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7 Things You Thought You Knew But Didn’t About Abortion

More from Shambhavi Saxena

By Shambhavi Saxena And Laura Robinson

I knew from the moment I found out that I didn’t want to carry the pregnancy to term, but I was overwhelmed by images everywhere telling me that it was “wrong” to consider abortion.

When I searched for information on the Internet, I was bombarded by religious websites with brutal pictures of aborted fetuses. When I tried to go to my friends for help, I was told they were “so excited” and couldn’t wait for me to have a baby.

My boyfriend kept saying how much he wanted a son. No one asked me what I wanted. I felt robbed of choice, like my body was being controlled by everyone but me…Anonymous.

woman silhouette
Image source: Macro Eye

Many in India treat unborn foetuses with more respect than they do living, breathing women, often seeing the latter as only important in the roles of wife and mother. As a result of our attitude towards children being multifaceted (from being resources to inheritors of lineage), a woman’s reproductive capacity is tightly controlled by the needs of society, and she is often under pressure to have children she can’t afford to care for or doesn’t want.

Actively choosing to terminate a pregnancy is not a right society believes women should have, in the same way that it perpetuates the belief that women’s bodies belong to everyone but women themselves. The decision to undergo abortion should then be seen in the context of a woman’s right to her body. So what choices are actually available to women? What are some common misconceptions that prevent women from exercising their options? There are 7 that come out tops:

1. Abortion Is Illegal In This Country

Although abortion is not completely unrestricted, it is legal within the framework of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act. A woman can get an abortion for a pregnancy under 12 weeks with the consent of a medical practitioner or up to 20 weeks with two physicians’ consent, if there is a risk to her life or grave injury to her mental or physical health. Abortions are also permitted in cases of rape or severe fetal abnormalities. For married women, if the pregnancy is due to contraceptive failure, they can also legally access abortion. These conditions prohibit some women, especially young unmarried women, from accessing abortion services. According to one study though, only one-fourth of women who have an abortion do so according to the reasons allowed under the MTP Act; most women choose to have an abortion to reduce family size and space pregnancies.

2. Women Who Get An Abortion Will Regret It

FALSE. The claim that women will experience intense grief, emotional trauma, and regret is simply untrue for the vast majority of women. One study discovered that 95% of women who had an abortion felt that it was the right decision for them. In addition, women do not experience higher rates of depression after an abortion.

Although it is possible to experience mental stress after an abortion, it is extremely rare, and many women instead report relief and even an increase in mental health. It is not shameful to have an abortion; some women simply are not ready to have children or do not want them at all.

3. Taking Emergency Contraception Is The Same As Having An Abortion

Emergency contraception (EC), also known as the morning-after pill, does not end a pregnancy. The EC pills contain high doses of Ulipristal acetate or Levonorgestrel which stops the release of the egg, prevents the sperm from fertilizing the egg, or stops the fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus lining. Emergency contraception should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex and is most effective within a 72-hour window, but can be used up to five days after.

4. If Everyone Used Contraceptives, No One Would Have Abortions

No form of contraception is 100% effective. Even if everyone used contraceptives perfectly, never forgetting a birth control pill and always using condoms – accidents happen. Condoms break. Not all sexual encounters are planned or consensual – meaning contraception might not be an option in these cases. Abortion will always be a necessary component of comprehensive sexual health care.

5. Medical Abortions Are Dangerous Or Have Long-Term Health Effects

Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures. If performed with the advice of a trained medical provider the risk of complications is very low. Abortion will not affect future pregnancies and less than 1% of women develop an infection or have heavy bleeding after a medical abortion via pills. There is no scientific link between abortion and infertility or breast cancer.

6. Most Of The Abortions That Women Get In India Are Due To Sex-Selection

Only 9% of abortions in India happen because of sex selection. Sex-selective abortions can only be performed once the sex of the foetus can be determined, which only becomes possible in the second trimester. The vast majority of abortions are actually first trimester abortions.

7. A Safe Abortion Is Always Legal

Due to the limitations of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, an abortion performed under the guidance of a trained medical profession, in an equipped and hygienic facility may not be legal. If the doctor or the facility does not have government approval, the abortion is illegal. If a woman is getting an abortion for reasons other than those outlined in the MTP Act, it is illegal, even if the procedure was medically safe.

Laura Robinson is a Fullbright-Nehru scholar, and a consultant with CREA.

You must be to comment.
  1. Spider-Man

    In cases of rape or if a woman’s life is in danger, it might make sense to carry out an abortion, but to have carefree sex and then murder the unborn child in the womb is unacceptable. It is highly irresponsible and reprehensible. The propagation of women’s rights is so maniac today that women have one-night stands, sex with multiple partners, affairs, and then get rid of the fetus with normalcy.

