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International Youth Perspectives on Abortion (2007)


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International Youth Perspectives on Abortion (2007)

  1. 1. ACKNOWLEDGMENTSThe Youth Coalition would like to thank the participants of our National AbortionAdvocacy Workshops for their wonderfully creative and informative contributions tothis book. Thank you also to Ipas for their generous financial support for thepublication of this book.- International Youth Perspectives on Abortion: a Collection ofEssays Poems & Drawings –A Publication of:The Youth CoalitionSuite 405, 260 Dalhousie StreetOttawa, OntarioK1N 7E4Tel +1 (613) 562-3522Fax +1 (613) 562-9502E-mail: admin@youthcoalition.orgWebsite: www.youthcoalition.orgCopyright © 2007 The Youth CoalitionThis publication may be reproduced in whole or in part foreducational or non-profit purposes without special permission fromthe copyright holder, provided that acknowledgment of the sourceis made. The Youth Coalition would appreciate a copy of anydocument that uses this publication as a source.No part of this publication may be used for commercial or resalepurposes.The contents of this booklet solely represent the opinions of theauthors and not necessarily the views or policies of its financialcontributors.
  2. 2. International Youth on AbortionA Collection of Essays, Poems and Drawings
  3. 3. International Youth Perspectives on Abortion International Youth on AbortionINTRODUCTIONThe Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (YCSRR) is an internationalnetwork of young people that works to increase access to, and quality of, sexual andreproductive health and the rights of adolescents and young people throughout theworld. The Youth Coalition envisions a world where the diversities of all young peopleare respected and celebrated, and where they are empowered and supported to fullyand freely exercise their sexual and reproductive rights. Sexual and reproductiverights are human rights, and therefore apply equally to young people. Young peoplehave a valuable contribution to make to society and must be given a voice in allpolicy and decision-making processes that is respected and fully incorporated.The Youth Coalition also believes that all women, irrespective of age, have the rightto access medically safe and legal abortion care. Unplanned and unwantedpregnancies are a common situation faced by women throughout the world. Manycircumstances can put a woman in a situation where she must decide whether or notto continue her pregnancy. Ethical, legal, medical and social situations can influenceher decision. However in the end, regardless of the legal or moral prohibitions, or thelack of economic or social resources, millions of women elect to terminate theirpregnancies even if it could cost them their lives.NATIONAL ABORTION ADVOCACY WORKSHOPSIn February of 2007, the Youth Coalition began the first of five National AbortionAdvocacy Workshops in Asuncion, Paraguay. In the 3 months that followed,workshops in Abuja, Nigeria; Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; Delhi, India; andQuito, Ecuador brought together young people in each country to discuss the state ofSafe Abortion Care Services. We chose to hold the workshops in these 5countries because members from each country were chosen to attend three-daytraining on abortion and advocacy given by Youth Incentives 1 in October of 2006 inthe Netherlands. The workshop covered topics such as how to deal with theopposition, what young people in different countries can do to advocate for safeabortion, and how to dispel the myths surrounding abortion. The members whomattended the workshop were also the facilitators for the national abortion workshops,using what they had learned to encourage young advocates at the national level.Young people are particularly vulnerable to the consequences of unsafe abortionssince many adolescent girls and young women find themselves in the situation ofunplanned/unwanted pregnancies.1 Youth Incentives is the International Programme on Sexuality, which has been developed by RutgersNisso Groep, the expert centre on sexuality in the Netherlands. Finance is provided by the Dutch Ministryof Foreign Affairs. For more information on Youth Incentives please visit: www.youthincentives.org1
  4. 4. International Youth Perspectives on AbortionThese pregnancies are often a result of the lack of comprehensive sexualityeducation and sexual and reproductive health services, and/or forced sexualrelations. The majority of laws throughout the world make it a crime for women ofany age to seek an abortion unless a direct threat to her life can be proven. Even ifthat is the case, most women continue to be denied services that they are legallyentitled to. As well under threat to life laws women who become pregnant as aresult of rape may be denied safe abortion care even if though the pregnancy is aresult of sexual assault.YOUTH PERSPECTIVESThis booklet aims to present various youth perspectives on abortion. They weresubmitted by the participants of each the national abortion advocacy workshops.Each person has had a different experience with abortion, whether it be having oneherself, helping a friend access one, or seeing the detrimental affects of unsafeabortion on women in their country. Some participants contributed through poetry,others through stories, and some through art. Each submission is deeply personaland reflects how each young author feels about the subject of abortion. The YouthCoalition chose to put together a Youth Perspectives Booklet, because we felt that itwas important to show how young people are affected by the myths and stigma ofabortion, and share their vision for women’s reproductive rights, through personalreflections.BACKGROUND: NATIONAL PERSPECTIVES ON ABORTIONPARAGUAYIn Paraguay, abortion is prohibited unless a woman’s life is at risk. For this reason,unsafe abortion is an immense public health crisis. The statistics on this issue arealarming, and yet they only address the reported part of the problem; many cases ofunsafe abortion are not accounted for, and many more end in tragedy. The followingchart shows the official government statistics related to maternal mortality, and theproportion that is caused by abortion: Year Total Registered Death by % of abortion Maternal ratio per abortion over maternal Death 100.000 lived death birth 1996 109 123,3 34 31% 1997 90 101,8 25 28% 1998 96 110,9 16 17% 1999 103 114,4 23 22% 2000 140 164,0 24 17% 2001 133 158,5 32 24% 2002 164 186,4 40 24% 2003 150 183,5 37 25% 2004 154 153,5 35 23% 2005 135 134,0 36 27% Total / 1.274 143,0 302 24% averages (average) (average) Fuente: Ministerio de Salud Pública y Bienestar Social. 2
  5. 5. International Youth Perspectives on AbortionIn Paraguay, a woman dies every 3 days from causes related to maternity, and 24%of those deaths are due to complications from an abortion. This means that every 12days a woman dies in Paraguay due to an unsafe abortion, translating into 30 deathsannually. In 2006, 113 women died due to causes related to pregnancy, birth andpuerperium. Sadly, this statistic is beginning to repeat itself, as in 2007 (betweenJanuary and August), there have already been 80 similar deaths reported. 2 Though itis not always reported, unsafe abortion is the main cause of this mortality.In Paraguay, women have been dying steadily for over a decade. The need toadvocate for the decriminalization of abortion and for access to safe abortion careservices has never been more evident. These statistics are a call to action forgovernment, health providers, activists, and young people to protect women’s rightsand to protect women’s lives.NIGERIAIn Nigeria, access to sexual and reproductive health information, care, and servicesis extremely limited due to economic, social and religious tensions. Moreover, asAfrica’s most populated country, and with its youth population at an all-time high 3 ,Nigeria is facing many challenges in battling new cases of sexually transmitteddisease and HIV/AIDS infections, unsafe abortions, and other sexual andreproductive health problems.In Nigeria, abortion is only permitted when a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life; asa result, most abortions performed are largely clandestine and/or unsafe. Abortionunder circumstances other than the threat of mortality carries a punishment of up toseven years imprisonment for the woman in question, and up to fourteen years forthe doctor who performs the procedure. 4 Under threat of imprisonment, it is nowonder that women in Nigeria are desperate for options.Amid over 760,000 abortions yearly in the country resulting in over 140,000hospitalizations 5 , the need for abortion rights advocacy and reform is evident. Theissue is particularly relevant to young people, as 80 percent of women who seekhospital treatment for abortion-related complications are adolescents 6 . Nigeria is incrisis, and advocacy and activism is crucial. Greater access to safe abortions isneeded to save the lives of Nigerian women.TRINIDADLike many other postcolonial Caribbean geographies, Trinidad and Tobago is a nationthat has preserved antiquated laws on reproductive health. In Trinidad and Tobago,abortion is not available without restriction. In fact, it is only permitted if it isrequired to preserve a woman’s physical or mental health, or in cases where awoman’s life is at risk. 72 Declaration made by Ruben Ortiz, Director General of the Ministry’s Health Programs, ABC Color, Thursday September30 2007.3 Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “Reproductive Health and Rights in Nigeria”, 2006, Olori, Toye, “Abortion Law Takes a Toll”, HEALTH-NIGERIA, (Aug 8, 2004).5 Udoh, Florense, “Unsafe Abortion Linked to High Maternal Deaths”, Daily Champion (Lagos), NEWS (13 September2007).6 Otoide, Valentine O., Oronsaye, Frank, and Friday E. Okonofua, “Why Nigerian Adolescents Seek Abortion Rather thanContraception: Evidence from Focus-Group Discussions”, International Family Planning Perspectives, (Vol. 27, No. 2,June 2001), p. 77-81.7 Center for Reproductive Rights, The Worlds Abortion Laws, May 2007.3
