Louisa Ackermann

In Defense of Josie Cunningham, and Every Woman’s Right to Choose

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.’

 

josie cunningham
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.

One thought on “In Defense of Josie Cunningham, and Every Woman’s Right to Choose

  1. I agree with you completely about the poor treatment of Josie. However, I think that people have reacted that way because of her background & previous decisions, as well as the fact that people have a negative opinion on reality TV shows ‘stars’.

    I have a genuine question for you about the pregnancy/career tradeoff. The way you presented this statement suggests that you think that pregnancy shouldn’t lead to women being fired: “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”.

    But pregnancy/childbirth/child care does affect someone’s job performance. There is maternity leave (which can last quite a long time) and also general day-to-day issues like having to come in late/leave early to drop your child off at school/pick them up from school and this naturally costs the company/business you are working at. Why aren’t these considered these as valid reasons for firing someone? I mean if someone took a few months off work, they would face that predicament too.

    This is another question entirely but I remember that a politician (whose name escapes me) got quite a lot of bad press for suggesting that women who have children aren’t as effective in the workplace because maternity leave means that they lose out on building relationships with clients/colleagues and this is why they are paid less/advance less quickly. What’s your opinion on this?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s