-waisted garments; I’ve gone up two bra sizes; the people at work and at the club have all started asking interested questions; the family have all noticed; I’ve got puffy ankles and likely one or two other physical side-effects; I’ve kissed goodbye to my wine, cocktails and lots of my favourite foods; I haven’t had a proper sleep in weeks… Hmmm. Do you get my drift?
Media articles on decriminalisation are studded with words and phrases like “open slather“, “abortion on demand“– very popular this one, conjuring up images of women being all horrible and aggressive and demanding, and other loaded language all adding up to the impression that the decriminalisation of abortion will lead to non-stop abortion parties.
It’s based on exactly nothing, except for a deep cultural residue of contempt for women which the anti-choicers like Campbell may not even realise they carry. But it’s a cheap way to push people’s buttons. It’s a crock. And unfortunately, we appear to be stuck with it.