We need to have safe access to abortion
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ABORTION. It is a word that more often than not causes a fierce divide amongst the populace. The procedure in which an embryo or fetus is deliberately terminated by the host before it can survive outside of the uterus is one that has always been mired in controversy. There is the “pro-life,” faction that is of the belief that life begins at conception and as such, abortion should be considered murder.

There is the “pro-abortion” faction (of which I am a proud member) who argues that reproductive rights are fundamental human rights. As such, one has a choice about whether or not they take an embryo/fetus to full term. Then, there is the “middle” faction (of which I used to be a member) that is ethically against abortion but support the host’s right to an abortion. There are shades of grey within this one though. While some support the right to an abortion, others believe that abortions should only be carried out in instances such as where it is necessary to abort the embryo/fetus to save the hosts life.

As someone who is pro-abortion, I understand the emotions of pro-lifers and those somewhere in the middle. However, many persons only hold this position because there are many myths surrounding abortion. One of the largest and most surprising myths surrounding abortion in Guyana is that it is illegal. Abortion has been legal in Guyana since 1996 under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act. Thinking of it, we have extremely progressive laws where abortions are concerned.

There had been one hick in it though. Before, while abortion was legal, it was not readily available. This is one of the tactics most often used by those who wish to hinder a woman’s access to an abortion. In the US, abortions are constantly being made harder for women to safely access given new policies and laws that see abortion clinics having to change their room and corridor sizes to abide by new policies.

Given these, many smaller clinics would have had to close their doors since they could no longer meet the minimum requirements and refurbishing would have been too expensive. Regulations such as these serve no other purpose other than to hinder the free access to abortions. In the US, due to a certain law, taxpayer dollars cannot be used to provide abortions. We had a similar situation here where abortions were not made available at public hospitals or clinics.

This has over the years been removed and abortions are now freely available at several public clinics and hospitals. The Georgetown Public Hospital (GPH), Suddie Hospital and New Amsterdam Hospital, Mahdia and Mabaruma are some of these places.

Due to the restriction before however, women would have either had to find the money for a private clinic or they would attempt to carry out an abortion themselves, or seek out someone who may not be necessarily qualified. With the number of self-attempted abortions and back-alley abortions that would have taken place due to poverty and inaccessibility, many lives were lost and many would have become sterile.

Even though abortions are freely available at some places, because of the stigma against abortion many women are still having ‘back alley’ abortions or seek to do it themselves. Only a year ago, a woman died after she injected gramazone into her stomach to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy. We cannot ignore the role stigma has to play in situations like that.

One of the most common pro-life deceptions used against abortion is that there are high risks involved and, that women who have abortions develop mental illness or feelings of regret. The only time an abortion has high risks involved is when someone who is not trained and certified to carry out the procedure attempts to do it That is why making abortions accessible is important.

You are not promoting abortions when you make it accessible you are saving lives. Also, various studies over the years have debunked the myth that abortions are regretted. The feeling most common with an abortion is relief and those who have had abortions state that it was the right decision for them at the time.

Now, let me explain the concept of bodily autonomy. This is often a concept that pro-lifers always have trouble understanding. Because I as a person have human rights, I have a say in what goes in to my body and what stays in.

I have the final say in what is done with my body. It is for this reason that while you can advise a diabetic patient that they need to take off a foot in order to survive, they have the final say in whether they want to get that foot amputated or not. It is also the reason that, unless you sign an organ donor consent form before your death, your body parts cannot be harvested. Because a embryo/fetus cannot survive on its own before a certain point, it is the mother’s choice to decide whether she wants to take the pregnancy to full term or not.

One of the myths that we need to stop touting is the one that states that abortion is used as contraception. This is an inaccurate claim used to muddy the waters in the abortion debate. Firstly, abortion and contraception are two entirely different things. While they both fall under the category of sexual and reproductive health, they are two distinctly different things. Contraception is a range of methods and devices available that helps to prevent unwanted pregnancies, whereas abortion is usually used as a last resort to get rid of a pregnancy. Many abortions only happen after contraception would have failed.

Then of course there are those who argue that instead of abortions, children should instead be put up for adoption. But why would you want to bring an unwanted child into a world that would further crush them? The amount of children who waste away and age out of foster homes is ridiculous. All of these children would most likely have harboured feelings of neglect and loneliness given their thoughts of abandonment. Then too, it isn’t as if pro-lifers are lining up at adoption centres to save the precious children. Their condemnation is based on a false and misplaced sense of morality.

Here’s the thing women will have abortions. No matter what policies or laws we put in place, they will have abortions. The only difference is that without necessary policies in place, safe access to abortion becomes difficult and botched abortions-related deaths would be on the rise. If we are serious about keeping our women safe, we sill seek to dismantle the stigma and fear surrounding abortion and create a space in which women do not feel attacked for wanting to have an abortion.

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