Try as I might, I can’t make myself furious about the #ShoutYourAbortion hashtag. It is, above all, cause for sadness. Many of the stories women tell about their abortions are, in some form, about social indifference.
The women tweeting often say that a baby would have shipwrecked their life chances, that their abortion enabled them to be better mothers to their other children, that it would have been financially unfeasible to carry their pregnancy to term. And in a country such as the US, where over 40pc of women who have abortions live below the poverty line, and the most common reason for a termination is financial insecurity, those are serious concerns.
— Mary Emily O'Hara (@MaryEmilyOHara) September 21, 2015
My abortion was in 2008. It saved my life and allowed me to escape an abusive, emotionally and physically violent man. #ShoutYourAbortion
— hi, is this meagan? (@mgnwrites) September 21, 2015
My abortion in 1997 was a painful decision, and the right one. I am a better mother to my son now for making it. #ShoutYourAbortion
— Elizabeth Laidlaw (@mzlaylaw) September 22, 2015
So it is pointless, as well as contemptible, to shame women who have had abortions; little will change until we collectively wake up to our duty to very small people. (Where, for instance, are the fathers and bosses shouting the abortions they demanded as the price of a relationship or a job?)
What will overcome abortion is not putting Planned Parenthood out of business; it will be the realisation that these small people are our people. And ever since Francis Crick strolled into the pub at lunchtime with the news of a significant discovery, that realisation has been moving unstoppably towards us.
The current BBC2 series Countdown to Life shows, in highly affecting detail, how our individuality develops in the womb. As the presenter Michael Mosley puts it, ‘Each of has us been defined by this extraordinary time in our lives’. We begin at conception: before anyone has an opinion about us, before heartbreak and friendship and everything that will burst into our lives, these tiny bundles are us. From that point on, we are characters in the story of our existence. But some of us only get through Chapter One. ‘You were born, you had body, you died. / It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.’ There are countless human beings living right now who will never feel the sun on their faces – a fact that is probably too astonishing to fit into a hashtag.