The issue is not abortion. The issue is whether women can make up their own mind instead of some right-wing pastor, some right-wing politician telling them what to do. (Howard Dean)
As per promise, today I tackle the issue of abortion, largely informed by the student’s conference I attended in Masvingo in December 2014.
The question that remains is, to abort or not to? As Yoliswa Dube, a features columnist with the Zimpapers group of newspapers put it in one of her ever thought provoking musings.
The issue of abortion was for me the climax of the conference. There were a lot of divergent views from the attendants and a clear demarcation could be seen in the way the younger generation and the older generation views it. Two issues were clearly on the table. Students from Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana who were the bulk of the attendees felt their rights were being stampeded on because of the inability to make a legal choice to abort.
The patrons and members from various organizations were divided with some quoting bible verses, the murderous nature of abortion and the need for youngsters to be able to make responsible sexual choices and face the consequences of their actions.
The lady who shared her rape ordeal with us also told us that later in her life she became careless with her sexual life and became pregnant at a rather young age. She did not mince her words and said, “I wanted an abortion, I did not know where to get one and how to go about it, I kept the baby because I failed to access an abortion.”
There is no doubt that abortion remains a contentious issue in society because of the tags associated with it and the stringent moral values that have been a set standard for so long in our society. The problem does not begin with abortion but with falling pregnant out of wedlock.
Now, I personally was not impressed by the fact that we want to hide behind religion when dealing with issues in our country. I mean here we are at a conference on sexual and reproductive health rights, telling students to abstain, engage in safe sex, condomise, use contraceptives, stick to one partner and so forth. The same bible that we use to castigate abortion clearly castigates sex before marriage.
So are we saying there is a better evil than another? If those family planning methods which are not 100% safe fail and a young woman falls pregnant we are the same people to quickly judge, taint and insult. I call it hypocrisy. I call it failure to really have the right relationship with God. When we place two sins on a scale and decide which is less weighty and preach its adoption. If we decide to be religious about it then let us bear in mind that to God all sins are the same and no wrong is weightier than the other.
Legalising abortion has its demerits in that young people may use it as a method of family planning and endanger their health, making the whole reproductive health championing a self defeating cause. It’s illegality on the other hand is still placing a lot of young women under serious health complications as they either die or suffer permanent damage from unsafe abortions.
A representative with one of the organizations that deal with young people’s sexual health in Zimbabwe said initially there was a hesitation to introduce the morning after pill because of the fear that there would be a boom in unprotected sex and women would use it as an alternative form of family planning. That boom was never seen. She urged Zimbabwe to consider legalising abortion to ensure that lives would be saved.
One student clearly said whether you like it or not, young women are bound to get pregnant and abortions will continue to occur. She implored the relevant stakeholders to just legalise abortion and allow young women to make their own choices concerning their bodies.
Mpho, a student with the University of Pretoria in South Africa said while abortion is legal in South Africa young women still die from unsafe abortions due to the fear of going to those hospitals where they can get assistance. He said this was mainly caused by healthcare professionals who are often more ready to attack and judge than counsel young people on the pros and cons of such a decision.
Sally a law student with the University Of Botswana said Zimbabwe and her countrie’s legal framework on abortion were similar and she felt it was clearly a human right violation. She said let the law be there and let young people make their own choices.
I stand to be corrected but my sincere belief is that it’s not your very naughty and ‘morally incorrect’ girl who often aborts. It’s the church girl, well behaved and coming from a closely knitted family who does. Why? Because of the standards that have been set by the people around her, she cannot disappoint people who firmly believe in her and bring a ‘bastard’ in the family. This I believe is a very sad state of affairs.
No child is better than the other.
The abortion issue is better dealt with by a society that does not bastardise children. One that is less judgemental, one that does not turn a blind eye by pretending their child is not opening their legs. A society that takes out the log in its own eye, before subjecting young people to eye operations.
One gentleman had us in fits of laughter when he said, “All of you have disturbed the process of creation too, don’t you use family planning methods, didn’t someone in the bible get punished for ‘withdrawing’?” Well I don’t know if God intended beings to have a million children out of our million eggs and sperms but hey it was a grill.
May we have the ability to make our own choices: responsible and informed choices. May we also be able to face the consequences of whatever choices we make.
Just in a few words