  6. 6. International Youth Perspectives on AbortionIpas, an international NGO that advocates for the SRR of women, reports that asmany as 95% of all abortions in Latin America and the Caribbean are performedillegally. 8 The absence of access to safe and legal abortion care is the frighteningreality for many women in Trinidad and Tobago. The region’s number of unsafeabortions for women ages 15-44 is one of the highest in the world 9 and unsafe(and/or clandestine) account for 21% of all pregnancy-related deaths 10 .In Trinidad and Tobago, the opposition to legalizing abortion is largely religious andled by the Roman Catholic Church, which holds the largest denomination of membersin the nation, making up 29% of the population. 11 The strong religious andconservative sentiment in the Caribbean continues to fuel the anti-choice movement;however advocacy for access to safe and legal abortion has increased in Trinidad 12 .The efforts of women’s groups, human rights advocates, and especially youngpeople, are paving the way for abortion law reform in the country.INDIAIn India, abortion has been legal for many years under the Medical Termination ofPregnancy Act, 1971 (amendment 2002). A woman has the right to access safeabortion services if there is a substantial risk that the child born would suffer from amental or physical handicap, or if the pregnancy poses a risk to her life or injury toher physical or mental health. The definition is broad enough to include instances ofcontraceptive failure as well as rape. Yet, the right comes with conditions. A womanin India cannot demand an abortion unequivocally; her choice to not carry thepregnancy to term is not of paramount significance. Risk to life, health etc have tobe proven and certified by medical personnel. This puts the power squarely in thehands of these medical personnel who may have their own biases related to thereasons for which a woman may ask for an abortion.The scenario related to abortion rights is further complicated by the existence of thePre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994(amendment 2002), which criminalizes foetal sex detection. This was put in place asthe sex ratio at birth grew more skewed – India’s estimated sex ratio at birth in 1991was 945 females for every 1000 males – and aimed to check deliberate abortion offemale foetuses. The promotion of this law through messages such as “Don’t kill thegirl child in the womb” has led to people carrying the misconception that abortionitself is illegal. This erroneous belief combined with the social silence and indeedtaboos related to sexuality and sex results in a high number of illegal abortions beingsought, of which a large proportion are in unsafe conditions. Stigma anddiscrimination related to HIV/AIDS pose another concern for advocacy for safeabortion. Cases have come to light where medical personnel have instructed, onlearning about the HIV+ status of women, the woman or her spouse to performabortion and even child delivery, thus endangering the women’s life and health.8 Latin America and the Caribbean urge decriminalization of abortion”, Ipas website (September 28, 2004).9 Grimes, D., Benson, J., Singh S., Romero M., Ganatra, B., Okonofua, F., and Shah, I., “Unsafe abortion: the preventablepandemic”, The Lancet, (Sexual and Reproductive Health 4, November 2006), p 38. Ipas (2004).11 Martin, Cedriann J., Hyacenth, Glennis and Lynette Seebaran Suite, “Knowledge and Perception of Abortion and theAbortion Law in Trinidad and Tobago”, Reproductive Health Matters (15.29, May 2007), pp. 97-107.12 Grimes, p 5. 4
  7. 7. International Youth Perspectives on AbortionGiven the existing situation, activists, advocates and the State need to: • Intensify efforts to eliminate sexism and gender bias in society • Publicly discuss sexuality and sex, and make accessible comprehensive sexuality education for children and young people • Remove laws that restrict women’s reproductive choices • Promote laws more accurately and sensitively • Vigorously promote contraceptive use • Educate medical personnel regarding relevant laws and sensitize them on issues affecting women’s reproductive health and rights • Increase efforts to end stigma and discrimination related to HIV/AIDSECUADORIn Ecuador, abortion is considered criminal except when the woman’s life is indanger, or in the case of rape of a woman with a mental disability. Ecuador’s PoliticalConstitution defends the concept that life begins at conception, and it guarantees therights of the foetus over the rights of women, despite the fact that women inEcuador are dying as a consequence of unsafe abortions.Latin America registers 29 unsafe abortions per 1,000 women between the ages of15 and 44 years old, and 3,700 women died as a result of unsafe abortions; thisrepresents 17% of the maternal mortality in the Region 13 .In Ecuador, 95,000 women have abortions every year, and most of them occur inunsafe conditions. Consequently, thousands of women are dying each year, and theissue of abortion is becoming a public health crisis.Although Ecuador has signed and ratified all of the international treaties that assurewomen equality, safety and human rights (CEDAW, Beijing, Cairo), they have notfollowed through on guaranteeing these rights. Access to safe abortion is the onlyway to stop women from dying.Women deserve the freedom of choice, access and safety.Women deserve planning, and not obligatory pregnancies.Women deserve human rights.13 Statistics taken from: “Improving Access to Safe Abortion”, Ipas-FCI CD-ROM manual, 2005.5
  8. 8. International Youth Perspectives on Abortion SOME DAY, I HOPE… By Arpita Chaudhary, India With a heavy heart I approach the place All eyes I feel stare at my face “I don’t want a child” is all I say. “You don’t want ‘this’ child” is what they say As if there is always a child in there. I have made my mind. I know it’s right. Even the low I know is on my side. These are people I know who believe in me But then there are others who just don’t see. My honor, my body, my health is my own Yet they think of someone who is unborn, Something which is just cells, yet to be grown. I walk inside, hoping some day, My rights will be mine and not put at stake. Someday I hope all people will understand,Respect me as a person and give my decision a stand. 6
  9. 9. International Youth Perspectives on Abortion ME DIJERON By Chechi, Ecuador7
  10. 10. International Youth Perspectives on Abortion MY VIEWS ON THE ABORTION LAWS IN NIGERIA By Emelia Eyo, NigeriaAbortion in Nigeria has been a heated issues as Nigeria is a deeplycultural/traditional as well as very religious (religious not necessarily Godly). Nigeriais a country deeply patriarchal and laws and policies favour males in almost allaspects of life.Unsafe abortion has eaten deep into our society gradually destroying the lives ofyoung women in our society as people have closed their eyes at the issue hoping itwill go disappear, but on the other hand they are also directly/indirectly worseningthe situation.Sexuality Education is highly frowned at not to talk of contraception, adults alsorefuse to face the fact that young people are becoming more sexually active at amuch younger age, of course most people have their first sex unprepared for ithaving it result in unintended/unwanted pregnancy.Young people when not given accurate information tend to come up with all sorts ofideas to get out of these problems, swallowing all kinds of concoctions is one way ofdealing with the reality of catering of an unintended/unwanted pregnancy.I feel our society is hypocritical in the sense that they shy away form talking aboutabortion in the open forgetting that young girls are marring themselves in these actsand one day it would be their daughter, sister, or