Safe Abortion for Everyone - A challenge amidst our ‘multiple issue’ lives.
This is a compilation of a Tweetathon conducted by Pratigya Campaign in India with Asia Safe Abortion Partnership, to mark the International Safe Abortion Day, which we have decided to re-purpose as a blog, as some important questions were raised, which might stay relevant for a long time.
Pratigya Campaign (PC)- How do the existing inequalities/prejudices in the society influence the sexual and reproductive rights of individuals?
ASAP- Inequalities, like gender oppression, racism, casteism in this ableist world that we have created, make it difficult for people to access their basic human rights, like education, socio-economically dignified life, employment. Such situations definitely put SRHR on a low priority for many people and on top of that, there is very little to no effort from concerned authorities to raise awareness on 'healthy reproductive choices'.
However It's important to remember that our overall mental & physical health is very strongly connected to our sexual and reproductive health. Historically, wherever women and marginalized people have claimed control over their reproductive and sexual choices, they have also gone on to liberate generations of people from the shackles of patriarchy.
PC- Whether and what role does religion play in the public, social discussion and perception of abortion?
ASAP- Religion definitely plays a big role in many societies even today and that's also where this perspective of 'killing a life', seems to come from. For generations, religion has offered and continues to offer, a sense of community and belonging, to many individuals and it is also one of the most influential sources of learning for many of us. Therefore, one would hope thatsuch institutions would make sure that people who are desperate to end unwanted pregnancies, don't take haphazard, dangerous steps to risk their lives, or even be forced to raise a family, without being made aware of all choices and possibilities they always had.
However, more often than not, we see‘religious spokes’men’ and other stakeholders often misinterpreting & misusing religion, to further their political and mysoginist agendas against abortion, often at the cost of women’s lives. Therefore amidst this propaganda, it becomes very important to push and prioritize evidence based information, conversations normalizing abortions & most importantly including EVERYONE in these conversations.
PC- How do community attitudes and actions related to abortion impact stigma or protect pregnant persons against stigma?
ASAP- Our community or people close to us are often the first contact we have when it comes to discussing SRHR, due to a sense of comfort with them. However when the same people, our loved ones question our character, or blame us, or start defining our whole identity around our decision abortion, it can have a long lasting impact on the individual's mental health due to the constant shame and guilt, further ruining their life, even if they DO GET an abortion. At the same time, if the community is supportive & loving, safe abortions don’t have to be anything more than a medical procedure done under supervision of experts, which can be obtained easily with the support and care of people who love them, regardless of their choices and don’t define them with their reproductive outcomes.
PC- How can we move from stigma to an open discourse on abortion, and how can we ensure safe abortion services?
ASAP - Openly talking about something that has been hushed over for so many decades, is the first step towards normalizing it and reclaiming it.
We need to keep reiterating that abortion services should be rights based, because any decision for our bodies, should be ours and ours only. Not of any religious leaders, not of community members, or of family members or even that of your partner.
We must also hold our leaders and representatives accountable for not prioritizing an important health service, affecting more than half of their population. As individuals, we can make sure to share relevant information with people, but also make it more accessible for ALL and not just the privilidged few. Lastly, if we ever come across someone who needs an abortion, we provide support to them and let them know that they're not alone or wrong.