Realmente ni recuerdo la primera vez que escuch hablar del aborto



Realmente ni recuerdo la primera vez que escuch hablar del aborto
The Youth Coalition would like to thank the participants of our National Abortion
Advocacy Workshops for their wonderfully creative and informative contributions to
this book. Thank you also to Ipas for their generous financial support for the
publication of this book.
- International Youth Perspectives on Abortion: a Collection of
Essays Poems & Drawings –
A Publication of:
The Youth Coalition
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Copyright © 2007 The Youth Coalition
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The contents of this booklet solely represent the opinions of the
authors and not necessarily the views or policies of its financial
International Youth
on Abortion
A Collection of Essays, Poems and Drawings
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
International Youth
on Abortion
The Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (YCSRR) is an international
network of young people that works to increase access to, and quality of, sexual and
reproductive health and the rights of adolescents and young people throughout the
world. The Youth Coalition envisions a world where the diversities of all young people
are respected and celebrated, and where they are empowered and supported to fully
and freely exercise their sexual and reproductive rights. Sexual and reproductive
rights are human rights, and therefore apply equally to young people. Young people
have a valuable contribution to make to society and must be given a voice in all
policy and decision-making processes that is respected and fully incorporated.
The Youth Coalition also believes that all women, irrespective of age, have the right
to access medically safe and legal abortion care. Unplanned and unwanted
pregnancies are a common situation faced by women throughout the world. Many
circumstances can put a woman in a situation where she must decide whether or not
to continue her pregnancy. Ethical, legal, medical and social situations can influence
her decision. However in the end, regardless of the legal or moral prohibitions, or the
lack of economic or social resources, millions of women elect to terminate their
pregnancies even if it could cost them their lives.
In February of 2007, the Youth Coalition began the first of five National Abortion
Advocacy Workshops in Asuncion, Paraguay.
In the 3 months that followed,
workshops in Abuja, Nigeria; Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; Delhi, India; and
Quito, Ecuador brought together young people in each country to discuss the state of
Safe Abortion Care Services. We chose to hold the workshops in these 5
countries because members from each country were chosen to attend three-day
training on abortion and advocacy given by Youth Incentives 1 in October of 2006 in
the Netherlands. The workshop covered topics such as how to deal with the
opposition, what young people in different countries can do to advocate for safe
abortion, and how to dispel the myths surrounding abortion. The members whom
attended 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 abortions
since many adolescent girls and young women find themselves in the situation of
unplanned/unwanted pregnancies.
Youth Incentives is the International Programme on Sexuality, which has been developed by Rutgers
Nisso Groep, the expert centre on sexuality in the Netherlands. Finance is provided by the Dutch Ministry
of Foreign Affairs. For more information on Youth Incentives please visit:
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
These pregnancies are often a result of the lack of comprehensive sexuality
education and sexual and reproductive health services, and/or forced sexual
relations. The majority of laws throughout the world make it a crime for women of
any age to seek an abortion unless a direct threat to her life can be proven. Even if
that is the case, most women continue to be denied services that they are legally
entitled to. As well under threat to life laws women who become pregnant as a
result of rape may be denied safe abortion care even if though the pregnancy is a
result of sexual assault.
This booklet aims to present various youth perspectives on abortion. They were
submitted by the participants of each the national abortion advocacy workshops.
Each person has had a different experience with abortion, whether it be having one
herself, helping a friend access one, or seeing the detrimental affects of unsafe
abortion on women in their country. Some participants contributed through poetry,
others through stories, and some through art. Each submission is deeply personal
and reflects how each young author feels about the subject of abortion. The Youth
Coalition chose to put together a Youth Perspectives Booklet, because we felt that it
was important to show how young people are affected by the myths and stigma of
abortion, and share their vision for women’s reproductive rights, through personal
In 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 are
alarming, and yet they only address the reported part of the problem; many cases of
unsafe abortion are not accounted for, and many more end in tragedy. The following
chart shows the official government statistics related to maternal mortality, and the
proportion that is caused by abortion:
ratio per
100.000 lived
Death by
% of abortion
over maternal
Total /
Fuente: Ministerio de Salud Pública y Bienestar Social.
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
In 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 12
days a woman dies in Paraguay due to an unsafe abortion, translating into 30 deaths
annually. In 2006, 113 women died due to causes related to pregnancy, birth and
puerperium. Sadly, this statistic is beginning to repeat itself, as in 2007 (between
January and August), there have already been 80 similar deaths reported. 2 Though it
is 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 to
advocate for the decriminalization of abortion and for access to safe abortion care
services has never been more evident. These statistics are a call to action for
government, health providers, activists, and young people to protect women’s rights
and to protect women’s lives.
In Nigeria, access to sexual and reproductive health information, care, and services
is extremely limited due to economic, social and religious tensions. Moreover, as
Africa’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 transmitted
disease and HIV/AIDS infections, unsafe abortions, and other sexual and
reproductive health problems.
In Nigeria, abortion is only permitted when a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life; as
a result, most abortions performed are largely clandestine and/or unsafe. Abortion
under circumstances other than the threat of mortality carries a punishment of up to
seven years imprisonment for the woman in question, and up to fourteen years for
the doctor who performs the procedure. 4 Under threat of imprisonment, it is no
wonder that women in Nigeria are desperate for options.
Amid over 760,000 abortions yearly in the country resulting in over 140,000
hospitalizations 5 , the need for abortion rights advocacy and reform is evident. The
issue is particularly relevant to young people, as 80 percent of women who seek
hospital treatment for abortion-related complications are adolescents 6 . Nigeria is in
crisis, and advocacy and activism is crucial. Greater access to safe abortions is
needed to save the lives of Nigerian women.
Like many other postcolonial Caribbean geographies, Trinidad and Tobago is a nation
that 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 is
required to preserve a woman’s physical or mental health, or in cases where a
woman’s life is at risk. 7
Declaration made by Ruben Ortiz, Director General of the Ministry’s Health Programs, ABC Color, Thursday September
30 2007.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “Reproductive Health and Rights in Nigeria”, 2006,
Olori, Toye, “Abortion Law Takes a Toll”, HEALTH-NIGERIA, (Aug 8, 2004).