aunt. They refuse to talk aboutsafe abortion in the open but encourage men to have many sex partner of coursemost times they have sex with no protection, married men openly keeping younggirls as sex partners and secretly giving them money to sneak to different places tohave abortion when they get pregnant.I also think most people have been blinded by their religion as I keep comparing theissue of calling a young girl who has made an emotionally difficult decision to abort apregnancy she cannot cater for a murderer and openly justifying all the politicalfights and killings in the country, it goes a long way to show that most people arenot interested in young people problems, except they can benefit form thoseproblem one ay or the other.I strongly want the abortion laws in Nigeria to be liberalised as this will go a longway to reduce the number of young girls dying ignorantly, if abortion is made safe,side by side with correct/comprehensive sexuality education as well as a widelyaccessible information on contraception, this will help young people make correctand safe decisions concerning their reproductive and sexual health.Lastly I think it is a bridge of our right to adequate and without judgemental healthservices with no age barrier, because our reproductive health is one of the mostimportant aspects of our lives, because as long as we refuse to acknowledge the factthat when young people interact together, sexual intercourse will definitely take 8
  11. 11. International Youth Perspectives on Abortionplace, pregnancy will also occur, there will always be options of whether or notyoung people are ready to keep the pregnancy. I think young people are entitled tomake decisions for themselves and not be tied to ideas people come up with to suitthem, hoping that whatever decisions they make will be respected and their servicesprovide SAFE for them.9
  12. 12. International Youth Perspectives on Abortion SHOULD WE LET THEM DIE? By Mayowa Joel, NigeriaLiving today amongst us are women: our mothers, sisters, aunts, wives andgrandmothers—people entrusted with the perpetuation of the human race and forwhich they often die unnecessarily. These are people whose lives are determined bylaws made by others even if to their detriment.Out of the over 570,000 annual deaths that occur globally among women due tomaternal mortality, over 90% of them are from developing countries. Lifetime risk ofdying from pregnancy is 1/1500 in developed countries and 1/22 in developingcountries.In Nigeria, over 760,000 induced abortions occur annually, over 60% are unsafe.Estimated 10,000 - 15,000 women die in Nigeria yearly from unsafe abortion. Every6 minutes a woman dies needlessly as a result of an unsafe illegal abortion,obstructed labour, or haemorrhage. For every woman that dies 20 others aremaimed for life. When a mother dies the mortality rate of the under fives rise verysharply.Though, one-fifth of world population - 1.2 billion – is young people, but alsoconstitutes 13-40% of maternal mortality and between 60-80% of the unsafeabortion.The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) affirmed that:Women and men have the right to the highest standards of sexual andreproductive health services and information, free from discrimination,coercion, and violence.Every individual especially women must be able to exercise control over his or hersexual and reproductive health if he or she is to achieve his or her fullest potential asa human being.Therefore, Government, legislators, health care providers, development partners,legal practitioners among many others have a crucial role to play in empowering thewomen to enable them exercise their reproductive rights.Comprehensive and qualitative information and services on Sexual and ReproductiveHealth Rights especially pregnancy prevention, pre and post abortion counselling andservices should be available, affordable and easily accessible without prejudice,stigma or discrimination. Also, governments should endeavour to eradicate thepractice of unsafe abortion, in order to avoid needless deaths among womenespecially young women.“Women are not dying, because of diseases we cannot treat. They are dying because societieshave yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving.” - Mahmoud Fathalla, MD, PhD -Ipas Board Member and Former President of FIGO. 10
  13. 13. International Youth Perspectives on Abortion UNTITLED By Anonymous11
  14. 14. International Youth Perspectives on Abortion YOUNG ADVOCATES FOR ABORTION RIGHTS TRAINING WORKSHOP By Kasey Kozara, India/USASeven years ago, I escorted a college friend to her abortion appointment at aPlanned Parenthood clinic. It was indeed my most intimate encounter with theabortion procedure aside from what I’d read in books or learnt from campusadvocacy activities. My friend handled the procedure with strength and grace,though for me the experience involved wooziness and multiple urges to pass out.That day I decided to get over my foolish anxieties and squeamishness – surgery inthe reproductive region... oie! – and became a Planned Parenthood volunteer.Still today, seven years later, I was the only participant at the Young Advocates forAbortion Rights Training Workshop who didn’t shoot my hand up in the air whenasked who wanted to watch video footage of a manual vacuum aspiration procedure.I was worried about wooziness. Curiously, I was the only non-Indian in theparticipant group and couldn’t help but wonder if sensitivity to viewing the subjectwas at all socially constructed or influenced. Is such a thing even possible? I cansafely say from previous, similar experiences that I’ve known multitudes of men andwomen in America to react sensitively to watching graphic abortion material and wastherefore taken aback by the enthusiasm of the group. Alas. Was it just acoincidence? Did I happen to be in a room of strong stomachs? Or could thesereactions be in any way culturally constructed? If my sensitivity to watching anabortion on the big screen was a product of American cultural influences, it wouldn’tbe the only instance during the workshop in which I became aware of culturaldifferences on the issue.In fact, one of the most interesting facets of this workshop has been observingmyself as a participant – with an American perspective – in an abortion rightsworkshop located within the Indian context. What has emerged as the most strikingcontrast between the two perspectives – Indian and American – has been the social-political environments from which the legalization of abortion came about. TheAmerican effort to legalize abortion took place in conjunction with the feministmovement and from a rights-based approach. However, Indian legalization ofabortion in 1971 was not fed by the desire or need to recognize women’s rights andbodily autonomy, nor did it take shape within the context of a broader women’smovement. Rather, efforts to legalize abortion in India seemed to be driven by goalsof population health (control?) and treated abortion as a mechanism in nationalpopulation development rather than as a woman’s natural ‘right.’What does this mean? Based on what I’ve learned throughout the Young Advocatestraining, critics of the legalization of abortion in India generally challenge the issuefrom a moral perspective, but not religious. Whereas, primary opponents of abortionrights in America do indeed represent religious conservative attitudes. To explainfurther, traditional and conservative ideals pertaining to sex and sexuality in Indiaare pervasive. Though circumstances vary from state to state, the vast majority ofsociety does not condone premarital sex, sex education, public expression of 12
  15. 15. International Youth Perspectives on Abortionsexuality, and does not tolerate non-heterosexual sexual relationships. Conservativesocietal attitudes influence the flow of information and education pertaining toabortion, especially that which addresses youth. However, predominant religiousgroups (Hindu/Muslim) have not made themselves heard as adversaries of legalabortion.According to both Hindu and Muslim principles, the termination of pregnancy and/orinterference in the natural order of life is wrong. It would seem odd then, thatlegalization of abortion in India did not face great resistance from religious groups.In my opinion this is directly related to the absence of a coinciding women’smovement and the fact that Indian legalization of abortion did not emphasizewomen’s rights. It can generally be assumed that religious institutions arepatriarchal institutions. As patriarchal dominance in society was not directlythreatened or challenged in the legalization of abortion, religious forces were notstirred to agitate. Take the American example in contrast, where the abortionmovement and coinciding women’s movement greatly challenged patriarchal normsin American society and thereby roused the attention of male-dominated religiousand political institutions. Ever since the case of Roe v. Wade and legalization ofabortion, there has remained strong hostility from the patriarchal and conservativeRight, including the current United States president, Georges W. Bush, who to thisday, restricts international funding to organizations that promote a woman’s right toseek an abortion.It is my opinion, therefore, that the lack of a corresponding women’s movement in1971 process of legalizing abortion has served India in both harmful and beneficialways. First, without an initial rights-based perspective on abortion, as was the casein India in 1971, the processes of revising policies, passing new legislation andperforming advocacy from a women’s rights-based approach now is morechallenging. However, it is also probable that 1971 legalization of abortion waseased by the absence of a women’s rights movement in that it avoided attractingreligious opposition. Understanding the social and political environments in whichabortion is legalized is of great interest to me and I look forward to carrying outthese thoughts with more research into the corresponding histories of abortionlegalization in the United States and India.13
