We Should Not Be Having To Fight For Access To Abortion In The Middle Of a Crisis. But Here We Are

Kelly Grehan

The covid 19 crisis has transformed so much of our lives in such a short space of time. We need to ensure access to all areas of healthcare remains accessible. Having an abortion is a medical procedure which should be easily accessible on demand.

In the next 13 weeks as the COVID 19 peaks, 44,000 women will need an Early Medical Abortion. Many of the women needing them will be those with underlying health issues who have already been told to self isolate. All of us must avoid unnecessary journeys, we are told.

As with everything at the moment, services are being impacted upon by staff absences.  A quarter of abortion clinics run by bpas have closed because of staff isolating, so anyone  wanting to access an abortion may have to travel further than usual. We also know that usual practicalities – including childcare are much harder at the moment.

There is now a real danger that women will not be able to access abortion services.

On Monday the Department of Health and Social Care issued guidance, inline with The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, The Royal College of Midwives and the British Society of Abortion Care Providers, making  recommendations to introduce a safe & effective, temporary telemedicine service for women seeking terminations. Later that day it was retracted. No reason was given.

Just to be clear what we are talking about, an early abortion involves taking two forms of medicine.  The first medicine ends the pregnancy by blocking the hormone progesterone. Without progesterone, the lining of the uterus breaks down and the pregnancy cannot continue.  The second medicine makes the womb contract, causing cramping, bleeding and the loss of the pregnancy similar to a miscarriage.

In medical terms this is a relatively simple procedure. So why is being denied to women now?  It is hard to see this as anything other than an attack on Women’s healthcare – at a time when many women are already suffering.

Dr Jonathan Lord, co-chair of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) Abortion Taskforce and British Society of Abortion Care Providers (BSACP) made these comments 

“It seems extraordinary how government advice is, quite rightly, to isolate in order to contain the spread of the virus – unless you are a woman requiring essential health care, in which case the Government will force you to go on a completely unnecessary journey to a crowded clinic or hospital.   I simply cannot understand why the Government is behaving in such a cruel and reckless manner towards women’s health.”

Is there reason to fear that we will see a roll back of our much fought for rights in the months ahead?

 In Texas, abortion services have been haulted in a move by the Governor to suspend “surgeries and procedures that are not immediately, medically necessary.”

Women seeking terminations need compassion, now more than others. I implore   Matt Handcock to listen to clinical experts regarding terminations and women’s reproductive health during this crisis and reverse his decision.

It’s Been A Terrible Week – But There Are Reasons For Hope

Kelly Grehan

As we all know the last seven days have been a week like no other.  Our way of life has been transformed. Amongst our new found hardships, shock and anxiety we are grieving the loss of things we were looking forward to – things like holidays, weddings, seeing our children attend proms and other rights of passage.  

Almost without exception we are all grieving the loss of things we never expected to miss – many of them things we always thought we never really liked.  Things like school – even taking exams, travelling on public transport, sitting next to people in meetings and driving our kids to hang around with their friends.

Most of us are anxious.  We are worried about money, health, family and we what worry what tomorrow will bring,

We are all missing people too.  I’m missing my baby nephew, I’m missing my friends  and the adventures I was expecting to have at the now cancelled 40th birthday parties I was expecting to attend this year.  Most of us have had emotional phone conversations with friends and relatives whom we would usually see regularly. Usually we might nip round to see a friend who was upset – give them a hug, make them a cup of tea.  Now we simply must not do that. I rang my grandparents today – to wish my Nan a happy mother’s day and realised as I hung up that I have no idea if and when I will see them again.  

It is ironic that after a decade where we have feared for the consequences on our children for lacking human contact as they were  spending too much time on their electronic devices we are now grateful they have them – as they face spending months with this being their only contact  with the friends they used to see every day.

