In our country, children are considered God’s gift. Whether or not our burgeoning population can bear the load of so many new lives being added to it year on year, is immaterial. A woman who dares say, ‘My body, my rights,’ is accused of being self-centred and stone-hearted.
It is considered blasphemy to terminate a life in the womb. That right is only reserved for when you already have three girls at home and have been praying to the Lord to bless you with a boy. Ironically, that illegal test, which you shouldn’t have taken in first place, reveals that your ‘prayers’ have gone unanswered this time as well. Only then are you supposed to get rid of this unwanted female foetus.
For a country with a population of around 1.3 billion people, strangely, safe sex, planning children and abortions are topics that are taboo in most households.
Branding a woman selfish and career minded, just because she is not ready for a pregnancy is something that is reflected in our popular entertainment as well. Women who chose to bring up a child keeping their careers at bay, even out-of-wedlock, are always revered as heroines. And those who don’t, are branded as vamps.
So many women who are forced into pregnancies they aren’t ready or willing for by their families, because the family name needs to be carried on. These women could well end up suffering from depression, or worse, harming themselves or their children. Who then is accountable in case of such tragedies?
A child is indeed god’s gift which needs to be treated as one. A woman who becomes a mother needs to be able to accept the gift with joy, when she feels that she is in the right state of mind and body, and can take care of every need of that little demanding being. Else, she should have the freedom to be able to not carry a pregnancy to term.
Nothing is worse than having a child which is unwanted and has been birthed just out of fear of being judged by the society.
This fear of judgement and lack of knowledge, that they have a right to choose or decline a pregnancy, forces many women to opt for unsafe methods of abortion. In 2013, Ipas India reported that unsafe abortions lead to the death of approximately 4,000 women every year. Our hunger for a male child could be responsible for a major chunk of those deaths. But other causes cannot be ignored. The issue of unwanted pregnancies is wide-spread in our society as the burden of morality and precaution falls on a woman’s shoulders. Most of the unwanted pregnancies result from men refusing to use protection during intercourse. Ironically, women are left to bear the brunt of the resultant pregnancies, and the back-alley terminations.
These days, over the counter pills for termination of pregnancy, are available widely. And most women prefer using them rather than going to a gynaecologist. Dr Shailaja Pendharkar, a gynaecologist from Ujjain, warns against use of these medications. “Use of over-the-counter medications to terminate a pregnancy has severe side effects on women’s health. It can lead to non-stop bleeding for 15 days, sometimes months. This, in turn, leads to health problems like anaemia, uterine infection, infertility in the long term.”
Due to poor drug control and awareness, women take these medicines, not knowing the risk they are putting themselves in.
Many times the pregnancy is not terminated fully, and then the patients experience complications. Eventually, the only option which remains then is MTP (Medical Termination of Pregnancy)’
A couple, especially a woman should be given the right to accept or refuse pregnancy not just because it is best for them. It is in the best interest of the child as well. This is something which needs to be addressed first between the prospective parents and the family and society later. Not going ahead with the pregnancy should not be a matter of other’s opinion. After all, they are not ones who will be bearing the biggest responsibility in the world.
No woman should be made to feel guilty for not choosing motherhood.
The desired change in approach will not come overnight. Probably not in our lifetime. What we can do is to start talking about abortion and accidental pregnancies. And that a woman always has a choice, whether to choose to carry her pregnancy to term or not. And that there is no shame in choosing the latter. It is up to us, to either take charge of our lives and give happiness a shot, or give in to social pressures, and lead the rest of the life nursing resentment against everyone. Even our child.
(Pic by livestrong)
Dr Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.