It’s a Bank Holiday here in sunny England, which means that I have a decent excuse for being late with my Weekend News-Surfing. The other decent excuse is, of course, that this is the first real day off I’ve had since Sunday last week – that is, seven days ago. Hence the strange thinking. Remember, children, the 48-hour working time directive was put in for a reason: so that temps could opt out of it! Of course, I jest. I haven’t opted out of it, per se – I just study full-time and temp to make sure I can eat each week. The total is more than 48 hours’ work, let me tell you. Especially once you include housework in the mix. Which I reckon I can do, because if I were doing it for someone else it would be considered work. Anyway. My financial and temporal predicament (i.e, not enough hours in the day) is not the concern of this site. So, to business:

Samantha Orobator, who has been imprisoned in Laos since August 2008, is now five months pregnant and facing death by firing squad for allegedly entering the country with 1.5lb of heroin. The question that has either not been asked or answered is, of course, how did she end up pregnant whilst in prison? Given that “British Embassy officials, including the Ambassador, have visited Miss Orobator a total of six times since her arrest… limited to a period of about 20 minutes once a month“, I rather doubt that any kind of significant other would have had more luck seeing her. Time will tell.

Continuing the theme of pregnancy stories I wish hadn’t happened, a woman in Dubai has been found guilty of manslaughter after she was involved in a traffic accident, nine months pregnant, which caused the death of her foetus. I’ve seen arguments about the criminalisation of abortion, and what that might lead to, and this story is one of those things. I wish with all my heart that this had stayed a hypothetical argument.

Moving on, I have a strange feeling of deja-vu: “These kind of incidents, in such a busy area, are very rare, however I would like to reinforce personal safety advice for women in the area, not to walk alone during the hours of darkness and to contact police if they feel threatened at any time“. Such are the words of wisdom of Det Insp Andy Cunliffe, after an 18 year old woman was raped behind a pub in Bolton. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. That’s not fucking helpful. Women go out. True story. Some women work in pubs. Also true. What do you think they should do, sleep in the pub till morning? What if they’re raped in the pub? And does anybody else remember this story? The one where the police ignored that woman who repeated told them she was afraid that she’d be killed? Remember how she ended up dead?

The BBC have also got hold of the story about the 17 year old Australian boy, Alex, who has got permission from the courts to have a double mastectomy. Catholic groups are predictably outraged, but he’s also been taking hormone treatment to prevent menstruation, which I think probably counts as “birth control”. Why they’re outraged about the breast removal and not that, I can’t fathom. At least the BBC got the pronouns right, even if they did start the article by calling Alex a girl. Beppie over at Hoyden About Town is suitably enraged with one of the less considerate Australian publications for not managing to grasp this rather simple concept.

Finishing up for the evening, I’ve got one good piece of entertainment news, one bad. Bad would be Andrew Sachs thanking Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand for “raising his profile“. Good to know that a nasty, spiteful act of misogyny doesn’t matter when fame’s involved, even if it was regarding his granddaughter. So much for the old “but what if it was your [insert female relative here]?!” argument.

Good news, which isn’t really news, but pleases me, is Carol Ann Duffy becoming Poet Laureate. And saying that she’ll give away the money, but she wants the butt of sack (600 bottles of Sherry) upfront. That is many kinds of awesome. And I have fond memories of my notoriously grumpy English Lit teacher reading Frau Freud aloud, realising that not one of her 17-year-old students would be persuaded to read a list of synonyms for “penis”. Especially not when that list included “love-muscle”.

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So, I was reading an article that’s one of a series dedicated to debunking myths used by people who are anti-choice. And in said article, it mentioned the idea, usually found expressed in a derogatory fashion, that women [especially women of particular social groups or groupings; for example, “teenagers”, “working class”, “ill-educated”] will, if they can, use abortion “as birth control/ contraception”, depending on which side of the Atlantic you’re on.


Anyway, this got me thinking, and my thinking was this:

abortion is birth control. It is, quite literally, controlling the birth of the unwanted foetus. You can’t get much more controlling of birth than deciding that you absolutely don’t want it to happen after carrying the foetus to term, and having the means to make that birth not happen.

