Where are women in the abortion debate?

The Guardian’s Kira Cochrane reports today on the no doubt delightful experience that was interviewing anti-abortion MP Nadine Dorries, who has been spearheading the move to reduce the abortion time limit. She highlights Dorries’ complete contempt for women who need late term abortions; not only has she failed to speak with any women who have undergone late term abortions, she also cites “procrastination” as the main factor in their experience. Nice.

Kira draws our attention away from the foetal pain and viabilty debate (which in any case supports the retainment of the current time limit) and towards the women that Dorries so conveniently forgets about:

Many of those who have late-term abortions are the most vulnerable: teenagers who didn’t realise that they were pregnant until five months’ gestation; women with learning disabilities; those using methadone in drug rehabilitation programmes, which puts a halt to your periods. Women like the one I read of recently, whose partner started beating her up when she became pregnant, and who feared she would never be able to escape him if she had his baby. (In more than 30% of domestic violence cases, the abuse started during pregnancy.) Women who have suffered a severely traumatic episode – the death of a partner, or a child, for instance – who fear that the stress might affect foetal development.

The BPAS has just published a 28-day audit of late-term abortion requests, to be distributed to MPs. The stories include that of a woman with two small daughters from a previous marriage, who had an unplanned pregnancy with her current partner, which he urged her to continue. She then found out that he was abusing her daughters. As Ann Furedi of BPAS says, the stories “provide a really stark contrast to the abstract, philosophical and rather sterile discussion about viability and not viability. What this does is to take it woman by woman. The challenge that we’re putting to MPs is to look at this and think about it – what makes you think that the lives of these women would have been better if they’d had to continue their pregnancy? We’re talking about women who, by their own admission, are saying, ‘I cannot cope with having this child’.”

The crucial vote is tomorrow. Here’s hoping our MPs give more of a crap about women than Dorries.