Abortion, despite being an essential health service, is treated as a taboo in most societies. The source of this stigma is often our immediate surroundings – families, friends, and the media. As part of The YP Foundation’s commitment to tackling stigma around abortion, we asked young people in our network to describe the first time they heard the word “abortion”. Here’s what we got!
Abortion is not a common word that one hears on a daily basis. I encountered the word first when I was in school, Class 8th I guess, when we got to know what sex was. Obviously, just like most of the schools in India, sex education was not a priority. It was just one very awkward class without any questions or queries. After that class, we had many questions and none were answered but we discussed among ourselves. Just a group of inexperienced girls who had little to no knowledge.
We just started having a conversation about how one had heard or caught their parents doing it or how one had already watched porn. But abortion was a very taboo subject then too. Some thought it was forced because of an unwanted girl child, some had altogether different opinions about it; but none of us had a clear understanding of it. But we never asked anyone. I read about it online. I felt bad for the women who lose their babies, but it was explained to me later that it wasn’t a baby but a fetus.
My close experience with abortion was when my college friend was scared to death after missing her period for a month. She was comfortable with me and confided in me. I told her not to fret over it because it could have been PCOD, which is a very common issue in a girls’ college.
Obviously, going to a gynaecologist wasn’t our first option. We bought some over-the-counter pregnancy test kits; the pharmacist judged us and then scoffed to make us feel more uncomfortable than we already were. The test was positive and my friend went haywire. I had to console her and convince her to visit a gynaecologist.
Her priorities at the time were her family, the shame she has brought upon them, and the society. I felt very sad for her that day. The next day, after hours of debates and deliberations, I took her to the gynaecologist. The doctor was a god-sent angel. After all the judgmental stares from the pharmacist and my friend’s concerns about societal shame, this was a relief.
The gynaecologist explained to us the abortion procedure and how it was nothing to fret about. We had questions about the aftermath and hormonal imbalances, which were common notions. She clarified those too. After the session, I asked my friend if she was comfortable telling her parents although their consent wasn’t required as she wasn’t a minor. She chose to hide it from them.
I could understand her situation — sex and subjects around it are very sensitive in Indian society and one’s family never openly talks about it. It is an uncomfortable subject. This lack of focus on sex education has always bothered me. To create change, I have always been persistent about creating a comfortable environment for everyone so one can openly talk about it with me. It could be that I might not know everything but I can always learn about it.
This story is one of many submissions that we received. The YP Foundation’s Abortion Campaign works towards destigmatising abortion and increasing access to safe and comprehensive abortion care services. We engage with young people to advocate for abortion as a reproductive right, especially among marine fisherfolk in Kerala and tea plantation labourers in Assam.
Want to join the conversation? Send in your experiences of hearing about abortion for the first time to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read all the stories in the campaign here and follow us as we strive towards destigmatising abortion!