Abortion: Let’s bring the “must-not-be-named” of reproductive health out of the darkness

“Abortion is dangerous”, “abortion is selfish”, “abortion leads to infertility”. Haven’t we all heard these kind of statements before? But let’s hit the breaks for a second, think rationally, and take a look at what science tells us.

In a world where we are constantly overloaded with information, women are continually struggling to access the truth about their reproductive health and their rights. Why is that? The answer is simple. Cultural pressure and stigmas brought onto those who question the status quo are merciless.

Whether it is the community or the State who feels entitled to create the norms regarding women’s bodies, abortion is often accompanied with feelings of shame and guilt. All around the world, governments have been deciding on different levels of acceptance regarding abortion: maximum number of weeks allowed, culturally appropriate situations, and health conditions amongst others. If women don’t fit these criteria, they are rejected from both accessing the procedure and the society. Termination of Pregnancy (TOP) – yes, because the word abortion must-not-be-named -, is often separated from other reproductive health services regularly offered, such as family planning policies, and health insurance.

On their side, community members are responsible for social isolation, spreading non-factual hearsay, perpetuating misinformation, and grabbing the ownership of someone else’s decision. Rejection is the women’s ultimate punishment for engaging in what has been defined as unruly behaviour by their societies.

Universally, abortion has been one of the oldest practices. Some studies revealed that medical abortion was very popular in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. To this day, there hasn’t been a society without a demand and a need for induced terminations of pregnancies; however, the cultural taboo around it has never evolved, as if women’s bodies were communal properties. Today, our medical knowledge has improved and we can trust reliable scientific studies which show us that it was and still is one of the safest medical procedures.

The darkness that women are navigating around while seeking an abortion or sharing their stories often leads them to keep quiet and perpetuate the taboo themselves. They shouldn’t have to carry the burden of irrational fears derived from outdated legends.

Busting the myths about abortion and increasing access to reliable information is essential in order to alleviate the stigma and reveal how easy, common and safe the procedure actually is. Women need to feel secure and supported in order to seek safe and legal providers who will reassure them and make them feel welcome. To address this issue, safe2choose and Fem are jointly launching a campaign to reveal the truth behind abortion myths. We hope to reach out to as many women as possible and oppose fake statements that are pushing women to opt for backdoor abortions. If you would like to learn more about the subject make sure to visit our social media pages on Monday 28th, at @safe2choose and @Fem_RSA on Facebook and Twitter.

We want to let women know that they are not alone, that there is whole community of women supporting them. We will listen and take care of you without conditions.

If you’re in South Africa and need to find a safe and legal abortion service provider nearby, text freely ‘Fem’ to 30816.

by Pauline Diaz