The Mail is keen for there to be more unmarried mothers. Don’t look so staggered, it’s on today’s front page. “NHS spends £1m a week on repeat abortions: Single women using terminations ‘as another form of contraceptive’”, the headline wails, and the body copy adds plaintively, “According to the statistics, single or unmarried women account for five out of every six repeat terminations.” There’s only one implication I can see: the Mail thinks abortion should be available exclusively to those with a ring on their finger.
Which would leave those women who aren’t married to carry their unwanted pregnancies to term, which would finally bring an end to the nuclear family and induce the matrilineal society that the crypo-Marxist Daily Mail has always wanted! Hang on, that isn’t what the Daily Mail has always wanted at all, is it? There’s something rum going on here.
The first rum thing is the figures. That £1 million a week in the headline, for example – you might not be surprised to know that, even if we use the same figures the Mail does, that £1 million turns out to be partially ashes and air. We’re told that in 2010, 64,000 abortions were performed on women who had previously had a termination. We’re also told that the average abortion costs £680.
Obviously, the Mail doesn’t have access to the same higher-level adding up tech as me, so I decided to help the editor out by plugging these numbers into my browser search bar. If you multiply 64,000 by £680 and divide it by 52 (for the weeks in a year), you get £836,923.077. That is just a shade off a million. A 150-thousand-pound shade. Which means the Mail’s front page has overestimated the annual cost of repeat abortions to the NHS by the tiny, insignificant sum of £8.5 million. Not that it would want to exaggerate or anything.
Then there’s the definition of single, which turns out not to mean actually single, but “single or unmarried”. Not, of course, that the Mail would want to inflate the moral indignation by combining two demographically distinct groups. But let’s follow the dance of the rum numbers. Let’s be horrified by these unmarried women having repeated abortions. Let’s decide what to do next.
I’ve already mentioned the possibility of only allowing married women to have legal terminations. That would have the Mail-pleasing effect of denying women any get out for the consequences of their incontinent unwed sexuality (ha! Liberate your way out of that one, ladies!) though it would also unfortunately lead to a boom in unmarried mothers. That doesn’t sound totally in keeping with the moral universe of the Mail, so let’s try something else.
Maybe the problem is with “repeat abortions”. Here’s an idea: every woman gets issued with an “abortion token” when she hits puberty, which she can cash in for a safe, legal termination – but just the one, so spend it wisely! Don’t blow it on an unplanned pregnancy now when there’s a chance you’ll need to deal with a congenital abnormality later, girls! Or better still, treat it as an investment and save it until you can sell it on to someone really desperate – it’s the perfect example of market choice in the NHS, if you think about it.
Of course, this isn’t perfect either: if it’s “not unknown for some women to have seven, eight or even nine terminations in their lifetime”, as the article states, then in the Termination Token Economy, it would probably be “not unknown” for women to have six, seven or even eight unwanted children. And that doesn’t sound like what the Mail wants either.
Try something else: forced sterilisation with every termination! Problem solved. Although, possibly not totally what the Pro-Life Alliance and LIFE spokespeople quoted in the article had in mind. There are, incidentally, no pro-choice voices in the piece.
If someone from BPAS had been invited to comment, perhaps they could have pointed out the inanity of the Pro-Life Alliance calling abortion “unpleasant and harrowing” while the piece also says abortion is being “sanctioned as more of a lifestyle choice than a medical requirement”. You know, if something harrows me, in general I tend not to choose it twice. Maybe that’s just me, but it seems like abortion can’t be both of these things at once. The article’s internal consistency looks to have fallen out the window along with that £8.5 million.
No married-only abortions. No termination tokens. No compulsory sterilisations. If we regretfully discount the idea that the Mail is a propaganda cell for the coming matriarchy, that leaves only one thing: the Mail doesn’t think single or unmarried women should be having sex at all. It doesn’t want women making the (to my mind, completely reasonable) decision that in the absence of a co-parent, they’d rather not bring a child into the world. Because at the bottom of this is the belief that there’s something terribly sinister about women choosing what they do with their bodies, whether that’s having sex or having a baby. Underneath all the squirming contradictions, that’s the only way this story makes sense at all.
Text © Sarah Ditum, 2012