Marama Davidson: For Lent, give up judgment

Anti-abortionists hold a prayer vigil opposite an abortion clinic in Auckland. Photo  / Doug Sherring
Anti-abortionists hold a prayer vigil opposite an abortion clinic in Auckland. Photo / Doug Sherring

I was a teenager when I had an abortion. No woman should ever have to reveal that to anyone for any reason. I do so to say there is no equitable society until women have autonomy over their own lives. Two new campaigns stand against this equity.

The first is the "40 Days for Life" prayer vigils being held outside Auckland and Wellington abortion clinics. This worldwide campaign started this month as part of the religious season of Lent.

Also, the lobby group Family First launched its "Choose Life" campaign. They imply choice but what they want is for women not to choose abortion. Instead, they should have called their campaign "Choose to give away your choice". Their message states that they wish to protect the wellbeing of the mother. Family First is not caring for the wellbeing of any mother. It simply opposes abortion.

I visited an Auckland clinic to observe a 40 Days anti-abortion protest.

On this occasion there was a baby present, conveniently encouraging that family-friendly feeling - and in case we had forgotten just how delightful non-aborted babies are. The protesters had signs and pamphlets to express their feelings.

When I walked past them they were in prayer. I later found out that the designated prayer was for "broken post-abortive women" to repent and seek forgiveness.

This was a sign. Here I am writing for the Herald on Sunday all post-abortive, not broken and not asking for forgiveness. The judgmental guilt trap approach to abortion is pungent and serves only despair.

The Family First and 40 Days crusades remind us that the freedom to express opinion should not hamper women's rights to dignity and to accessing healthcare.

This also shines a timely election-year torch on what needs to change in our provision of abortions. The anti-abortion drives are using Lent and women and I am using them. Deal done.

What the debate should focus on is access. Abortion is only legal if two consultants agree that there would be serious physical or mental harm to the woman's health, or if the foetus has a serious disability. As a result, 99 per cent of abortions are approved on "mental health" grounds. This is a forced dishonesty that also requires women to justify our decisions. This is not a lightly made lifestyle choice.

I acknowledge that abortion is not the ideal solution to unplanned pregnancies. I support the continual plea for better education, improved access to contraception and more support for adoption and whangai avenues.

In an election year, we should demand that any government will decriminalise abortion. I and many others are not criminals. This is a healthcare matter. And for Lent we should give up judgment.

• The Herald on Sunday will publish a range of different views "out of leftfield" over the next couple of months.

- Herald on Sunday

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