Thursday, 27 May 2010

Marie Stopes

Marie Stopes (or the organisation that bears her name) is much in the news for the new advert, and with comments from such as Cranmer.
I'm generally unhappy with abortion.  Not because I hate women, but because I love human life.  I can see cases where it's the least-worst option and I believe banning it would be wrong.  Nobody has an abortion for fun.  But I definitely see the current time limit as too late, and I get concerned in those cases where it does seem to be an alternative form of late contraception - particularly where its use as contraception is forced on women by a pushy partner, and makes a mockery of the concept of a woman's right to choose in any case.
But this isn't about abortion.  It's about Marie Stopes.  And I really don't like her.

Let me explain.

Back at the beginning of the last century, a family of North Londoners were ducking-and-diving in the streets off the Holloway Road.  The father of the clan seems to have been a complete rogue, who had moved in from the sticks, changed his surname (possibly to his real father's) and went on to produce nine or ten kids.  Daniel Poulter (for that was his real name) legged it leaving my great-gran (for such she was) with another one in the oven, and was never seen again.

The roads where my family lived are a litany of names that no longer exist, because planners decided they wanted to do something else.  Bavaria Road (pictured below) was renamed from its original Blenheim Road.  Cromwell Road was renamed Ireton Road, and then wiped away to form Whittington Park.  Rupert Road was truncated by the same park.  I sometimes feel that people like my family were just pawns on the map of north London, to be moved around the place at the whims of more important people - councillors, planners, people of vision - wherever was most convenient for those well-connected and important people.

And that's where Marie Stopes comes in.  She started her first clinic in 1921 - just as my great-grandad was legging it up the Holloway Road.  She opened it in Marlborough Road.  Right in the middle of my family's old manor - just across the Holloway Road from my great-nan's house.  And do you know, I feel she did it to try and wipe us out.  The Upper Classes of the era were still producing fairly large families  in those days, but she didn't worry about them.  They weren't her problem.  We were. It's like she decided that enough was enough.  If you think I'm a bit paranoid, you may be right.  But then read this.

Now, don't get me wrong.  Birth control is a sensible and practical solution to the fact that men and women want to share their love in physical ways, but don't necessarily want to produce ten children per family.  Apart from anything else, the planet can't take it.  And I don't have "natural law" issues with it.  We are free creatures and we have freedom in and responsibility in this as well.

I just wish the person associated with it didn't seem to have a personal grudge against my family.

By the way, this is the War Memorial for the people of Cromwell Road (as was).  Since the road was wiped out by the planners, it's set in the ground in the park.  Ernest Frank Miller, up near the top, is my great-great-uncle.  He was swept away with a great mass of the working class at the Somme. I don't suppose Marie Stopes would have worried that much.  After all, poor old Ernie was one of the "slave class".


margaret said...

Early advocates of birth control seems to have skimmed awfully close to eugenics, Margaret Sangster is another example although she seems to have been more direct about it than Marie Stopes. It's also interesting how many of the early feminists like Susan Anthony and our own Sylvia Pankhurst were against abortion believing it to be a crime against women.

Steve Borthwick said...

IMO the only truly ethical position is to give Women themselves control over their reproductive capacity.

It seems that we always run into trouble when external parties attempt to impose their particular dogma whether that be the Catholic church from one side or the Eugenics crowd from the other.

G said...

Steve you've left all kinds of loose ends there. But you've still not explained why Ms M Stopes hated my family. Although I could go for the obvious - i.e. she hated poor people, and wanted less of them.

Steve Borthwick said...

G, I think you probably summed it up.

I suppose the saving grace with things like eugenics and other cults based on pseudo-science is that they are relatively easy to show to be false (or at least the science bit are), however even then the followers still seem to fall for it (look at Scientology for example)

It's an age-old story; I read a book a while ago about the history of the main rail lines from London out to the rest of the country; if you study the routes you see they mostly went through the poorest areas at the time and studiously avoided the large estates of rich people like Lords Essex and Clarendon who were in the end bribed anyway - nice!

G said...

Straying way off the subject, inspired by Steve...

It's an interesting phenomenon round our way, that formerly-bigger towns that missed out on the railway always come up with some explanation like that. Fenny Stratford claims Bletchley got the railway because of some landowner, something similar with Dunstable versus Luton. In the case of Northampton, it missed out on the initial mainline to Birmingham for the simple reason that it was up a bit of a hill! You wonder how much was genuine landowner protection, and how much post-facto whingeing. Probably 50/50, I'd reckon.

G said...

Thinking again, now I am back in the UK.
One response to your comment on eugenics, Steve, is that the current abortion laws facilitate that. On Down's Syndrome children, or even for cleft palates. There are certain non-fatal genetic conditions that have been deemed effectively undesirable.
Abortion of course can also be used by some societies to reduce the number of those genetically less desirable people - girls. And once again that stops being about a woman's right to decide anything.

Steve Borthwick said...

G, individual Women avoiding harmful and debilitating inherited conditions like Downs is not the same as Eugenics or at least not my understanding of it.

A classification of "choice" as some kind of "eugenics-lite" would also have to include sexual selection itself as a mechanism that facilitates "eugenics", its a continuum, so where to draw the line?

Eugenics for me means the *forced* application of selection criteria for the (supposed) betterment of a population at the expense of individual freedom. Now I agree with you that a liberal approach can (in some societies) mean unfair pressure being applied by a community onto Women, usually for reasons of economics or religious dogma to have abortions they don't want or indeed have children they don't want (women have to have control over both aspects of this IMO)

I would say that giving Women this choice also opens up the possibility for controlling parties to remove it again through coercion, I don't feel this is a problem for the laws more a problem for the cultures and religions that attempt to subvert them.