  16. 16. International Youth Perspectives on Abortion UNTITLED By Oleo Lokai, Trinidad The more I search for myself, The more strangers i see, The more I try to make a choice,I end up doing what someone else tells me... The less i try to feel, The less things seem real, The less I feel I have a choice, The more they give to ME. EXPECTATIONS By Renee Maria Cozier, Trinidad I am expected to be; but still remain weak. I am expected to become professional; but also a good mother. I am expected to submit, and never to rebel. I am expected to give birth; but never to "kill" life. I am expected to be caring; and never selfish. I am expected to satisfy my partner; no matter my feelings. I am expected to wash, cook and clean; and never feel tired. I have the right to freedom; but it is a myth to me. 14
  17. 17. International Youth Perspectives on Abortion MUJERES, DERECHO A DECIDIR Y ABORTO: UNA REALIDAD DE VIDA O MUERTE Por Mirta Moragas, Paraguay Realmente ni recuerdo la primera vez que escuché hablar del aborto. Tal vezsea porque siempre fue una realidad más cercana y latente de lo que se cree en unpaís donde el aborto está castigado por un la ley penal de principios del 1900. Siempre me interesó el tema desde la perspectiva del derecho a decidir de lasmujeres. Desde épocas inmemoriales el cuerpo de la mujer ha sido uno de losinstrumentos más perfectos de dominación por parte del sistema machista ypatriarcal en que nos hemos criado. Esto se ve en miles de cosas, en los mitos de la fragilidad del cuerpo de lamujer, de la inestabilidad emocional supuestamente regida por el ciclo menstrual, elrol excesivamente emocional que la sociedad nos ha asignado (emocional comoantítesis a lo intelectual). Y miles de etcéteras más que hemos asimilado social yculturalmente y de los cuales somos, en muchos casos, correas de transmisióninvoluntaria a través de nuestras prácticas diarias. Creo que tengo tan interiorizado el tema de que el aborto es antes que nada underecho a decidir sobre el propio cuerpo de cada mujer, que muchas veces mecuesta entender los argumentos lacrimógenos de las organizaciones religiosas y (malllamadas) “pro-vida”. Lo fundamental es que en un Estado Laico como el nuestro, debe legislarse conlo que algunos llaman “la ética de los mínimos”, es decir, que hay que prohibir lamenor cantidad de cosas posibles, estableciendo reglas mínimas imprescindibles deconvivencia, tomando en cuenta la diversidad de creencias y conciencias que existenen un Estado. Por eso mismo me parece inconcebible que las mujeres seamoscastigadas por querer decidir sobre nuestro propio cuerpo. Y somos presionadas, chantajeadas emocionalmente y hasta manipuladas dediferentes formas (una de ellas es la amenaza con la sanción legal). Porque “sesupone” que debemos hacer “lo correcto”, ¿lo correcto para quién? Al mismo tiempo me parece inaceptable que las mujeres tengamos que seguirsoportando, que tengamos que seguir negando la realidad, que tengamos que“asumir responsabilidades” por nuestros actos sexuales, muchas veces fruto deviolaciones o de mal uso de un método anticonceptivo. Como si sólo fuera nuestraresponsabilidad “asumir” este tipo de cosas. Y que la única manera de hacerlo estrayendo al mundo un hijo que ni hemos buscado, ni queremos tener. La estrategia principal de los que se oponen al derecho a decidir siempre hasido (y creo que siempre será), “embarrar la cancha”, confundir, manipularinformación, apelar al sentimiento irracional, estereotipar y rotular a todas lasmujeres. El argumento que siempre me ha llamado la atención es la acusación deque las que estamos a favor del derecho al aborto legal y seguro somos “asesinas” yque el Estado no debería permitir el “asesinato de seres inocentes”. ¿Quién es lavíctima cuando un Estado le da más derechos ciudadanos a un feto que a la mujerque lo gesta? ¿Somos nosotras simples aparatos reproductores menos importantesque el producto de nuestro cuerpo? Pareciera que sí. Cuando reflexiono sobre el tema, siempre me cuestiono a mí misma. A vecesme pregunto qué haría yo si estuviera en situación de embarazo no deseado. Y15
  18. 18. International Youth Perspectives on Abortionpienso que aunque ahora estoy segura que abortaría, también reconozco que podríano hacerlo. Los seres humanos estamos excesivamente condicionados por nuestrascircunstancias. Y a partir de ahí surge automáticamente la idea de separar lo que es mi vidapersonal, mis decisiones personales, de lo que es el reconocimiento al derecho adecidir que el Estado debe proteger de todas las maneras posibles Y justamente en esto está el valor de lo que creo y reivindico. Mis decisionespersonales, son eso, personales e individuales. Los que nos quieren negar elderecho a decidir nos rotulan, nos estereotipan, nos cosifican, nos niegan lacapacidad de decidir responsablemente sobre nuestro cuerpo y nuestras vidas. Es muy pintoresco ver cómo somos estereotipadas por estar a favor delderecho a decidir, somos las “abortistas” (para decir lo más suave), hablan denosotras (y nosotros) como si fuésemos parias sociales, como si fuésemos minoríasque van contra el orden (bien) establecido. Es una pena que no se pongan a pensarque el aborto es una REALIDAD, que en un país eminentemente rural como elnuestro, las mujeres campesinas hablan del aborto como si hablaran de una gripe.Hablan del aborto como lo que es, algo que normal, que generalmente no es lo másdeseable, pero que es una alternativa a la que recurren en su vida diaria. Parte de avanzar en la construcción de una sociedad diferente es en primerlugar, reconocer que hay discriminaciones injustas que son INVISIBILIZADAS, queson naturalizadas, porque “así nomás luego es”. En segundo lugar, una vez que hemos “aprendido a ver”, nunca más nuestraposición frente a estas situaciones puede ser igual. En este caso, ser neutrales, esigual a permitir que miles de mujeres sigan muriendo por abortos clandestinos malpracticados en lugares insalubres. Hoy son mujeres sin rostro en estadísticas que no nos dicen nada. Mañanapueden ser nuestras madres, hermanas, hijas, amigas, novias, nosotras mismas.¿Dejaremos morir a las personas que amamos por no animarnos a asumir estarealidad?English translation: WOMEN, ABORTION AND THE RIGHT TO DECIDE: A LIFE AND DEATH REALITY By Mirta Moragas, ParaguayI don’t really remember the first time I heard anyone speak about abortion. Perhapsit is because in a country where abortion is punished by penal laws from 1900, it is aclose and latent reality.From the perspective of a woman’s right to choose, the subject of abortion hasalways interesting me. Since ancient times, women’s bodies have been perfectinstruments of domination for male chauvinists and the patriarchal system in whichwe have been raised. This can be observed in thousands of examples: in the fragilityof women’s bodies in myth; in accusations of emotional instability that is supposedlygoverned by the menstrual cycle; in the excessively emotional role that society hasassigned to us (emotional as an antithesis to intellectual); and in thousands more 16