On the other hand, abortion is clearly not contraception. Abortion is the removal of a pregnancy that has already developed; contraception is making sure that there isn’t a pregnancy in the first place. The two are qualitatively different.

And yet, contraception could also be described accurately as birth control. Clearly, if one controls the presence or absence of a pregnancy, that will give, by definition, some control over the presence or absence of a birth. Evidently, contraception is only birth control if it works – if not, then there will be a pregnancy, and to control the birth then would require a decision to either have an abortion or not.


Yes, I am pedantic.

Still, I think there’s merit in pointing out that actually, abortion is a very valuable form of birth control.

It’s all in the wording, you see. Because the anti-choice brigade don’t like the idea of women having any kind of control at all.


This is an update for anybody that I may have browbeaten into contacting Nick Clegg about Dianne Abbott’s Early Day Motion. Specifically, this is anybody who is part of the Sheffield Hallam constituency, which includes anybody who lives in University of Sheffield Endcliffe Village student accomodation.

For once, I actually did what I told everybody else to do, and I’ve since had a reply from his office. The important part says:


“Unfortunately, due to parliamentary convention, party leaders do not sign non-legislative EDMs and therefore Nick will not be able to sign EDM 625. However, this EDM has been supported by a  number of Nick’s Liberal Democrat colleagues.

Speaking on this issue, Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, expressed his frustration that the government has prevented this issue being debated in parliament as part of an amendment to the human fertilisation and embryology bill, saying ‘the government has indicated that it is not appropriate to debate these issues at this time. If that is the case, when is an appropriate time to debate abortion issues?’ Please rest assured that Norman Lamb and the Liberal Democrats will continue to press for a full and open debate surrounding this issue.”


I think it’s still worth writing to Nick Clegg about this, though. Yes, he’s a party leader and apparently can’t sign this, which is sad. But he’s still a local MP, and as such has a duty to represent his constituents. So even if he can’t put pen to paper, he might at least recognise that this is an important issue, and act accordingly.

Via The F-Word blog, the news that the wonderful Dianne Abbott is campaigning for abortion rights in Northern Ireland, with the early day motion that states:

“That this House supports safe, legal abortion for women, within existing time limits, no matter where they live in the United Kingdom; notes that because the Abortion Act 1967 was never extended to Northern Ireland, women in Northern Ireland do not have the same access to abortion as women in the rest of the United Kingdom; further notes that as a consequence women who are for example the victims of rape or incest or who are carrying a severely abnormal foetus are forced to continue their pregnancy against their will or to travel to England and pay for a private abortion, which can cost up to £2,000 and takes place later in gestation than necessary because of the burden on women to raise significant sums of money at short notice and to organise travel to Britain; condemns the inequity that this causes by its impact on poorer, younger and other vulnerable women; deplores the fact that thousands of women are forced into motherhood, illegal abortion or debt each year because they do not have the same reproductive rights as women in other parts of the UK; and calls on the Government to relieve this burden and provide funding for women in Northern Ireland to access NHS abortion services in Britain.”


Abortion Rights is asking that everybody contact their MP to ask them to add their support, and, because I’m awesome, I’ve got the list of Sheffield MPs for you*. The links will take you to an email form hosted by the Parliament website, which in simple terms means that all you’ve got to do is click on the suitable link, put your address and email address in the relevant boxes, type a message along the lines of

“As one of your constituents, I would like to ask you to support the Early Day Motion 625 tabled by Dianne Abbot, MP, and help extend abortion rights to Northern Ireland. Thank you.”

and hit send. It might help to vary the message somewhat, though, so that they don’t think we’re spamming them!


Sheffield Central               —  Rt Hon Richard Caborn (Lab)
Sheffield, Attercliffe        —  Mr Clive Betts (Lab)
Sheffield, Brightside        —  Rt Hon David Blunkett (Lab)
Sheffield, Hallam              — Rt Hon Nick Clegg (LD)
Sheffield, Heeley              — Meg Munn (Lab/Co-op)
Sheffield, Hillsborough  — Ms Angela C. Smith (Lab)


For reasons which escape me, I, and therefore every other University of Sheffield student living in the Endcliffe accomodation, am in “Sheffield, Hallam” and our MP is therefore Nick Clegg.