Udoh, Florense, “Unsafe Abortion Linked to High Maternal Deaths”, Daily Champion (Lagos), NEWS (13 September
Otoide, Valentine O., Oronsaye, Frank, and Friday E. Okonofua, “Why Nigerian Adolescents Seek Abortion Rather than
Contraception: Evidence from Focus-Group Discussions”, International Family Planning Perspectives, (Vol. 27, No. 2,
June 2001), p. 77-81.
Center for Reproductive Rights, The World's Abortion Laws, May 2007.
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
Ipas, an international NGO that advocates for the SRR of women, reports that as
many as 95% of all abortions in Latin America and the Caribbean are performed
illegally. 8 The absence of access to safe and legal abortion care is the frightening
reality for many women in Trinidad and Tobago. The region’s number of unsafe
abortions 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 and
led by the Roman Catholic Church, which holds the largest denomination of members
in the nation, making up 29% of the population. 11 The strong religious and
conservative 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 young
people, are paving the way for abortion law reform in the country.
In India, abortion has been legal for many years under the Medical Termination of
Pregnancy Act, 1971 (amendment 2002). A woman has the right to access safe
abortion services if there is a substantial risk that the child born would suffer from a
mental or physical handicap, or if the pregnancy poses a risk to her life or injury to
her physical or mental health. The definition is broad enough to include instances of
contraceptive failure as well as rape. Yet, the right comes with conditions. A woman
in India cannot demand an abortion unequivocally; her choice to not carry the
pregnancy to term is not of paramount significance. Risk to life, health etc have to
be proven and certified by medical personnel. This puts the power squarely in the
hands of these medical personnel who may have their own biases related to the
reasons for which a woman may ask for an abortion.
The scenario related to abortion rights is further complicated by the existence of the
Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994
(amendment 2002), which criminalizes foetal sex detection. This was put in place as
the sex ratio at birth grew more skewed – India’s estimated sex ratio at birth in 1991
was 945 females for every 1000 males – and aimed to check deliberate abortion of
female foetuses. The promotion of this law through messages such as “Don’t kill the
girl child in the womb” has led to people carrying the misconception that abortion
itself is illegal. This erroneous belief combined with the social silence and indeed
taboos related to sexuality and sex results in a high number of illegal abortions being
sought, of which a large proportion are in unsafe conditions. Stigma and
discrimination related to HIV/AIDS pose another concern for advocacy for safe
abortion. Cases have come to light where medical personnel have instructed, on
learning about the HIV+ status of women, the woman or her spouse to perform
abortion and even child delivery, thus endangering the women’s life and health.
Latin America and the Caribbean urge decriminalization of abortion”, Ipas website (September 28, 2004).
Grimes, D., Benson, J., Singh S., Romero M., Ganatra, B., Okonofua, F., and Shah, I., “Unsafe abortion: the preventable
pandemic”, The Lancet, (Sexual and Reproductive Health 4, November 2006), p 38.
Ipas (2004).
Martin, Cedriann J., Hyacenth, Glennis and Lynette Seebaran Suite, “Knowledge and Perception of Abortion and the
Abortion Law in Trinidad and Tobago”, Reproductive Health Matters (15.29, May 2007), pp. 97-107.
Grimes, p 5.
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
Given 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/AIDS
In Ecuador, abortion is considered criminal except when the woman’s life is in
danger, or in the case of rape of a woman with a mental disability. Ecuador’s Political
Constitution defends the concept that life begins at conception, and it guarantees the
rights of the foetus over the rights of women, despite the fact that women in
Ecuador are dying as a consequence of unsafe abortions.
Latin America registers 29 unsafe abortions per 1,000 women between the ages of
15 and 44 years old, and 3,700 women died as a result of unsafe abortions; this
represents 17% of the maternal mortality in the Region 13 .
In Ecuador, 95,000 women have abortions every year, and most of them occur in
unsafe conditions. Consequently, thousands of women are dying each year, and the
issue of abortion is becoming a public health crisis.
Although Ecuador has signed and ratified all of the international treaties that assure
women equality, safety and human rights (CEDAW, Beijing, Cairo), they have not
followed through on guaranteeing these rights. Access to safe abortion is the only
way 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.
Statistics taken from: “Improving Access to Safe Abortion”, Ipas-FCI CD-ROM manual, 2005.
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
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.
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
By Chechi, Ecuador
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
By Emelia Eyo, Nigeria
Abortion in Nigeria has been a heated issues as Nigeria is a deeply
cultural/traditional as well as very religious (religious not necessarily Godly). Nigeria
is a country deeply patriarchal and laws and policies favour males in almost all
aspects of life.
Unsafe abortion has eaten deep into our society gradually destroying the lives of
young women in our society as people have closed their eyes at the issue hoping it
will go disappear, but on the other hand they are also directly/indirectly worsening
the situation.
Sexuality Education is highly frowned at not to talk of contraception, adults also
refuse to face the fact that young people are becoming more sexually active at a
much younger age, of course most people have their first sex unprepared for it
having it result in unintended/unwanted pregnancy.
Young people when not given accurate information tend to come up with all sorts of
ideas to get out of these problems, swallowing all kinds of concoctions is one way of
dealing 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 about
abortion in the open forgetting that young girls are marring themselves in these acts
and one day it would be their daughter, sister, or aunt. They refuse to talk about
safe abortion in the open but encourage men to have many sex partner of course
most times they have sex with no protection, married men openly keeping young
girls as sex partners and secretly giving them money to sneak to different places to
have abortion when they get pregnant.
I also think most people have been blinded by their religion as I keep comparing the
issue of calling a young girl who has made an emotionally difficult decision to abort a
pregnancy she cannot cater for a murderer and openly justifying all the political
fights and killings in the country, it goes a long way to show that most people are
not interested in young people problems, except they can benefit form those
problem one ay or the other.
I strongly want the abortion laws in Nigeria to be liberalised as this will go a long
way 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 widely
accessible information on contraception, this will help young people make correct
and safe decisions concerning their reproductive and sexual health.
