Monday, 20 April 2015

Read All About It: Talking About Abortion

Jemima Kirke (Jessa from Girls) spoke publicly about abortion this week. It was reported by a number of gossip magazines, broadsheets and television press, that Jemima had filmed a video for the Draw the Line campaign. The campaign is run by The Center for Reproductive Rights. This US organisation campaigns for women to have access to safe, legal reproductive health care. The Draw the Line campaign encourages women to share their personal stories to remove the stigma associated with abortion.

Jemima Kirke has joined a number of other celebrities in supporting this campaign. Other celebrity supporters include Meryl Streep, Amy Poehler and Sarah Silverman. Jemima filmed a short video of her talking openly and honestly, without shame and embarrassment, about her abortion. You can watch her video here:

I chose to write about this news story this week thanks to a political hustings I attended at the weekend. One of the candidates, when asked about euthanasia, happened to mention that his religious beliefs prevented him from supporting this and (I’ve forgotten the exact wording he used) any changes to abortion law. There were no opportunities for a follow up question, so I didn’t get to find out his exact views on abortion. Would he support further restrictions on abortions, like those suggested by Conservative MP Nadine Dorries in the current parliament?

The idea of an MP who values the word of God above any science is more than a little bit terrifying to me. We know that women need safe access to abortion, and that without this many women suffer infection, illness and even death. Ignoring this fact, and all of the science out there about fetal development and survival rates, could potentially put women at risk.

Jemima shared her story to fight stigma, raise awareness and show how important access to legal, safe abortion is. And I wanted to help her do that.

This is a post for the Read All About It linky. You can link up any recent post that relates to a news story - it could be local, national or international news. Feel free to share your thoughts on Katie Hopkins, the election debates or the emotional problems facing young girls. Whatever you write about, link it up below. All you need to do is feature the Read All About It badge on your post, and then fill in the linky form below. I look forward to reading your posts!

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Monday, 13 April 2015

Read All About It: Inspired By Sheila Kitzinger

The Read All About It Linky is a place for bloggers to share recent posts that relate to news or current affairs. This could be anything from a serious post about an international news story to a funny response to a newspaper column. You can write about local, national or international news, and can write about absolutely any news story that interests you. With that in mind, here’s my post for this week.

I stumbled across Sheila Kitzinger’s name by chance on Sunday. I was researching for an article about the pain of birth, and happened across a reference to her views on birth. A few hours later, as I was about to switch off my laptop and leave the world of work firmly behind me, I saw her name again. This time on the BBC News site, Sheila Kitzinger had passed away.

I immediately checked Twitter and, as expected, my timeline was filled with midwives, birth activists and mothers talking about what an inspirational woman Sheila Kitzinger was. They spoke of her achievements, her campaigns and her beliefs, but most of all they talked about how her work had impacted on their lives.

If ever you were looking for proof that one person can make a difference, Sheila Kitzinger would be it. She was an inspiring activist and academic, a powerful combination. She studied anthropology and was fascinated by birth. At a time when birth in Britain was very much controlled by obstetricians, Sheila Kitzinger helped women to take an active role in the decision making process. She introduced the birth plan, and through it helped women to make informed decisions about their care.

Birth plans are not set in stone, and many births sadly do not go to plan. But the process of writing a birth plan is in itself empowering. First of all you must read up on the pain relief and birth options available to you before making an informed choice about the kind of care you want. Before the birth plan was introduced, many women gave little thought to such things, and the commonly held view was that the obstetricians were the experts and so should make the decisions.

At a time when episiotomies were common practice, Sheila Kitzinger wrote a paper arguing that it would be better to allow things to tear naturally if such a thing were to happen at all. This paper inspired midwives to be begin questioning birth practices at their places of work. Just three weeks after Sheila Kitzinger’s paper was released the number of episiotomies at one hospital fell from 70 to just 40 percent. They are no longer considered to be standard procedure, and the rate of episiotomies is now down to 13 percent in the UK.

Sheila Kitzinger was a home birth activist who believed low risk women should have the option of delivering at home. As one of those women, I will always be grateful to people like Sheila Kitzinger who paved the way for modern home births. I can imagine no better place to give birth than in the comfort (and privacy) of my own home. When I think back to my daughter’s birth three years ago, I remember the candlelight, the quiet and the wonderful support of my husband and midwife. I really could not have had a more perfect experience.

