12 Reasons India Really, Really Needs To Start Talking Openly About Abortion
It's about time.
1. Because it's legal.
2. But stigma and taboo has convinced a LOT of Indians that it isn't.
3. Because women who don't know about legal abortion options end up going to unqualified people to terminate their pregnancies.
4. Because the fear of discrimination drives many women to try unsafe and medically unsubstantiated methods at home to induce an abortion, which can prove fatal.
5. Because the stigma surrounding abortions has made them dangerously difficult to access.
According to a National Facility Survey, only 3% of primary health centres and 19% of community health centres provide induced abortion services. Abortion by medication is one of the safest ways to terminate first-trimester pregnancies but public sector health centers in most states don't offer medical abortion pills.
6. Because the stigma often results in women facing violence at the hands of their own families.
7. And since it's considered destructive for family reputations, unmarried pregnant women are often asked to consider suicide.
8. The law gives a lot of power to medical providers, who end up perpetuating stigma by asking women for their husband’s consent and other not-actually-required-by-law requirements.
9. Illegal gender-biased sex-determination and sex selection results in only 9% of abortions in India...
But that number is WRONGLY perceived to be much much higher.
10. 95% of women don't regret their abortions... But, in India, they end up suffering at the hands of stigma, discrimination, and silence.
11. Because A LOT of Indians are having casual, consensual, premarital sex... And we're ALL pretending we don't.
17.5% of pregnancies in young, unmarried Indian women are a result of forced sex. And yes, that's 17.5% too many. But that number also implies that the vast majority of young, unmarried, pregnant women – 82.5% of them – are having consensual pre-marital sex. Abortion stigma shrouds this fact. In fact, 40% of unmarried Indian men and 20% of unmarried Indian women report having sex with at least one romantic partner. Casual sex is far more common than most Indians believe, and therefore knowledge of abortion should be too.
12. Because pregnancies are tough. Unplanned pregnancies are even tougher. And women going through them – for whatever reason – deserve support, information, and acceptance.
For more information about abortion in India, contact CREA, a feminist human rights organisation which provided research for this piece. Research, ideation, and writing support was provided by Jasmine George and Kristin Francoeur, along with Surabhi Srivastava from CREA.