Lastly I think it is a bridge of our right to adequate and without judgemental health
services with no age barrier, because our reproductive health is one of the most
important aspects of our lives, because as long as we refuse to acknowledge the fact
that when young people interact together, sexual intercourse will definitely take
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
place, pregnancy will also occur, there will always be options of whether or not
young people are ready to keep the pregnancy. I think young people are entitled to
make decisions for themselves and not be tied to ideas people come up with to suit
them, hoping that whatever decisions they make will be respected and their services
provide SAFE for them.
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
By Mayowa Joel, Nigeria
Living today amongst us are women: our mothers, sisters, aunts, wives and
grandmothers—people entrusted with the perpetuation of the human race and for
which they often die unnecessarily. These are people whose lives are determined by
laws made by others even if to their detriment.
Out of the over 570,000 annual deaths that occur globally among women due to
maternal mortality, over 90% of them are from developing countries. Lifetime risk of
dying from pregnancy is 1/1500 in developed countries and 1/22 in developing
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. Every
6 minutes a woman dies needlessly as a result of an unsafe illegal abortion,
obstructed labour, or haemorrhage. For every woman that dies 20 others are
maimed for life. When a mother dies the mortality rate of the under fives rise very
Though, one-fifth of world population - 1.2 billion – is young people, but also
constitutes 13-40% of maternal mortality and between 60-80% of the unsafe
The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) affirmed that:
Women and men have the right to the highest standards of sexual and
reproductive health services and information, free from discrimination,
coercion, and violence.
Every individual especially women must be able to exercise control over his or her
sexual and reproductive health if he or she is to achieve his or her fullest potential as
a human being.
Therefore, Government, legislators, health care providers, development partners,
legal practitioners among many others have a crucial role to play in empowering the
women to enable them exercise their reproductive rights.
Comprehensive and qualitative information and services on Sexual and Reproductive
Health Rights especially pregnancy prevention, pre and post abortion counselling and
services should be available, affordable and easily accessible without prejudice,
stigma or discrimination. Also, governments should endeavour to eradicate the
practice of unsafe abortion, in order to avoid needless deaths among women
especially young women.
“Women are not dying, because of diseases we cannot treat. They are dying because societies
have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving.” - Mahmoud Fathalla, MD, PhD Ipas Board Member and Former President of FIGO.
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
By Anonymous
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
By Kasey Kozara, India/USA
Seven years ago, I escorted a college friend to her abortion appointment at a
Planned Parenthood clinic. It was indeed my most intimate encounter with the
abortion procedure aside from what I’d read in books or learnt from campus
advocacy 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 in
the reproductive region... oie! – and became a Planned Parenthood volunteer.
Still today, seven years later, I was the only participant at the Young Advocates for
Abortion Rights Training Workshop who didn’t shoot my hand up in the air when
asked 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 the
participant group and couldn’t help but wonder if sensitivity to viewing the subject
was at all socially constructed or influenced. Is such a thing even possible? I can
safely say from previous, similar experiences that I’ve known multitudes of men and
women in America to react sensitively to watching graphic abortion material and was
therefore taken aback by the enthusiasm of the group. Alas. Was it just a
coincidence? Did I happen to be in a room of strong stomachs? Or could these
reactions be in any way culturally constructed?
If my sensitivity to watching an
abortion on the big screen was a product of American cultural influences, it wouldn’t
be the only instance during the workshop in which I became aware of cultural
differences on the issue.
In fact, one of the most interesting facets of this workshop has been observing
myself as a participant – with an American perspective – in an abortion rights
workshop located within the Indian context. What has emerged as the most striking
contrast between the two perspectives – Indian and American – has been the socialpolitical environments from which the legalization of abortion came about. The
American effort to legalize abortion took place in conjunction with the feminist
movement and from a rights-based approach. However, Indian legalization of
abortion in 1971 was not fed by the desire or need to recognize women’s rights and
bodily autonomy, nor did it take shape within the context of a broader women’s
movement. Rather, efforts to legalize abortion in India seemed to be driven by goals
of population health (control?) and treated abortion as a mechanism in national
population development rather than as a woman’s natural ‘right.’
What does this mean? Based on what I’ve learned throughout the Young Advocates
training, critics of the legalization of abortion in India generally challenge the issue
from a moral perspective, but not religious. Whereas, primary opponents of abortion
rights in America do indeed represent religious conservative attitudes. To explain
further, traditional and conservative ideals pertaining to sex and sexuality in India
are pervasive. Though circumstances vary from state to state, the vast majority of
society does not condone premarital sex, sex education, public expression of
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
sexuality, and does not tolerate non-heterosexual sexual relationships. Conservative
societal attitudes influence the flow of information and education pertaining to
abortion, especially that which addresses youth. However, predominant religious
groups (Hindu/Muslim) have not made themselves heard as adversaries of legal
According to both Hindu and Muslim principles, the termination of pregnancy and/or
interference in the natural order of life is wrong. It would seem odd then, that
legalization 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’s
movement and the fact that Indian legalization of abortion did not emphasize
women’s rights.
It can generally be assumed that religious institutions are
patriarchal institutions.
As patriarchal dominance in society was not directly
threatened or challenged in the legalization of abortion, religious forces were not
stirred to agitate. Take the American example in contrast, where the abortion
movement and coinciding women’s movement greatly challenged patriarchal norms
in American society and thereby roused the attention of male-dominated religious
and political institutions. Ever since the case of Roe v. Wade and legalization of
abortion, there has remained strong hostility from the patriarchal and conservative
Right, including the current United States president, Georges W. Bush, who to this
day, restricts international funding to organizations that promote a woman’s right to
seek an abortion.
It is my opinion, therefore, that the lack of a corresponding women’s movement in
1971 process of legalizing abortion has served India in both harmful and beneficial
ways. First, without an initial rights-based perspective on abortion, as was the case
in India in 1971, the processes of revising policies, passing new legislation and
performing advocacy from a women’s rights-based approach now is more
challenging. However, it is also probable that 1971 legalization of abortion was
eased by the absence of a women’s rights movement in that it avoided attracting
religious opposition. Understanding the social and political environments in which
abortion is legalized is of great interest to me and I look forward to carrying out
these thoughts with more research into the corresponding histories of abortion
legalization in the United States and India.
