Belfast Telegraph

When are we going to stop torturing women who want an abortion?

By Nuala McKeever

It takes two people to create an embryo, if we're talking about unassisted conception. A male and a female. Imagine you're a 16-year-old girl. Imagine your father or your brother or your uncle or your cousin or a 'friend of the family' rapes you. Imagine your monthly cycle stops. It doesn't come. Imagine being 16 and being in that position. What would you do?

Imagine you don't have a supportive mother to turn to. Or you do, but your rapist has told you that if you tell anyone, he'll hurt you or kill you or hurt someone else you love, like your mother or your wee sister. Imagine being in that situation.

Imagine your relief to discover that there is somewhere you can go, where no one knows you, to talk to someone who'll actually listen to you. Someone who will help you sort out this awful situation you've been put into. Imagine sitting figuring out how you can get to the Marie Stopes Clinic in Belfast without anyone in your family finding out.

Imagine opening the paper or watching the news or looking at a news site online or reading a post on Facebook, where it says that anyone going to the Marie Stopes Clinic in Belfast has to go through a gauntlet of people shouting at them to turn back, yelling at them that what they're doing is wrong, that they are wrong.

Imagine being 16 and being in that situation.

Imagine sitting in your bedroom on your own with no access to money, no chance to slip away for a few days over to London or Liverpool because you're 16, you've no money, you've no contacts and you've no experience, except what you've experienced at home. Imagine that.

I'm sure you've read some of the testimony of the adults who were sent to Australia as children years ago. Harrowing stories of abuse and neglect and suffering. A current nun from the Sisters of Nazareth has conceded that those children were wronged. She used the phrase "with hindsight".

Well, how many years will it take for us to look back with hindsight at what we are perpetrating on young women now?

The unnecessary suffering and neglect and punishment that we as a society are tolerating because some people believe it's in the best interests of the women involved to be forced to endure an unwanted pregnancy?

We tut-tut at how women are treated in Third World countries and yet we demonise and penalise and torture young women here every time we allow the situation regarding abortion to continue in Northern Ireland.

Jesus Christ is quoted as saying: "Suffer the little children to come unto me." I don't remember him ever adding, "But force them to run the gauntlet of taunts and vile invective from adults because they've been abused by other adults".

Don't quote the Bible at me for justification of anything, please. We've enough of that pathetic 'whataboutery' passing for politics here already. This is the 21st century. We're not all running around in robes, beards and sandals and fishing in Lake Galilee, so let's leave the Bible out of it.

I don't believe any female gets up in the morning and thinks, "Whoopee, I'm going to have an abortion today". I am that 16-year-old, I deserve love and support and care. See ME. Help ME. Listen to ME.

Who'd stay with Peter or Martin?

As same sex celebrity couples go, Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson aren't lookin' too happy with their (not very) civil partnership.

Their celeb name would be Mart-er or P-artin, both of which seem appropriate for the situation right now – they're not talking much, they don't agree on the basics, they're stuck in the same house with neither able to buy the other out of the arrangement.

It's at this point that many marriages head to the divorce court. Maybe they're staying together for the sake of the children, i.e. us. Hope so, cos I'm not sure I'd fancy spending every other weekend with either of them ...

A lesson from being Scot-free

"Oh Vote in Scotland. When will we see, your likes again?..." I so hope Scottish people go for independence this week, just for the craic.

Shake it all up, challenge all the old certainties and prove that the sky doesn't fall down just because someone stands up and says: "You know what? I think I'm big enough to try something on my own now. Thanks."

It's not narrow nationalism. It's growing up. It's taking responsibility. It's saying: "Let's be friends, on equal terms, not just on your terms". And all achieved without resorting to violence. Hmmm ... lesson anyone?

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