Tag Archives: Sexual Health

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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Malta remains in the stone age

Not content to impose its own views on the populous regarding abortion and divorce, the catholic church in the form of one of Malta’s bishops has now said that educating children about contraception is “tantamount to child abuse“.

Now pause and let that sink in for a moment.

Yes, he (the bishop of Gozo, Mario Grech) was talking about contraception. It seems to me that there are three blindingly obvious issues here.

The first, of course, is that contraception is a vital component of healthcare and responsible living.

Do you want your child to struggle through their teens and early twenties with an unplanned and unwanted child (don’t forget there is no abortion in Malta)? Would you like your teenage child to contract AIDS or some other sexually-transmitted disease? How much money does the World Health Organisation and assorted charities spend annually on trying to treat and reduce the spread of AIDS, because the catholic church discourages the use of condoms in third world countries?

The second issue is that the way the catholic church demonises sexual activity other than for procreation does nothing to aid its cause. Sex is arguably the most fun any two people can have together. Young people like to have fun. Young people also like to rebel against authority. In Malta the church represents the ultimate authority, and taking such a strict position is pretty much asking young people to do the opposite.

The third issue is the breathtaking hypocrisy of the man. This guy is a mouthpiece of an organisation that not only brainwashes young children with terrifying stories of hell and damnation (surely abuse in itself), but that frequently places them in situations where it knows that its own priests will sexually abuse rape and torture them (let’s call a spade a spade here).

The head of Malta’s GU clinic, Philip Carabott, has quite rightly called the bishop’s comments “hysterical and unproductive“, and has urged the authorities to ignore the bishop’s words. Let’s hope his efforts in the field of sexual health in Malta over the years are not wasted.

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