Tomorrow, my children, like many others, will begin their first day of homeschooling.  Two weeks ago the idea that they would be learning from home would have seemed propostuous to me – I had always taken pride in their high school attendance, worried about the impact on their education and development of social skills if they were away and believed passionately in the need for them to spend time outside, with people from different backgrounds and to hear try new things. Now I don’t know when they will see any other humans in person other than each other, me and my husband and none of us know when we will visit a new place.  

 These are indeed dark times.  But I truly believe there are reasons for optimism.  

For as long as I can remember Britain has been known as a ‘selfish society.’  Headlines decried the fact people did not know their neighbours, did not do things for others.  We wasted food, we threw things away that worked perfectly well and inequality and a lack of things in common seemed to have bread a lack of empathy.

But this week, none of those things seemed to be true anymore.  Yes there are idiots hoarding toilet rolls and refusing to give up their rights to go to the pub.  But most people I know have condemned this and are disgusted by that behaviour. What I have seen this week could be described as a rebirth or reignition of true community spirit.  People are genuinely concerned for neighbours – often people they barely know the name of and are ensuring they are looked after. People are going through their cupboards and ensuring that, rather than waste food they pass it on to someone else and people are facing several journeys to shops to get shopping for neighbours whose health precludes them from making the journey themselves.  

There is conversation everywhere expressing concern for others. I have not heard a single voice of descent about the Chancellor’s measures to protect workers and have universal approval for the measures to include self employed.  I’ve never known such consensus on government policy before. Online forums – so often a place for vitriol are now filled with expressions of concern for others and offers of help for others along with thanks for health staff.

This illness seems to strike across the social divide.  For the first time in my lifetime I really feel that everyone feels we are in this together and that they must be part of the fight to save lives.  

As awful as everything is, I feel proud of my community and I hope the support and solidarity we are providing to each other last long after this wretched virus is eradicated.

Privilege and Panic

Kelly Grehan

I’ve never felt privileged like I felt this morning.  

I woke up this morning, sent my kids to school and my husband and I both settled down to a day home working.  No one in our household has any history of illness, indeed both my boys have impeccable school attendance records.  If I were to need to be off work I would get full sick pay, we could continue to pay our mortgage.

That’s not to say I am not experiencing moments of panic and horror at what is happening, but, for us, there is an unreal quality to it.  The biggest danger to us personally is for the four of us to end up stuck indoors together for two weeks and for our holiday to be cancelled.  

Our lifestyle – caused mostly by luck with health and circumstances – has shielded us from the horrors that now face many of our friends and neighbours.  We can, more of less sit back and follow the government advice and know that no difficult decisions await us.

I am painfully aware that, had this crisis occurred five years earlier, when my mum was suffering what turned out to be a terminal illness every action we took would have taken on a critical concern as any of us contracting the illness could have shortened my mum’s life and meant we could have been bared from seeing her – a thought so heartbreaking it’s hard to bear.  Then there is the thought of how my aunt, sister and I would have looked after my nan, who lived in sheltered accommodation had we been forced to self isolate when she was alive. In either circumstances we would have had to arrange our lives in an effort to try to stop us contracting the virus because the consequences of getting it would have been so awful. That would have meant keeping the kids off school, so not working and then all the financial and practical implications that would bring.

And, it is with heartbreak I watch friends now consumed with fear as they worry if decisions they are making are putting themselves or their families at risk.  I see people – who this time last week were making a decent living – not knowing if they will have jobs this time tomorrow or if their company can survive this week.  I cannot imagine the weight of trying to decide whether to stay off work because you have coughed a few times – knowing that doing so will mean you don’t get paid for at least 2 weeks and going to work means you might endanger others.

I see friends who cannot visit the parents who live in care homes and others cancelling long looked forward to trips to see family abroad or far away. I worry for  mums of disabled children fretting because they cannot get the larger nappy sizes they need or the specialist wipes they relied upon.

Never has life seemed as fragile or as unpredictable as it does now.Try as we might there is little we can but carry on.  I sent my love and admiration at everyone doing their best through these difficult times.

