Laboring for Change
This story is part of a series exploring maternal health and reproductive rights across the world.
Click on the stories below to hear from other women on the front lines of calling for an end to a globalized war on women.
ARGENTINA: 500,000 Reasons to Legalize Abortion
In addition to financial burden, women who seek abortions face social stigma. Feelings of grief, guilt, isolation and punishment are ghosts that torture women’s lives in many of these cases.
“If this sorrow is mishandled it becomes pathological, with bio-psychosocial implications like psychotic depression with suicidal consequences,” says Grace Estefania, a psychologist who works in a public hospital. “Since most of the women who have abortions are alone or young, the risk takes dangerous levels. The stigma of the ‘clandestine situation’ increases the guilty feeling, because it’s socially criminalized. It’s not possible to address a proper therapy and control the situation. We don’t have a law that allows us to do that.”
What is the real crime and sin here? Since 1983, 3,000 women have died as a result of illegal abortions. I think the real crime is the inequality of our society; I say the real sin is the indifference towards a health crisis that affects mostly lower class women. In Latin America, mired in poverty and inequality, we put the burden and the blame on poor women who suffer or die from clandestine abortions while at the same time excluding them from other cultural and social services.
Why are we, as a society, criminalizing these women? Like the Gospel story, we are holding a stone in each hand, ready to punish the adulteress. But who could cast the first stone when the evidence reveals that we have our share of guilt in social inequalities—of which abortion is one of the cruelest expressions?
A New Paradigm
I think of my pregnancy and the early years raising my daughter. I had people behind me. My baby was a communitarian commitment. I owe my life to my family, my friends, and my neighbors. I had professors at university who allowed me to attend classes with my baby or leave early when I had to take her to the doctor. That’s how motherhood must be valued, no matter a woman’s social origin or marital status. Motherhood and child care are social responsibilities and all of us have a share in them. I am tired of hearing the cliché ‘children are the future.’ Mothers are the present.
We need a new concept of citizenship where women reclaim control over our bodies. We need early education that teaches responsible sexual behavior. We must implement clear policies on family, sexuality, and motherhood that, on one hand, prevent the situations that lead to an abortion and, on the other hand, provide a healthy and safe environment to receive an abortion when this is the path a woman decides to follow. True democracy must address our health, protect life, and support our decisions. Abortion is not a religious or philosophical dilemma. It is a public health emergency we have to face without hesitation. We need public policies based in equity for exercising our sexual and reproductive rights.
I got off the train and joined the mass of women behind a large canvas that read, "Educación sexual para decidir, Anticonceptivos para no abortar, Aborto legal para no morir,” meaning we need sexual education to make suitable decisions, free access to contraceptives to plan pregnancies, and—in cases where things don't go as planned—legal abortion to protect our lives.
The church’s threats of Hell haven’t prevented abortions. It is time to stop pointing fingers and take charge of the society we have. This is a historic moment for women to recover empowerment around our sexuality.
While the green flags of the march waved above my head, I knew hundreds of thousands of women were facing critical situations with damaging consequences very difficult to reverse.
On All Saints' Day, we gathered to make the forceful statement that we don’t want more of our women killed by illegal abortions. Those women could be our sisters, cousins, neighbors, friends, and co-workers. They could be me, my daughter, or even you. I have been blessed, which is why I support those women who have not been so blessed.
As a teenager, I chose to become a mom. Last November, I chose, with the same commitment, to march with other women to support the motion to decriminalize abortion. I want women to be able to seek help openly and without shame. The hypocrisy is killing us.
*Names have been changed to protect the well being of women who kindly gave their testimonies