There has never been an open dialogue on abortion, in society. It remains a topic that is hardly discussed, an act treated as morally wrong and unacceptable, sometimes weighed as equivalent to an act of murder. Thus, women seeking abortion are forced to seek clandestine services from unqualified practitioners. Stigma around abortion stands to damage the well-being of women in more ways than one; something that the bystanders can hardly comprehend.
Abortion stigma is evident in the fact that the first thing a person assumes about abortion, is how disgraceful an act it is. We are like programmed machines who centre our thoughts on the “act” of abortion alone, calling it disgraceful, inhumane, and unacceptable, while shaming and breaking a woman who opts for it. Women wanting to opt for abortion, thus, have to live in constant fear of being humiliated, to be treated as low as criminals and to be stripped of their rights.
It is not right on our part to permanently tag and shame women, leading them to opt for unsafe methods of abortion by unregistered practitioners. Perhaps from the society’s perspective, those seeking abortion are held as the antagonist of humanity, but we, as equal humans, do not qualify to pass judgment on anybody’s actions, nor force them to abstain from the use of services that provide for their own physical and mental well-being. If they think they are not prepared for bearing a child yet, then why shouldn’t they opt for abortion, by legal and safe means, at recognised centres?
We, as young people, can be the voice of all those whose voices are pressed down by the stigma associated with abortion. We can bring about a change if we stand firm in our belief that the people who seek abortion have every right to acquire the medical attention that they deserve, and if we plead to the vast majority who believe otherwise, to consider the unimaginable damage that can be inflicted upon abortion-seekers if such apathetic treatment towards them were to continue.
While we as a society, express our concerns about abortion, we stand to blame no other but ourselves for the harm we inflict upon the women of our society: our friends, our sisters, our mothers. As men, we will never know what it feels to be shamed for something like this that women have to go through. Our outlook on the matter compels the women of our households to feel insecure, in fear of being judged and cast aside by her own family and friends, unable to ask for and attain the necessities she requires for a healthy lifestyle. Perhaps a little of what we as men, can really do is encourage people to be more understanding in case a woman we know, wants to opt for abortion. We could help by guiding them to registered healthcare services where they can undergo a safe abortion. As male youth volunteers especially, we can help encourage male involvement in supporting women’s right to abortion and also clear their misconceptions. Moreover, we must make people aware about the impact of stigma by speaking out and showing our support for legally-approved, safe methods of abortion.
Nagaland Branch, FPA India