COVID-19: What It Means For My Family As A Young, But Vulnerable Group By Lisa Mulholland

The media is saturated with scientific talk, statistics and projections regarding the Coronavirus COVID-19. It’s enough to give any reasonable person some anxiety at least.

The panic buying of hand sanitizer, toilet roll, cleaning products, tinned foods is out of control, with queues outside of shops before they open. Which is a major inconvenience for me as someone who needs these products in abundance due to being a carer for my 6 year old who is disabled and incontinent who myself has diabetes and needs to test my blood sugar levels when out and about.

We are constantly hearing about other countries going on lockdown. Which becomes scarier when it becomes our European neighbours; Italy, France, Spain, Ireland … as the fear intensifies we look to our leaders and the authorities for reassurance.

But instead we get the complete opposite.

Boris Johnson said “ Many of YOUR loved ones will die before their time”…..

I mean, have you ever heard anything like this?

Then he went on to discuss herd immunity. As if the numbers and statistics of the people that are going to die are just that. But the vulnerable and the elderly are real people.

And right now, I , along with millions more, feel like my life doesn’t really matter. I have diabetes, several heart conditions, a disability ( Ehlers Danlos Syndrome) that can sometimes trigger autoimmune responses called mast cell activation disorder and I have 3 children that have various disabilities.

I am considered a ‘high risk group’ when it comes to most things. I have routine flu jabs, I have medical exemption from prescription charges, but I do not know whether I am a high risk group for this new virus.

I have received zero instruction. Zero advice.

When I search for the advice ( as of today , this could change very quickly) it is very flimsy indeed. I kind of feel like the decision is being left up to me about how to proceed. I am not a medical expert and I think we as a nation, especially the vulnerable groups should be given more direction.

If I get a basic cold, my body can do really strange things. My mast cells( the cells that detect a threat or a virus and are meant to protect us) go into overdrive and start attacking everything. Once I had dry eyes, I rubbed it slightly. Within an hour I couldn’t see out of my left eye. I went to my GP who sent me to the emergency eye department. After a series of tests they said my body had gone into overdrive and given me an ulcer on my cornea! I didn’t even know this was possible. But this is how strange my condition is.

What could an unknown virus do?

Let alone the impact on the diabetes or my heart…

My 6 year old has autism, global delay and suspected epilepsy and he goes to a specialist school where some of the children have conditions like cystic fibrosis that mean they’re on oxygen tanks/ tube fed. Most of the children there (700 of them as it is from age 2-19) will have underlying health issues. They’ve not sent out any information as yet because our leadership, our government have clearly not thought about them in their containment or delay ‘strategy’.

And when the media states this virus doesn’t affect children, do they mean all children? My children have the same condition as me. My 10 year old gets a cold and then the next minute he has an infected hand or limb. What would be the implications for him?

Or did they think about them and decide that they are one of the “many loved ones” that we will “lose”.

My eldest autistic son’s specialist school has children with autism but a lot of them have comorbid underlying health issues and they have taken matters into their own hands advising us to keep the children home if they are anxious or have underlying health conditions. They said they won’t mark any absences during this period.

Part of me wants to be safe, then another part of me thinks if this is going to go on for months then I’m not sure what to do. Do I send them in now before the real danger hits? Or has it already hit but we don’t know because we aren’t routinely testing? These are rhetorical questions but the governments’ lack of direction is shocking and dangerous.

We are people and we have value. We matter and we want guidance now.

Battle Weary Reflections On International Women’s Day

Kelly Grehan

This week we have had to face the fact, once again that the next President of The US will not be a woman. I cannot see a likelihood of Donald Trump – misogynist and sexual assaulter of women – losing the US election and that can only mean that a sizable number of voters in America do not find his behaviour towards women problematic – never mind reprehensible. Then there is the depressing rhetoric from some who explain they failed to support Warren because she is ‘school-marm-ish’ – what that means and why it would be a negative trait in a president I’ve no idea.