It should be pointed out that emailing these MPs could have a big impact – each of them voted against lowering the abortion time-limit from 24 to 22 weeks when the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill was around last year. Now, either it was politically expedient for them to vote in that way, or they were sensible people, or both. Either way, emails from people like us could well remind them to be sensible again. Happy emailing, everybody!


*For any non-Sheffield-based readers, this link will take you to upmystreet, the website that I used to find the MPs.

It seems that my last search terms post has produced more questions than answers. I’ve since had a couple of hits on the hysterectomy theme, as well as one about a bleeding vagina.

Before reading further, you may as well know this: that all of what I write next could be boiled down to one phrase – “go to see your doctor“.


So, to start with the stranger of the two search terms, let’s talk about bleeding vaginas. I wish I knew what the person who searched for that meant by it. Because either their vagina really was bleeding, or they may have seen blood and been unsure where it came from. And that gives a couple of options.

The vagina itself is not meant to bleed. However, blood does escape from the womb through the vagina every time a woman has a period. I’m linking to two articles from Scarleteen, one with a useful guide to the female body, and the other a guide to periods. They are written primarily with a young (teenage) audience in mind, but this in my opinion just makes them more accessible, and is in no way a bad thing.

Anyway. The “bleeding vagina” may have been a period. Or, alternatively, that person might have known for sure that they were not be meant to be bleeding at that particular time. I’m not a doctor and I don’t know all of the causes of bleeding at non-period times, so my advice would be to go and ask somebody who did do seven years of training!

If you’re in the UK, you may also want to try using the NHS Direct website, or indeed calling their 24-hour number: 0845 46 47



As for hysterectomies in Sheffield, the results I’ve got are less detailed than the ones I found for abortion. Interesting.

It’s worth saying, to begin with, that hysterectomies are not simple procedures. Basically, if you’ve got a womb and you remove it, that leaves space inside you. Which is filled, sort of, by your other internal organs shuffling around. This is not brilliant. This site has a pretty comprehensive list of the effects that hysterectomies can cause. Please, please talk to your doctor before trying to get a hysterectomy.

This is not to say that no woman should ever have one – that would be silly – but they are pretty bloody scary, and definitely not a procedure to be undertaken lightly. So be careful!

With that in mind, this is what I’ve found:

The NHS website that helped me out when I was doing the abortion research isn’t completely finished, and as yet doesn’t list all of the gynaecology services provided (which is the term that hysterectomies fall under). I’ve linked to it anyway, because it is a work in progress and may well go up in the near future.

Some private hospitals in Sheffield definitely do offer hysterectomies as a service. A search for “sheffield hospitals” generates a map of Sheffield, which will be more helpful in finding a hospital to suit you than I ever could be.


Again, this site is probably quite a good place to have a list of women-specific, Sheffield-specific information. Feel free to leave questions in comments, or indeed to contact us privately, and I’ll do my best to find out the answers.

Because I take an interest in why people are turning up here, I noticed that among the annoying search terms, there was also one for “abortions in Sheffield”.


Obviously, the Sheffield Fems do not perform abortions. However, as feminists, abortion is an issue that we identify with. Simply put, we believe that abortion is a choice that all women should have access to.

As such, there are a couple of things that are worth mentioning.


The most sensible place to go for Sheffield-specific advice or help is the Sheffield Contraception and Sexual Health Service. They offer “unplanned pregnancy advice” and say that it’s better if you make an appointment to see them, but if that isn’t helpful or convenient, there are also drop-in sessions Monday-Friday, from 8:30am – 11am and 12:30pm – 3pm.

To make an appointment, call  (0114) 2716816.. Their appointment times appear to vary depending on which of the three clinics you want to go to.


For anybody wishing to find out how to get an abortion in general, I reccomend visiting the Abortion Rights site. I’ve linked to the page that deals specifically with women who are pregnant, and offers advice on where to go. Specifically, it says this:

“If you are entitled to NHS care, your GP, family planning clinic or Brook Centre (for under 25s) can refer you for a free termination on the NHS. A consultation and the procedure will be carried out in a hospital or abortion clinic. You should ideally be offered a choice of different methods, depending on how long you have been pregnant.