    Men have always been the pursuers and women the choosers. When women dress in very little it becomes natural for a man to be attracted, and that is where women abuse their sexuality. Whether it is monetary or sexual favours, women know how to get ’em all.

    Always remember, with a womb comes great responsibility.

    1. TIGER

      U R RIGHT …. with womb comes greater responsiblity …. as a man with PENIS … we should not be raping women and children …..

      As a man ,, we want to sleep with a women ,,, but u dont want the women to sleep with man… why dont you say ,,, as a man , i will not sleep with any women , unless i am married or in committed relationship..

      I have seem some of my friends ,,, randomly sleeping with women by sweet talking and promising marriage ,,,,, when she gets pregnant ,,, then they leave … when gets aborts the child ,,, then she is being judged …

      GROW UP

    2. Priya

      You are absolutely right that women who have “carefree sex” and sleep with
      random men are irresponsible. But then why do you want to give such an irresponsible
      person the HUGE responsibility of raising a CHILD?
      By your own logic, a woman who doesn’t have respect for her own body will have
      no respect for that of a kid. Do you think that bearing a child will change her behavior???
      NO! She will just leave the crying baby at home and go sleep with more men.
      Denying abortions will not punish the mother for so-called “sexual misconduct”.
      It unnecessarily punishes the innocent child, who did nothing wrong.
      Every kid deserves a good mother. It’s better that stupid people be free to have as many
      abortions as they want, rather than make some poor child suffer a miserable life.

  2. B

    Feminist says she aborted baby because it was a boy.

    http://metro.co.uk/2015/02/10/feminist-aborted-baby-because-it-was-a-boy-5056982/

  3. Daredevil

    You state that according to a study, 95% of women felt it was the right decision to have an abortion, but the link tells us that the study is only based on 843 women, not to mention that 8 out of 10 ended up with negative feelings about it. You also mention that less than 1% women experience infections or heavy bleeding, but that would amount to a very huge number!

  4. K

    Youth Ki Awaaz, first off, shabash in your efforts to bring tough issues to light. I really admire your determination to make India a better place for the oppressed. Some suggestions for this piece and others in the future include more links for your references, a more careful reading and reporting of study findings, and maybe including a further readings section for interested readers to learn more. Keep up the good work.

  5. The Hulk

    Feminism wants to promote free sex, and that is why they support abortions. Instead of teaching people to keep their minds and thoughts clean, and live a life of purity, they promote sex. Thoughts shape destiny. It all begins in the mind. Poor choices have deadly consequences. Free sex means we have to accept fornication. Nothing wrong with that. Free sex means we have to accept adultery. It means we have to accept homosexuality. All of those things have to be redefined as honorable and loving expressions. As long as there’s love, we hear, it’s okay. Everything is for sex, everything. And it has corrupted our culture to the core. The family, the home, the place where unselfish love is learned is a disaster of sexual promiscuity on every front. We have a whole society geared to take whatever they want with no heart to give. Take your sexual fulfillment, if you don’t like the consequences, kill it. Take and if you get AIDS, elevate your punishment to a symbol of courage, become a hero. Take your sexual activity and when you’re tired of the one you’re taking from, discard that one and go take from another one. Our society is absolute obsessed with sex, and with it is the death of any normal reasonable understanding of love.

    1. TIGER

      you are right …. as a MAN we should also make a promise and be truth ful to ourself … that we will not sleep with any women apart from WIFE …..

      we should also participate in preventing this free sex culture ,,,,, and why only force all the morality on women ,,, we should also do the same …

  6. Ragini Pasricha

    I do believe that abortion is stigmatized and think it’s great that you are campaigning against the stigma associated with abortion. However, when I read “7 things you thought you knew but didn’t about abortion” , I wondered how accurate statistics such as “only 9% of abortions in India happen because of sex selection”. are. Can you quote sources for the evidence cited and the demographic segment surveyed. Do you think abortion-related data is reliable or representative?

  7. Edin Michael

    People are hanged when they do something severely wrong and even the capital punishment is
    something to be argued about. Just by saying that “the pregnancy is unwanted”, “i cannot afford
    another child”, “i am done with child bearing”, “I have relationship issues”, “I have my career”, “my body,
    my choice” (all these reasons amounts to 93% of the abortions taking place, medical reasons forming
    the rest 7%), does the unborn child become worthy of capital punishment. In all these reasons, i regret
    to say,am only seeing a single reason; selfishness. I will kill the unborn baby so that my lifestyle,
    career, etc is not affected. In the article its asked about the right of a women to do what she wants to
    her body. While she does have rights, one should also think about the right of an unborn child to be
    born and to live her/his life to the fullest. If an unborn child has the right to his parent’s property, how
    much more will he/she have for his/her own life.

  8. Agnelo Steve D’Souza

    I just have one question to ask those people who think that abortion is their choice to choose, who believe “their bodies their rights”. IS IT YOUR BODY THAT IS BEING ABORTED?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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