I’ve read quite a few articles about Sheila Kitzinger since discovering her just yesterday, and one of the things that most stood out to me was the work she did with prisoners. This is probably partly because my dad worked with prisoners for years, and partly because the things she campaigner against seem so barbaric it’s hard to believe they ever happened. Sheila Kitzing campaigned for an end to prisoners being handcuffed during childbirth. The practice had been introduced by a Conservative government keen to prove just how seriously they took crime. As a result, women were forced to labour whilst handcuffed to prison officers. Thanks to a strong and emotive campaign, this was banned in 1996. You can find out more about all of this here.

Sheila Kitzinger was a feminist who campaigned for women to have the freedom to make choices about how and where they wanted to give birth. She championed individuals, fought for change and supported women in their quest for their ideal birth. And I for one will be eternally grateful for her achievements.

Please link up your posts below. Any news and current affairs related posts are welcome, no matter how big or small. All you need to do is include the Read All About It badge on your post, and then share your link below. I look forward to reading your posts!

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Thursday, 9 April 2015

A Little Trip to Amsterdam

Last week, with the help of some friends, I finally cut the metaphorical umbilical cord between Ebony and myself. I went all the way to Amsterdam, all by myself, without a three year old in sight, for two whole nights. This might not sound like much, but it was the first time I’d really left Ebony, and definitely the furthest away from her I have ever been.

The trip was booked months ago, long before I’d even spent a night away from Ebony, and for ages it felt like a distant event. Then suddenly it was two weeks away and I needed to start preparing Ebony for my trip away. Or so I thought. In actual fact, she wasn’t bothered in the least, she seemed more excited about Laurie being off work to play with her than she was about me disappearing for two nights. Though she did mention that she’d quite like Laurie to take her to Amsterdam while he was off work.

It’s been way too long since I’ve travelled on my own. I’ve totally forgotten how to play it cool. My days of carefree travel are firmly behind me. On the way to Amsterdam I felt so stressed about having to go through security that I bit my lip so hard it bled. Cool.

How are you meant to pack all of your things into hand baggage? The mere concept doesn’t even make any sense. Lots of my things are liquids, how is this ever going to work?! Argh.

Our hotel was… erm… basic. Think backpacking chic without the chic, but we didn’t spend much (any?) time there so it didn’t matter so much. We stayed near Dam Square which we hadn’t realised was quite so close to the red light district, and our apartment was on the outskirts of that area meaning a wrong turn took you face to face with, I can only assume, the reality of human trafficking.

Amsterdam is such a beautiful city, I really love the styles of the houses there. Tall and eclectic, with great big windows, towering above the city’s canals. There are bikes as far as the eye can see, and nowhere near as many cars as you would find in a city over here. It’s a really lovely city, and one I think would be a great place to live, assuming you were really far away from the red light district and the hideous men that area attracts.

We stumbled across a vegan cafe and shop whilst we were wandering around one day, it was called Vegabond and is definitely worth a visit if you’re down that way (somewhere near Anne Frank’s house). I finally managed to get hold of one of those Vego that I’ve been seeing on social media for all eternity. So good, like ferrero roche in a bar, my only regret is not buying more. I only bought one, and that was a gift for Laurie which I’d eaten in its entirety before I even left Amsterdam*. They had loads of amazing looking food in the shop, and a few cakes and salads on sale in the small cafe area.

It was really lovely to go out drinking during the day, and drink long into the night without worrying about how awful the toxic combination of hangover plus three year old would feel in the morning. It was nice waking up of my own accord rather than being dragged kicking and screaming by a hungry (and hair pull-y) child. And it was nice being near canals without feeling absolutely petrified that I would have to jump in to save my own offspring (does anyone else share this irrational yet overwhelming fear of canals and locks?)

But it was also really lovely to get home again and hear Ebony say the world’s most beautiful sentence, “I missed you, mummy.”

* I am not the world’s worst wife though, I did replace this with gin.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Living Arrows 14/52

Ebony has developed a real love of Lyme Park. My parents take her quite regularly, and she loves it. They eat a picnic in the car, spend hours on the adventure playground, and have a drink in the cafe before returning home. 

We took a trip there over Easter weekend. It was raining, a lot, and there were puddles everywhere. She had fun wading through the deep puddles, and shrieking that some puddle had splashed in her boots. It was lovely to take some time away from working and have a proper day out as a family for a change. 
Living Arrows

Monday, 6 April 2015

Read All About It: HIV Treatment For Foreign Nationals

Read All About It is a weekly linky where you can share posts about news and current affairs. These can be anything and everything - from a response to a local news story, to your take on an international scandal. Whatever it is, it’s welcome here. All you need to do is link up your posts below.


I was on holiday when the debates aired, so I didn’t catch them live. I watched them on catch up the next night, knowing it would totally dampen the relaxed holiday vibe I had going on. It took us two hours to watch the first 40 minutes of the debate, because we had to keep stopping and ranting at the television. And pouring more gin, of course.