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
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.
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.
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
Por Mirta Moragas, Paraguay
Realmente ni recuerdo la primera vez que escuché hablar del aborto. Tal vez
sea porque siempre fue una realidad más cercana y latente de lo que se cree en un
país 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 las
mujeres. Desde épocas inmemoriales el cuerpo de la mujer ha sido uno de los
instrumentos más perfectos de dominación por parte del sistema machista y
patriarcal en que nos hemos criado.
Esto se ve en miles de cosas, en los mitos de la fragilidad del cuerpo de la
mujer, de la inestabilidad emocional supuestamente regida por el ciclo menstrual, el
rol excesivamente emocional que la sociedad nos ha asignado (emocional como
antítesis a lo intelectual). Y miles de etcéteras más que hemos asimilado social y
culturalmente y de los cuales somos, en muchos casos, correas de transmisión
involuntaria a través de nuestras prácticas diarias.
Creo que tengo tan interiorizado el tema de que el aborto es antes que nada un
derecho a decidir sobre el propio cuerpo de cada mujer, que muchas veces me
cuesta entender los argumentos lacrimógenos de las organizaciones religiosas y (mal
llamadas) “pro-vida”.
Lo fundamental es que en un Estado Laico como el nuestro, debe legislarse con
lo que algunos llaman “la ética de los mínimos”, es decir, que hay que prohibir la
menor cantidad de cosas posibles, estableciendo reglas mínimas imprescindibles de
convivencia, tomando en cuenta la diversidad de creencias y conciencias que existen
en un Estado. Por eso mismo me parece inconcebible que las mujeres seamos
castigadas por querer decidir sobre nuestro propio cuerpo.
Y somos presionadas, chantajeadas emocionalmente y hasta manipuladas de
diferentes formas (una de ellas es la amenaza con la sanción legal). Porque “se
supone” que debemos hacer “lo correcto”, ¿lo correcto para quién?
Al mismo tiempo me parece inaceptable que las mujeres tengamos que seguir
soportando, que tengamos que seguir negando la realidad, que tengamos que
“asumir responsabilidades” por nuestros actos sexuales, muchas veces fruto de
violaciones o de mal uso de un método anticonceptivo. Como si sólo fuera nuestra
responsabilidad “asumir” este tipo de cosas. Y que la única manera de hacerlo es
trayendo al mundo un hijo que ni hemos buscado, ni queremos tener.
La estrategia principal de los que se oponen al derecho a decidir siempre ha
sido (y creo que siempre será), “embarrar la cancha”, confundir, manipular
información, apelar al sentimiento irracional, estereotipar y rotular a todas las
mujeres. El argumento que siempre me ha llamado la atención es la acusación de
que las que estamos a favor del derecho al aborto legal y seguro somos “asesinas” y
que el Estado no debería permitir el “asesinato de seres inocentes”. ¿Quién es la
víctima cuando un Estado le da más derechos ciudadanos a un feto que a la mujer
que lo gesta? ¿Somos nosotras simples aparatos reproductores menos importantes
que el producto de nuestro cuerpo? Pareciera que sí.
Cuando reflexiono sobre el tema, siempre me cuestiono a mí misma. A veces
me pregunto qué haría yo si estuviera en situación de embarazo no deseado. Y
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
pienso que aunque ahora estoy segura que abortaría, también reconozco que podría
no hacerlo. Los seres humanos estamos excesivamente condicionados por nuestras
Y a partir de ahí surge automáticamente la idea de separar lo que es mi vida
personal, mis decisiones personales, de lo que es el reconocimiento al derecho a
decidir que el Estado debe proteger de todas las maneras posibles
Y justamente en esto está el valor de lo que creo y reivindico. Mis decisiones
personales, son eso, personales e individuales. Los que nos quieren negar el
derecho a decidir nos rotulan, nos estereotipan, nos cosifican, nos niegan la
capacidad de decidir responsablemente sobre nuestro cuerpo y nuestras vidas.
Es muy pintoresco ver cómo somos estereotipadas por estar a favor del
derecho a decidir, somos las “abortistas” (para decir lo más suave), hablan de
nosotras (y nosotros) como si fuésemos parias sociales, como si fuésemos minorías
que van contra el orden (bien) establecido. Es una pena que no se pongan a pensar
que el aborto es una REALIDAD, que en un país eminentemente rural como el
nuestro, 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 más
deseable, 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 primer
lugar, reconocer que hay discriminaciones injustas que son INVISIBILIZADAS, que
son naturalizadas, porque “así nomás luego es”.
En segundo lugar, una vez que hemos “aprendido a ver”, nunca más nuestra
posición frente a estas situaciones puede ser igual. En este caso, ser neutrales, es
igual a permitir que miles de mujeres sigan muriendo por abortos clandestinos mal
practicados en lugares insalubres.
Hoy son mujeres sin rostro en estadísticas que no nos dicen nada. Mañana
pueden ser nuestras madres, hermanas, hijas, amigas, novias, nosotras mismas.
¿Dejaremos morir a las personas que amamos por no animarnos a asumir esta
English translation:
By Mirta Moragas, Paraguay
I don’t really remember the first time I heard anyone speak about abortion. Perhaps
it is because in a country where abortion is punished by penal laws from 1900, it is a
close and latent reality.
From the perspective of a woman’s right to choose, the subject of abortion has
always interesting me. Since ancient times, women’s bodies have been perfect
instruments of domination for male chauvinists and the patriarchal system in which
we have been raised. This can be observed in thousands of examples: in the fragility
of women’s bodies in myth; in accusations of emotional instability that is supposedly
governed by the menstrual cycle; in the excessively emotional role that society has
assigned to us (emotional as an antithesis to intellectual); and in thousands more
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
ways that we have assimilated socially and culturally, and of which we, in many
cases, involuntarily reproduce and condone through our daily actions.
