ZB

Opinion: If you have a uterus, no one can blame you for feeling a little less safe

Author
Vera Alves,
Publish Date
Sat, 2 Jul 2022, 3:46pm
An abortion rights demonstrator outside the US Supreme Court, whose overturning of Roe v Wade is a cautionary tale for everyone. Photo / Getty Images
An abortion rights demonstrator outside the US Supreme Court, whose overturning of Roe v Wade is a cautionary tale for everyone. Photo / Getty Images

Opinion: If you have a uterus, no one can blame you for feeling a little less safe

Author
Vera Alves,
Publish Date
Sat, 2 Jul 2022, 3:46pm

OPINION: 

It has not been a good week for people with uteruses. 

In fact, it has not been a good week for people - in general. 

The overturning of Roe v Wade in the US has made plenty of headlines around the globe - and for good reason. Civil rights, and in particular the rights of pregnant people, have taken a major step backwards. 

One thing I noticed a lot in the online debate about the ruling is the amount of people who use arguments like "what if the woman was raped?" or "what if the woman's life is at risk?" as if a woman needs to have some major reason to be able to safely access an abortion. 

This idea that there must be a higher reason to legitimise the decision to terminate a pregnancy is very pervasive in anything that relates to women doing what they want, as if an abortion is only morally acceptable if you have a really grim reason for it. Except that's nonsense. People can end pregnancies for whatever reason they want, and none of them are more or less acceptable. 

Abortion in Aotearoa was only removed from the Crimes Act in 2020 - and much against the will of many who hope to be in power at some point. 

While the laws of Aotearoa have recognised that terminating a pregnancy is not a crime, there's still a lot to do, from removing barriers to access to dismantling the massive social stigma around it. The abortion to-do list is long and will take time - and now we also get to worry about how we can't even take current laws for granted because, apparently, someone could just decide whether or not they want to relitigate things. 

And while abortion in New Zealand might be legal, it's still very much hush-hush. Sure it's been a trending topic this week, but it's not a topic that comes up nearly often enough. That stigma that keeps abortion in the shadows can have dangerous consequences. 

We need to normalise conversations about abortions. Thousands and thousands of safe abortions are performed in New Zealand every year. Worldwide, an estimated one in every four pregnancies ends in an abortion every year. 

In 2020, there were 13,246 abortions in New Zealand. Of those, 41 per cent of the people seeking the termination had no previous live birth, meaning that more than half of people who seek terminations in New Zealand are already parents. 

I don't know anything about these 13,246 people who sought an abortion in 2020 (coincidentally, the year when access to healthcare services was made even harder by pandemic restrictions). But I am as sure as can be that none of them were happy at the prospect or did it for fun. The reality is that, in many ways, no one is more anti-abortion than the person who has to go through it. It's often a heartbreaking decision and not a situation anyone wants to be in. 

We need to stop talking about abortions as only being okay as a last resort to a really bad situation. Yes, they can be that. But they can also be a way to terminate an unwanted pregnancy for no other reason than it being unwanted. 

Pregnant people do not need to justify their decision. 

In New Zealand, this week, if you have a uterus, no one can blame you for feeling a little less safe. 

We cannot let this issue fester in the darkness, as something peripheral, waiting for someone to weaponise it for political gain. 

The overturning of Roe v Wade is not simply an "American issue". What the Supreme Court in the US did is a cautionary tale for everyone, a reminder that the fight is never over. 

It's exhausting and, right now, it's hard to feel optimistic about things getting any better within our generation - which is only more reason to keep on fighting. 

We've decriminalised abortion - now let's destigmatise it.