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 the 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!
Gee! When was the first time I heard this word, I wonder? Just like any privileged Indian millennial, I could have heard it in a movie, on the internet, or maybe in a conversation with friends.
After pondering on this thought for a while, it clicked. Suddenly, I was a kid again. Not even a teenager yet. It must have been like any other evening after school, sitting in front of the television, watching some much-awaited cartoon. The advertisements start to flash. I usually didn’t pay much attention to them, but this was a peculiar one.
A lady wakes up to take a call in the middle of the night. She moves to the bathroom and is trying to calm someone down. She asks a question that catches my attention “Without protection?” I remember being confused. The ad cut to the product name which pulled me out of my thoughts. It was an emergency contraceptive pill. It had a disclaimer stating that the pill prevented pregnancy and wasn’t an abortion pill.
Abortion pill? I got what a pill means, but what is an abortion? What protection did the lady mean? These thoughts started to intrigue me. But I was still a child, curious as ever. I wanted to ask my mother, an Ob-Gyn, but I was too shy. I could have used the internet, but an intuitive voice inside of me stopped me.
I realised what abortion meant as I grew up. Advertisements for contraceptives, movies, TV shows, adolescent conversations, overhearing my mother talking to her patients and having a talk with her about it, all together helped me understand what abortion means. Initially, the whole concept felt otherworldly.
But as I grew up, I started to understand it better. The inhibitions I had towards abortion seemed to fade. As I marched into adolescence, I came to understand the importance of abortion. Not only that, but I was introduced to various other ideas revolving around abortion, with pro-life and pro-choice arguments doing the rounds over social media. These shaped my opinions on the topic as well.
I believe it must be the same for most people my age. As we grew up, a large number of mainstream movies started mentioning sex and abortions, as did shows on TV. And with the dawn of unlimited internet access, there were no limits to knowledge. And this knowledge feels like a luxury. Imagine the generations before us or the disempowered sections of the present-day society. Who knows when they will ever be introduced to abortion, let alone a safe one?
India, being largely a conservative country, never provided a conducive environment for teenagers to be introduced to matters revolving around sex over the last few decades. Even in 2020, promoting sex education in schools is being seen as a revolutionary, if not rebellious, notion.
The positive thing in these times is that the current generations are being born in an era in which the world wide web has reached to even the remotest corners of the world, thus opening up a vast gateway to unlimited sources of knowledge. The challenge remains, however, to make sure that these vibrant youngsters with impressionable minds are enlightened about this issue in a manner which takes into account their thoughts and beliefs, corrects their misconceptions if any, and allows them to take well-informed decisions.
The mention of this issue by the young future of this beautiful world shouldn’t bring a frown upon our face or fear in our minds – rather, it should make our eyes light up with joy and our hearts dance with glee. We should be able to rejoice over the fact that we have been able to create an open, non-judgmental, and unbiased environment for a healthy discussion on such sensitive issues, without the interference of the prying eyes of stereotypical taboos holding us back.
As I write this article about my first acquaintance with the word ‘abortion’, I’m sure a school child somewhere in this world is listening to the same word for the first time. I can’t help but hope that they’re hearing it from a responsible source which introduces this term to them purely as sound knowledge and not a stigma or a taboo.
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 email@example.com. Read all the stories in the campaign here and follow us as we strive towards destigmatising abortion!