I believe that I have deeply internalized the idea that abortion is, before anything, a
right each woman has to make decisions regarding her own body; therefore I find it
difficult 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 some
call "the ethics of minimums", that is to say, we must prohibit the least amount of
things possible, and establish the minimum number of rules essential for
coexistence, taking into account the diversity of beliefs and conscience that exist in a
State. For this reason, it is inconceivable to me that as women, we are punished for
wanting to make decisions regarding our own bodies. And we are pressured,
emotionally blackmailed, and even manipulated in different ways (one of them is
with the threat of legal sanction) because it is “assumed" that we must and will do
the “correct thing", but the correct thing for whom?
At the same time, it seems unacceptable to me that women must often continue
supporting 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 a
contraceptive method, as if it were only our responsibility "to assume" this type of
thing (and not a man’s). And as if the only way to be responsible is to bring a child
into 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 I
believe that always it will be), to "embarrar la cancha" 14 , to confuse, to manipulate
information, 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 who
are in favor of the right to legal and safe abortion are "killers" and that the State
should not allow the "murder of innocent beings." Who is the victim when a State
gives more citizen rights to a fetus than to the woman who conceived it? Are we
simply reproductive apparatuses less important than the product of our own body? It
would seem so.
When I reflect on the subject, I always question myself. Sometimes I wonder what I
would do if I were in the situation of an unwanted pregnancy. And I think that
although right now I am certain that I would abort, I also recognize that maybe I
could not do it. Human beings are excessively conditioned for our circumstances.
And from that automatically surges the idea to separate my personal life, and my
personal decisions, from the my recognition that the State must protect the right to
decide in all possible ways
And exactly in this thought is the importance of what I believe and I vindicate. My
personal decisions, are that - personal and individual. Those that refuse us the right
to decide stereotype us, they transform us, and they deny us the capacity to make
responsible decisions about our body and our lives.
A Spanish idiom. This literally means to make mud in the field, meaning trying to affect the result of the
game from outside the field.
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It is almost funny to see how we, those in favor of the right to decide, are
stereotyped. We are the "pro-abortionists" (the mildest of accusations); they speak
of us as if we are social pariahs, as if we are minorities that go against the
established order. It is a shame that they don’t stop to think that abortion is a
REALITY in a vastly rural country like ours; women farmers speak of abortion as if
they speak of influenza. They speak about abortion just as it is, something normal
that 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 recognize
that there are unjust discriminations that become INVISIBLE and naturalized
because 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 from
clandestine abortions which are badly practiced in unhealthy places.
Today they are invisible women not represented in statistics; tomorrow they may be
our mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, fiancées, or even we. Will we let the people
we love die by not accepting reality?
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
By Anonymous
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
By Kunle J. Odeyemi, (Kano) Nigeria
Almost all African countries allow termination of pregnancy in certain circumstances.
Governments have an obligation to support women’s right to legal abortion to the
fullest extent of the law. Worthy of note is the fact that despite severe restrictions
and stigmatization controversy, abortions take place in large numbers. In addition,
as documented in numerous international agreements, the global community agrees
that all couples and individuals have the right to make decisions concerning their
reproductive health.
This study was conducted to look critically at the legal framework in countries all
over the world on abortion and to assess the legal scope that provides women from
these countries with the right to safe abortion. The study also shows the practical
effort of countries that are striving to liberalize safe abortion as well as countries that
do not at any cost as well those who have existing grey areas in their legal scope for
the right of the woman to safe abortion. Resources from all parts of the world were
considered, as it was very necessary that the information/data obtained reflected the
truth of the situation on ground as well as served as a very useful resources tool for
advocacy on policy change on safe abortion that reflects the right of the woman. Also
experts and advocates in the field of sexual and reproductive health rights engaged
in community mobilization / engagement activities that aided in collecting first
information and finding.
Almost all African countries allow termination of pregnancy in some circumstances.
Many women’s helalth advocates believe that women cannot exercise that right
without access to comprehensive reproductive health education and services,
including family planning and safe services for termination of pregnancy. As women
are gradually getting treated as equal partners with men in society, the
undererstanding of rights is evolving so that women’s rights areare incresingly
getting recognized as human rights. Common definitions of human rights encompass
the right to self-determination and to bodily autonomy. For example, each of us has
the right not to be tortured, to rfuse medical treatment, or to obtainn medical
treatment. In the view of many people the right to bodily autonomy encompasses
the right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.A fundamental principle in moral
theory holds that those who suffer the concequences of a ! situation are by right the
ones who should make the decision about that situation. In the case of pregnancy, it
is clear that women suffer the greatest consequences, not only the expected physical
consequencies of child beaing, but also more serious complications, as sometimes
women die of pegnancy-related complications. Without doubt, the right to abortion
can be interpreted as a woman’s right to life. Further, women are overwhelmingly
are responsible and therefore they deserve the right to make these decisions. over to
continually review their policies and laws on abortion and considering the choice of
abortion as the right of the individual and not be forced or coerced into making rash
decisions on this issues while many others are on the verge of doing same as civil
society organizations are increasingly mounting more pressure and those who have
are recording successes. Despite high rates of abortion throughout Asia, Africa and
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the Caribbean, abortion laws that conform to the rights of the woman varies country
to country and region to region. Here are a list of certain countries indicating how
they 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 Nigeria
Permitted 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 Malaysia
Permitted without restrictions with regards to the right of the woman (1st
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 into
advocating for the liberalization of safe abortion in other countries that are not on
the list of those countries who have already established it as a law with due
consideration to the rights of the woman.
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
By Kolawole Oreoluwa, Nigeria
Who shall I praise for the eye-opener to unsafe abortion complication and pro-choice
I advocate for in my community? Is it that allowed me to search from
their database for unsafe abortion information or Youth Coalition Canada that
equipped me with valuable and relevant information on unsafe and safe abortion
through their national advocacy workshop on SRR, abortion and youth participation
in Abuja. I think Youth Coalition should be thanked for expanded my horizon in the
area of SSR and Legalization of Abortion.
I can now agree with other advocates that advocate for review of the existing
restrictive laws in Nigeria in order to reduce the high morbidity and mortality from
unsafe abortion.
