Monthly Archives: June 2015

A fundamental freedom

Recently, a Dutch women’s abortion rights group, Women On Waves, organised an inspired publicity stunt to highlight the difficulties that women living in certain European countries face when trying to obtain an abortion.

The stunt, reported in the news links below, entailed flying 2 boxes of medical abortion tablets over the border from Germany to Poland using a miniature drone, so that 2 Polish women could get the abortion that they needed. Obtaining an abortion in Poland is only permitted under certain specific, extreme, circumstances and it is believed that there are a significant number of illegal back-street abortions carried out in Poland each year, with all the risks and hazards that this presents to the women concerned.

The drone operation was a complete success, in that the Polish women were able to take the tablets, and awareness of the issue was undoubtedly raised from all the media coverage.

Some of the women responsible for flying the drone were apparently arrested though the exact charges have not been revealed at the time of writing. I’m at a loss to understand what possible crime could have been committed, since both Germany and Poland are in the Schengen open border zone and the tablets were apparently prescribed by a doctor before being flown across the border.

Church-led Discrimination

This action highlights the inequality and discrimination that exists across Europe, where in some countries abortion is available on demand, and in others it is almost unavailable (e.g. Poland) or completely unavailable (e.g. Malta). I’m focussing on Europe because that’s where my main residence is.

It may not need saying, but of course the unavailability of abortion correlates almost exactly to the relative strength of the catholic church in those countries.

Yes or No

Regular readers will know that I tend to see things in black and white, and it seems to me that either a woman has the right to control what is happening in her own body, or she doesn’t.

If she doesn’t, then we may as well deny her the vote, the right to equal pay, the right to contraception, and the right to press criminal charges for rape, because equality just went out of the window.

If she does, which seems to me to be the more civilised option, then she should have the right to abort an unwanted pregnancy on demand. There should be no need for her to give a reason, just as there should be no need for me to give a reason for wanting a vasectomy, for example. I’m willing to accept practical limits (for example, only before the foetus, if born prematurely, would be certain to live) as long as the woman is given ample time to make her decision.

To me, the arguments are as simple as that. I don’t subscribe to the ‘life begins at conception’ argument – it seems self-evident that sentience and self awareness can’t exist in the early stages of a pregnancy, and furthermore I am of the opinion that the value of something that already exists (the mother) trumps the value of something which may or may not come to exist (the potential child).

I also don’t subscribe to the “only in case of rape” or “only if the woman’s life is in danger” arguments. If a woman has full rights over her own body, as I believe she should, then such arguments are completely superfluous.

Like I said, black and white.

Ports in a Storm

So if a woman in Poland, or Malta, or Ireland, or anywhere else in Europe that abortion is illegal or unfairly restricted, decides that getting an abortion is the right thing for her to do, what can she do?

At the moment it looks like she has two options.

Firstly, she could travel to a country where abortion is available on demand. Right now that means The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden or Switzerland. Currently Sweden has the most liberal laws, with abortion being available on demand up to 18 weeks into pregnancy, including for women who do not live in Sweden.

Secondly, she could apply online for a medical abortion kit from the Women On Web website. This kit consists of a number of pills and may be used up to around 12 weeks into pregnancy. I would assume the kits are sent out in plain wrapping! The website asks that the woman completes an online questionnaire and makes a donation towards costs, but that’s all.

Useful resources

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An improved prognosis

This is a follow-up to my post from two years ago, “Dealt a Blow“.

So, having had the subarachnoid haemorrhage in 2011 and a number of follow-up interventions in 2012 and 2013, it’s time for me to bring you up to date with what the hell is going on inside my skull.

My previous post got as far as me not looking forward to a further angiogram after the one in March 2013 showed that there was still some blood flowing inside my coiled aneurysm after having two coilings in 2011 and 2012.

Well, I flew back to London to get a further MRA in September 2013, and towards the end of the year got the results which said that I would have to have ANOTHER coiling via angiogram (my third), since the aneurysm wasn’t sufficiently blocked off. So I jetted off to London again in January 2014 (this time with girlfriend in tow) and underwent the coiling process via angiogram (under general anaesthetic) at what was becoming my regular haunt, the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in Bloomsbury.

Before, during and after a coiling of an aneurysm

It was around this time that I looked back to all the medical interventions I had since my original haemorrhage, wondering why it was proving so difficult to block the aneurysm completely. I reluctantly decided that I simply couldn’t risk training in the gym any more, no matter how light the regime. It seemed entirely possible that too much training was raising my blood pressure and preventing the total blocking-off of the aneurysm.

After I got home I learned that I would no longer be able to have follow-up MRA scans in the UK, I would have to have them in Malta. No problem, I thought, and called Malta’s national hospital to arrange one. Three weeks of complex negotiations, phone-call hopscotch and red tape cutting later, I finally got myself onto the patient list of a Maltese neurological consultant and had my first consultation in February 2014. They scheduled an MRA for July to review the most recent coiling.

This MRA in July 2014 was, believe it or not, the first time I had treatment in Malta since the original haemorrhage back in 2011. The results came through quite quickly (quicker than in the UK), and this time, FINALLY, it was good news. When I met my consultant in August 2014 she said that the aneurysm appeared to be totally blocked off, though they would need to send the images to the NHNN in London to get a second opinion.

This was done and in March 2015 I received my first ever official ‘All Clear’. The NHNN agreed that the MRA showed there was no blood flow in the aneurysm – the blood flow in the vessels of my brain were bypassing it completely. I would need annual MRAs to check all was still good, but no more angiograms would be on the immediate horizon.

You can imagine the level of relief I felt. Since 2011 during my initial recovery, the aneurysm had felt like a huge shadow stalking my every step through life, and now that has been lifted.

I still bear the invisible scars of the subarachnoid haemorrhage, like a lot of SAH survivors. My eyes get tired and vision gets blurry much more frequently, and I have a much harder time with bright lights and glare. My medium and long term memory is nowhere near as good as it used to be. I get dizzy spells. Once in a while I suffer a day or two of extreme physical fatigue when I can hardly support my own head. And of course I have to avoid heavy lifting and anything which is likely to increase my blood pressure. But I’m still here, and with this prognosis I’m likely to be still here for some time to come. That’s what’s important.

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