I knew that the debate was going to annoy me. I hate how politicians speak in half truths and misinformation, manipulating facts for their own means, and focusing more on great soundbites than the actual truth. This is infuriating enough when it’s the main parties doing this, but when hate-fuelled idiots like Nigel Farage are invited into my living room to spew their racist crap all over my carpet, it really makes me gin boil.

Nigel Farage is a tiresome bigot who adopts a stance of self-proclaimed bravery at being the person to say ridiculously idiotic things in the media. As though it takes some kind of guts to say sexist and racist things out loud. Damn those pay-deducting wombs.

During the debates, Nigel Farage very nearly caused my head to explode by implying that the NHS is in crisis because there are 7,000 diagnoses for HIV on the NHS each year, and that 60% percent of these are for foreign nationals. Obviously, this was manipulated nonsense. And thank goodness the internet exists so that it’s easy to see how many lies our politicians regurgitate during election season. If you’re interested in the facts about HIV diagnoses on the NHS, you can find them here. To summarise, Farage exaggerated the number of new diagnoses by over 16%. He also, perhaps unsurprisingly, exaggerated the number of foreign nationals diagnosed. When he talked about  the (greatly exaggerated) number of foreign nationals diagnosed with HIV, he failed to mention that many of these may have been infected whilst in the UK. It’s hardly the attention grabbing story of health tourism he tried to spin, is it?

Offering HIV treatment free to foreign nationals on the NHS only came into effect in 2012, so it can hardly be blamed for crippling the NHS. Not only that, but experts welcomed the move as a way of reducing the strain on the NHS by ensuring diagnosis and treatment for an increased number of those infected, thus reducing the spread of this infection.
When the free treatment was introduced, Lisa Power, Policy Director for Terrence Higgins Trust (who let’s just assume knows a little bit more than Nigel Farage does about this issue), said: “We strongly support this move by the Government to bring HIV in line with all the other sexually transmitted infections which are free from charge on public health grounds. It makes no sense to deny people medication that dramatically reduces the risk of them passing on their infection to others. Leaving people without treatment also means the NHS pays far more further down the line when someone’s health fails and they need emergency care. These changes will protect more people from HIV infection in the UK and will save the NHS money in the longer term.”

Nigel Farage claims to believe that the NHS should be there for the ‘British people’ who have been paying into it for years. But that’s not the point of the NHS, is it? You don’t have to pay into it to enjoy the health care offered. My daughter hadn’t worked a day in her life (lazy), and yet the doctors didn’t turn her away when she was admitted with pneumonia as a baby. The quality of care you receive isn’t based on how much you’ve paid in, and thank goodness, because what a horrible world that would be. And yet, we know that UKIP are in favour of privatising the NHS, and creating a tiered healthcare system like they have in the US. You know, the US, the place we all gaze at and think ‘Wow, what a great healthcare system they have...’

With that in mind, Farage’s arguments for saving the NHS are even more ludicrous, when we know he has little intention of ever doing that. It appears it was simply another great way to get a dig in at those damn foreign nationals that are totally ruining our country’s health service. You know the ones I mean, our hardworking doctors and nurses. Tut.

What was most horrific about Farage’s comments, was the fact that they were seen as vote worthy. Not by the other politicians, of course, or by the audience who cheered at Leanne Wood’s response, true. But for it to have been said on television, UKIP must have felt it was going to attract positive attention.

And it did, which is just about the most sickening thing to have come out of this election so far. According to a YouGov poll, 50 percent of those questioned supported the idea that people coming to live in the UK being banned from receiving treatment on the NHS for a period of five years. Half of the people who will have the ability to vote for change in just a few weeks time, thought that Nigel Farage had made a good point. They weren’t outraged, sickened or disgusted with his comments. They thought he made sense.

Ok, I know the far right appeals to some people. Hateful people. Disturbed people. I know that, but I always assumed those people were a sick and twisted minority, not that they made up half of those eligible to vote. How have we ended up in a place where we support the refusal of free healthcare to those in need? Why are we approaching the election with an ‘us v them’ attitude? Why are people in support of the idea that basic human rights should only be available to certain people?

Nigel Farage seems to think we should put ‘our own people first’. Well, I think that’s a great idea. The 50 percent of voters who support Farage’s offensive suggestion are not my people. Not at all. So yeah, let’s put our own people first. The ones who need it. The ones who believe basic human rights should be available for all. And for those of you who don’t, for those of you who feel your birthplace guarantees you a higher place in the hierarchy, you are not my people.


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