Unsafe abortions remain a major concern in Nigeria and indeed in most other parts
of the developing world where maternal mortality accounting for 30-40% of maternal
death s in Nigeria and one in eight maternal deaths in the West Africa sub-region as
a whole. Unsafe abortion usually causes many complications raging from renal failure
to uterine perforation including genital tract injuries, no emergency treatment for
any complications and women and younger females die.
Let us review the existing restrictive laws in Nigeria in order to prevent the younger
generation in dying young from complications of unsafe abortion.
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
By Amrita Pain, (Kolkata) India
In 1971, India became one of the countries in the world to pass legislation granting
liberal, social, socio-economic and mental grounds for the termination of an
unwanted pregnancy. This legislation, known as the Medical Termination of
Pregnancy Act of 1971, was the government’s response to the high incidence of
illegal abortions taking place in India during the 1960s and ‘70s with grave
consequences 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. Even
more distressing is the fact that illegal abortions may outnumber legal ones by a
ratio as high, and frighteningly discouraging as 11:1 (Nuna and Chhabra, 1995), with
high maternal mortality and morbidity.
The prevalence of early marriage and sexual experience in India is quite high – this
when linked to a general lack of awareness, of ignorance regarding issues related to
sex, contraceptives, pregnancy and abortion, does not help the adolescent in India.
About 20% teens are married with a large majority of their pregnancies unplanned
or unwanted, 40% ending in abortions. Coercive social stigma forces the adolescent
to keep quiet and not seek information in this arena.
Lack of education fails to highlight that an adolescent is not ready for child-bearing
with tremendous detrimental health hazards ranging from: nutritional deficiencies
(ex. Anemia, chronic energy deficiency), biological incapacities (under-developed
reproductive organs that cannot take the weight of a pregnancy), to death. The
psychological aspect of an abortion is almost always sensitively ignored. That an
impending abortion can be the most unnerving thing to be experiencing, especially
for an immature personality who sometimes does not comprehend what is going on
within her body, is dutifully overlooked. The adolescent individual’s plight is lost
under a vague yet deep-rooted obedience to ‘societal beings’ – ‘the others’, nonexistent entities who somehow dominate and contradict what is rational, practical
and is most situationally favorable.
Whether married or not, an adolescent dealing with an unwanted pregnancy is
almost always alone. She is treated as something as an ‘omen’ despite abortion
being 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 road
to take. Most counselors are ill-equipped to be unbiased and empathetic and in the
subtlest ways are condescending in their dealings, refraining for saying, ‘you brought
it 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 and
expected to behave as if nothing has happened.
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
This attitude towards adolescent abortion has nothing to do with living in rural or
urban areas – everything remains the same: the pregnancy, the abortion and the
uneasiness. Only the scene is different. Even in cities with proper facilities for safe
abortions, are sometimes out of reach as, they need a ‘consent’ from parents. So,
like their rural counterpart, they resort to untrained persons and hazardous methods
of abortion. Yet, abortion is legal in India.
An opinion poll conducted among adults ranging from age 20 to 23, from the similar
socio-economic background and educational qualifications, raises a challenging
situation. Out of the sample interviewed, 60% did not know that abortion was legal
in India; 95%, though voicing a need for safe abortions were unsure whether they
themselves would opt for it in favor of secrecy from parents and relatives. 75% did
not think of abortions or pregnancies when talking of sex. 10% had had safe sex
using contraceptives. Although based on a very small sample, if the urban youth of a
metropolitan has such a concept regarding abortion, and related issues, the
backwardness and inhibitions of their rural parallel is inexplicably unimaginable.
What is now needed is active government participation – a law-making body whose
rules are difficult to escape. With many independent organizations working in
international, national or at the grassroots levels, an awareness and an awakening
can have remarkable impact if the government of that particular state or nation
works in tandem. Thereafter, mass propaganda of the policies and sensitization
towards adolescent abortions and abortions of any sort, will help educate and spread
knowledge regarding a major minority section whose right to dignity, expression,
respect, freedom of making choices, is often forcibly contradicted.
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
By Anonymous
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
By Smita Pawar, (Mumbai) India
Services for Young People
Advocacy efforts towards starting up new services & upgrading the existing ones
Fair & Equal treatment from service providers
Enabling Youth – Friendly environment
Ample of Information
Bridge the information with back up of confidential services
Organized efforts on the part of GOs & NGOs
Respect our decision
Trust us
Informed choices
Off with the myths and misconceptions
Need your support
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
Por Inés Romero, (Asunción) Paraguay
Desde ya se nos hace complicado a los jóvenes en Latinoamérica tener una vida
sexual sin tabúes, miedos y restricciones. Menos a las mujeres nos permiten pensar
que tenemos y podemos a llevar a cabo nuestra vida sexual de manera libre; nos
ocultan y restringen nuestros derechos.
No tenemos muchas opciones, en realidad no nos las enseñan, no sabemos que
existen, hasta que surge una situación en que las alternativas las debemos buscar
nosotras, y muchas veces lo hacemos solas. Cuando adolescente la sociedad nos
muestra unas cuantas alternativas para escoger; estudiar y ser una profesional,
aprender los quehaceres del hogar, casarse y tener hijos. No solo tenemos muy
pocas alternativas, sino que en realidad, por sobre todo nos inculcan que una mujer
no es mujer completa si no lleva a cabo su rol de madre.
Por supuesto que en esta resumida planificación de nuestras vidas nadie nos cuenta
que en todo este proceso de desarrollo personal existe algo llamado sexualidad, y a
medida que la vamos explorando nos vamos dando cuenta que necesitamos de
opciones. ¿Pero donde recurrimos? ¿Quien nos facilita estas opciones? Las tenemos
que encontrar por nosotras mismas, pues la sociedad y las instituciones nos la tienen
Entre tantas dudas, o a veces ya con experiencia y conocimiento acerca de todo lo
que implica nuestra sexualidad, ocurre aquello que no estaba planeado, un
embarazo. Esta vez sí que nos dejan sin opciones, esta vez solo hay un camino. Al
menos 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 recursos
o 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 muy
gratificante para muchas mujeres. Pero tal vez ese embarazo no lo habíamos
planificado para este momento de nuestras vidas, o inclusive no este planificado
definitivamente 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 por
nuestros propios medios alguna otra opción. Es entonces cuando conocemos el
aborto, es ahí cuando sabemos que tenemos la posibilidad de decidir si queremos
que el embarazo llegue o no a termino. Pero como esta no es una decisión valida
para nuestra sociedad ni para
nuestras políticas publicas de salud, no nos proveen de medios para llevar a cabo un
aborto, nos prohíben y limitan. Y es entonces cuando sólo nos queda recurrir a
procedimiento de abortos clandestinos donde no se dan las condiciones de salud
necesarias, y nuestras vidas, la vida de una mujer corre peligro.
