We read so much these days about women’s rights and how abortion should always be portrayed by the media as the right choice in difficult circumstances. We read about how too much counselling before an abortion is an infringement on these rights, as it might get some to reconsider (as if this were a bad thing) or feel undue remorse afterwards.
However, there are sides to this subject feminists just won’t touch (just like, due to the marvel called intersectionality, they don’t go near the horrors suffered by women in Islamic theocracies). Besides ignoring the facts of the procedure (going as far as defending late term abortions), they also ignore an important part of the cause – which is external pressure.
There are shelters for women who are physically harmed by partners; there is protection from so many types of abuse except one – the psychological coercion of a woman to abort her baby, sometimes relentless, which often involves threats of divorce, homelessness, abandonment and the withdrawal of minimal support for her to have the child or even sustain herself.
Pro-life activists are covering this intensely; the debate however does not reach the mainstream, as abortion is seen as a “woman’s right” almost exclusively (excluding the rights of the women being “terminated”, as abortion survivor Gianna Jessen points out).
Again, feminists tend to think this is the right choice in a seemingly impossible situation, such as the father not wanting the child, the economical situation being precarious, the mother being underage and unable to support the baby or herself.
But is it really the woman’s choice of what to do with her body when all the negative factors influencing her are external? When she feels she has to make this decision as she has no alternative, because there is no support available?
Is the only road a woman felt like she could take at one given time the right one for her? How is this defined as her choice in the first place? Saying there was nothing else I could do at the time does not equal this is what I wanted – and yet, this sort of decision would be commended by feminists as mature and brave under the circumstances, without taking the woman’s suffering into account.
People pressuring a woman into an abortion is not an unavoidable fact of nature. It’s a matter of power imbalance, which feminists love to mention every time they feel hard done by when a man gets them to take on more “emotional labour” then they are getting. Power imbalance is mentioned so often – and yet there is no greater power imbalance than the ability to get someone to kill their own child under extreme threats.
I witnessed a similar situation which still makes me boil. It did not involve abortion but the forced giving of a newborn up for adoption. The mother was in the same hospital ward as me after giving birth. She told me, as well as hospital staff (and eventually the authorities, which did not lift a finger) that her hubby – a piece of scum beyond redemption – was forcing her to give the baby up, under threat of eviction and separation from the three children they already had together. He’d previously tried to psychologically force her to have an abortion but had not succeeded. She wanted to keep her baby girl and raise her, but was dependant in every way on the husband’s family, whose home she was living in; the scumbag’s family agreed with him that the child should just disappear. She faced having nowhere to live and no income. Besides that, she already had three kids at home and did not want to be forcibly separated from them as she was their primary carer. All I could do was try to put her in touch with charities and similar organisations; I’m not sure she ever contacted them. I also asked a relative of mine who was a lawyer for advice and he called the police; he said she was entitled to state protection. It went nowhere; it spun in a bureaucratic circle for the few days we were there. Unfortunately, I was in no position to help either as I did not have the living conditions or financial stability at the time (although looking back I feel like kicking myself for not trying to figure out a way; perhaps it wouldn’t have been absolutely impossible). In the meantime, hubby dearest kept phoning her to call her names (as she was lying on a hospital bed recovering from giving birth). At one point he even suggested she put something over the baby’s face and leave her somewhere. I felt like cracking that man’s skull with my bare hands. She kept on taking the calls for some reason and was distraught the whole time, trying to sort out accommodation and figure out a way to care for all her kids. The bastard swore he’d make her life hell; she couldn’t take her kids back from him as she had no income or housing. Even if someone had taken her in with the baby she wouldn’t have been financially stable enough for it to matter in court. Eventually she decided there was no other way than to give her baby girl up for adoption and go back to the bastard to raise her other kids in the only home she had. It took her days of constant crying, barely any sleep and being given no hope by those she appealed to. What would feminists say before that type of case? Many would say an abortion would have been better in the first place.
This was absolutely not her choice. It was a horrible experience to even watch, never mind live.
Nor is it the choice of so many women who decide to abort their babies because those around them threaten them constantly.
Helplessness is not empowerment.
