This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Ananya Saha. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

‘No Uterus, No Opinion’: If You’re Pro-Life, Don’t Deny A Woman Her Right Over Her Body

By Ananya Saha:

Priests and legislators do not hold shares
in my womb or my mind.
This is my body. If I give it to you
I want it back. My life
is a non-negotiable demand.

Right to Life, Marge Piercy

I remember the Yuletide of the previous year when I visited one of the neighbourhood churches of JNU for the yearly ritual of lighting candles. In fact, I am a frequent visitor. Churches with their ambience of perfect quiescence have always enthralled me. The establishment also runs an education program for children of slender means to which I have contributed humbly. Last Christmas, the church was also running a campaign against abortion to which I was being subtly coerced to contribute. But that is the last thing that I; like many women would be brainwashed in favour of. Hence, with a polite yet firm refusal, I took my leave. That particular setting was not exactly conducive for a debate regarding ethics. Or perhaps it was but propriety that got the better of me which causes the present outpour, with contextual references to Piercy’s poems. For those who are unfamiliar, Marge Piercy is an American author and social activist from the 70-80’s.

A woman’s body has always been a site of contention. To restrict her sensuality, the multifarious social institutions have straight jacketed it into ‘roles’. The eternal caregiver/mother/nurturer is one such role that has been glorified to the point of extortion. The woman’s womb is necessary for procreation but she has no right over it. One might raise the question why I choose to quote an American poet while my subjective reality is tethered to an Indian context. The answer; firstly, she is a favourite of mine for the sheer power of her words. Secondly, the issues she raises, I believe, are universal.

Abortion_protest_-_Barcelona,_Spain_(8133579204)
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Right now, the woman I speak of is the normative sexual nomenclature; free of the socially gendered roles attached to her. A woman in India and in many other countries on the map mostly cannot even speak about abortion apart from an academic context. To get one for her out in the open, devoid of sneers and active churning of the rumour mill is out of the question. The gynaecologist would be the first one to breach the barriers of professional behaviour and ask untoward questions about their marital status. I can only hope that exceptions exist and keep growing in numbers. And who would actually dare to say, ‘it is none of your business’ when one is putting her body in that person’s care? She is quite at the doctor’s mercy so to speak.

This naturally leads to the impulse for absolute privacy, followed by impulsive decisions to visit the lethal quack or country doctors with unsanitary methods. It is a reality that is causing deaths at an alarming rate as the woman tries to avoid the inevitable ‘slut-shaming’. People are often brainwashed to the extreme degree that they do not bother to excavate proper information. Or it can be that they are simply nonchalant. Thus, the next time one is sharing a pro-life post on social media for the sake of it, think about the damage your half-hearted actions are doing to someone.

Whether or not the embryo can feel pain is still a matter of medical debate. We do not have definite proof. Some researchers argue that there is a possibility that the foetus can feel pain in the second trimester. Some others say that it is not feasible till the third. The safe abortion is mostly carried out in the first semester. But the right of a woman on her body is inherent and is not to be conferred on a mere technicality. She is the one who runs the risks while she carries. In the words of Rachel, our favourite character from F.R.I.E.N.D.S, ‘no uterus, no opinion.’ If you are really pro-life, do not stop the consensual woman from exercising the rights on her body and removing the tadpole sized foetus which might not even be sentient. It might kill her. If she lives, she can try to be a mother again when she feels ready. If you are pro-life, do not stop a woman if she, single or otherwise, wants to adopt a child from a hapless orphanage where s/he might really die due to lack of care. But adoption or single-motherhood is not my present concern. Piercy gets the satire on and I quote;

You value children so dearly
that none ever go hungry, none weep
with no one to tend them when mothers
work, none lack fresh fruit,
none chew lead or cough to death and your
orphanages are empty.‘ (Right to Life)

And one must remember that ‘pro-life’ fanaticism did kill Savita Halappanavar in Catholic Ireland. She was ‘acceptably married’ and ‘rightfully pregnant’ according to patriarchal hierarchies. Yet she was disallowed an abortion which was vital for her life with the excuse of religion. Incidentally this was the church. But it could have been any other form of religious institutional dogma as well. Should the ‘pro’ have not been in favour of the life that was already there instead of the life that was not even born?

A woman might choose to save the foetus over her own life and risk a difficult childbirth. That’s her decision. Others might not and it does not make them diabolical minions of anti-Christ. Abortion is not easy for a woman; either physically or psychologically. She needs genuine support and respect for privacy. Neither advocates of law nor religion have the rights to prescribe to or circumscribe the woman’s bodily rights. The temple and the priestess are one and no intermediary is required to indoctrinate within. I end with Piercy’s lines from The Sabbath of Mutual Respect;

Doorways are sacred to women for we
are the doorways of life and we must choose
what comes in and what goes out. Freedom
is our real abundance.

You must be to comment.
  1. balayogi

    Excellent article, well articulated with firmness. Thankfully I did not miss this one because I stopped reading Youthkiawaaz in past few months because of its political blatant leftist bias with its usual nonstop zooming of victim hood and convenient omission of anything positive. In brief the same disease that afflicts most MSMs in India selective amnesia and collective indifference. I wish Youthkiawaaz uses such good write up and keeps them separately as addressing social issues or start accepting acknowledging facts in political arena without ideological fixations and start reporting lot of positive activities that take place all over India and surprisingly happening in government also for a change.

  2. Drew Hymer

    A woman has a right to her body. So does a man. But both man and woman have an obligation to care for their children. And this obligation trumps their bodily rights. Since the location of the child cannot change the obligation that parents owe to the child, parental obligation applies before birth.

    Also, your bit about Savita is dead wrong. She died because of doctor's incompetence.

  3. Eternity Matters

    That's a common but ridiculous argument. Note how she gladly accepts the opinions of people who agree with her — i.e., pro-abortion men. So she's only telling people to shut up when they disagree with her. Sounds like an 8 yr. old.

    ““In the words of Rachel, our favourite character from F.R.I.E.N.D.S, ‘no uterus, no opinion.’ If you are really pro-life, do not stop the consensual woman from exercising the rights on her body and removing the tadpole sized foetus which might not even be sentient,” she writes.”

    Oh, so a fictional character has the wisdom on this? This bad argument ignore the rights of the body of the unborn child. The size of the HUMAN child is irrelevant to her worth. And she tips her hand with saying the child “might not” be sentient. Even if she wasn't sentient she has a right to life, and by the pro-abort's standards even if she might be sentient she should have that right.

    Women, don't buy the lie that male pro-lifers are anti-women or can't protest the evils of abortion. Read about “Bro-choice” and know the real reasons lots of young males support abortion rights. https://1eternitymatters.wordpress.com/2013/07/17/i-agree-with-the-bro-choice-guy-on-one-thing/

    The early feminists knew this. You should know it, too. And keep this in mind when pro-abortion people insist that men should have no say in abortion. Have you noticed that they don't try to shut up the men who support abortion? It is the same hypocrisy that has them trying to silence religious views they disagree with but never criticizing the pro-abortion extremists of the “Christian” Left.

More from Ananya Saha

Similar Posts

By Love Matters India

By Rigya

By Samanneeta Chakraborty

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below