September 28th is the International Day for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion. It was created to combat the intense stigma that exists around women’s access to abortion. Abortion is often a contentious issue, in the same way that women’s sexuality is contentious. Patriarchy has always fought to maintain control over women’s reproductive decisions – hence abortion is a fiercely contested right.
India has an abortion law that grants women the decision to get an abortion, under certain conditions. While there is still some way to go, India’s laws are fairly progressive compared to many other countries in the world. However, abortion stigma is as prevalent here as in any other part of the world, and this stigma often impedes women from accessing safe and legal methods of abortion. This stigma can then lead many women to seek out unsafe methods of abortion from unauthorized medicos, which leads to a high maternal mortality rate.
The stigma around abortion also contributes to the heavy silence surrounding the topic. While the number of women who have abortions is very high, most of us do not know of anyone that has undergone an abortion. The silence around abortion makes women who have had them feel further stigmatized, and further isolates those who might be seeking abortions. With no one talking about abortions, the topic becomes a murky, mysterious thing that is to be feared.
To normalize abortion, we need to talk about it. There is no one experience when it comes to abortion – both physically and psychologically. Many women feel relieved after the abortion of an unwanted pregnancy, some are indifferent to it, while some might regret it. We need to create a judgment-free space for women to speak about their experiences about abortion.
For International Safe Abortion Day 2019, we reached out to our followers and asked them if any of them had had abortions, and if they were willing to talk to us about it. Many women reached out to us, telling us that they hadn’t found a space to talk about their experiences candidly and without fear of judgment. This video is a culmination of five women’s vastly different experiences of abortion.