Awareness: The only approach to abort stigma

When the removal of a foetus can save the life of an adult, therefore avoiding mishaps of sacrificing two lives at a time, termination of pregnancies should gain its approval.

 In Malaysia, abortion is permissible when a pregnancy may pose physical or mental danger to a pregnant woman. When safe abortion is not available, desperate pregnant women tend not to keep their foetus till delivery but to head for unsafe abortion.

Global data indicates that 13% of maternal deaths were caused by unsafe abortions and topping the list was haemorrhage (severe bleeding), which was 25%. This clearly shows the impact of having an unsafe abortion.

Imagine handing over a woman’s fate to another person who has no medical qualifications, no proper tools, not even a proper clinic, but claims to be “experienced” in terminating pregnancies. That would be more cruel to both mother and foetus in comparison to a safe abortion.

Stigma in society is the reason for these helpless women to resolve to unsafe abortion.

When having physical relationship is taboo, sexuality education will automatically be hindered. On the other hand, an open-minded society would lead to a more formal education system and abortion would be permissible in certain circumstances.

Unfortunately, the Malaysian education system is lacking the elements of CSE (Comprehensive Sexuality Education). CSE is extremely essential due to the fact that age of consent in Malaysia is 16 years old. This explains why teenagers are still not well equipped with knowledge about sexual relationships upon reaching the minimum age to consent to their participation in them. This contributes to unplanned pregnancies and unsafe abortions as well as heart-breaking cases of baby dumping.

According to the Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia (RRAAM), among 120 doctors and nurses asked about the law pertaining to abortion in Malaysia, only 57% correctly knew it. This shocking result indicates that medical personnel may be debating on whether a pregnant woman should carry on her pregnancy based on false perceptions. All decisions made are at the expense of the woman.

Awareness is the only approach to abort the stigma. Therefore, abortion ought to not only remain legal in Malaysia, but the knowledge of abortion and sexuality education should also be implanted in the education system to protect the rights of pregnant women.

The rights of pregnant women should not be ignored when making decisions, especially when their safety is threatened. Their final choice should be respected after consultation with a professional doctor.

This letter was written by our Youth Champion SUWEETA XIAO WEI from Malaysia in response to the article- Abortion is definitely not the way to solve the problem

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Autonomy and Abortion Access

beti bachao

 

We need more girls to be born they say. We need to stop the ‘gendercide’ that is taking place across the world, they say. For social justice. For women’s rights. For human rights.

While this is a compelling argument when taken at face value, if we take a moment to examine it more closely, the true nature of the discourse becomes clear. It sounds as though it is for women’s rights but in reality is it putting restrictions on them, using the excuse of sex determination while doing so.

If we are to recognize safe abortion as a right for women to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, then we cannot sit in judgement of which reason for it being unwanted is acceptable to us or not. This is especially true when people are uncomfortable around what is called a ‘selective’ abortion, whether it is for the sex of the fetus or a disability.

One could say simplistically that every abortion is in fact a selective abortion! That particular pregnancy is being terminated because it is not wanted. It is being ‘selected out’ of the reproduction cycle for some reason.

But of course when we say ‘selective’ we mean selective for a specific reason. Usually nowadays it is understood to mean a pregnancy being terminated because of the sex of the fetus. In India for example this usually means the selecting out of the female fetus and the choosing of the male fetus to continue.

Both parts of this are important to recognize as selective choices but the discourse, politics, debates and publicity usually focusses only on the abortion which selects out the female fetus. It is this unbalanced approach that has led to the continued failure of various ‘rescue’ programmes as well as the increasing utilization of this as ammunition by the anti- choice groups.

By showing up one of the ‘choices’ as inherently immoral/ cruel/ unfair/ discriminatory, they hope to tar all abortions with the same brush. Choice is inherently a bad idea they seem to say because you ‘cannot trust women’ and ‘they will choose it all wrong’.

Translation: Women will choose things that society/ partriachy will not approve.

It is worth considering if there is ever any true choice? Most “choices” are a direct result of limitations arising from or expectation imposed by a range of conditions such as personal reasons, family reasons, economic reasons (e.g., potential jobs for women, lack of equal pay, lack of maternity benefits, the cost of education) or state policy (e.g., one-child or two-child family norms, military recruitment).

So why do we allow the discussion to focus on macro-level numbers (i.e., country-specific sex ratios) when we should really be addressing individual rights?

Does not the insistence on girl children being born push the burden on individuals while the there is no meaningful intervention taking place to eliminate the gender discrimination that leads individuals to make that choice in the first place? The reality is that “choice” is not really exercised in a vacuum and the State can (and does) interfere with the reproductive freedom of individuals. If we want to ensure that women and couples do not choose to terminate a female fetus, we need to start addressing the reasons why the girl child is so unwanted.

