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“I Have Had Two Abortions. And I Do Not Feel Guilty About Either Of Those”

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By Anonymous

I am a 50 year old NGO professional based in New Delhi, India. I was born and raised in South Delhi, and grew up in a big happy joint family surrounded by uncles, aunts, grandparents and cousins. I decided to get married at 25, and had my first child at 26, while also working on my PhD, which I finished by the time my son was around 4 months old. Three months post-PhD completion, I began working.

woman silhouette by the river
For representation only. Image source: Chris Goldberg/Flickr

I have always believed, and this is just a personal opinion, that having children earlier is better, primarily because of biological reasons. And therefore, my first pregnancy at 26 was a planned one. My partner and I had a healthy baby boy, and like any new parents, we were both overjoyed and excited, yet also a little nervous about managing and taking care of our now grown family.

My elder son was around 8 months old when I conceived again. And this was despite the fact that my partner and I were using contraception. Although I have personally always wanted to have more than two children, I knew right away that this wasn’t the right time to have another child. We were young parents trying to work on our respective careers, raising an infant and also taking care of aging parents.

My first thought after I became aware of my second pregnancy was – “Would I be able to do justice to another child? Am I doing justice to my child now?” Moreover, having conceived so soon after the first pregnancy also made me worry about the physical toll on my body if I were to carry the second pregnancy to full term. Therefore, the thought of not being prepared physically, financially and emotionally to have another child motivated me to think of abortion as an option.

The decision to terminate the second pregnancy was taken jointly by my partner and me. We had no difficulty in locating a private abortion service provider who was willing to conduct an abortion in the first trimester of the pregnancy. Although immediately after getting the abortion I felt guilty, I soon also realized that it was the right decision for me, for my partner and for my family.

However, given that topics like unwanted pregnancy and abortion are not openly discussed in India, and are taboo even among urban and well-educated segments of a higher socioeconomic standing, I did not discuss the matter with my parents or in-laws. I was also aware that my mother-in-law was against abortion, and hence both my partner and I decided to keep it a secret. I did confide in a few close friends, however, and they all were very supportive and respected my decision.

Life after abortion resumed the usual routine and mundaneness, and I got busy with my job and with raising my son. A year and a half after the abortion, I became pregnant again and gave birth to my second son. Both my partner and I were thrilled given that this pregnancy was planned and we felt ready in all aspects to have another child. However, I conceived immediately again after the birth of my second son, this time too because of contraception failure. But unlike the first time where a condom had failed, the second time around it was the copper T (an IUD: intrauterine contraceptive device, one of the most effective and reversible forms of contraception available) which had failed to prevent the pregnancy.

My partner and I were again in a fix, and we knew that now with two children, one of them a new born, there was no way we could go through with a third pregnancy. So, we decided to go ahead with an abortion as the most sensible option, and we went to the same service provider who had performed the first abortion. The abortion provider did not make judgements and was supportive of our decision. This was also a first trimester abortion, and compared to the first time, I did not feel any guilt because I felt confident of my choice and decision. Moreover, the fact that both my partner and I were on the same page with regard to this only further strengthened my conviction that having a second abortion was the right choice for me. I did not share the news with anyone else, except for with my mother. And to my pleasant surprise, she was supportive of my decision.

So, yes, that’s my truth. I have had two abortions. And I DO NOT feel guilty about either of those abortions. I suppose it is unconventional and bold for a woman to affirm that, but I think a lot more women should speak out and share their abortion stories to break free of the stigma and shame that surrounds abortion. The assumption that we would be judged by others for the decisions that we make for our body, our health, our life and for our families only further perpetuates secrecy around this issue. And it’s time to end that. It’s time to end the stigma and shame around abortion.

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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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