  19. 19. International Youth Perspectives on Abortionways that we have assimilated socially and culturally, and of which we, in manycases, involuntarily reproduce and condone through our daily actions.I believe that I have deeply internalized the idea that abortion is, before anything, aright each woman has to make decisions regarding her own body; therefore I find itdifficult to understand the tearful arguments of religious organizations and the(badly-named) "pro-life” movement.Fundamentally, in a Secular State like ours, rules must be legislated with what somecall "the ethics of minimums", that is to say, we must prohibit the least amount ofthings possible, and establish the minimum number of rules essential forcoexistence, taking into account the diversity of beliefs and conscience that exist in aState. For this reason, it is inconceivable to me that as women, we are punished forwanting to make decisions regarding our own bodies. And we are pressured,emotionally blackmailed, and even manipulated in different ways (one of them iswith the threat of legal sanction) because it is “assumed" that we must and will dothe “correct thing", but the correct thing for whom?At the same time, it seems unacceptable to me that women must often continuesupporting these ideas, denying reality, and that we must "assume responsibilities"for our sexual acts, many times a result of violation or inadequate/incorrect use of acontraceptive method, as if it were only our responsibility "to assume" this type ofthing (and not a man’s). And as if the only way to be responsible is to bring a childinto the world that we didn’t expect and we don’t wanted to have.The main strategy of those who oppose the right to decide has always been (and Ibelieve that always it will be), to "embarrar la cancha" 14 , to confuse, to manipulateinformation, to appeal to irrational feelings, and to stereotype and to label women.The argument that has always gotten my attention is the accusation that those whoare in favor of the right to legal and safe abortion are "killers" and that the Stateshould not allow the "murder of innocent beings." Who is the victim when a Stategives more citizen rights to a fetus than to the woman who conceived it? Are wesimply reproductive apparatuses less important than the product of our own body? Itwould seem so.When I reflect on the subject, I always question myself. Sometimes I wonder what Iwould do if I were in the situation of an unwanted pregnancy. And I think thatalthough right now I am certain that I would abort, I also recognize that maybe Icould not do it. Human beings are excessively conditioned for our circumstances.And from that automatically surges the idea to separate my personal life, and mypersonal decisions, from the my recognition that the State must protect the right todecide in all possible waysAnd exactly in this thought is the importance of what I believe and I vindicate. Mypersonal decisions, are that - personal and individual. Those that refuse us the rightto decide stereotype us, they transform us, and they deny us the capacity to makeresponsible decisions about our body and our lives.14 A Spanish idiom. This literally means to make mud in the field, meaning trying to affect the result of thegame from outside the field.17
  20. 20. International Youth Perspectives on AbortionIt is almost funny to see how we, those in favor of the right to decide, arestereotyped. We are the "pro-abortionists" (the mildest of accusations); they speakof us as if we are social pariahs, as if we are minorities that go against theestablished order. It is a shame that they don’t stop to think that abortion is aREALITY in a vastly rural country like ours; women farmers speak of abortion as ifthey speak of influenza. They speak about abortion just as it is, something normalthat it is generally not desired, but that is an alternative they use when needed.Part of advancement and the construction of a different society, is to firstly recognizethat there are unjust discriminations that become INVISIBLE and naturalizedbecause we claim, “that’s just the way it is.” Secondly, once we have we have“learned to see" these discriminations, our position on them can never be the same.In this case, remaining neutral is equal to allowing thousands of women to die fromclandestine abortions which are badly practiced in unhealthy places.Today they are invisible women not represented in statistics; tomorrow they may beour mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, fiancées, or even we. Will we let the peoplewe love die by not accepting reality? 18
  21. 21. International Youth Perspectives on Abortion UNTITLED By Anonymous19
  22. 22. International Youth Perspectives on Abortion ABORTION AS A RIGHTS ISSUE By Kunle J. Odeyemi, (Kano) NigeriaAlmost all African countries allow termination of pregnancy in certain circumstances.Governments have an obligation to support women’s right to legal abortion to thefullest extent of the law. Worthy of note is the fact that despite severe restrictionsand stigmatization controversy, abortions take place in large numbers. In addition,as documented in numerous international agreements, the global community agreesthat all couples and individuals have the right to make decisions concerning theirreproductive health.This study was conducted to look critically at the legal framework in countries allover the world on abortion and to assess the legal scope that provides women fromthese countries with the right to safe abortion. The study also shows the practicaleffort of countries that are striving to liberalize safe abortion as well as countries thatdo not at any cost as well those who have existing grey areas in their legal scope forthe right of the woman to safe abortion. Resources from all parts of the world wereconsidered, as it was very necessary that the information/data obtained reflected thetruth of the situation on ground as well as served as a very useful resources tool foradvocacy on policy change on safe abortion that reflects the right of the woman. Alsoexperts and advocates in the field of sexual and reproductive health rights engagedin community mobilization / engagement activities that aided in collecting firstinformation and finding.Almost all African countries allow termination of pregnancy in some circumstances.Many women’s helalth advocates believe that women cannot exercise that rightwithout access to comprehensive reproductive health education and services,including family planning and safe services for termination of pregnancy. As womenare gradually getting treated as equal partners with men in society, theundererstanding of rights is evolving so that women’s rights areare incresinglygetting recognized as human rights. Common definitions of human rights encompassthe right to self-determination and to bodily autonomy. For example, each of us hasthe right not to be tortured, to rfuse medical treatment, or to obtainn medicaltreatment. In the view of many people the right to bodily autonomy encompassesthe right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.A fundamental principle in moraltheory holds that those who suffer the concequences of a ! situation are by right theones who should make the decision about that situation. In the case of pregnancy, itis clear that women suffer the greatest consequences, not only the expected physicalconsequencies of child beaing, but also more serious complications, as sometimeswomen die of pegnancy-related complications. Without doubt, the right to abortioncan be interpreted as a woman’s right to life. Further, women are overwhelminglyare responsible and therefore they deserve the right to make these decisions. over tocontinually review their policies and laws on abortion and considering the choice ofabortion as the right of the individual and not be forced or coerced into making rashdecisions on this issues while many others are on the verge of doing same as civilsociety organizations are increasingly mounting more pressure and those who haveare recording successes. Despite high rates of abortion throughout Asia, Africa and 20
  23. 23. International Youth Perspectives on Abortionthe Caribbean, abortion laws that conform to the rights of the woman varies countryto country and region to region. Here are a list of certain countries indicating howthey still view abortion as a rights issue:Permitted only to save the woman’s life 1 Afghanistan 2 Brazil 3 Iran 4 Iraq 5 Dominican Rep. 6 NigeriaPermitted to protect the woman’slife and physical health 1 Jordan 2 Colombia 3 Saudi Arabia 4 Costa Rica 5 South Korea etc.Permitted to protect woman’s mental health as well as physical health 1 Jamaica 2 Isreal 3 MalaysiaPermitted without restrictions with regards to the right of the woman (1sttrimester) 1 Armenia 2 China 3 Cuba 4 Puerto rico 5 Georgia 6 Singapore 7 Bahrain 8 Guyana etc.This findings therefore signals the fact that more effort needs to be put intoadvocating for the liberalization of safe abortion in other countries that are not onthe list of those countries who have already established it as a law with dueconsideration to the rights of the woman.21
