This piece “Scandal of aborted IVF babies” appeared on the front page of the Sunday Times today. It is, in my view, a rather tragic story about women who had undergone IVF treatment, both privately and on the NHS, and subsequently decided not to go through with the pregnancy. Nearly half of these women are in the 18 – 34 age range. It seems as if some of them were pressurised into a pregnancy she didn’t want while others were faced with relationship breakdown after the IVF treatment.
None of the women in the case studies in the Sunday Times was at all happy at what she had done. The overwhelming emotion was sadness coupled with shame, which reinforces my strong belief that for the vast majority of women, abortion is extraordinarily difficult, perhaps the most difficult decision any woman may have to make.
Unlike Ann Widdecombe, who was quoted in a further article inside the newspaper, I do not believe the women referred to in the Sunday Times, were treating their babies like “designer goods”. Indeed, Widdecombe, as is her wont, went much further, stating: “If the law was being applied properly, people wouldn’t be able to get an abortion just because they changed their minds.”
Widdecombe is, as ever, showing not the slightest sympathy for the predicament of these women. As a former Chief Executive of the lone parent charity Gingerbread I have seen single parenthood first hand and the loss of income and status which often goes with it. I had rarely seen real poverty before working for Gingerbread and certainly had never come across it in such an unrelenting way before. Widdecombe may also like to consider one of her other mantras – that children should be brought up in a family with two parents, a mother and a father, an obvious impossibility if the relationship has ended.
There is also the question of who makes the decisions about having children. The concept of reproductive choice is very new. It’s only really the last two generations who have had such choice over when to have children, how many to have or whether to have them at all. We are still finding our way with some women less able to cope than others.
I believe we need compassion and understanding. Anti-abortionists like Ann Widdecombe will take every opportunity to condemn terminations, almost irrespective of the circumstances. Her views are, I’m sure, the voice of a small minority. It is, however, an extremely vocal minority which needs to be rigorously challenged.