Wednesday, 4 August 2010


I spend a lot of my time escaping with films. Particularly, foreign language films, and Independent cinema. I like tender stories and gritty stories. Social realism mostly. One of my favourites is British director, Mike Leigh’s award winning Vera Drake. Set in 1950’s England, Vera is a jolly working class woman who takes care of her family and sick neighbour. She works as a cleaner for a living and she possesses a heart of gold. The Drakes are a happy family. But Vera has a secret occupation. She is a back street abortionist. Vera helps girls get rid of their unwanted pregnancies. I say help because that is what Vera believes she is doing. It’s 1950’s England. Some of them could be disowned by their parents and the others could have their lives completely altered by their mishaps.

Vera doesn’t take a penny from any of them. For her its just part of her compassion and good will. In the course of the story, a middle class young girl is raped by her boyfriend and is brought to Mrs Drake when she becomes pregnant. Unknown to Vera though, her friend Sally who brings most of the pregnant girls for abortions has been collecting money behind Vera’s back. Sadly this particular middle class girl becomes septic as a result of the chemicals used during the termination process. Her wealthy parents find out, Vera is arrested and her secret is unravelled. Vera maintains that she never did anything wrong. She was just helping them out.

The debates between pro-life and pro-choice have weathered many protests and political manifestos. It was even a key element in the Obama campaign. Many will continue to argue about whether or not a foetus has any form of life to it under any certain number of weeks. For the religious right, a child is God given, a life tampered with is simply murder. For others anything under twelve weeks is just a mass of cells.
The fact remains that each box, either of the right or the left are neither black nor white. There are cases of rape, incest and extreme illness. Sometimes you just don’t feel equipped for motherhood.
On the other end it seems a cop put from a mishap.

Sometimes pro-life is just a word and pro- choice really has no choices. The women whose bodies go through this will tell you. The physical pain involved in suction termination. Pessaries placed inside the cervix to soften the neck of the womb then the womb slightly punctured and its contents sucked out with a vacuum like apparatus. The coldness of the forceps between the legs, and the realisation of what your body has just experienced after the decent from auto-pilot. The rush of a lingering pain as their teeth digs holes in pillows to stop their lungs from perforating with a scream. Of course for those those choose to stay awake.
The alternative though might not leave you with much variety.
Vera Drake was eventually imprisoned for performing illegal abortions and she met a lot more women like her in prison. Sometimes, life and choice is never that simple.


Nk'iru. said...

As you said, its neither black or white. And then, some people will refuse to see the grey of it too.

A very catholic friend of mine who is 'pro-life' got his girlfriend knocked up and started shopping for a abortionist. He couldn't tell his catholic friends that he was 'backsliding'.

Since then he's been a bit more on the fence about issues like this esp as he witnessed the process and came to the conclusion that only a very few percentage of women would put their bodies thru that ish for the fun of it.

If only life's choices were as easy as picking what to wear to work each day, and even that one sef is a complex matter for some.

Young Grumbler said...

When one finds themselves in that kind of position, that's when you would really know what side of the fence you are on. Personally, I am Pro-choice...I feel that it's up to each person to make their own decisions and be answerable to only God.

myhotspot said...

HELP! Still in doubt as to whether the word exist as a pun or homonymph. While the topic of abortion has ignited sparks of opinions, i bet if we were all faced with the fate of an abortion we shant be here to postulate theories. black, white or grey relativisms of opinions shall persist but the grey shades are spots of denial, denial of the truth. by the way as vera drake helped perpetrate the act she was simply HELPED to be locked behind bars. so help and u shal be helped!

Crystalkeye said...

I am & will always be pro-life, except it is a health issue (could cause great & life treatening implications for the woman). Otherwise, I think the so-called foetus has a right to life.