IT’S an interesting time to be a woman. Despite a new report this week which showed that stories about women or written by women don’t make the front pages of newspapers even half as much as those by and for men (unless you happen to be the Duchess of Cambridge or Angela Merkel caught by a photographer in an unfortunate pose), it feels like women issues are currently leading the news agenda.
Be it the victims of Jimmy Savile finally feeling able to talk of their traumas, to the reignited No Page 3 campaign; the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s dressing down of the opposition leader for his misogynist views, to the outrageously appalling treatment which Anna Larke, the girlfriend of TV celeb Justin Lee Collins had endured at his hands, women are definitely making the headlines.
Unfortunately, though, all these stories reveal just one thing: that women are still subject to abuse by powerful men, be it mental, physical, sexual, verbal . . . or just the insidious message that seeps out on a daily basis that the best kind of woman is a topless one.
Then there’s been the spat between Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Lamont suggested that neither she nor Sturgeon should be in receipt of a council tax freeze and free prescriptions, given that their households bring in £90,000 and £200,000 a year respectively.
Such a political point – as is constantly made by Ed Miliband to David Cameron – was reduced to being handbags at dawn and a “stairhead rammy”, as obviously two women couldn’t make rational political points.
And let’s not forget the issue which has reared it’s ugly head again – abortion.
For a woman of my generation, who can count on one hand the numbers of friends who have been through such a traumatic event (but even more the numbers who have miscarried), abortion had become a non-issue. The argument was won a long time ago. But now we have leading members of the government seemingly desperate to fix a system which is not broke.
Abortion is not a political issue. It’s a personal one. And a medical one. I remain to be convinced that politicians should have any say at all when it comes to drawing the line at how many weeks at which a woman can abort an unwanted baby.
The decision as to when it’s still possible to abort should be made based on the medical and scientific facts of the matter. All faith and politics should be removed from the debate.
Because it’s not about God or if you’re left or right wing. It’s about each individual woman – or, let’s face it, girl – what their circumstances are, how they are able to deal with becoming a mother be it for the first time or the fourth.
I recently went to the doctors suffering from labyrinthitis (an ailment of the inner ear). He made me wee in a bottle and take a pregnancy test because of the medication he was about to prescribe. How we laughed at the idea that it might come back positive. But inside I was already panicking and considering the options should it turn out to be the worst result possible.
I already have three children. We can just about cope financially, physically, mentally . . . a fourth would tip the fine balance of our lives. I’m not sure I wouldn’t have lost my mind.
I also have no idea how I would feel had I actually had to go through a termination. When I can see how wonderful my other children are, I would know what might have been lost. But then given my age it’s entirely possible a fourth child would have had medical issues. I’m not sure I could cope with that either.
However that’s just me . . . others would manage to have that child, I’m quite sure. That’s the thing about babies and pregnancy. Every woman is different. Their reaction to pregnancy is different in different circumstances.
So to suggest that abortion is taken lightly, is used as a contraceptive, is to dismiss the emotional suffering of a woman who discovers she’s pregnant when she doesn’t want to be.
To reduce time limits arbitrarily is to place added pressure on women making one of the biggest decisions of their lives. It puts young girls who are too scared to even admit they’ve had sex to their parents, in an even more impossible position. It could even rush women into termination, when if there was more time to think about it, they could well decide otherwise.
Of course there are those, such as the women who will be protesting outside a conference on abortion at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre this weekend, who regret having abortions. There are probably very few women who don’t.
Their emotional suffering cannot be dismissed either. They may feel they were pressurised into that course of action – but that shouldn’t direct the course of anyone else’s thinking, be they pro-choice or pro-life.
Personally I’m both. Women should have the choice as to whether or not they bring a life into the world. They should also have a choice to live their lives the way they want to without pressure from politicians who think they know best.
Anything else is an abuse of women by more powerful, and mostly, men.