Abortion: A fundamental human right

Denying a woman to own her body only further weakens her place in society.

Protests over abortion rights across the world.
Protests over abortion rights across the world.

How can one view abortion without keeping into account the body of the woman and her right to choose whether she is willing to take on the responsibility of another human being growing inside of her?

Only a woman can get pregnant and have children, therefore the choice must be solely hers alone. No state or government can dictate this fundamental right of her body.

Looking into the social conditions, women earn less than men, they are subjected to sexual violence, have little or no access to publicly provided daycare and they also have less familial and economic decision-making power than men, thereby making abortion all the more necessary to be legalised. For a woman, the choice of having a child is connected to many issues apart from the ones stated above.

If we don’t understand the effects of unwanted pregnancies on the lives of women and the children that they will unwillingly bear, we are failing to respect integrity, self-ownership of her body, and her freedom to choose.

The truth also remains that women have been subjected to judgement as a mother, a wife, a sister or any other role that she dons. As a society, we barely view her as an individual. So naturally, it is assumed and practised that it is all right for others to coerce a woman to become a mother. Consent, in most cases, is not even a subject of discussion.

There are no ideal families, yet a family still remains the first place for a child’s healthy growth, which cannot happen with a forced pregnancy. Many children learn their ideas of justice from their homes. In places where women are treated with inequality, it in turn creates a skewed conditioning where the progeny can’t ever empathise with the woman and her challenging health issues.

The media is agog with sweet mothers. Most don’t realise that women are sold the concept of perfect motherhood. It is a trap. Many young girls are made to keep their rose-tinted glasses on. The ugly truth is hushed up in case she is put off with the idea of continuing to endure what her mother, aunts, elder sisters, and grandmothers did in a system that does not support maternity mental health issues or even the idea of not wanting to be a mother.

Many women are frightened to talk candidly about the innumerable times; they feel bereft and totally out of sync. They fear judgement and being viewed as a ‘bad mother’. Abortion decisions in countries that are legalised are also hushed up for fear of being seen as an immoral act.

The truth remains that motherhood is a tumultuous ride of feeling constant tiredness. To feel devastated to hear your child cry is never discussed. Feeling helpless in many situations, burdened with the emotion of being lesser for no fault of theirs, is common among women. There are days when women wonder if they actually signed up willingly for milk-stained clothing? The sleepless nights and the total change in body, feeling undesirable and frumpy, are part of becoming a mother.

The discussion about this lonesome journey will never be discussed with couples before they decide to have a baby. Most times, the husband goes back to work and one is left alone on this journey.

Many mothers want a break desperately, but when the child goes for a sleepover, she feels the emptiness and also guilty for wanting alone time to herself. Her identity becomes totally conjoined with her family and the children she bears.

In many places, abortion is done for the wrong reasons. In a country like India, sex selection was rampant till the government decided to ban it as many girl foetuses were aborted for the fear of unacceptability.

India decided to have the Medical Termination Pregnancy Act in 1971. This was done purely to control the population and not with the intention of giving the choice of freedom to women. But this act enabled rape victims to abort unwanted pregnancies, or sometimes women who bear children with multiple congenital disabilities, to abort in the first trimester.

There are women who are lucky to not have an excruciating experience of struggling with fertility issues. They have the golden nanny support and a group of mother-friends who help them navigate through the difficult situations of the child falling sick and the innumerable allergies, emotional growth, and access to good pediatricians. But not everyone has access to these advantages. So, it becomes extremely important for the woman to decide if she is mature enough and ready to be a mother.

With the recent law in the USA that has been passed against abortion, it takes women further away from the 100 years of the feminist movement. Activists have been tirelessly working towards empowerment issues, sexual health conditions, and the independent identity of women as against the set norms identified for them.

 I am torn about thinking of ambitious girls who want careers but may become pregnant. For girls stuck in relationships that don’t work. Girls who are rape victims. Girls forced into marriages with men they abhor and have to continue raising the children they cannot abort.

With abortion being illegal in a country like the USA, what is the message being given out to women? What is the future for girls with unwanted pregnancies?

It is a regressive move, and as a feminist, one feels devastated to think of the children born out of such situations. Women who will have to endure this lifetime of forced labour because abortion clinics are shut down now.

Society may have meticulously carved laws and situations where women are gaslighted to feel incomplete without motherhood. But many women, deep down, don’t share the same sentiment of being a selfless matriarch.

There are protests among women all over the world defying this law. Activists are carrying poster messages in protests suggesting that maybe vasectomy should become a choice less option.

There are 15 countries where abortion is prohibited. In that list, Poland cites the prohibition on maintaining mental and physical health for women.  In the US, there are 13 states that have passed this trigger law. This will weaken women further. With the fall of Roe, LGBTQ families are also now in fear of the Supreme Court›s next decision.

For many women across the globe, this was a profoundly personal and sad decision that has been passed.

Mohua Chinappa is an author and a podcaster of a show called The Mohua Show.