Handmaids at Parliament

Emily Writes: Your anti-abortion protest was silent for a reason

Spinoff Parents editor Emily Writes popped over to Parliament with her fellow short-haired feminist contingent to see what a silent bootie protest looks like. 

There it was, rows and rows of death booties. A strange cult of people who are all about forced impregnation have been in a frenzy knitting booties and the results of their macabre hobby were on display in a jaunty art installation at Parliament. As the sun rose over the white-haired white men sitting in deck chairs by their knitted wares a group of diverse people who aren’t as into coathangers being used to abort foetuses gathered on the other side of the Seddon Statue.

The happy group of people who believe in rights for women far outnumbered the bootie obsessives and their signs were quite frankly a lot better. The other key difference between the two was the noise levels. One was a rowdy bunch, singing songs, hugging, speaking passionately, cheering, clapping; the other group sat silently. They ignored questions asked of them and sat looking grumpy that they were missing their daytime stories. It was as if it was God’s waiting room and everyone there was quite frankly tired of all this unnecessary “living” and “trying to make positive change in the world”.

It made me reflect on why their protest was silent, and why the protest I was aligned with (being a woman who believes you shouldn’t force people to gestate against their will) was so loud. And that’s when I realised they were silent for a reason. They had no speeches for a reason.

And the reason is this: in 2018 it’s kind of hard out there if you’re an anti-choicer.

I knew I was pro-choice from an early age because it’s a rational, reasonable, and compassionate position to hold. As such, I have heard every myth, every urban legend, every conspiracy theory, every misinformed, misremembered statistic, and every audacious lie about abortion.

In the age of the internet, anti-choice lobby groups are struggling to push their anti-women agenda because your average internet user can get correct information easily. The power of your average anti-choice simpleton is far less than it once was.

Campaigns to “call out” the lies of the anti-choice movement have been running for years now. So the only way to campaign against women is the publicity stunt – and that’s what we saw today at Parliament with the bootie display. It was silent because to speak they must respond to questions they’re not comfortable answering.

This particular stunt co-opts the suicide prevention movement’s tribute to people who have died by suicide. They are silent. Not just to the outrage that they would do this to families who have lost loved ones to suicide, but to the fair questions they’re being asked about why their stats don’t add up and their information is wrong.

The pro-choice rally at Parliament in response to a forced pregnancy rally.

Here’s the truth for all to see:

Abortion is a medical procedure to end a pregnancy.

In Aotearoa New Zealand the law says it is legal to have an abortion if two certifying doctors agree that continuing the pregnancy would result in serious danger to a woman’s mental or physical health.

The consultants may also consider:

  • how old you are and/or
  • Whether the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest (sex with a blood relative or guardian).

There are two methods of abortion. The most common in Aotearoa New Zealand is surgical abortion. The other is early medical abortion (EMA).

Someone you know has had an abortion

About one in four New Zealand women have had an abortion. From Statistics New Zealand: 13,285 induced abortions were performed in New Zealand last year, 462 more (3.6%) than in 2016 (12,823).

The median age of women having an abortion in 2017 was 27.1 years, up from 24.5 years in 2007.

Over half of all women who have abortions are already mothers

They are women who love babies, and know full well whether they can add another baby to their family or not.

In 2017, 57% of women having an abortion had already had one or more previous live births, compared with 50% in 2007. In 2017, 37% had already had two or more previous live births, up from 31% in 2007.

The current process to procure abortion is disingenuous

To procure that abortion they likely had to say their mental health was at risk. Because abortion is currently in the Crimes Act. It is legal only in a narrow range of circumstances.

The general abortion rate in 2017 was 13.7 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years, up slightly from 13.5 per 1,000 in 2016.

Women have to jump through hoops to get an abortion in New Zealand

These women that you know, they likely had to wait on average 25 days to have an abortion from the time when they first saw a doctor. That is at least a month continuing a pregnancy that they wanted to end.

Abortion, as it is performed in New Zealand, is a safe procedure. But everybody knows that the safest time to perform an abortion is as early as possible. Unnecessary, avoidable and pointless delays push abortions past the best practice cut-off of nine weeks into a pregnancy.

Most abortions are performed before the 10th week of the pregnancy

The stats tell us that 59% of abortions were performed before the 10th week of the pregnancy, up from 57% in 2016. And 18% of known pregnancies (live births, stillbirths, and abortions) ended in an abortion.

The abortion rate for teenagers is decreasing

Lobby groups will insist teenagers are the majority of women seeking abortions. They are not. The abortion rate for women aged 15–19 years was 9.2 abortions per 1,000 women in this age group in 2017. This is down from the previous year and way down from 2007 when the abortion rate for this age group was 26.7 per 1,000 women aged 15–19 years.

Here are the questions anti-abortionists won’t answer:

  • Without safe access to abortion women will die. Is that what you want?
  • In countries where abortion is illegal women die. Is that what you want?

And that’s it. Just the facts. When you deal just in facts the case becomes clearer. When you are on the right side of women and their families you are able to speak up and with confidence and clarity, because we are speaking truths. When you’re hiding behind falsehoods, it makes sense to be silent.

What matters for us though is we are only as strong as those that have power. And I’m talking about real power – not old men who hate women sitting by booties. Politicians and people who can make change must speak up. Cross-party support for abortion law reform was on display today and I felt proud and hopeful. The Law Commission’s upcoming report on the decriminalisation of abortion is needed and it’s fantastic after so many years of hard mahi to see this underway. In a lot of countries reproductive rights are eroding. We must not be complacent – and we must ensure those in power speak in support of reproductive rights. It’s not enough to say we must not go back to the coat hanger days. We must move forward. Every step forward takes us away from Gilead and creepy as shit death booties knitted by women haters.

Emily Writes is a feminist with short hair.

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