Here is a hypothetical for all prochoice people...
Miranda is a single mother of two kids. She worked hard at law school and she is a newly qualified solicitor with great prospects. It hasn't always been easy but now she is looking forward to earning enough money to support herself and her kids. But she has an unplanned third pregnancy and she is not sure who the father is. The father might be Mike, a man she has been casually dating but it's not particularly serious. Or it might be Colin, a client at the law firm where she is working as a junior. They had a one night stand. Whoever the father is, Miranda doesn't look at either man as a long-term prospect and her boss would not be delighted if he found out about Colin. On top of all this, her boss just offered her a promotion - it will involve more work but also more money. The timing of this third pregnancy is terrible. She will be heavily pregnant just as she will be making her debut in court with an important case and her childcare arrangements are already expensive and cumbersome with two children. She has an abortion.
Prochoicers, are you OK with Miranda's choice?
But are you also one of the many prochoicers who howled with derision at Josie Cunningham? Josie Cunningham, a mother of two works as a glamour model and an escort. She is currently 18 weeks pregnant - so within the legal limits for an elective abortion in England - and the father is either a Premier League footballer or an escort agency client. Over the weekend, she caused an outcry after telling the Sunday Mirror newspaper that she might have an abortion because being pregnant could interfere with an opportunity to earn wads of cash appearing on reality TV show Big Brother.
The latest media reports on this story suggest she won't be appearing on Big Brother because of the ethical minefield it has created for the producers (and nobody would be surprised if conservative advertisers got cold feet over the whole situation and threatened to take their money elsewhere). And, as far as we know, Josie is still pregnant.
But if she does have an abortion, that really is her choice. It's no different to the hypothetical Miranda's situation apart from the occupation of the pregnant woman. A swathe of women have exposed themselves as snobs - Josie is mostly famous for having a breast enlargement on the NHS - she was born without breast tissue -it was after this operation that she took up a career as a glamour model. This, along with being an escort, is how she earns her living. Just like being a junior at a law firm, it is still work.
Here's the thing about being prochoice - it means you support women's choices, even if they are not choices you'd make for yourself. It's a bit like supporting free speech - it means you support all speech, not just the bits you like.
Perhaps Channel 5 could have let Josie appear on Big Brother while pregnant. After all, there are probably more stressful environments for a pregnant woman than lolling about in a house on the telly. Channel 5 would have a duty of care to allow her access to a doctor. Just as the hypothetical Miranda panicked about juggling her career and a third pregnancy, the real Josie is also in a situation where she feels she has to choose between carrying to term and working. And it is the nature of her work that has caused people to get all outraged. It is not a common work-versus-motherhood situation but Josie has clearly played up to the controversy with talk of being able to afford a pink Range Rover if she puts her career first. She has trolled everyone brilliantly and the mass pearl-clutching has been hysterical to watch.
We are living in a world where "reality TV star" is seen as a valid career choice by many, a path to easy riches, so this situation was inevitable. Josie, I am quite sure, knew she'd create a fauxrage. She knew she'd get attention and, even if Channel 5 runs a mile at the prospect of her appearing in the Big Brother house, other media outlets will want a piece of her. Hell, Channel 5's owner Richard Desmond also owns OK! magazine - I wouldn't bat an eyelid if he did a deal with her if she has the baby. It could be easily packaged as a good news story, a prolife triumph to keep conservative advertisers happy.
By telling the Sunday Mirror her story, Josie has exposed a rich vein of class-based hypocrisy among British prochoicers. If she has an abortion, that's her choice. But this whole spectacle becomes ammunition for the likes of Nadine Dorries, Jeremy Hunt and Frank Field to limit access to abortion in the UK. Josie's story feeds into the myth that abortion clinics are full of women who are close to 24 weeks pregnant having abortions on a whim. And as soon as hitherto prochoice people jump on the bandwagon to call her a slut, it makes sweeping changes to abortion laws more acceptable. Think before you declare: "I am prochoice but...".
Picture courtesy of the National Science Foundation