It is usually easiest to get an NHS abortion before 12 weeks of pregnancy. The legal time limit for most abortions is 24 weeks.

If you are not entitled to NHS care, cannot tolerate the NHS waiting list or prefer to use private services, you can refer yourself to a private clinic. You will be charged from around £350.”

The same page also has links to other helpful, non-judgemental organisations.


Lastly, if you run this search, wanting to find an abortion, know that at least one of the sponsored links you will find will not help you. That link will take you to a website called Life Charity. I won’t link to it here, because it is not the kind of site I would wish to endorse. Besides, it’s a sponsored Google link; search for abortions and you’ll find it.

Life Charity seem, on face value, to be a very nice, pleasant kind of organisation. But for any organisation dealing with abortion to say that their “mission is to uphold the utmost respect for human life from fertilisation (conception) until natural death” sets alarm bells ringing.

Yes, they sound nice. But that little part of the sentence that says “life from fertilisation (conception)…” means that they don’t actually support women having abortions at all. If they believe that life begins at conception, then they also believe that abortion is murder.


Be very aware of any organisation with “life” in the title. I’m not saying that they’re all going to be bad, but I am saying that they are not likely to support you if you’re sure that an abortion is what you want. And if you’re not sure, they’ll do their best to get you to decide not to have one. That may or may not be appropriate. I can’t say, because it varies from woman to woman. But be aware that it happens.


This is the kind of information that the Sheffield Fems ought to be providing. If you can think of anything else that would be useful to see linked to, please contact us and let us know.



Sometimes, you read an article, and it seems to make sense. And then you read another one, and your mind has a *crash* moment. Which is to say that, although both articles seem, on the face of it, to be fairly reasonable, they just don’t work when you read them both at once. If you’re really lucky, you find one article that contradicts itself, or is otherwise badly thought-out, thereby saving you the bother of reading two. Pregnancy advice is, of course, a prime example of this kind of odd double-think, but there are other things that will work just as well. For instance:


Stories about being gay. Apparently, it’s now fine to be gay in the NHS. It wasn’t before, because of people being worried about HIV and paedophilia. But not lesbians. Presumably, lesbians don’t really exist. Why didn’t I think of that? More to the point, why doesn’t anybody worry about all of those heterosexual women working in paediatrics? You know, because gay men like sex with men and therefore want to molest children; straight women like sex with men and therefore….. No?

On the other hand, it’s not at all fine to be gay in Welsh schools. This time, the article uses amazing things called acronyms, which means that they can explain the meaning of the new Welsh charity, LGBT Excellence Centre Wales, and then go back to just using “gay”. It’s a whole one letter shorter, and of course they have to be concise when they write these articles.


Stories about rape. The first, which is better than most because the woman isn’t treated like a liar and the man is actually convicted, contains the quote that the woman waived her right to anonymity to say that “the police system is better than it was years ago and that there are people who can help you.”

I’m sure that will be a huge relief to this woman in Scotland. She was arrested and held in cells overnight after she “struggled to cope in the witness box”. But of course, she’s only an alleged rape victim, which actually makes her nothing more than a witness. So that’s ok then.


And lastly, because Conservatives annoy me, I’d like to point out that it was the Tories that commisioned this survey. I’d also like to point out that for people supposedly concerned about the “awful story of mothers being turned away from hospital at a hugely emotional time”, they’re pretty bloody quick to vote to get the mothers there. The F-Word listed the voting patterns of MPs on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act back in May last year, and 135 out of the 164 Conservatives present voted against the 24-week limit on abortions, in favour of a shorter time limit (22 weeks). By my reckoning, and given that there was an 85% turnout, that means that at least 71% of the Conservatives would make it more difficult for women to have abortions. Which is the kind of thing that would tend to increase the number of pregnancies. They didn’t win that vote, but they tried. So I’m irritated, although unsurprised, at their hypocrisy now.

Having said that, I’m impressed that they managed to get the pregnant woman’s head into the picture. Well done there. Of course, she’s got her hand over her eyes in an incredibly melodromatic I’M UPSET! kind of a way, but you can’t have everything.