Wednesday, 10 November 2010

In which my childhood heroes get all up in my uterus's business

"Are men not allowed to offer opinions about abortion?"

Every day I find myself humming the same tune. It's a dirgeful whine of a song by Vin Garbutt, telling the story of an Irish woman who gets pregnant, travels to England for an abortion, and returns to find that her mother has taken in another woman who fell unexpectedly pregnant and they're living in happy pro-life bliss. If only she'd told her old mum! She wouldn't have had to "kill her baby!" They could have stood strong against the "pressure" from her "so-called friends" to "terminate her pregnancy"!

Go over to England, where it's no disgrace now to end a child's life...

Yeah, actually Mr Garbutt, we still frown on that.

The thing is, I listened to this guy's music all the time when I was younger; it was part of the soundtrack of growing up: songs about mining and potatoes and enchanted knights and unions and massacres, all on third- or fourth-generation tapes which had been stretched to hell. You never knew whether the fiddle solos had been warped over time or if they were just 'in the key of folk'. Me, my sister, my dad, we all knew all the words off by heart, even if their meanings had wandered in our minds from the original - one of my favourites had a refrain about Janet's "kirtle green", which she tied "a bit above her knee"; I was convinced she was lugging around a cattle grid. (Clank, clank, clank.)

The point being, this album means a lot to me. Not long ago I bought it in a fit of nostalgia, having not heard any of the songs since the ancient cassettes finally went to the big charity shop in the sky, and at the first wheezing pipe notes I was tearing up with the relief of meeting an old friend you thought you'd lost forever.

And so finding out that said old friend thinks that you promote murder feels a bit like he's kicked you in the face.

Thing is, I can't make an intellectual argument against men weighing in on abortion: if you genuinely believe that Life Begins At Conception and Abortion Is Murder, I can see that you could feel a moral obligation to express that, and to do whatever you can to Save The Poor Innocents. All I can say is that it feels really fucking invasive, and rude, and inappropriate. You don't approve of abortion? Cool! Enjoy not having one! Meanwhile, let me get on with making my own decisions regarding whether or not to grow an entire new person inside of me.

I can't say that you morally should not express an opinion on abortion. I certainly can't suggest that you should not be allowed to do so. I can only say that it would be greatly appreciated, that I would consider it polite, if you would refrain from pontificating on the philosophy and morality of a decision which you will never need to face. It's an abstract brain teaser for you. It's not for me.

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