April 26, 2003


Abortion: still a dirty word (Julie Burchill, May 25, 2002, The Guardian)
"I love babies," I said, surprised at the simplicity of my statement. And then immediately, perfectly naturally, "I'm so glad I had all those abortions."

Now, I know this is an unusual statement to make. Even EastEnders, which is ceaselessly condemned by the Daily Mail as being irretrievably "PC", has an amazingly censorious attitude to abortion. Think of key scenes featuring Carol, Bianca, Natalie, not to mention Dot's life sentence of sorrow. Yet I remember, as a child in the early 1970s, hearing Diane, the waitress heroine of the decidedly reactionary soap Crossroads, saying matter-of-factly to a miserably pregnant woman, "Abortion's not a dirty word, you know!"

Where did the recent creeping foetus fetishism come from? And how do we - excuse the phrase - get rid of it? Some of it must be blamed on Tony Blair's bowing of the knee to Rome. Cherie Blair can call herself a feminist all she likes, but any feminist worth her salt would have made a point of having a termination - on the NHS, naturally - when she got knocked up the last time. Wantonly giving birth to a fourth child on a planet buckling under the strain of overpopulation certainly isn't any sort of example to set for gymslip mums, who can at least plead ignorance and rampant fertility.

Me-Ism - psychiatry, psychoanalysis, any sort of navel-gazing - has to take part of the blame for the demonisation of abortion. The idea that everything we do or have done to us stays with us for ever is a reactionary and self-defeating reading of modern life. No doubt if you're the sort of lumbering, self-obsessed poltroon who believes that seeing Mommy kissing Santa Claus 30 years ago irrevocably marked your life, you wouldn't get over an abortion, as you wouldn't get over stubbing your toe without professional help. But you choose to be that way, because you are weak and vain, and you think your pain is important. Whereas the rest of us know not only that our pain is not important, but that it probably isn't even pain - just too much time on our hands. [...]

In a recent Mori poll for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, only 7% of those asked about abortion declared themselves totally opposed to it, yet it remains the last taboo. Famous women would rather admit to having been sexually abused as children than to having had a termination - Cybill Shepherd and Barbara Windsor are the only ones I can think of who refer to theirs with good-humoured straightforwardness. "No woman takes abortion lightly," even the valiant pro-choice spokeswomen have taken to saying, not realising that they are adding to the illusion that abortion is a serious, murderous, life-changing act. It isn't - unless your life is so sadly lacking in incident and interest that you make it so.

Myself, I'd as soon weep over my taken tonsils or my absent appendix as snivel over those abortions. I had a choice, and I chose life--mine.

Only Orwell will answer:
I'd stopped listening to the actual lecture. But there are more ways than one of listening. I shut my eyes for a moment.? The effect was curious. I seemed to see the fellow much better when I could only hear his voice.

It was a voice that sounded as if it could go on for a fortnight without stopping. It's a ghastly thing, really, to have a sort of human barrel-organ shooting propaganda at you by the hour. The same thing over and over again.? Hate, hate, hate.? Let's all get together and have a good hate. Over and over.? It gives you the feeling that something has got inside your skull and is hammering down on your brain. But for a moment, with my eyes shut, I managed to turn the tables on him. I got inside his skull. It was a peculiar sensation. For about a second I was inside him, you might almost say I was him. At any rate, I felt what he was feeling.

I saw the vision that he was seeing. And it wasn't at all the kind of vision that can be talked about. What he's saying is merely that Hitler's after us and we must all get together and have a good hate. Doesn't go into details. Leaves it all respectable. But what he's seeing is something quite different.? It's a picture of himself smashing people's faces in with a spanner. Fascist faces, of course. I know that's what he was seeing. It was what I saw myself for the second or two that I was inside him.? Smash! Right in the middle!? The bones cave in like an eggshell and what was a face a minute ago is just a great big blob of strawberry jam. Smash! There goes another! That's what's in his mind, waking and sleeping, and the more he thinks of it the more he likes it. And it's all O.K. because the smashed faces belong to Fascists. You could hear all that in the tone of his voice.
Posted by Orrin Judd at April 26, 2003 10:39 AM
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