Germaine Greer on Abortion

The following are quotes from Germaine Greer's book The Whole Woman.

Feminism is supposed to be pro-abortion. There are some who fancy that feminists used to march shouting, "What do we want? Abortion! When do we want it? We want it now!"

Those same people think that, for once, marching and shouting were effective. Reluctant authorities gave in to the women's screaming, and allowed a tide of feticide to sweep the world.

This is not what happened.

In the United States, the crucial factor was a decision in the Supreme Court in the case of Roe v. Wade, which upheld the principle that, as the law had no part to play in what passed between a woman and her doctor, intervention by the state to prevent an abortion was a breach of the patient's privacy.

The decision in Roe v. Wade did nothing to confront, let alone resolve, the deep moral conflicts surrounding the issue of abortion.
"Jane Roe" or Norma McCorvey, a sometime carnival barker and druggie who was pregnant for the third time, was the stooge selected by a young Texas lawyer. She has subsequently been "born again" and now repudiates her part in the decision that "legalised" abortion in the U.S. The decision in Roe v. Wade did nothing to confront, let alone resolve, the deep moral conflicts surrounding the issue of abortion.

Pregnancy is unlike other patient-doctor relations in that there are two other individuals involved - the father-to-be and the child-to-be. Every time a fetus is recognised as a party to other litigation, the safety of the decision in the case of Roe v. Wade is called into question.

What women "won" was the "right" to undergo invasive procedures in order to terminate unwanted pregnancies - unwanted not just by them but by their parents, their sexual partners, the governments who would not support mothers, the employers who would not employ mothers, the landlords who would not accept tenants with children, the schools that would not accept students with children.

The abortionists who went to prison in the run-up to legalisation for "helping girls in trouble" were all male. All saw themselves as champions of women and defenders of women's rights. They were repaid with the love and loyalty of women, who were grateful for the right to expiate their sexual activity in pain and grief.

Any feminist who saw abortion as an assault on women and agitated for a concomitant right to bear children without being con- demned to poverty, misery and failure was suspected of being a crypto- right-to-lifer.
The goal was "every child a wanted child"; it should also have been "every abortion a wanted abortion," but the two sides of the phony debate were never to meet. Any feminist who saw abortion as an assault on women and agitated for a concomitant right to bear children without being condemned to poverty, misery and failure was suspected of being a crypto-right-to-lifer.

In 1997, Cardinal Winning [leader of Scotland's 750,000 Catholics] took the first step in the direction of providing a genuine alternative to abortion by offering support in the form of an unspecified lump sum of money to women who would otherwise have an abortion because they could not afford to have a baby. The outcry was immediate; the money was called a bribe that would lure women away from what was best for them - i.e., childlessness.

Nevertheless, donations poured into Cardinal Winning's fund until, at the time of writing, £180,000 had been donated, half of which had been paid out. Two hundred women had applied for assistance, 50 of whom had borne children, with 50 more on the way.

Cardinal Winning no doubt hopes that government will take over his responsibility and offer support to every child conceived. Feminists should share his hope, but the media has locked feminists into a position which they define as "pro-abortion."

Feminism is pro-woman rather than pro-abortion; we have always argued for 
freedom of reproductive choice. But a choice is only possible if there are genuine alternatives.
Feminism is pro-woman rather than pro-abortion; we have always argued for freedom of reproductive choice. But a choice is only possible if there are genuine alternatives.

In Britain, the anti-abortion lobby in the House of Commons brings Private Members' Bills year after year, apparently unaware that the medical establishment has no intention of allowing any curb on its right to dispose of blastocysts, fetuses and embryos as, when and how it sees fit.

Feminists react to each successive attack on the availability of abortion with grave concern, fighting a battle on behalf of the richest and most powerful organisations in the world. The pharmaceutical multi-nationals will not allow any wholesale revision of abortion rights, in case the mode of operation of their so-called contraceptives should be called in question.

In the British elections of 1997, the "pro-Life" alliance hoped to field 50 candidates, thus qualifying for a party political broadcast in which to alert the unconscious public to the horrors of pregnancy termination - but they were fighting a rearguard action. A poll conducted by a Sunday newspaper found that, even after a series of pregnancy-related scandals, 81 percent of people still thought that a woman had the right to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy.

A 1997 poll showed that abortion was no longer a minority issue; 45 percent of the sample knew close friends or members of the family who had had abortions.
Another poll, carried out by MORI, showed that abortion was no longer a minority issue; 45 percent of the sample knew close friends or members of the family who had had abortions, compared with 27 percent in 1980.

The people polled were asked if they thought that abortion should be available for "all who wanted it" and 64 percent answered in the affirmative; of the 11 percent of the people polled who were Catholics, half agreed with what 30 years ago would have been considered an extreme position.

People also showed the beginnings of a retreat from the notion of eugenic abortion in cases where mental or physical handicap was suspected, which was supported by 84 percent of people in 1980 and by only 66 percent in 1997. In the contest between the doctor's right to choose versus the woman's right to choose whether to deliver a handicapped baby, the woman appears to be gaining ground.

There can be no gainsaying that women cannot manage their own lives if access to abortion is to be denied, but the need for abortion is itself the consequence of oppression.

If we accept every instance of abortion as the outcome of unwanted and easily 
avoided pregnancy, we have to ask ourselves how it is that women are still 
exposing themselves to this risk.
If we accept every instance of abortion as the outcome of unwanted and easily avoided pregnancy, we have to ask ourselves how it is that women are still exposing themselves to this risk. A woman who is unable to protect her cervix from exposure to male hyperfertility is certainly not calling the shots.

