A woman's right to choose

RICHARD BOOCK
Last updated 05:00 08/12/2011

Forgive me for sounding a tad cynical about the pro-lifers. I know they mean well. But to compare pre-natal Down syndrome testing (and associated terminations) with eugenics only reminds us how bat-shit crazy so many of them are. Then again, I guess we are talking about folk who want the state to take control of women's bodies. Especially now the church is so toothless. How they must have loved it when there wasn't any difference.

Down syndrome testing? It's estimated that, eventually, about 90% of pregnant women who test positive will opt to terminate. The last I heard from Right to Life they were threatening to take the New Zealand government to the International Criminal Court on a charge of genocide. No, seriously. Reckoned the practice of allowing women a choice over a Down syndrome pregnancy was a crime against humanity. Hope they don't waste too much money on that one.

Never mind the drivel about eugenics. This, after all, is a purely optional test, offering pregnant women the information, awareness and right to make a decision about their own bodies and future. Some choose not to take it. There's no suggestion of coercion or persuasion or encouragement one way or another. It's simply that, presented with a positive test, most pregnant women prefer to terminate. Which is their right, just as it's also their right to carry.

The pro-lifers won't have a bar of that, though. It's hardly surprising, either, given most of them consider abortion evil for any reason. Many are even making bizarre claims about a need to maintain the presence of children with Down syndrome, as if they view them as some sort of endangered species. Somehow we've managed to move from a world that (quite rightly) celebrated our biological bloopers, to one that wants to force them on future generations.

Maybe I don't get out enough. But after asking for a show of hands at a gathering recently, I found not a single woman who was hoping to be pregnant one day with a baby with Down syndrome. Neither could I find any who preferred the idea of not having the option of a pre-natal screening test. To an individual, their response was the same: women should be free to make their own personal decision, end of story. Which is exactly what's happening, to the great consternation of the pro-lifers.

Not that you'd want to read too much into their opposition. Down syndrome is merely today's Trojan horse. Tomorrow it will be something else. In the US, Republicans are trying to introduce a law that would ban abortions sought on the basis of gender or race, even though there's no evidence such discrimination exists. It's simply a means to an end; an attempt to ambush what is undeniably a women's rights issue with contrived, emotional claptrap.

That's why I support the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand, and their push to lift rather than tighten restrictions on abortion here. I agree with those who believe the reason for someone having an abortion shouldn't be anyone else's business, unless there's a suggestion of compulsion or duress. Women should be free to have a safe termination, more or less on demand. It's a nonsense so many still have to feign mental stress to get the go-ahead.

Don't be fooled; the pro-lifers would like us to think this is all about children with Down syndrome, or gender, or race. Nothing could be further from the truth. They don't give a toss about any of that; their particular obsession lies in forcing women to carry unwanted babies to full term. For many of them, including possible US Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, human life begins at the point of conception, therefore it should be legally protected from that point too.

Or, as the Monty Python team might have sung in an alternative Meaning of Life:

                                                      Every egg is sacred,
                                                       Once it's fertilised.
                                               Let's return to the days when,
                                                  Women were nationalised.

Care to help with some more verses?

Read more of Richard Boock in the Sunday Star Times.

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