Today, I went to a family planning clinic with a 20-year-old girl. This girl is short and thin and doesn’t seem to be like girls of her age. You must be thinking why this description is necessary here. It is necessary because when we told the receptionist that this girl is pregnant and wants to have an abortion, she was in disbelief and exclaimed “This girl?!” Everyone, including the other patients, started staring at us. However, the receptionist calmed her down and then made a slip for her. In those twenty minutes of waiting for the appointment, the girl was sitting with her head down while everyone around became curious to know why we were there.
I myself heard people whispering and pointing towards her. However, after twenty minutes, it was her turn to meet the counsellor. She went inside the room all alone and came back out crying and repeatedly saying that she was scared of abortion and didn’t understand what it meant. The counsellor also ‘advised’ her to get married to the boy if she didn’t wish to abort.
The ‘counsellor’ was supposed to explain to her what abortion means and was not supposed to scare her or stigmatise abortion. The counsellor was supposed to ask her questions which would have led to the girl making the decision of whether to get an abortion or not, get married or not, or maybe find other solution for her. Without understanding her situation and context, the counsellor wasn’t supposed to give her solutions which she didn’t want.
As a result of this ‘counseling’, she was more scared and said that she doesn’t want to get married to the guy. And as if the situation wasn’t already bad enough, the first thing the clerk at the clinic asked her was “bacha hai?” (is it a child?) This further made it difficult for her to take the decision of abortion and she was overcome by the feeling of guilt.
Even the doctor did not correct her clerk. The doctor was also speaking really loudly and making faces. She saw her slip and asked her to call one of us who went with her. I went in and the doctor started talking to me and asked me what was it that I wanted them to do, which was weird because it wasn’t me who was pregnant but the girl. It was her decision, not mine. Still, I asked the girl what was it that she wanted and she said that she wasn’t ready for pregnancy.
After listening to her reply, the doctor intervened and asked the girl about her partner and if he consented to the ‘child’ being aborted. I couldn’t understand what the guy had to do with this decision of hers and why the doctor was insisting on knowing about him. The doctor stated that they didn’t want the guy to come up to them and tell them that he wanted ‘the baby’. The doctor kept on asking her about the guy and whether he wanted to marry her. The girl replied in the affirmative but stated that she didn’t want to marry him. This enraged the doctor and she scolded the girl for not using contraception, arguing that it wasn’t acceptable to have unwanted pregnancies in a time when there are many contraceptives available.
This made me wonder whether the availability of contraceptives was the only solution to avoid pregnancy. It isn’t! This girl comes from a family where she is not looked after. All of a sudden, one day this guy (her boyfriend) started giving her attention, which made her feel good. She can’t make out the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships as she is not informed about the same. Her boyfriend pressured her into having sex. Even after her request to use a condom, he refused. She didn’t consent for sex but she was trapped emotionally: “You don’t love me”, “You’re having sex with someone else that’s why you are refusing to have it with me “, “I love you and want to marry you”.
Her boyfriend even hit her and when she started crying he also started crying, which again made her overcome by emotions as nobody in her family cried with her or ever told her, “I don’t like it when you cry.” She knows that she is unhappy with him. She’s confused about their relationship and doesn’t know whether she wants this guy to be her future partner or not.
There are many levels one has to uncover while dealing with how to avoid pregnancy and taking the decision to abort. Importantly, not all contraceptives claim that they can fully avoid pregnancy. There is contraception failure too! Despite this, why was the doctor trying to convince her to avoid an abortion? Is it their own idea of morality or should the doctors be concerned about the patient’s health?