The man is most likely to have initiated the episode of intercourse, to have chosen the place and the time; the woman is probably still dancing backwards. If the child is unwanted, whether by her or her partner or her parents, it will be her duty to undergo an invasive procedure and an emotional trauma, and so sort the situation out.

The crowning insult is that this ordeal is represented to her as some kind of a privilege: her sad and onerous duty is garbed in the rhetoric of a civil right.

She is confronted with other people who know better than she what she ought to do. She will be required to undergo investigations of her pregnancy for which there is no treatment but termination, whether she would countenance a termination or not.

If she undergoes the tests, say for Down's Syndrome, and refuses the 
termination, she will be asked why she had the test in the first place. And she 
will probably be talked into the termination.
If she undergoes the tests, say for Down's Syndrome, and refuses the termination, she will be asked why she had the test in the first place. And she will probably be talked into the termination.

Her agony of mind is increased by the regular publication of results of research to establish whether and when human fetuses become aware, feel pain, can learn. In March 1998, we learned that fetuses are alert and can learn at 20 weeks gestation, before the formation of a cerebral cortex. The evidence was unconvincing, in that reaction was being construed as consciousness, but it had the desired effect - which was to worry women.

Feminists have argued that delaying abortion is immoral, but all measures to put in place speedy and non-traumatic abortion procedures, which would be embryologically identical with what passes for contraception, have been blocked by the same authorities who regularly produce evidence about the developing sensibilities of the fetus.

A woman who is granted an abortion does not get to choose between abortions: abortion is presented to her as a single entity, when there is a bewildering array of options.

Non-surgical, do-it-yourself abortion has been possible for 20 years or more, 
but the health establishment rations and controls access to it.
Non-surgical, do-it-yourself abortion has been possible for 20 years or more, but the health establishment rations and controls access to it. In Britain, the so-called "morning-after" pillit is not usually made available until the client has endured a sermon on reliable contraception. (One of the best-kept secrets in gynecology is the use of methotrexate and other cytotoxics for non-surgical abortion.)

In the United States, surgical abortion is usually a 10-minute procedure - vacuum aspiration with local anaesthetic; in Canada, a cumbersome two-stage procedure, involving the insertion of a laminaria tent, and dilatation and curette under general anaesthetic 24 hours later, is preferred; in Russia, which has the highest abortion rate in the world, no anaesthesia is used; in Britain, vacuum aspiration under general anaesthetic is usual.

Recently, the use of better pregnancy testing and smaller cannulas has made possible the surgical removal of the fertilised ovum as early as eight to 10 days after conception, when it is no bigger than a pinhead - at much the same point that it would be shed by the women using the "contraceptive" pill or an intrauterine device. At the time of writing, only about 20 of the clinics affiliated with Planned Parenthood are using the method - and only in the United States.

A woman is led to believe that contraception is her duty and that the available techniques are easy to use and completely effective.
To be pregnant against your will is to see your life swerve out of control. To become a mother without wanting to is to live like a slave or a domestic animal. Like any other adult, a woman would wish to be infertile and fertile when appropriate: she is led to believe that contraception is her duty and that the available techniques are easy to use and completely effective.

If she were totally in control of the manner in which she is sexually active, she might insist that her male partner control his excessive fertility rather than delegating to her the responsibility for inhibiting his power to fecundate.

Though vasectomy is available, it is culturally invisible. Men don't get pregnant, therefore men don't bother about contraception. Men do get sexually transmitted diseases so they do use condoms, sometimes, but nowhere near as often as they should.

These days, contraception is abortion, because the third-generation Pills cannot be shown to prevent sperm fertilising an ovum. Yet no one feels so strongly against abortion at any stage that they picket the factories where birth control pills are produced.

The outcome of IUDs is frequent occult abortion, heavy bleeding and pelvic inflammatory disease, with the accompanying elevated risk of ectopic 
pregnancy.
IUDs are clearly abortifacient: these devices work by creating inflammation of the uterus, often accompanied by infection. Women who accept them as contraceptive devices are actually being equipped with a do-it-yourself abortionist's tool. The outcome is frequent occult abortion, heavy bleeding and pelvic inflammatory disease, with the accompanying elevated risk of ectopic pregnancy.

Whether you feel that the creation and wastage of so many embryos is an important issue or not, you must see that the cynical deception of millions of women by selling abortifacients as if they were contraceptives, is incompatible with the respect due to women as human beings.

You must also see that expecting women to be grateful for the opportunity to have inserted into their bodies instruments for sucking and scraping out the products of avoidable conception shows them as much contempt.

Fake contraceptive technology manipulates women in ways that we are coming to
condemn when they are practised on members of other species.
Fake contraceptive technology manipulates women in ways that we are coming to condemn when they are practised on members of other species. What women don't know does hurt them.

If we ask ourselves whether we would have any hope of imposing upon men the duty to protect women's fertility and their health, and avoid the abortions that occur in their uncounted millions every day, we will see in a blinding light how unfree women are. Women, from the youngest to the oldest, are aware that to impose conditions on intimacy would be to be accorded even less of it than they get already.

The women who refuses to enter the gynecological abattoir, which extends into every bathroom in the country, must be prepared to do without male approval and attention.