Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Abortion: An Elephant in the Room?

Abortion: An Elephant in the Room?

Mwanahamisi 'Mishy' Singano

On 18 January 2016, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), through a mechanism of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa and in line with the Resolution on the Health and Reproductive Rights of Women in Africa – 2007, launched a continental Campaign for the Decriminalization of Abortion. Even though it is deemed an illegal and criminal act, WHO estimates that 6 million unsafe abortions occur in Africa every year, resulting into 29,000 deaths, countless injuries and disabilities. Unsafe abortions also account for almost 30% of maternal mortality and mobility.

The numbers are alarming, despite the fact that they are conservative estimates due to the illegality of the matter itself. Yet, the moralists are up in the arms to ensure abortion continue to be a criminal act. And they generally do so while shaming and condemning every woman who does so. 

What moralists are generally good at is ignoring the stories of women at the center of the equation while refusing to grant them the ‘right of choices’ and ‘autonomy of their bodies.’ Sara, for example, was deeply in love with a man who she used to believe is ‘heavenly sent’, ‘the love of her life.’ The passion, romance and excitement led to unplanned pregnancy. For her body, like that of many other women, there are times when the biology does not match the math, and this was it for her.

 Confused as she was, Sara informed the ‘love of her life.’ The guy plainly said to her that he isn’t ready to be a father. He thus left her with two choices; keep the pregnancy on your own – count me out of the life of the child, literally saying, I don’t know you, or abort. 

 While other men will at least hand over the money needed to do the procedure as illegality makes it expensive, Sara had to do it on her own. She figured out that raising a fatherless child in her situation was not an option either. Complications kicked in, both physically and emotionally. The worst part was that she had no one to talk to as the stigma makes it impossible to seek advice and support from friends.

In her case, the only person she could freely and confidently talk to was the ‘love of her life.’ But he conveniently decided to disappear. Sara recalls a number of sleepless nights, the amount of self-prescribed medication, deteriorating health, poor productivity and many more. In her view, they are the product of criminalization.

As I listened to Sara, I decided to put on my feminist headphones. It was then that I started to hear the patriarchy drumming load.The moralists will condemn Sara for undergoing abortion. Most likely no one will point a finger to the ‘love of her life’ for pushing her to the limit with no support whatsoever. They may even say she was careless by not using protection or modern contraceptives and, even after the fact, her alternative/choice should have only been pro-life.

Sara's story is not unique. What the ‘love of her life’ did is not new either. Men are generally increasingly embracing their rights to sexual pleasure with decreasing a sense of responsibility of the outcomes – as they call it, ‘no string attached.’ Women, on the other hand, have to constantly be on the alert of the outcomes of the pursuit of sexual pleasure, with millions of strings attached to it. 

Picture this if you are into patriarchy:

You want to enjoy your right to sexual pleasure, when and how you want it

You refuse to guarantee access to reproductive services that speaks to her body, needs and lifestyle

You decide to abandon her pregnancy claiming #IamNotReadyToBeAFather

You chase her from school for being pregnant 

You deny her safe abortion

You condemn her to life of hopelessness 

After all that, you call her names and devalue her dignity

How unjust!

Sadly, most of us, even in the spaces that we should be talking about abortion, are not doing so. It’s a big elephant in the room. A question of morality and ‘foreign imposition’ conspiracy becomes the go-to narratives every time a woman stands up for abortion. 

Now I will not be surprised if the only responses this blog post gets are insults and/or quotes from religious scriptures. However, I would like to challenge anyone who is tempted to respond to, first, focus on the role of the men. Yes, the likes of  the ‘love of her life’ and what they should practically and fairly do to that end. 

If you ask me, the quick and easy way out is vasectomy – yes, every man should do that if you are not ready to be a father. I find it odd to allow men to shoot guns full of bullets while expecting women to master the art of escaping bullets. And if she dies from them then it’s her fault for not knowing the latest technics. But a killer walk away freely. This is so unfair. 

A fair world would give men empty guns and, I guarantee you, there will be no pregnancy to abort.


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