DUP-ed in the City

By A. C. Phipps

My favourite signs on marches are always the ones which read “I CAN’T BELIEVE I STILL HAVE TO PROTEST THIS SHIT”.

This sentiment seemed particularly apt on 24th June 2017, when I marched with hundreds of women to Downing Street, dressed in red, to protest the impending deal between the Tories and the DUP, which has now been secured to the tune of £1bn.

Needless to say, I wasn’t best pleased to have my body used as a bartering chip for political gain.

While we indulged in zeitgeisty witticisms (“MY OVARIES ARE NOT A FIELD OF WHEAT”) and stopped traffic in its tracks along Whitehall (one policeman told me “YOU’RE CAUSING ABSOLUTE CHAOS”, and I told him “THAT’S THE POINT!”), it was underscored with a palpable fear that the most powerful woman in the country was giving her approval to a party which are openly anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ rights.

I speak from a position of safety and privilege when I note from afar that austerity disproportionately affects women (it really does: see here), and when I recoil in horror at the fact that the government have found £1bn for political gain, while unashamedly slashing funds to domestic abuse services (outlined here).

But I speak from a position of personal and genuine vulnerability as a woman who wants to own her body, have control over her reproductive rights, and see free, safe and legal abortion become a universal human right. Pregnancy when wanted is a beautiful thing. But I also know that many women have felt the moment of fear as they watch the blue lines on a pregnancy test map out their future. The feeling that your body may go from personal to public ownership. For me, I always know that in the background there is the safety net of free and safe abortions in England. For other women around the world, they have no such reassurance. And as Margaret Atwood has recently said, forcing a woman to continue a pregnancy is a form of slavery (in this interview).

Our bodies should be sites of pleasure, tenderness, empowerment, lust, love and joy – all of the above, some of the above, or whatever else a woman wants hers to be. What they should not be is regulated, debated on by men, or used as sites of oppressive political discourse.

With the DUP refusing to shift their views on abortion in Northern Ireland, despite this deal, we will continue taking to the streets until our Prime Minister realises that her powers go beyond wearing a “THIS IS WHAT A FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE” t-shirt. She must speak out in favour of both protecting and extending abortion rights, not just within the context of our new political dealings in the UK, but also with Trump and other world leaders. In doing so, she will acknowledge that all genders prosper in a society which is open to giving women choice over how they live their lives.

Stella Creasy’s victory in securing women from Northern Ireland access to abortions on the NHS in England is a stunning victory – but it is only one step in the right direction. The thing about rights is they can always be taken away, and where they are present, they are lacking elsewhere. That’s why, as frustrating as it is to “STILL HAVE TO PROTEST THIS SHIT”, I will continue with the mantra “MY BODY MY CHOICE”. Because my body is every woman’s body.

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I Had An Illegal Abortion

By Anonymous

I had an illegal, clandestine and expensive ‘safe’ abortion. I could be prosecuted and jailed, but it’s unlikely to happen. It’s been 3 years.

I live in a country where abortion is only legal in cases where the life of the mother is in danger or if a mentally disabled woman is raped. My reality mirrors those of thousands, if not millions, of women around the globe who cannot access a legal, safe abortion. But unlike the great majority of those women, I could access a ‘safe’ abortion for the right price.

I was 22 and in a relationship with a 26-year-old foreigner (let’s call him Will) who was doing a semester abroad in my country as part of his master’s degree programme. We had been dating for 3 months and had no plans of having a long-term relationship: I was moving to Europe in a few months in order to study my master’s at a top university and he was going back to Canada. I decided to present the news in a concise and clear way so I blurted out ‘I’m pregnant and I want an abortion’ over dinner at his place one night. He just looked me square in the eyes for a while and asked if I was certain. I said ‘Yes, and that since abortion is illegal in this country we should tell no one and do it as soon as possible.’

I was only 4 weeks into the pregnancy so it was relatively easy. I called a mobile number that a local women’s rights NGO had given me. The call was answered by a doctor who insisted we had to talk face to face the moment I mentioned I needed an abortion. She absolutely refused to confirm over the phone that she had practised the procedure before I can understand her caution, she could be stripped of her licence and jailed. After a quick, chipped discussion I agreed to go to her office for a ‘routine check-up.’

The appointment was in one of the most expensive private practice buildings in the city, the kind of place where you pay for privacy, confidentiality and discretion. Will decided to come along but I told him to wait outside until I texted him. I wanted to ask for the price before he arrived because people tend to overcharge foreigners.

As soon as I sat down in her office she asked me to put my bag in a box and to turn my phone off. So I called Will and told him to come up in 10 minutes. I turned my phone off, stated the facts, and asked for the price. She said that the usual price for what I needed was US$ 1000 (more than 3 times the national minimum wage). She said it would be simple: because of the early stage I would only need some pills. ‘Why $1000 for pills?’ Because I would spend two days in a private clinic being monitored, given pain meds and making sure that the remains were disposed of and finally given a final check-up. She said I didn’t have to worry because there would be no paper trail and she would not open a file. In addition, the payment had to be made in the form of a donation to that clinic.

