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Abortion not always a choice

Abortion is a topic I was once very uncomfortable with. I was raised Roman Catholic and as such had very strong views on the matter. It was an absolute no-no and I would gladly get on my moral high horse to tell the world as much.

At 23 I became a mother myself. But for me the experience was very different to that of the many women I have lived and worked with. I never doubted I would keep my child. Despite my relatively tender age I always knew my child would be loved and accepted by my partner and family. The circumstances in which my child was made were of my choosing. After being together for a while and taking the necessary precautions the father of my kids and I became reckless. But we both knew what we were doing and the potential consequences thereof. Not many women can say that. The terms under which they have sex are not open for negotiation and until this happens, abortion should be an option.

Though my pregnancy wasn’t easy, for health reasons, it was nevertheless a really special time for me. Being far from home I was constantly checked on and never in my life have I ever felt as loved as I did then. The father of my kids and I were staying together at the time and I got endless massages. He would constantly touch and talk to the little miracle that was ours. During my pregnancy I had to have my first major surgery done. He was there as often as he could and made all my fears disappear. But this is not the reality for everyone. There are many women who go through their pregnancies alone and fearful of what the future has in store for them and their child. Add to this all the judgments for being unwed and perceived to be “loose”. So until society can support a pregnant mother — instead of judge and abuse — abortion should be an option. Until we stop demonising women as if they miraculously make those babies by themselves, abortion should be an option.

Abortions will occur regardless of how anyone feels about them. The reasons mentioned are a few of the many that drive women to do it. It’s our duty to ensure that when it does no life is unnecessarily lost. Women should be able to have an abortion free of charge, in a safe environment, as per our Constitution where the right to health and life are enshrined.

But we need to be careful how abortion is portrayed. A dear friend recently said abortion has become a sign of the liberation of women’s bodies. This is a reality and one only has to go online and make a few clicks to see this. But this assumes abortions are always a choice. This assumption is dangerous and potentially sets women’s rights back in a huge way. It’s an assumption that blissfully ignores that for many women abortion is not a choice but the result of social or parental pressure.

It’s a very real pressure — whether perceived or real. Considering the power dynamics involved, is it really “choice”? Is abortion really a “choice” when you have been kicked out of your home with all your belongings in a black plastic because of the shame you’ve brought to your family? Is it really “choice” when the father of your child asks you “so, what are YOU going to do about it?”

Racism has been a major challenge in the feminist movement but so too the universalist approach, which makes too many assumptions as in the case of abortion. Despite the similarities in women’s struggles, womanhood is not a “one size fits all” experience. It varies from context to context and we should respect that your liberation is not necessarily mine. Your choice to have an abortion is not a choice for everyone and can be a cruel violation.