We need to recognize that, like many other choices, this one is being made for the same economic reasons that drive so many others. A girl child is simply a financial liability in a patriarchal traditional culture that would not give that girl an equal opportunity in education, employment, earning capacity or support that would allow her to work after having children. Under this reality, the son basically operates as the old-age pension, social security and retirement plan rolled into one, and so the selection to have make children isn’t so much a “choice” after all.

Hence, long term strategies to address sex-selective abortion should address the lack of economic parity and gender equality first.

Ironically we find that the current rhetoric around the issue argues that– if girls are not born, how will the boys find brides?

It is appalling that such slogans have even been endorsed by government campaigns thus making it obvious that no one is making the link between sex determination as an expression of gender discrimination and the abysmal status of women.

Once again it bears repeating that those who find out it is a male fetus and choose to continue are also selectively choosing a reproductive outcome which is never penalized or even recognized as a selective act.

The entire issue of the sex ratio and the ‘imbalance’ is also something that is accepted at face value and never questioned.  There are projections of violence against women, rape, polyandry – as though there is no exploitation and abuse in societies with a ‘good’ sex ratio! The underlying argument is also a bit of a threat – ‘If you don’t have more girl children, don’t blame us for what happens next. We warned you’.

We live in the same country that worships the Mother Goddesses, considers motherhood to be the highest attainable purpose of any woman’s life, where women are still being killed as witches[i], where dowry is illegal but still being given in different forms and where a woman can be Defence Minister as well as defenseless all at the same time.

It is worth noting that the British passed the Female Infanticide Prevention Act in 1870[ii] in India, a full 100 years before the MTP Act and 110 years before ultrasound machines were being used for sex determination.

All that technology has done is moved the active selection process earlier in the reproductive timeline. It has not created a demand for the male child that did not exist for thousands of years already. It did not create a secondary status for women and make them an economic burden. That was the socio-cultural complex along with the patriarchal constraints which make it difficult for girls to obtain equal education, equal job opportunities, paid maternity leave and equal pay for equal work.

We know that selective abortions are also undertaken when the fetus is diagnosed with a disability. Those are usually considered as acceptable because the recognition that such a child would be a burden to its parents and they should be allowed to choose a better life for themselves.

Surely the same argument is valid for parents of a female child when the sex of the child makes her a liability, economically and socially and culturally due to the existing norms.

So do we work to eliminate the discrimination or ‘save’ the fetus?

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Transforming Education with CSE

 images (2)School is a place where much of the powerful life’s battles are played out. By recognizing that most of the young people spend half of their day in the classrooms, they are one of the most important place for talk, learning and building skills. Schools are precisely the place where young people can be engaged in safe, critical talk about bodies, sexuality, relationships, disabilities, young LGBTs, abortion, gender equality and sexuality as a human right. Any effort to clarify and deepen the conceptual understanding of sexual rights as human rights is a deeply political project. It is political both because of the importance and sensitivity of the sexuality and sexual issues, and this work will help to refashion the relationship between the individuals and state. 

Countries that have taken several initiatives in applying sexuality education and preventive programs had positive impact on adolescence life. Thus, such programs are vital in ensuring young people have the opportunity to explore the impact of rigid gender norms on their identities and behavior and to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes which will enable them to form healthy relationships based on equality and respect. One should have the right to survive into adulthood and develop in the broadest sense of the word. 

Comprehensive sexuality includes scientifically accurate information about human development, anatomy and reproductive health as well as information about contraceptives, childbirth and sexually transmitted infections including HIV. This education also includes discussions about family life, relationships, and culture and gender roles and also addresses human rights, gender equality and threats such as discriminations and sexual abuse. One aspects of sexual education that is often considered particularly challenging is the teaching of use of condoms as contraceptives and HIV preventions. Teenage girls who become pregnant leave school because of the inflexibility in the school structure and the lack of extra support and help.

In order to understand the sexual subjectivities more completely, educators need to reconstruct schooling as an empowering context in which we listen to and work with the meanings and experiences of sexuality revealed by the adolescence themselves. Sexuality is the central part of being human. Working on the gender equalities with the young people will contribute to preventing human rights violation and strengthen human rights education which can be a positive force driving towards the gender equality and empowerment. Accurate, easy to understand sexuality education enhances the quality of people’s lives by clarifying misconceptions and helping young people make informed choices. These include protection from harassment, infections and abuses. Sexuality education is a preventive tool against gender based violence, bullying and sexual abuse of children, through this sexuality education children develop awareness around their rights to be free from violence and to have healthy relationships.