  24. 24. International Youth Perspectives on Abortion THE NEED FOR ABORTION LAW REFORM IN NIGERIA By Kolawole Oreoluwa, NigeriaWho shall I praise for the eye-opener to unsafe abortion complication and pro-choiceI advocate for in my community? Is it that allowed me to search fromtheir database for unsafe abortion information or Youth Coalition Canada thatequipped me with valuable and relevant information on unsafe and safe abortionthrough their national advocacy workshop on SRR, abortion and youth participationin Abuja. I think Youth Coalition should be thanked for expanded my horizon in thearea of SSR and Legalization of Abortion.I can now agree with other advocates that advocate for review of the existingrestrictive laws in Nigeria in order to reduce the high morbidity and mortality fromunsafe abortion.Unsafe abortions remain a major concern in Nigeria and indeed in most other partsof the developing world where maternal mortality accounting for 30-40% of maternaldeath s in Nigeria and one in eight maternal deaths in the West Africa sub-region asa whole. Unsafe abortion usually causes many complications raging from renal failureto uterine perforation including genital tract injuries, no emergency treatment forany complications and women and younger females die.Let us review the existing restrictive laws in Nigeria in order to prevent the youngergeneration in dying young from complications of unsafe abortion. 22
  25. 25. International Youth Perspectives on Abortion ADOLESCENT ABORTION IN INDIA By Amrita Pain, (Kolkata) IndiaIn 1971, India became one of the countries in the world to pass legislation grantingliberal, social, socio-economic and mental grounds for the termination of anunwanted pregnancy. This legislation, known as the Medical Termination ofPregnancy Act of 1971, was the government’s response to the high incidence ofillegal abortions taking place in India during the 1960s and ‘70s with graveconsequences to maternal health and wellbeing coupled with a high mortality rate.Yet, in the 1990s, many more illegal abortions have taken place, despite legislation.Most of them were for terminating unwanted pregnancies or unplanned ones. Evenmore distressing is the fact that illegal abortions may outnumber legal ones by aratio as high, and frighteningly discouraging as 11:1 (Nuna and Chhabra, 1995), withhigh maternal mortality and morbidity.The prevalence of early marriage and sexual experience in India is quite high – thiswhen linked to a general lack of awareness, of ignorance regarding issues related tosex, contraceptives, pregnancy and abortion, does not help the adolescent in India.About 20% teens are married with a large majority of their pregnancies unplannedor unwanted, 40% ending in abortions. Coercive social stigma forces the adolescentto keep quiet and not seek information in this arena.Lack of education fails to highlight that an adolescent is not ready for child-bearingwith tremendous detrimental health hazards ranging from: nutritional deficiencies(ex. Anemia, chronic energy deficiency), biological incapacities (under-developedreproductive organs that cannot take the weight of a pregnancy), to death. Thepsychological aspect of an abortion is almost always sensitively ignored. That animpending abortion can be the most unnerving thing to be experiencing, especiallyfor an immature personality who sometimes does not comprehend what is going onwithin her body, is dutifully overlooked. The adolescent individual’s plight is lostunder a vague yet deep-rooted obedience to ‘societal beings’ – ‘the others’, non-existent entities who somehow dominate and contradict what is rational, practicaland is most situationally favorable.Whether married or not, an adolescent dealing with an unwanted pregnancy isalmost always alone. She is treated as something as an ‘omen’ despite abortionbeing a necessity in most situations, a clinical act which has nothing to do with being‘dirty’ but only ‘safe’.Despite counseling, to come out of their shells to ‘talk about it’, it is an obscure roadto take. Most counselors are ill-equipped to be unbiased and empathetic and in thesubtlest ways are condescending in their dealings, refraining for saying, ‘you broughtit on’… Thus an adolescent is lonely despite having people around to ‘look after’ her.Even on the operation table is she left to ‘deal with’ the abortion by herself andexpected to behave as if nothing has happened.23
  26. 26. International Youth Perspectives on AbortionThis attitude towards adolescent abortion has nothing to do with living in rural orurban areas – everything remains the same: the pregnancy, the abortion and theuneasiness. Only the scene is different. Even in cities with proper facilities for safeabortions, are sometimes out of reach as, they need a ‘consent’ from parents. So,like their rural counterpart, they resort to untrained persons and hazardous methodsof abortion. Yet, abortion is legal in India.An opinion poll conducted among adults ranging from age 20 to 23, from the similarsocio-economic background and educational qualifications, raises a challengingsituation. Out of the sample interviewed, 60% did not know that abortion was legalin India; 95%, though voicing a need for safe abortions were unsure whether theythemselves would opt for it in favor of secrecy from parents and relatives. 75% didnot think of abortions or pregnancies when talking of sex. 10% had had safe sexusing contraceptives. Although based on a very small sample, if the urban youth of ametropolitan has such a concept regarding abortion, and related issues, thebackwardness and inhibitions of their rural parallel is inexplicably unimaginable.What is now needed is active government participation – a law-making body whoserules are difficult to escape. With many independent organizations working ininternational, national or at the grassroots levels, an awareness and an awakeningcan have remarkable impact if the government of that particular state or nationworks in tandem. Thereafter, mass propaganda of the policies and sensitizationtowards adolescent abortions and abortions of any sort, will help educate and spreadknowledge regarding a major minority section whose right to dignity, expression,respect, freedom of making choices, is often forcibly contradicted. 24
  27. 27. International Youth Perspectives on Abortion UNTITLED By Anonymous25
  28. 28. International Youth Perspectives on Abortion SAFE ABORTION SERVICES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE By Smita Pawar, (Mumbai) IndiaServices for Young PeopleAdvocacy efforts towards starting up new services & upgrading the existing onesFair & Equal treatment from service providersEnabling Youth – Friendly environmentAmple of InformationBridge the information with back up of confidential servicesOrganized efforts on the part of GOs & NGOsRespect our decisionTrust usInformed choicesOff with the myths and misconceptionsNeed your support 26
  29. 29. International Youth Perspectives on Abortion ESCRITO SOBRE ABORTO Por Inés Romero, (Asunción) ParaguayDesde ya se nos hace complicado a los jóvenes en Latinoamérica tener una vidasexual sin tabúes, miedos y restricciones. Menos a las mujeres nos permiten pensarque tenemos y podemos a llevar a cabo nuestra vida sexual de manera libre; nosocultan y restringen nuestros derechos.No tenemos muchas opciones, en realidad no nos las enseñan, no sabemos queexisten, hasta que surge una situación en que las alternativas las debemos buscarnosotras, y muchas veces lo hacemos solas. Cuando adolescente la sociedad nosmuestra unas cuantas alternativas para escoger; estudiar y ser una profesional,aprender los quehaceres del hogar, casarse y tener hijos. No solo tenemos muypocas alternativas, sino que en realidad, por sobre todo nos inculcan que una mujerno es mujer completa si no lleva a cabo su rol de madre.Por supuesto que en esta resumida planificación de nuestras vidas nadie nos cuentaque en todo este proceso de desarrollo personal existe algo llamado sexualidad, y amedida que la vamos explorando nos vamos dando cuenta que necesitamos deopciones. ¿Pero donde recurrimos? ¿Quien nos facilita estas opciones? Las tenemosque encontrar por nosotras mismas, pues la sociedad y las instituciones nos la tienenrestringidas.Entre tantas dudas, o a veces ya con experiencia y conocimiento acerca de todo loque implica nuestra sexualidad, ocurre aquello que no estaba planeado, unembarazo. Esta vez sí que nos dejan sin opciones, esta vez solo hay un camino. Almenos eso es lo que aprendemos. Nos dicen que ante un embarazo no hay elección,se debe llevarlo a término y tener e/la hijo/a; ya sea sola, acompañada, con recursoso sin ellos, ya sea que es el producto de una sana relación o de una violación.Indudablemente un embarazo, el tener un hijo, puede ser una experiencia muygratificante para muchas mujeres. Pero tal vez ese embarazo no lo habíamosplanificado para este momento de nuestras vidas, o inclusive no este planificadodefinitivamente y hasta nos limite en algunos otros aspectos de nuestras vidas.Es ahí, en esta situación, que muchas jóvenes y mujeres buscamos una vez mas pornuestros propios medios alguna otra opción. Es entonces cuando conocemos elaborto, es ahí cuando sabemos que tenemos la posibilidad de decidir si queremosque el embarazo llegue o no a termino. Pero como esta no es una decisión validapara nuestra sociedad ni paranuestras políticas publicas de salud, no nos proveen de medios para llevar a cabo unaborto, nos prohíben y limitan. Y es entonces cuando sólo nos queda recurrir aprocedimiento de abortos clandestinos donde no se dan las condiciones de saludnecesarias, y nuestras vidas, la vida de una mujer corre peligro.27
