A pro-choice campaigner in Spain. Photo: DANI POZO/AFP/Getty Images
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Like 95% of women, I don't regret my abortion - it was the happiest day of my life

A recent US study found that more than 95 per cent of women say they don’t regret their abortion. Perhaps, like me, they were brought by the terrifying realness of a pregnancy to a place where they knew, perhaps for the first time, what the right thing for them was.

As soon as the condom broke, I knew. In the only feat of what might be described as “feminine intuition” in my life to date, I was instantly certain of two enormous, looming, insurmountable facts: I was pregnant. And I was going to have an abortion.

In these more medically advanced days, the morning after pill would have sorted me out in a trice; but back in the dark times of rotary telephones, analogue music and recreational cave painting, the full-on medical route was all that was available to me. So this whole “having an abortion” business was no small commitment: several invasive and unpleasant medical tests and procedures (when you’re having an abortion and you’ve not had your cervix stretched by prior births, for example, they stick a twig in you to open it up for the surgeon. A twig. I shit you not. For 24 hours), some tricky conversations with doctors and parents, a few weeks’ wait… In today’s terms it’s quite the ordeal, but I sailed through the whole thing with a cheerful demeanour, buoyed by my own certainty and the unstinting support of my mother and my then-boyfriend, he of the overmighty sperm. Thinking back on those weeks now, I can scarcely remember a time in my early twenties when I was as positive, as goal-directed, as sure of myself.

Being a young woman is a pretty raw deal. On top of the usual worries – what shall I study? Who will love me? How can I earn money and be independent? – there is also the not insignificant fact that pretty much everyone seems to be on a mission to fuck with your head all the time. Young women are always and inescapably either too fat or too thin; either too prudish or too slutty; either too meek or too abrasive; either too shallow or too brainy. To be a young woman is to exist in a constant state of wrongness: whatever you do and however you do it, there will be a cacophony of voices ready and eager to tell you that you are doing the wrong thing, in the wrong way, and for the wrong reasons.

Even that would not be so bad were it not for all the people who tell us that not only the things we do, but the things we think and feel are hopelessly incorrect. Offended by sexist remarks from a fellow student? He was only joking. Intimidated by street harassment? “You must have taken it wrong”, as one young man recently told me – it was surely meant as a compliment. Humiliated by inappropriate approaches from a teacher or manager? Well I’m sorry, but you should really get over yourself and not think every man is after you all the time. Also, learn to lighten up and flirt a bit. Use your “sexual capital”. Who do you think you are, with your preferences and individual dignity and expectations that people will actually respect you? A man? Dyke.

It’s no surprise that young women have no idea what the hell they want half the time. If anything, I’m blown away when any of them manage to block out the maelstrom of undermining hectoring long enough to finish a degree (I didn’t) or hold down a job (ditto). So when we, these confused repositories for all the worlds soul-sapping Catch-22s, actually know, really and honestly know that we want to do a certain thing and why we want to do it, more than anything else, it’s a relief. A respite from the crazy-making internal and external voices that combine, in aggregate, to give us the simple understanding that only do we not know what is best for us, we should renounce any such pretentions for the unconscionable arrogance they are.

But by some magic, some inexplicable core of resilience that we have secreted away from the corrosive poison of a dehumanising world, when those of us who are lucky to have that choice use that freedom by choosing what to do with our reproductive bodies, nearly all of us choose well. A recent wide-ranging, longitudinal study in the US has revealed that more than 95 per cent of women say they don’t regret their abortion; perhaps, like me, they are brought by the terrifying realness of a pregnancy to a calm, eye-of-the-storm place in which, maybe for the first time ever, they really, really know what the right thing for them is. And that is a happy, happy feeling. I should know – I’ve felt it.

Marina Strinkovsky is a feminist writer and campaigner who blogs at It's Not a Zero Sum Game. Her main interests revolve around male violence against women, reproductive justice, sexual exploitation, rape and harassment. Marina has written for the F-Word and Indy Voices among others. She lives in Swindon with her one surviving cactus and, remarkably, no cats

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The deafening killer - why noise will be the next great pollution scandal

A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. 

Our cities are being poisoned by a toxin that surrounds us day and night. It eats away at our brains, hurts our hearts, clutches at our sleep, and gnaws at the quality of our daily lives.

Hardly a silent killer, it gets short shrift compared to the well-publicised terrors of air pollution and sugars food. It is the dull, thumping, stultifying drum-beat of perpetual noise.

The score that accompanies city life is brutal and constant. It disrupts the everyday: The coffee break ruined by the screech of a line of double decker buses braking at the lights. The lawyer’s conference call broken by drilling as she makes her way to the office. The writer’s struggle to find a quiet corner to pen his latest article.

For city-dwellers, it’s all-consuming and impossible to avoid. Construction, traffic, the whirring of machinery, the neighbour’s stereo. Even at home, the beeps and buzzes made by washing machines, fridges, and phones all serve to distract and unsettle.

But the never-ending noisiness of city life is far more than a problem of aesthetics. A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. Recent studies have linked noise pollution to hearing loss, sleep deprivation, hypertension, heart disease, brain development, and even increased risk of dementia.

One research team compared families living on different stories of the same building in Manhattan to isolate the impact of noise on health and education. They found children in lower, noisier floors were worse at reading than their higher-up peers, an effect that was most pronounced for children who had lived in the building for longest.

Those studies have been replicated for the impact of aircraft noise with similar results. Not only does noise cause higher blood pressure and worsens quality of sleep, it also stymies pupils trying to concentrate in class.

As with many forms of pollution, the poorest are typically the hardest hit. The worst-off in any city often live by busy roads in poorly-insulated houses or flats, cheek by jowl with packed-in neighbours.

The US Department of Transport recently mapped road and aircraft noise across the United States. Predictably, the loudest areas overlapped with some of the country’s most deprived. Those included the south side of Atlanta and the lowest-income areas of LA and Seattle.

Yet as noise pollution grows in line with road and air traffic and rising urban density, public policy has turned a blind eye.

Council noise response services, formally a 24-hour defence against neighbourly disputes, have fallen victim to local government cuts. Decisions on airport expansion and road development pay scant regard to their audible impact. Political platforms remain silent on the loudest poison.

This is odd at a time when we have never had more tools at our disposal to deal with the issue. Electric Vehicles are practically noise-less, yet noise rarely features in the arguments for their adoption. Just replacing today’s bus fleet would transform city centres; doing the same for taxis and trucks would amount to a revolution.

Vehicles are just the start. Millions were spent on a programme of “Warm Homes”; what about “Quiet Homes”? How did we value the noise impact in the decision to build a third runway at Heathrow, and how do we compensate people now that it’s going ahead?

Construction is a major driver of decibels. Should builders compensate “noise victims” for over-drilling? Or could regulation push equipment manufacturers to find new ways to dampen the sound of their kit?

Of course, none of this addresses the noise pollution we impose on ourselves. The bars and clubs we choose to visit or the music we stick in our ears. Whether pumping dance tracks in spin classes or indie rock in trendy coffee shops, people’s desire to compensate for bad noise out there by playing louder noise in here is hard to control for.

The Clean Air Act of 1956 heralded a new era of city life, one where smog and grime gave way to clear skies and clearer lungs. That fight still goes on today.

But some day, we will turn our attention to our clogged-up airwaves. The decibels will fall. #Twitter will give way to twitter. And every now and again, as we step from our homes into city life, we may just hear the sweetest sound of all. Silence.

Adam Swersky is a councillor in Harrow and is cabinet member for finance. He writes in a personal capacity.