I was passed a local newspaper by a student of mine the other week. She was (rightly) questioning the contradictions of two stories within the paper. The paper was the Oxford Mail, but it’s not alone in struggling to cover issues pertaining to women (I refuse and refute the term “women’s issues” as if only women were impacted).
Their front page headline was Abortion Shocker – Eight out of ten women requesting terminations now have to travel out of the county as NHS docs refuse to treat them. According to the paper the local health trust is subcontracting most terminations to Marie Stopes because they have a problem with numbers of doctors refusing to carry out terminations.
It means only abortions for girls under 16 or women with health problems associated with pregnancy are carried out at Oxford’s John Radcliffe and The Horton in Banbury. In all other cases, county women have to travel up to 75 miles to get to a clinic for their procedure, and be expected to return home the same day.
The spokesperson for the Trust said that with junior doctor rotations every six months they are left not knowing how many will refuse to carry out abortions on ethical grounds. Wait, rewind, the Trust said they were leaving abortions up to junior doctors, many of whom are only weeks out of medical school. Now I love junior doctors and am immensely grateful to them every time I need one to fix something. But I would rather that an operation (and operation) were carried out at least under close guidance of a senior doctor and that lack of access to it wasn’t blamed on junior doctors “fickleness”.
But what’s more galling is that the paper gives space to Life, the anti-abortion group and no space to women’s campaigners or pro-choice campaigners, like Abortion Rights who argue that women have a right to control their own bodies.
Similarly, in the same edition, the paper covers the Oxford Women’s Festival. From a schedule of activities ranging from women in construction, feminism today, violence against women painting exhibition, women in war and peace, the long road to equality (you get the idea) the paper chose to highlight that the festival was everything:
From singing in Barton, to a display of French fashion at the Town Hall
So lets see – front page women are having to travel long distances to access a legally entitled medical service, but an anti-abortion group gets to speak on it, middle pages the women’s festival is about singing and fashion. Mind at least they covered the Festival – Million Women Rise has been sadly absent from the pages of any newspaper (but covered in independent media).
A lot of local paper are owned and run by the same conglomerates as national newspapers. This rather blinkered view of women (summed up by their fertility and their frivolity) is just a symptom of the way in which women are viewed. So any other examples out there? Do leave us a comment…