Tonight you’re mine completely…
Why were there so many girl groups in the 1960s singing about lost babies? It most definitely is not nostalgia for past boyfriends that makes my heart shiver when I hear those songs, and I know many women who can remember the ‘50s and ‘60s would agree.
Social media brings political discussions either side of the pond together so we’re hearing a lot more than is comfortable of the current US discussions around abortion law or, as we call it in the UK, reproductive rights. We may have to revive some of those songs, and remind people why they were so powerful.
Tonight you’re mine completely
You give your love so sweetly
People so easily forget the evils that come from cornering women – especially very young women — into bearing children. They also rarely remember to ask themselves why there are so many more teenage mothers than teenage fathers. There are several possible explanations for that – one is that ‘the young man’ faded from the scene double quick when he heard the news, another is that ‘the young lady’ didn’t trust him, or didn’t want him around — another, less often discussed possibility is that ‘the young lady’ was groomed, tricked or coerced into sex with an older man. I suspect most of us are able to look around and say that all those stories are relatively common. I wonder how many people can see the rank sexism in all three.
So why is the abortion discussion so often tainted with discussions about young women’s morals?
One thing people do if they don’t want a discussion about women’s autonomy is to talk about the virtues of adoption – but without abortion being available, bearing a child for adoption can become anything but a ‘choice’ for an unsupported young woman. How is the rupture of the dyad — the forced separation of mother and child — a more civilised answer than freely available contraceptives, and freely available abortion for when contraceptives, or opportunities to use them, fail?
The night we met I knew I needed you so
And if I had the chance I’d never let you go
If you think that’s a lesson our society still needs to learn, please get hold of a copy of ‘Be My Baby’ by Amanda Whittington. To the background of some of those heart-rending songs, the play tells the story of some of those girls who used to be sent to homes where they could ‘discretely’ work their way through pregnancy (and my goodness did they work them) and then give up their babies to wealthier families, who (also) wanted them. If you search around, you can find out the affect that had both on the young mothers and their shunted aside babies.
Take a walk along the beach tonight? I’d love to
But don’t try to touch me, don’t try to touch me
‘Cause that will never happen again
But we’re okay here in the UK, aren’t we?
It would be quick and simple to say that abortion became legal in the UK in 1968 but it’s still a complicated area of law.
Only this year, there was quite a scramble to stop the government making home abortions illegal, and as with all areas of women’s rights, there are still issues that need work. Details from
Abortion law is just one of the areas where women’s legal rights are currently being contested in the modern world. We have not yet reached anything like a position where we can be confident that women’s autonomy is established. Austerity, the paring away of health and social care services, faux morality, misogyny and poor government all increase the likelihood of more trouble to come.
Whittington’s play is a fantastic way of presenting the human realities of young women not being free to make their own decisions. It is on some exam boards’ GCSE lists in the UK, but doesn’t turn up in the classroom that often. If you think it’s relevant now, in the face of the numerous sex-based problems still faced by women and girls, why not ask your school to put ‘Be My Baby’ on their study list for 2022-23 – and make sure they know it’s a subject of study relevant to boys, as well as girls. They can help us find out once and for all why there are so many more teenage mothers than teenage fathers.
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