In early 2012, Nele Obermueller reported for The Guardian:
Shamin was not married when she got pregnant. Rather than face the shame of being a single mother in Pakistan, she secretly sought out an untrained birth attendant who gave Shamin anti-malaria pills to induce an abortion. “But part of the baby stayed inside – and my Shimi got an infection,” says Jino, who works as a maid in the province Punjab. “That’s when she came to me and told me everything. I took her to a clinic but it was too late. She died that same day.”
Shamin’s story is common in Pakistan, where, according to estimates by the Guttmacher Institute, 890,000 women have unsafe abortions annually. Eight hundred of these women will die and a further 197,000 will be hospitalised due to complications. “However even these figures are a gross underestimation, as so many cases go unreported,” says Nighat Khan from the Guttmacher’s research team in Pakistan.
As Obermueller indicates, Shamin is not alone in Pakistan.
I have witnessed some (of the many) horrors that women must face in a nation where abortion is illegal. I know women who have had upwards of 10 children that they could not afford because contraception is frowned upon (though it’s important to note that over the past few years there has been a big push from human rights organizations to make contraception affordable and accessible in Pakistan. Most importantly, there’s been a big push to combat the taboo’s associated with it for married women). I’ve met teenage girls that have absolutely no reproductive rights and even worse, know absolutely nothing about their reproductive system.
Females that are raped and get pregnant have no where to turn and their lives are ruined. They are forced to drop out of school, marry their rapist, and/or get sent away. Often these girls or women commit suicide. I have met girls who, like any teenager or young adult might do, fell in love and had sex. With no sex education available, some of these girls find themselves pregnant. In such cases these girls are at worst killed and at best forced to marry or sent away.
My aunt is a social worker in Pakistan. Her job is to educate women about contraception and she’s witnessed even more horrors— women dying from child birth, infanticide, stillbirths, and unwanted pregnancies.
Though all of these issues are prevalent in Pakistan, they’ve only recently started getting proper attention. The 2011 Pakistani film Bol tackled a few of these issues; reproductive coercion was one of the major plot lines. A line from this film that always stuck out to me is “Why is only killing a sin? Why isn’t giving birth one?” (The killing they refer to in the film is infanticide and actual murder of an adult. They are referring to reproductive coercion when they talk about giving birth being a sin.)
When you take away a woman’s right to her reproductive system you take away her dignity and diminish her to a second-rate citizen meant solely for sex and childbirth. Now, I know the United States isn’t Pakistan and American women don’t face the same struggles. But when you talk about reversing Roe v Wade you talk about setting women back and pushing them back into a pre-1973 society which is pretty reminiscent of everything I described above sans the honor killings.
Without the ability to control when or when not to become mothers, women lose their ability to maintain jobs and careers as well as access to higher education and a better way of life. When more importance is placed on the potential life of a fetus than the mother’s, you force women back into the role of simply being there to procreate and rear children. Women are capable of a lot more than that and hell, some women want more than that. And that’s why this is so important to me.
As far as the life of the fetus is concerned, I do not think that its life is ever more valuable than the pregnant woman’s. The life of a fetus isn’t as valuable a child already born. The decision to get an abortion should always be with the pregnant woman. It’s up to her whether to bring it into this world and as I’ve said before on this blog, without the woman and her body, there wouldn’t be a fetus or any potential life to begin with.
I’m not pro-abortion as many pro-lifers would choose to describe me. I’m pro-what the woman wants. One of my best friends is pregnant. Her pregnancy is wanted and I support her 100%. And if she had decided that she wasn’t ready for motherhood, I’d support that too. I support her right to choose motherhood when she’s ready for it. If any woman has a life threatening pregnancy, the only person that should decide whether she continues with it or not is her. She shouldn’t be forced either way because of someone else’s sense of morality. And surely she shouldn’t be judged by me or anyone else regardless of the decision she makes. Her experiences and her choices are her own.
Every story is different and every person is different. For some people contraception fails, others make the mistake of not using it, and others are victims of rape. Either way, they shouldn’t be confined to a certain life because of any of the above. You can call me selfish, you can call me a slut, you can call me immoral, or you can call me a murderer, I don’t care. I know what I’ve witnessed and I know what I’ve experienced and nothing will ever change my mind about this.
- Roe v Wade at 40: what American women owe to abortion rights | Jill Filipovic (guardian.co.uk)
- Forty Years Later, Why I Still Support Roe v. Wade (blogher.com)