  30. 30. International Youth Perspectives on AbortionY si tal vez nos contaran que tenemos derecho a vivir nuestra sexualidadplenamente, hubiéramos recurrido a información?. Y tal vez si hubiéramos recurridoa información sobre anticoncepción, hubiéramos evitado un embarazo noplanificado?. Y si en vez de abortar decidiéramos llevar el embarazo a termino?Todas son suposiciones, pero lamentablemente existe una realidad que no podemosesconder. Y es que muchas mujeres mueren a causa de abortos mal practicados. Esuna realidad que, muchas jóvenes y mujeres adultas optan por el aborto como unmétodo para controlar su reproducción. Y éste es el fundamento del porque todas lasmujeres deben de tener derecho a realizarse un aborto si lo desean, en clínicaspreparadas con profesionales capacitados, para que no exista riesgo alguno para suvida.En Paraguay el aborto es considerado un delito, y en contraparte el índice demujeres que mueren a causa de abortos mal practicados es altísimo. Aquí como enmuchos otros países del mundo y en especial de Latinoamérica, no tenemos laalternativa de abortar como Derecho, si no que es un práctica oculta a la queacudimos en un contexto total de inseguridad.Es necesario que todas las personas, desde adolescentes, sepan que tienen DerechosSexuales y Reproductivos, y que estos derechos les dan la facultad de decidirlibremente acerca de su sexualidad. Es necesario que todos y todas sepan que elaborto es una opción que tiene toda mujer ante un embarazo no planificado. Ladecisión en pareja sobre temas de sexualidad es importante, pero es la mujer quiendecide que hacer con su cuerpo. La utilización correcta y sistemática deanticonceptivos, incluyendo la PAE en situaciones que la ameriten, deben serpromovidas como métodos anticonceptivos; pero el aborto no puede ser descartadocomo medio para evitar un nacimiento no planificado. Es una utopía pensar que todas las parejas llevan a cabo sus relaciones sexualesutilizando sistemáticamente anticonceptivos para evitar un embarazo; que no existenviolaciones, embarazos que ponen en riesgo la vida de la mujer, o que todas lasmujeres embarazadas cuentan con los recursos para brindar una vida digna al hijo/aque podrían tener. Por estas y otras circunstancias el aborto debe ser también unaopción para la mujer que no desea que su embarazo llegue a término, sean cualesfueren sus razones.English translation: WRITING ON ABORTION By Inés Romero, ParaguayIts difficult for youth in Latin America to have a sexual life without taboos, fears, andrestrictions. This is even truer of women, as society doesn’t allow us to think that wehave or can control our sexual lives; they hide our freedom and they restrict ourrights.We don’t have many choices, as they do not teach them to us. We don’t knowchoices exist until a situation occurs where we have to find them for ourselves, and 28
  31. 31. International Youth Perspectives on Abortionmany times we do it alone. As an adolescent, society shows us many options: studyand become a professional, learn the tasks of the home, marry and have children.But in reality, society dictates only one: that a woman is not complete if she doesnot carry out her role as a mother.Of course, in this process of personal development, no one tells us that somethingexists called sexuality. And as we explore our sexuality, we become aware that weneed options. But to whom do we turn? Who facilitates the discussion on ouroptions? We have to find them by ourselves, because society and its institutionshave restricted them.In the midst of so many doubts, and sometimes in the midst of experience andknowledge about our sexuality, an unplanned pregnancy could occur. This is a timewhen we are left without options. This time, they tell us that there is only one way;at least this is what we learn. They tell us that even if you haven’t elected to bepregnant, it is to be taken to term; and we must have the baby, either alone oraccompanied, with resources or without, and whether the pregnancy is the productof a healthy relationship or of an assault. Without a doubt, pregnancy and/or havinga child can be a very rewarding experience for many women. But perhaps anunplanned pregnancy might limit us in some aspects of our lives.It is in this situation that many women and young people once again look, on ourown, for other options. It is in desperate circumstances when we look to abortion.But for society and for decision-makers, this is the wrong decision. They do notprovide us with the means of carrying out an abortion; instead they prohibit and limitus. Consequently, we are only able to access clandestine abortion procedures,situations where there are no guaranteed health or security conditions, and whereour lives, and the lives of so many women are in danger.Perhaps if they told us that we have sexual and reproductive rights, we could haveaccessed the right information. And perhaps if we had asked for information oncontraception, we could have avoided an unplanned pregnancy. And what if insteadof aborting we had decided to take the pregnancy to term?These are all possibilities, but unfortunately there is a reality that we cannot hide,and it is that many women die as a consequence of unsafe abortions. The reality isthat many young adults and women decide to have an abortion. This reality is at theheart of why all women must have the right to carry out an abortion if they wish it,in proper clinics with qualified and able professionals, and without risking their lives.In Paraguay, abortion is considered a crime, yet the number of women who die fromunsafe abortions is very high. Here, like in many other countries of the world andespecially in Latin America, abortion is not a Right; instead it is a hidden practicethat is obtained under unsafe circumstances.It is necessary that all people, from adolescence on, know that they have Sexual andReproductive Rights, and that these rights give us the possibility to decide freely andwithout coercion about our sexuality. It is necessary that we know that abortion is anoption for all women facing an unplanned pregnancy. The proper and consistent useof contraceptives, including the ECP (Emergency Contraception Pill) when necessary,29
  32. 32. International Youth Perspectives on Abortionshould be promoted as birth control methods, but abortion cannot be discounted as amethod of avoiding an unplanned pregnancy.It is naive to think that all couples carry out their sexual relations using proper andconsistent contraception to avoid a pregnancy. And the idea that rape and sexualabuse, and high-risk pregnancies don’t exist, or that all pregnant women have theresources to give a child a dignified life is untrue. Under these circumstances, andunder many others, abortion should be an option for a woman who does not wish tocarry her pregnancy to term, no matter her reasons. 30
  33. 33. International Youth Perspectives on Abortion UNTITLED By Anonymous31
  34. 34. International Youth Perspectives on Abortion REMEMBER By Lara Smith, TrinidadPeople say that a person’s memory gets worse as they get older. If that is true, I’mscrewed. I have never had a great memory, either short or long term. Just arrivingin my mid – twenties, I constantly criticize myself for not taking vitamins or doingthose Soduko puzzles that are suppose to increase brain functioning…I will start on astrict regiment of vitamins, but the half – full vitamin jars in my medicine cabinet areevidence that I have trouble remembering to take them!It is funny what the heart remembers and chooses to hold on to. My first kiss isvague, graduation from high school is becoming a distant memory, and mymultiplication tables went a long time ago. But I remember October 19, 2001. Iremember that day like it was yesterday. And as time goes by, the memories getsharper and ingrain themselves into my skin.Fall is a beautiful time of year where I grew up. Leaves put on one final display tothe world, giving vibrant colors of gold, crimson, and ginger. The air becomescrisper, and it seems that the earth feels winter approaching, and it begins toprepare itself.The State Fair also comes to town during the fall. As a kid, the only saving grace ofgoing back to school is knowing that the State Fair is on the horizon. Candiedapples; rides that are operated by men who if you look twice at them, your boundnot to get on the ride; fire works, and a number of exhibits that begin with “TheWorld’s…,” followed by distasteful catch phrases such as “smallest woman.”In 2001, I was a senior in high school and the State Fair was another infamous, ‘last’event that I would have. Last prom, final exams, last spring break, and the lastchance one may have to experience their childhood. To a 17 year old girl, the senioryear in high school is unforgettable.That fall was unforgettable to me – but for a far different reason. That fall markedthe end of my childhood. That fall would define my teenage years, and shape thechoices I would make into my adult ones. -----As I pulled up to the clinic, I noticed a white bleak concrete wall that stood as aprotective barrier. There was hidden door behind the wall with tinted glass. I didn’trecognize the reflection looking back at me. I pulled the door. It didn’t open. Ipulled it again, it didn’t open. In a flash a million thoughts raced through my head,Am I in the right place? Please let me in! Is this the right day? Are they open?Please let me in! Why is the door not opening? My thoughts were interrupted by awoman’s muffled intercom voice, “Darlin’, wait a second and I’ll buzz you in.” Like aswimmer waiting to here the gunshot to spring off of the board, I waited - my hand 32
