Normalizing abortion or affirming life?
New paid leave policies at U.K. companies send mixed signals about abortion’s effects
Mainstream U.K. news station Channel 4 announced last month that it would begin giving parents paid leave following any kind of pregnancy loss—including abortion. Weeks later, the online U.K.-based bank Monzo said it had rolled out a similar policy in March. Pro-life advocates see the changes as a double-edged sword: They threaten to normalize abortion while acknowledging the procedure’s negative effects, and in some ways, the life of the child.
Writing about the policy at inews.co.uk, feminist U.K. blogger Sarah Graham expressed concern that post-abortive women would not be able to get past the “stigma and taboo” surrounding abortion to claim the benefits. U.K. law only requires employers to give parents paid leave following a stillbirth, when the unborn baby dies naturally after 24 weeks. But she shifted away from the normal pro-abortion narrative to recognize that abortion has some negative effects. “Ninety five per cent of women don’t regret their abortion,” Graham wrote, citing a contested study, “but that doesn’t mean it can’t have both a physical and an emotional impact on them and their partners.” She said the companies’ new policies acknowledge this nuance while affirming abortions as common and acceptable.
That’s U.K. pro-lifer Grace Browne’s primary concern. “Some could see it as almost normalizing abortion—making it easier to decide to have an abortion,” said Browne, communications officer for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. “The only way to protect women and families from abortion is to stop it in all cases. We certainly wouldn’t want to see any policies in place which normalize abortion, and this could almost be leaning towards that.”
That was likely the two companies’ goal. “Channel 4 is aiming to end the stigma around women’s health issues by helping to normalise taboo subjects and make them more visible,” the company said. Monzo and Channel 4 did not respond to WORLD’s request for comment.
But Browne also sees an upside to the developments: They acknowledge the value of unborn human life. “It treats their death in the same way as the death of a born child,” she said. “Born or unborn, the death of a child is a tragedy.”
The paid leave policies also nod to abortion’s negative physical and mental health effects on parents, challenging the narrative that the procedure is a safe, standard, and necessary medical procedure that improves women’s situations. Browne cited a 2016 study showing abortion is associated with an increased risk of mental health disorders including anxiety and depression. The Channel 4 release says “the loss of a pregnancy, no matter the circumstances, can be a form of grief that can have a lasting emotional and physical impact on the lives of many women and their partners.”
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