Instead of advocating for women’s right to abort their babies (which they’ve already got), why not also advocate for women’s right to keep their babies when facing this sort of trouble, which I’m sure is not uncommon?
What exactly is feminism’s stance regarding the situation in China, where forced abortions are carried out and newborns are drowned in buckets or dumped in fountains for being female? They say nothing as they want the word “abortion” to build this positive aura around it – which most people viscerally reject, even when meeting others halfway ideologically. I believe little concerns them if not directly relatable.
I can also share a different story – a story about real systemic oppression.
During the later part of the communist period, abortion was forbidden in my country. So was contraception; it was not available. The purpose was to produce as many people who would increase the workforce. Of course the absolute cretins did not ensure that those children could be provided for and looked after since both parents were forced to work and the country was in dire poverty for a long time. That’s how women turned to back alley abortions. Not because those abortions were their choice, but because the nature of the system made it so that they could not have a normal couple life (denying their husbands sex would have ended in being left eventually) or a normal family life (many children brought up in those times were raised by grandparents, part time or full time, myself included).
My brother’s bones lie somewhere in a communal skip outside Bucharest. So do those of most of my brothers and sisters, whom I don’t know the exact number of and will not ask again, not wanting to cause trauma. That’s what they used to do in those days – and still do in China now. Finding out shocked me but did not make me pro-life; that had been my conviction all along; it absolutely strengthened my conviction. Whereas I can understand the pressure of the times and the motivation of the women seeking these abortions (some to later regret it, especially when babies were delivered alive and still moving), I cannot understand those who “helped” them do this – who could have easily killed those women, under the guise of friendship or for some money. Some had no medical training whatsoever. My brother was killed with the “help” of a nursery teacher – who was also my Godmother. She Christened my sister, then killed and dumped my brother in the trash, then off she went back to church to Christen me a year later. It turns my stomach. I don’t ever want to see the woman again but if I did I might just spit in her face (for the first time to ever behave that way). Although if I asked for details she might just tell me how she did it in the most callous of ways.
Feminists would jump at this opportunity to shout that making abortion legal and accessible would have solved the problems of women who “clearly wanted abortions”.
Except those women didn’t.
They were forced into poverty, forced into work instead of being home makers and forcibly denied contraception, though it was available at the time (at least condoms were being marketed in Europe but could not be sold here). Those women did not choose abortion because it was “right” or “something they wanted”. Some lived in perpetual hope they would never have to have another one again.
That is a true example of systemic oppression when it comes to reproductive rights.
I also want to share an uplifting story of refusing abortion and sending children away despite very difficult circumstances. In my grandmother’s day abortion used to happen (feminists often dismiss today’s gruesome statistics by saying it has happened since times immemorial). She never had any (and told me for a fact, without me asking). She had nine children. Lost one to measles in infancy and one to a motorbike crash. She was widowed twice – once by war and again by a construction site accident. She was offered help by the state in terms of taking some of the children into state care and categorically refused. A few decades later, her children have kids and grandkids of their own, most having gone through higher education and established a career. All originating from sheer poverty and destitution. My sister and I were also raised by her while the system did not allow our parents to do so, and for some years after. If anyone asked me the childish question of who my hero was I’d say definitely my Gran. It seems natural instincts are so strong in some people that they fear nothing and stop at nothing for their families.
Spare the family anecdotes, some might say – the world is immense and diverse. And so it is.
What I know for a fact is that no woman ever plans to have an abortion at some point in her life. No woman grows up picturing abortion as a part of her future.
Circumstances cause this and some of these circumstances need addressing.
Feminists often speak of the emancipation of teens and the authority teenage women should have over their bodies – especially in terms of being able to access abortions. How aware are they that so many young women undergo abortions pressured by their families, in order not to lose face or not risk compromising their daughters’ academic future?
Many types of pressure are considered criminal and decisions made under duress are not always considered valid.
However, trying to corner a woman in this manner is merely frowned upon in some situations and even commended in others.
It should be criminal. Women who are financially or otherwise dependent on the person trying to coerce them into an abortion should be protected. It should be a basic human right. End of story.