  35. 35. International Youth Perspectives on Abortionclenched on the door handle waiting for the signal so I could escape this reflection,so I could find refuge.Refuge…I was looking for refuge.I had pictured this day for a month, playing the scenario over and over in my head.I had dreamt that I would walk in and be the lone person within a cold waiting room.In my mind, I was the only one who had ever, or who would ever make this decision.As I walked in the door…there was no place to sit. Almost every chair was taken.Young men waited anxiously, a shaking knee, a nervous pace across the floor, adistant stare. I looked around for his familiar face.He wasn’t there…My heart that had been racing suddenly stopped cold. As I walkedto the reception desk, worries filled my mind, Where is he?…How am I going to payfor this?…Why didn’t he call?…I don’t have any money!…What am I going todo?…Where is he? How am I going to pay for this?And within my terror, the sweetest smile came from the receptionist.I remember earlier that morning as I dressed for the occasion, I picked an outfit thatI felt made me look older than I was, nice slacks and heels, and makeup. I hadcarefully chosen this outfit to fit the part. To fit the part of a woman who wasmaking a grown decision, and was totally comfortable with it – rather than an unsurechild. To fit the part of a woman who had things together. I was trying to mask theconfusion that consumed my life. But as I saw her smile, I became undressed. Mytender eyes showed through, regardless of the amount of eye shadow I hadstrategically put on to cover them. My eyes gave me away. She saw who I reallywas – terrified. I wonder how many young women she had seen who had my sameterrified eyes, and how many she had given that same smile to?Her smile was one of comfort and peace. I had been looking for that smile for whathad seemed like forever. What had surrounded me were faces of doubt, judgment,and concern. A face of ridicule from my father for the unexplained recent drop in mygrades, a face of uncertainty from my mother who didn’t know how to tell me that Ihad began to gain weight, a scared face from my best friend who didn’t know whatto do when I would burst into tears over lunch, and then there was his face – Hisface was confident and secure in our decision.I had longed to tell my father why I couldn’t seem to concentrate in class, I wantedto reassure my mother that the weight, it was natural, and I couldn’t help it. Iwanted to tell my best friend she didn’t have to say anything, to just hold my hand.I wanted his confidence, but my heart was broken and my mind was so confused. Ihad looked to the faces that surrounded my life, but I felt ashamed to be lookedupon.Within her face, I found my refuge. I’m not sure I waited for her to say ‘Good Morning’ or ‘How can I help you’, I justblurted, “Hi, the person that is suppose to meet me, he isn’t here yet and…”33
  36. 36. International Youth Perspectives on AbortionShe calmly whispered, “We’ll wait darling, we’ll wait.”I took the closest seat to her. My eyes alternated between watching the door,waiting to see him, and watching the minutes pass on the clock. Finally, I saw himemerge from the white wall. I looked to get the receptionists’ attention and as if shesensed me, turned and confirmed, “That’s him, right?”He was here.As he approached me he kissed my forehead and said, “I’m sorry.” I was wonderingwhat he was sorry for. Was he sorry that he was late? Was he sorry that I drovehere alone? Was he sorry that I walked in here alone? Was he sorry we were hereat all?I was soon ushered into a second waiting room. The first waiting room had been fullof men, but it didn’t occur to me that there were no women until…Here they were. Chairs outlined the square room and as I sat, I looked upon thewomen who I was waiting with. They were of different ages, different races,different backgrounds, all with different stories of how they ended up there, on thatparticular day. We were all there, on that same day, waiting for the same thing.We had that in common.After an ultrasound confirmed the reality that I had been dealing with for the pastseven weeks and a number of other medical tests that proved that I was healthyenough for the procedure, they took me to speak with a counselor. Her role was toensure I was ready to make the decision. I wasn’t ready. Could you ever really beready? Somehow I convinced her I was prepared and I was sent back into thewaiting room.As I sat there, I began looking at each woman individually, wondering what her storywas. I knew more than anyone, the hard decision that each one of them wasmaking, and my heart was full with adoration for them. My eyes met anotherwoman, probably in her mid – twenties, and we exchanged a gentle smile thatacknowledged the courage it took to be there.We were there, together.During the medical screening, I had been given numbing pills that started to takeeffect. I don’t remember them calling my name; all I remember is being wheeledinto an examination room where a lady in all white helped me onto an examinationtable. I remember her explaining that after the procedure, she and the doctor wouldstep out for a moment, but they would be back.The pills they had numbed my body, but not my mind.I remember hearing the sounds of the machine, like a distant car engine. Iremember the sound of bits of my body being taken. I remember hearing mybreathing, slow and steady. The sounds of the machines, the sounds that rang inmy head – 34
  37. 37. International Youth Perspectives on AbortionThey stopped.The nurse and the doctor hurried out of the room and I lay there, looking up at thebright fluorescent lights, not able to move. A single tear rolled down my left cheekevaporating on my flushed skin. After a few moments, the lady in all white cameback in the room. She came to my side and placed her hand upon my forehead, “Iwant to let you know that the doctor was so impressed…You were so brave.”Brave? I was brave? In all of the insecurities, nightmares, and loneliness that hadaccompanied that day, I had never thought of myself as brave.She helped me back off the examination table and into the wheelchair. She wheeledme into a recovery room. The type of recovery room you picture in World War IImovies, the ones with rows of beds with privacy screens. White, sterile, and clean.An attendant monitored me, and after thirty minutes instructed me that I could putmy clothes back on. That was my ‘recovery.’He met me outside of the room. “You Okay?” he asked in a way that told me thatthe whole time I had been gone; he had been pondering what to say to me at thisexact moment.I don’t remember what I said back. I’m not sure if I said anything at all. I justremember thinking how ironic it was that after everything, I was able to stand upstraight, speak clearly, and drive myself home – alone.As I pulled into my neighborhood, I noticed the leaves. They had begun to drop tothe ground covering the earth like a blanket, protecting it from the approaching coldwinter.They had felt the earth shift and they were preparing it for a new year.A new year…One of new beginnings…35
  38. 38. International Youth Perspectives on AbortionCONCLUSIONThe Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights put together the YouthPerspectives on Abortion booklet because we felt it was important to show howyoung people are affected by the myths and stigma of abortion, and to share theirpersonal reflections on the issue.In this booklet, the authors have contributed poetry, stories, essays and art, in aneffort to convey their different experiences with abortion. These submissions notonly reflect the continued relevance of discussing and advocating for Safe AbortionCare Services, but also highlight the importance of acknowledging the perspectivesand recommendations of young people.The International Youth Perspectives on Abortion booklet is the second publication tobe produced from the National Abortion Workshops, alongside Freedom of Choice: aYouth Activist’s Guide to Safe Abortion Advocacy. Thank you to all of our authors! We appreciate your feedback! Please send your comments about this publication to Nosotros/as apreciamos tu valoración! Por favor envía tus comentarios sobre esta publicación a 36