Aspiring model Josie Cunningham, who has previously faced a lot of negative press for receiving cosmetic surgery on Britain’s NHS, is back in the spotlight. This time, the outrage against her comes as a result of her decision to seek an abortion. Abortion has been legal in the UK since 1967, and approximately one in five pregnancies in this country are terminated. So, why has this particular case caused such a furore?
Cunningham announced that she wishes to terminate her pregnancy to increase her chances of appearing on Big Brother – which has invited a stream of classist criticism about her ‘selfishness’ and ‘irresponsibility’, apparently ‘seeking fame at any price.’ Dr Christian Jessen, from Channel 4’s own voyeuristic reality shows, Embarrassing Bodies and Supersize vs. Superskinny, tweeted about her decision. He proclaimed the young woman’s choice ‘a new low. Even for her.’ As Catherine Scott noted in the Telegraph, this is coming from a practicing Doctor – someone who is ‘meant to be impartial, and not in the habit of publicly condemning a woman for considering a totally legal medical procedure.’
If her career is more important to her than having a child, that is her prerogative And yes, as much as people may scorn it, appearing on reality TV is a career decision. In the UK, it is often a career decision which pays well. Cunningham already has two children, so she is aware of the amount of work and expense that goes into raising them. She is considering an abortion explicitly to advance her career and to support her family. Ultimately, any criticism she has been subject to is rooted in both classism and misogyny.
30,000 women in the UK lose their jobs every year as a result of being pregnant. That is what we should be focusing on, and that is just one reason why we must always defend a woman’s right to choose – especially when faced with a government who wants to limit that choice.
No-one gets to decide whether a woman’s choice is valid, or whether her reason is good enough to ‘deserve’ the right to choose. Any feminist worth their salt will defend the right for women to have complete bodily autonomy and free choice in making this decision. There is no hierarchy of a ‘good’, ‘bad’ or ‘worthy’ abortion. If you’re pro-choice, you’re pro-choice. If we are to value living in a society where we have that choice, there is no place for anyone to begrudge someone else’s.