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Pro-Choice is Pro-Life.

25 September 2015 Posted by No Comment

This depiction of two male goats locking horns is closer to the truth than we imagine, given the patriarchal structure we operate within, including the fact that most of our law makers are men, and also that one of the key opposition groups to legal reform on abortion in our country is headed by the Roman Catholic church. No women in power there either.

I was 17 when I became pregnant, the sex wasn’t consensual. Nothing in life will prepare you for the panic that will come over you when you see two lines that come up on a piece of paper soaked in your own urine. You’re always in denial when it comes to the first positive pregnancy test and after you have peed on six more pieces of paper the awful reality hits you, and it hits you hard.

I was in no position to be a parent- and I knew I didn’t want to be. I was in an emotionally and sexually abusive relationship [although, I am ashamed to admit, that at the time I didn’t know it]. My mother was mentally unstable and prone to outbursts of rage, and with it came physical and emotional abuse. My family life was in shambles. I had a lot of friends at school but my boyfriend had invested a lot of time in isolating me from anyone that had my best interests at heart. I was alone and I had no one. I had finally gotten an offer from university and with it a ticket out of the hell hole that my life had become. Nothing was going to come in the way of that – there was no conversation, no discussion about keeping the baby. It was an instantaneous decision. He was as ready to be a father as I was to be a mother.

After quickly Googling how to end a pregnancy and some period maths to figure out how far along I was, we settled on a medical abortion that would involve as few people possible. He set off to buy mifepristone and misoprostol, and that is how this nightmare progressively became worse. He came back that day itself and gave me four pills- he didn’t tell me what they were specifically but rather that the “pharmacist” had told him to tell me to take 2 now and 2 in a few hours’ time. Nothing happened. The next day I was given 8 pills – I was told to insert 4 vaginally and let them dissolve and then take the rest- once again on the “pharmacist’s” orders. That did not work either. Finally the third day I was given 16 pills, I had to put six under my tongue and let them dissolve without swallowing. I began to bleed and I did not stop.It was the most painful thing that I had ever experienced in my life. The contractions didn’t show any signs of stopping or slowing down and I don’t think there was a pad in the world that could have held the blood that came out of me. I spent hours sitting on the toilet waiting for it to pass. I could not walk and my world spun. My ex returned from his socialising – and forced me to take 6 more, even though I was clearly passing my pregnancy. I cried and begged him not to make me, because I couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t have it in me and it hurt so much.

I was 17. I was not emotionally mature enough to handle any of what I was experiencing. He talked down to me, telling me that if I didn’t take it I would still be pregnant and I would have to raise the child alone, and I would have to tell my mother and who knows what she would do. He made me take 6 more. He sat and watched me to make sure I didn’t try to spit it out until the pills dissolved before I could swallow it, he checked my mouth and left, leaving me hugging myself and crying on my bed until I finally fell asleep. I woke up and he had returned a few hours later, this time with a ‘carrot’ instead of a ‘stick’. He made me eat food he had cooked and cajoled me into taking four more.I bled for days. My mother said having a period was not a good enough of an excuse to not go to school and so I cut for two days and dealt with the cramping and pain for a week.

I have never regretted having my abortion. It was the right decision for me. I have a degree from a recognised university and I am on my way to making something of myself. However I do hate how isolated, alone and traumatized I felt. No one should be forced to carry to term an unintended child and no one should have to experience what I did. The most disgusting part about my experience is that I am lucky. I am lucky. I am lucky I came from a well-off family and I could afford the drugs that I needed. I am lucky my school never found out and expelled me. About 1000 women get abortions every day in Sri Lanka despite there being a near blanket ban on abortion, because as the saying goes, “desperate times lead to desperate measures”.

Many people will think that I brought this on myself by engaging in pre-marital sex, but the sex that got me pregnant was not consensual. Even if it was, why can’t a woman’s choice be respected? When it comes to pregnancy in Sri Lanka, women have shockingly few rights to their own bodies. A woman can only seek an abortion if her own life is in danger. If a woman was raped or gets pregnant through incest she has to carry her pregnancy to term, by law. The same applies to fatal foetal abnormality. Those like me who get a termination risk 20 years in prison.

I recently had the opportunity to attend an event on preventing unsafe abortions and I felt disappointed by what little has been done. It was a think tank that was too scared to use the word abortion and the organisers panicked when a participant asked the hotel reception where the abortion conference was instead of asking for the ‘youth think tank’. An issue such as abortion, no matter how polarizing it can be, should not be treated like leprosy, especially by people who are supposed to be fighting for a woman’s right to have access to an abortion.

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A woman should not be forced by the law to carry an unintended child. Women should be free to make reproductive health choices that work best for them. What I find most interesting is that pregnant women have less freedom than dead bodies. Think about it. So many, many people need transplants and organs and it would be so simple to take these from the dead but we don’t unless that person had given permission. They were allowed the choice. We could easily ignore their wishes and harvest their organs anyway but we don’t- even though it could potentially save lives. Why can’t a woman, who is alive and has a future in possible jeopardy, have the same rights to choose what happens to her own body? One can cite all the religious reasons you like against abortion but that isn’t really the issue here. The issue is that whatever your opinion is, you should be free to make that choice and have that choice be respected. I should have been free to make that choice and I should have received the support that I desperately needed instead of feeling alone and afraid.

It’s my body, my life, and my choice; all of which are nobody else’s business.

Editors Note: The author wishes to remain anonymous due to the re-victimization and judgment she perceives will follow her disclosure. Sadly, she’s not wrong, and we support this decision and also applaud her courage for penning this guest column for us. The powers that be have been discussing the need for abortion law reform since 2011, but no progress has been made. This is “a debate that sometimes misses the fact that unsafe abortions do take place under the most appalling circumstances and the day-to-day impact unsafe abortion has on women’s lives.”

 

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