Right then, Will arrived, and after I explained the procedure to him, she repeated the cost and the specifications. She said that Will could stay with me the whole time, the rooms were all private and had a futon too. If he didn´t, someone else had to stay with me, it was mandatory. I said I just wanted the pills. She told us she didn’t do that, that you never knew if there could be abnormal bleeding, or if a part of the foetus could be stuck inside, or if the remains were properly disposed of. It sort of made sense: a few months back a woman was convicted because she went to the hospital after abnormal bleeding caused by abortion pills, and the person that provided her with the pills was also prosecuted.

It turned out that the private clinic was in a small town, a couple of hours from the city. I told my family and friends that we would be taking a weekend break outside the city. The procedure went smoothly; I took the pills as soon as I got there, and spent the next 48 hours under observation. I could tell I was not the only woman in the clinic who was getting an abortion. I saw a teenager with her mother, and another young woman with a couple of friends. But we had another thing in common, it was obvious from the cars, the clothes and our bubblegum accents: we all came from upper income backgrounds.

That’s the reality of restricted or illegal abortion countries. It’s not true that it doesn’t happen, it’s only that abortion is extremely expensive. US$ 1000 may not seem much for some, but it’s twice an average family’s income in my country and more than three times the minimum wage. To say that abortion doesn’t happen in countries where it is banned would be a lie: it’s a privilege for the wealthy and a jail/death sentence for the poor.

Abortion should NEVER be a privilege, it should be a basic right. Women shouldn’t have to die in a dark, unhygienic operating room, be prosecuted for taking abortion pills, or carry to term unwanted pregnancies. All women should have EQUAL rights. All women must have access to a safe abortion.

China: One Child or Two Children?

By Ridhi Malik

On 29th October 2015, news headlines highlighted China’s new plan to scrap the one-child policy and introduce a two-child policy in its place: Chinese couples can now have two children instead of one. The policy will be put into effect after it is ratified at the annual session of the National People’s Congress in March 2016. Until then, there will only be anticipations as to whether the move is confirmed or not. The ending of the policy is attributed to the reduced number of people available for labour as there are now fewer young people in China.

The one-child policy was introduced in China between 1978 and 1980 to curb population growth. China’s population of 1.4 billion beats every other country in the world. The Chinese Government claims that 400 million births were prevented because of the one-child policy. Fines were imposed on couples who had more than one child, whilst child care and healthcare facilities were offered to families who abided by the one-child policy.

Gender Balance in the One-child Policy:

What needs to be known is that the one-child policy is not applicable to the entire Chinese population. Some ethnic minorities such as the Han are exempt from following this policy. In addition, almost half of Chinese couples are allowed to have another child if the first child is a girl. This demonstrates the patriarchal nature of the Chinese community.

A preference for male children is one of the negative implications of the one-child policy. The gender imbalance in Chinese society is a cause for concern and a change in policy would hopefully see a reduction in this discrepancy. It is believed that the one-child policy in China led to some malpractices such as female foeticide, female infanticide and unregistered births. Undoubtedly, the change of policy would lead to a reduction of such practices.

Older Generation Suffering:

Another major issue with the one-child policy is that when parents get older, there is only one child to support them. As the older population is increasing in China and the younger population has declined in the years after the policy was put in place, there is a stronger need for younger people to work. Whatever the reason — economic or social — this change in policy and practice will have material benefits for the Chinese population. Parents will have two children to take care of them in old age and there will be more young people to participate in economic activities.

Rural areas of China, traditionally believed to have larger families, were harder to control in terms of following the policy. There are no financial penalties if twins are born, so many pregnant Chinese women are still resorting to fertility medicines in order to induce the conception of twins.

“Heihaizi” is a term used in China used to refer to children born outside of the one-child policy. These children are unregistered in the Chinese National Registration System. Literally translated as “black child”, the term points to xenophobic tendencies. A change in policy might alter the mindset of the Chinese population, thus reducing the likelihood of racist attitudes.

China’s sex ratio of 1,080 males to every 1,000 females, is higher than the average global sex ratio of 1,016 males to 1,000 females. As can be seen, males outnumber females. This is a cause for concern because in China — a largely (ostensibly) heterosexual society — many men are finding themselves unable to find a wife.

The new policy would be a positive step towards minimizing the practice of some families to abandon their baby girls. Some conventional families still value boys more than girls, as boys are considered to be the breadwinners, whilst girls are seen as a liability. This change in policy will also have a positive effect on pregnant women as it has been reported that some mothers have been forced to undergo an abortion if they conceive a second child.

The impact of the change on policy is yet to be seen and we can only make predictions. However, this seems a promising step in the direction for gender equality and greater workforce participation.