If I had let nature take its course 18 years ago, I would now have a child aged 18. I did not and do not. I am probably the kind of person that anti-abortionists dislike the most, because I could have made a different decision and made it work. I come from a reasonably comfortable, middle-class background; financially, the means would have been found to cope. My family would have risen to the occasion with emotional and practical support if I had needed it. I was a student at the time but would probably have found a way to continue my studies eventually.
So my decision to terminate my pregnancy was based not on desperate need, but on circumstances and free choice. I was a teenager with no desire to become a teenage mother. I was not certain that my then boyfriend would turn out to be my life partner (he didn't). I had no means of supporting a child independently.
That decision is one I have never regretted, nor is it one that I feel ashamed of. I have never looked back, either. It is something that is over and done with, and for every woman who tells her story of a post-abortion lifetime of guilt and sorrow, I suspect there are far more who put the situation firmly behind them.
I know some of them, and you probably do as well, though it's not a topic that comes up in conversation. But abortion is not the territory of some mythical, promiscuous Vicky Pollard subspecies. Ordinary, sensible women can make mistakes, and they always have done: women like your colleagues, your daughter, your wife, your friends and even your mother.
Writing very recently, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, leader of Catholics in England and Wales, said that when it comes to abortion, "it is the strong who decide the fate of the weak; human beings therefore become instruments in the hands of other human beings". Surely, that is exactly what happens when abortion becomes a political issue? Strong politicians decide the fate of their fellow humans. This is certainly not a subject for politicians to toss into the brutally knee-jerk arena of pre-election vote-grabbing.
An unwelcome pregnancy is shocking and upsetting. I was lucky enough to receive sympathetic, non-judgemental help for a relatively uncomplicated early termination. Every woman who finds herself facing a similar situation, what-ever her circumstances, should receive the same. And how crucial this is for any woman contemplating a possible late abortion, so much more traumatic mentally and physically. No woman would go through such a trial on a whim.