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
Y si tal vez nos contaran que tenemos derecho a vivir nuestra sexualidad
plenamente, hubiéramos recurrido a información?. Y tal vez si hubiéramos recurrido
a información sobre anticoncepción, hubiéramos evitado un embarazo no
planificado?. Y si en vez de abortar decidiéramos llevar el embarazo a termino?
Todas son suposiciones, pero lamentablemente existe una realidad que no podemos
esconder. Y es que muchas mujeres mueren a causa de abortos mal practicados. Es
una realidad que, muchas jóvenes y mujeres adultas optan por el aborto como un
método para controlar su reproducción. Y éste es el fundamento del porque todas las
mujeres deben de tener derecho a realizarse un aborto si lo desean, en clínicas
preparadas con profesionales capacitados, para que no exista riesgo alguno para su
En Paraguay el aborto es considerado un delito, y en contraparte el índice de
mujeres que mueren a causa de abortos mal practicados es altísimo. Aquí como en
muchos otros países del mundo y en especial de Latinoamérica, no tenemos la
alternativa de abortar como Derecho, si no que es un práctica oculta a la que
acudimos en un contexto total de inseguridad.
Es necesario que todas las personas, desde adolescentes, sepan que tienen Derechos
Sexuales y Reproductivos, y que estos derechos les dan la facultad de decidir
libremente acerca de su sexualidad. Es necesario que todos y todas sepan que el
aborto es una opción que tiene toda mujer ante un embarazo no planificado. La
decisión en pareja sobre temas de sexualidad es importante, pero es la mujer quien
decide que hacer con su cuerpo. La utilización correcta y sistemática de
anticonceptivos, incluyendo la PAE en situaciones que la ameriten, deben ser
promovidas como métodos anticonceptivos; pero el aborto no puede ser descartado
como medio para evitar un nacimiento no planificado.
Es una utopía pensar que todas las parejas llevan a cabo sus relaciones sexuales
utilizando sistemáticamente anticonceptivos para evitar un embarazo; que no existen
violaciones, embarazos que ponen en riesgo la vida de la mujer, o que todas las
mujeres embarazadas cuentan con los recursos para brindar una vida digna al hijo/a
que podrían tener. Por estas y otras circunstancias el aborto debe ser también una
opción para la mujer que no desea que su embarazo llegue a término, sean cuales
fueren sus razones.
English translation:
By Inés Romero, Paraguay
Its difficult for youth in Latin America to have a sexual life without taboos, fears, and
restrictions. This is even truer of women, as society doesn’t allow us to think that we
have or can control our sexual lives; they hide our freedom and they restrict our
We don’t have many choices, as they do not teach them to us. We don’t know
choices exist until a situation occurs where we have to find them for ourselves, and
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
many times we do it alone. As an adolescent, society shows us many options: study
and 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 does
not carry out her role as a mother.
Of course, in this process of personal development, no one tells us that something
exists called sexuality. And as we explore our sexuality, we become aware that we
need options. But to whom do we turn? Who facilitates the discussion on our
options? We have to find them by ourselves, because society and its institutions
have restricted them.
In the midst of so many doubts, and sometimes in the midst of experience and
knowledge about our sexuality, an unplanned pregnancy could occur. This is a time
when 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 be
pregnant, it is to be taken to term; and we must have the baby, either alone or
accompanied, with resources or without, and whether the pregnancy is the product
of a healthy relationship or of an assault. Without a doubt, pregnancy and/or having
a child can be a very rewarding experience for many women. But perhaps an
unplanned 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 our
own, 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 not
provide us with the means of carrying out an abortion; instead they prohibit and limit
us. Consequently, we are only able to access clandestine abortion procedures,
situations where there are no guaranteed health or security conditions, and where
our 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 have
accessed the right information. And perhaps if we had asked for information on
contraception, we could have avoided an unplanned pregnancy. And what if instead
of 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 is
that many young adults and women decide to have an abortion. This reality is at the
heart 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 from
unsafe abortions is very high. Here, like in many other countries of the world and
especially in Latin America, abortion is not a Right; instead it is a hidden practice
that is obtained under unsafe circumstances.
It is necessary that all people, from adolescence on, know that they have Sexual and
Reproductive Rights, and that these rights give us the possibility to decide freely and
without coercion about our sexuality. It is necessary that we know that abortion is an
option for all women facing an unplanned pregnancy. The proper and consistent use
of contraceptives, including the ECP (Emergency Contraception Pill) when necessary,
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should be promoted as birth control methods, but abortion cannot be discounted as a
method of avoiding an unplanned pregnancy.
It is naive to think that all couples carry out their sexual relations using proper and
consistent contraception to avoid a pregnancy. And the idea that rape and sexual
abuse, and high-risk pregnancies don’t exist, or that all pregnant women have the
resources to give a child a dignified life is untrue. Under these circumstances, and
under many others, abortion should be an option for a woman who does not wish to
carry her pregnancy to term, no matter her reasons.
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
By Anonymous
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
By Lara Smith, Trinidad
People say that a person’s memory gets worse as they get older. If that is true, I’m
screwed. I have never had a great memory, either short or long term. Just arriving
in my mid – twenties, I constantly criticize myself for not taking vitamins or doing
those Soduko puzzles that are suppose to increase brain functioning…I will start on a
strict regiment of vitamins, but the half – full vitamin jars in my medicine cabinet are
evidence that I have trouble remembering to take them!