Warren, herself described the “trap” of gender for female candidates
“If you say, ‘Yeah, there was sexism in this race,’ everyone says, ‘Whiner!’” Ms. Warren said. “If you say, ‘No, there was no sexism,’ about a bazillion women think, ‘What planet do you live on?’”
Then there is situation in my own Party. I’ve nothing against Keir Starmer being Labour Party leader, but I find it depressing that we will have two leaders called ‘Keir’ before we will have a female leader. My chosen candidate Lisa Nandy summed things up this week when she responded to being asked if she thought the women had had a tougher time in the leadership contest, Lisa Nandy responded that she had not ‘seen an article about Keir’s shoes yet.’’

People keep telling me things are improving. But are they really? The number of female heads of government is lower today than five years ago with only 10 women in such positions in 193 countries,

This week a UN Report, looking at 75 countries, found that not one had acheived gender equality. 91% of men and 86% of women hold at least one bias against women in relation to politics, economics, education, violence or reproductive rights.

Globally, close to 50% of men said they had more right to a job than women. Almost a third thought it was acceptable for men to hit their partners. About half of the world’s men and women feel that men make better political leaders.

How do we start to combat this? We have had countless terrible male leaders which surely proves tosterone is not a bonus for a leader. We have had decades of feminism now, decades of campaigning for equality, of women proving (to use a phrase) that anything a man can do we can do bleeding.

But still here we are, fighting for a world where our daughters can walk home in their school uniform without men harassing them, where we can do our jobs without comment on our clothing and where when we say we have been sexually assaulted no one passes judgement on why we were alone/drunk/flirting/wearing a low cut top/dancing/etc.

Sometimes it is so exhausting fighting these battles over and over again. We think we are making progress and then we find ourselves in a world where Donald Trump is likely to serving a second term as President. But what choice do we have but to fight on? If we accept the world as it it we will never change it.

So for now, all I can do is heed Elizabeth Warren’s advice
‘’Choose to fight only righteous fights, because then when things get tough — and they will — you will know that there is only one option ahead of you: Nevertheless, you must persist.’’

The Kingdom and The Lost Prince By Kelly Grehan

Once Upon A Time there was a Prince who was deeply unhappy.  Although he lived in a beautiful palace and had all the riches a person could dream of, his life had been marred by the terribly unhappy marriage of his parents –  a relationship that when it ended had threatened the whole stability of the Kingdom.  

Then the Prince’s mother had died in a terrible accident, which left the Prince traumatised.  This is another event which threatened the stability of the Kingdom, but, perhaps more importantly left the Prince, who was not yet even a teenager, angry and lost.

Years passed.  The Prince sought solace for his pain in many ways, but none helped. Then one day he met a woman who made his heart sing. Finally he had found the happiness he longed for.  

The Prince thought the Palace and all the Kingdom would rejoice at his happiness, but alas, he was wrong.  

People criticised his true love for her previous successful career as an actress, made mention of her mother being a lone parent whilst sympathising with the father who had left her as an infant.  

Unflattering pieces were written about his love which contrasted sharply with the pieces written about the Prince’s brother’s wife when she had done exactly the same thing – actions ranging from editing a magazine to cuddling their baby bumps.  It sometimes seemed that people were angry that the Prince had chosen a woman who refused to ‘know her place.’

The Prince and his true love decided to leave the Kingdom and embark on adventures where they, and their much loved baby son, could be free from those who felt ill towards them.

It was then that the trouble really seemed to start.  

Immediately the people who delivered the news to the Kingdom began writing about how evil the Prince’s love was – how she had committed such crimes as ‘taking him away from his family’ which confused the Prince because his love had given up her home and much loved career and moved far far away from her own mother when she agreed to marry him.  

Others accused her of sorcery – controlling the Prince… which was strange as others had sought to tell the Prince what to do all his life – including a particularly traumatic occasion where – as a 12 year old, he had been made to walk behind his mother’s coffin in a parade watched by millions of spectators and even more so all around the world.  

Others alluded to his wife being greedy which was particularly odd as when she had married the Prince his love had her own fortune.  