It is funny what the heart remembers and chooses to hold on to. My first kiss is
vague, graduation from high school is becoming a distant memory, and my
multiplication tables went a long time ago. But I remember October 19, 2001. I
remember that day like it was yesterday. And as time goes by, the memories get
sharper and ingrain themselves into my skin.
Fall is a beautiful time of year where I grew up. Leaves put on one final display to
the world, giving vibrant colors of gold, crimson, and ginger. The air becomes
crisper, and it seems that the earth feels winter approaching, and it begins to
prepare itself.
The State Fair also comes to town during the fall. As a kid, the only saving grace of
going back to school is knowing that the State Fair is on the horizon. Candied
apples; rides that are operated by men who if you look twice at them, your bound
not to get on the ride; fire works, and a number of exhibits that begin with “The
World’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 last
chance one may have to experience their childhood. To a 17 year old girl, the senior
year in high school is unforgettable.
That fall was unforgettable to me – but for a far different reason. That fall marked
the end of my childhood. That fall would define my teenage years, and shape the
choices I would make into my adult ones.
----As I pulled up to the clinic, I noticed a white bleak concrete wall that stood as a
protective barrier. There was hidden door behind the wall with tinted glass. I didn’t
recognize the reflection looking back at me. I pulled the door. It didn’t open. I
pulled 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 a
woman’s muffled intercom voice, “Darlin’, wait a second and I’ll buzz you in.” Like a
swimmer waiting to here the gunshot to spring off of the board, I waited - my hand
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clenched on the door handle waiting for the signal so I could escape this reflection,
so I could find 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, a
distant stare. I looked around for his familiar face.
He wasn’t there…My heart that had been racing suddenly stopped cold. As I walked
to the reception desk, worries filled my mind, Where is he?…How am I going to pay
for this?…Why didn’t he call?…I don’t have any money!…What am I going to
do?…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 that
I felt made me look older than I was, nice slacks and heels, and makeup. I had
carefully chosen this outfit to fit the part. To fit the part of a woman who was
making a grown decision, and was totally comfortable with it – rather than an unsure
child. To fit the part of a woman who had things together. I was trying to mask the
confusion that consumed my life. But as I saw her smile, I became undressed. My
tender eyes showed through, regardless of the amount of eye shadow I had
strategically put on to cover them. My eyes gave me away. She saw who I really
was – terrified. I wonder how many young women she had seen who had my same
terrified 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 what
had 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 my
grades, a face of uncertainty from my mother who didn’t know how to tell me that I
had began to gain weight, a scared face from my best friend who didn’t know what
to do when I would burst into tears over lunch, and then there was his face – His
face was confident and secure in our decision.
I had longed to tell my father why I couldn’t seem to concentrate in class, I wanted
to reassure my mother that the weight, it was natural, and I couldn’t help it. I
wanted 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. I
had looked to the faces that surrounded my life, but I felt ashamed to be looked
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 just
blurted, “Hi, the person that is suppose to meet me, he isn’t here yet and…”
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
She 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 him
emerge from the white wall. I looked to get the receptionists’ attention and as if she
sensed 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 wondering
what he was sorry for. Was he sorry that he was late? Was he sorry that I drove
here alone? Was he sorry that I walked in here alone? Was he sorry we were here
at all?
I was soon ushered into a second waiting room. The first waiting room had been full
of 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 the
women 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 that
particular 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 past
seven weeks and a number of other medical tests that proved that I was healthy
enough for the procedure, they took me to speak with a counselor. Her role was to
ensure I was ready to make the decision. I wasn’t ready. Could you ever really be
ready? Somehow I convinced her I was prepared and I was sent back into the
waiting room.
As I sat there, I began looking at each woman individually, wondering what her story
was. I knew more than anyone, the hard decision that each one of them was
making, and my heart was full with adoration for them. My eyes met another
woman, probably in her mid – twenties, and we exchanged a gentle smile that
acknowledged the courage it took to be there.
We were there, together.
During the medical screening, I had been given numbing pills that started to take
effect. I don’t remember them calling my name; all I remember is being wheeled
into an examination room where a lady in all white helped me onto an examination
table. I remember her explaining that after the procedure, she and the doctor would
step 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. I
remember the sound of bits of my body being taken. I remember hearing my
breathing, slow and steady. The sounds of the machines, the sounds that rang in
my head –
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
They stopped.
The nurse and the doctor hurried out of the room and I lay there, looking up at the
bright fluorescent lights, not able to move. A single tear rolled down my left cheek
evaporating on my flushed skin. After a few moments, the lady in all white came
back in the room. She came to my side and placed her hand upon my forehead, “I
want 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 had
accompanied that day, I had never thought of myself as brave.
She helped me back off the examination table and into the wheelchair. She wheeled
me into a recovery room. The type of recovery room you picture in World War II
movies, 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 put
my clothes back on. That was my ‘recovery.’
He met me outside of the room. “You Okay?” he asked in a way that told me that
the whole time I had been gone; he had been pondering what to say to me at this
exact moment.
I don’t remember what I said back. I’m not sure if I said anything at all. I just
remember thinking how ironic it was that after everything, I was able to stand up
straight, speak clearly, and drive myself home – alone.
As I pulled into my neighborhood, I noticed the leaves. They had begun to drop to
the ground covering the earth like a blanket, protecting it from the approaching cold
They had felt the earth shift and they were preparing it for a new year.
A new year…One of new beginnings…
International Youth Perspectives on Abortion
The Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights put together the Youth
Perspectives on Abortion booklet because we felt it was important to show how
young people are affected by the myths and stigma of abortion, and to share their
personal reflections on the issue.
In this booklet, the authors have contributed poetry, stories, essays and art, in an
effort to convey their different experiences with abortion. These submissions not
only reflect the continued relevance of discussing and advocating for Safe Abortion
Care Services, but also highlight the importance of acknowledging the perspectives
and recommendations of young people.
The International Youth Perspectives on Abortion booklet is the second publication to
be produced from the National Abortion Workshops, alongside Freedom of Choice: a
Youth 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 [email protected]
Nosotros/as apreciamos tu valoración!
Por favor envía tus comentarios sobre esta publicación a [email protected]

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