 Then there were those that said ‘they did not like the look of her.’ This further confused the Prince as to what this could possibly mean.  What, wondered the Prince, was it about his beautiful love that made some people feel this way?

The Prince was puzzled as none of these people seemed able to give an exaplantion…..

 

Others advised the Prince and his love that they they should tolerate the comments about their love, their child, her family and their life as it was ‘part of the job.’ This made the Prince feel very sad as he has never wanted the job of being a Prince and he felt that, had his mother not been a Princess, she would still be alive today.

Also many people accused him of not having a job which also made him sad as he has wanted a career in the military but this too, had been proven impossible as his presence would cause danger to others as people who previous accused him of laziness gave away details of his regiments whereabouts.

 

The Prince was bereft at the lack of compassion for him, his beautiful wife and their baby son.  He longed for a Kingdom or even just a land where they would be welcomed and understood.  

He felt sad that his own Kingdom had not been able to do this for him – particularly as the Kingdom had always claimed to be an open place which would welcome all.

The Prince made the brave decision to put his love first, not wanting her to meet the terrible fate that his mother had.

And then.

The Prince was lost to the Kingdom forever…

 

 

 

 

The Roaring 1920s Is A Myth. I Fear The Same Problems Await Us In The 2020s. By Kelly Grehan

Headlines about a ‘return to the roaring 20s’ have started to appear in newspapers, inevitably accompanied by black and white photos of flapper girls with bobbed haircuts and wearing pearls.

While there can be no doubt that some 1920s Brits were able to enjoy a life akin to that described in The Great Gatsby – visiting  nightclubs and drinking cocktails in haute couture clothing, for most survival was the main pursuit.

With a generation of young men lost in The Great War and many more returning home to squalid housing, no health care and an expectation they should never discuss or demonstrate any ongoing suffering from the horrors they had endured, life was grim.

Whilst the  Education Act of 1921 did, at least, raise the school leaving age to 14, schooling standards remained low. In the country, pupils at some schools were still practising writing with a tray of sand and a stick, progressing to a slate and chalk as they became more proficient. Classes were large, learning was by rote and books were shared between groups of pupils, as books and paper were expensive.

Coal reserves had been depleted during the War and Britain was importing more coal than it was mining. A lack of investment in the new industrial techniques led to a period of depression, deflation and decline in the UK’s economy.

By the mid 1920s unemployment had risen to over 2 million!

Wages were low, rents were high and there was little or no job protection. Industrial action persisted, culminating in 1926 in The Great Strike.  It was called by the TUC in protest against mine owners who were using strong-arm tactics to force their workers to accept longer work hours for less take-home pay.

In pre welfare state and NHS Britain poverty and desperation were common, as was premature death and despair. So it’s interesting that photos of well dressed women dancing the Charleston are the defining image of the era. I wonder, if this is because history is, of course, written by the winners. The winners of any non war era are, inevitably those who enjoy power and wealth.  

Talk of a new “roaring twenties” era strikes me as ludicrous in a country where 320,000 people are homeless (Shelter).

14 million people, including 4 million adults who are in employment, are in poverty (Joseph Rowntree Foundation) and schools are £2 billion worse off than in 2015 (Schoolcuts.org.uk). Other problems appear to be returning, for example infant mortality rates have risen for the last four years in England (British Medical Journal).

Studies appear to be indicating that unsurprisingly, poverty is a factor.

For some, of course, this is a golden era. Britain’s total wealth grew by 13% in the two years to 2018 to reach a record £14.6tn, with wealth among the richest 10% of households increasing almost four times faster than those of the poorest 10%.  

I don’t begrudge anyone their wealth BUT I am seriously fearful of what the future holds for a country where work no longer provides a route out of poverty,homelessness is a reality for many people and access to a good education is seriously under threat.

I also wonder if those taking about the good times being here are aware of just how much suffering and strain there is in this country, and whether in the future people will look back of photos of  wealthy people celebrating and will think they are typical of this era