Children with disabilities are one of the most marginalized groups by gender, social economic status, poverty, nationality, religion and sexual orientation. Inclusive education removes all such barriers and aim towards providing guidance to schools for reflection, planning and action for all children with special needs. The comprehensive and inclusive teaching and learning must be ensured to the greatest extent possible so that the differently abled children are given access to the education curriculum, participation in extracurricular activities, sports, culture, artistic, recreational and leisure activities. To achieve the goal of providing quality inclusive education, qualified personnel using teaching strategies responsive to different learning styles must be ensured alongside their non-differently abled peers for effective learning. 

The lack of understanding in distinguishing inclusion from special education shows the need to seeing the child as the problem to seeing the school as the problem. Inclusive education is different from special education because it aims to bring together children with disabilities into regular classrooms with adjustments to enable participation. Not all disabilities can be prevented so it is important to strive to make the society inclusive so that all children have the opportunity to fully participate in evaluating and rethinking all social problems.

Certain perspectives are not represented in our course material. To speak to both sexes and work across cultures avoiding the social norms, it is crucial to engage ourselves in improving the need to sustain a whole developed child. Transforming education isn’t about the change for the sake of change, it is to strive our teachers develop values in their students to guide them towards the vision of creating a better world and to see what is possible beyond what just is. 

This blog was written by Dolma Tshering Lhamo from Bhutan for a competition organized by our country advocacy network DRUK-Yisa and was awarded the first prize. 

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How parents explain induced abortion to kids in China

My name is Jiawei Hu. I am a teacher of net sexuality education for children and the founder of a social enterprise specializing in child sexuality education.

In addition to giving sexuality education classes to these children, I often give advice about sex education to many parents via WeChat.

Not long ago, I met a parent who consulted me. The child suddenly went home and asked him what the painless abortion was and it scared the parents a lot because they have no idea how to respond to the child.

What China lacks most is sexuality education.

In the eyes of parents, sexuality is like a scourge. They seem to think that  letting children know more about sexual knowledge will cause many problems. In China, condoms are not allowed to be advertised as sexual health products. However, advertisements about induced abortion can be posted all over the street.

More and more young people are choosing premarital sexuality. The data show that about 60% of unmarried adolescents in China have a relatively acceptable attitude toward premarital sexuality.

However, due to the absence of sexuality education and lack of information about contraception, unintended pregnancies caused by unprotected sex have become the most critical problem for young people.

A set of data released by the National Population and Family Planning Commission Science and Technology Research Institute in 2013 shows that China’s annual abortions are as many as 13 million, ranking first in the world. Nearly 50% of them are young people under the age of 24. 8% of girls aged 15-19 have had sexual experience and the rate of multiple pregnancies is higher than that of girls aged 20-24.

Behind the 13 million person-times flow data is an extremely large gray market.

Driven by a certain group with a kind of notorious private hospital owned by businessmen from a specific region that only focus on the profits instead of patient’s health, abortion advertisements are frequently seen in every corner of the street, though they have been banned.

The three-minute painless slogan misleads a large number of teenagers. In their view, it seems that painless abortion is a relaxed and simple method of contraception. The Yangcheng Evening News, one of the most famous newsletter in Guangzhou, once reported that a 16-year-old girl had had four abortions.

The flood of painless advertising has also led to more and more children seeing ads about abortion. I remembered that I had seen a parent making fun of her son on the Internet. Her son impressed the teacher with his Chinese sentences. Other children fill (crowded) stream of people, (bustling) stream of people, and his children fill (painless) stream of people! (???means stream of people and abortion in Chinese).

Many parents, faced with their children’s questions, often choose to be evasive even scold their children. For example, when the child see the billboard of painless abortion, he ask his dad: what is the meaning of painless abortion?

His father would be obviously aware that people around him will give him a strange gaze if he answers the question directly. Normally the “clever” Chinese father will quickly respond to the child, “go home and ask your mother.

Right! Ask your mother, the man like me don’t understand such of thing. This causes the child to come home and chase the mother and ask, “Mom, what is a Painless abortion?”

But in my opinion, the earlier the child understands the principles of pregnancy, the methods of contraception, and the pros and cons of abortion, the better for the growth of the child. So the problem is coming!

When children ask parent what is abortion, how should I answer it?

Here is my advice: we can answer in this way: “Remember where you came from? You came from your mother’s tummy. There is a part in the mother’s tummy called the uterus. You used to live in your mother’s uterus. Some moms and dads are ready to have a baby; the fertilized egg will grow up little by little in the uterus. Finally, it will come out of the mother’s vagina and become a little baby. A caesarean mother can also show her baby the scar at night and tell the baby that he (she) came out of the uterus. ”

But some moms and dads are not prepared; they feel that they are not able to take care of the baby. Therefore, they will choose an abortion to avoid the birth of the baby. Some fathers and mothers are prepared, but doctors have found that the fetus is not healthy and even has some serious diseases. So they will also choose abortion surgery to let the baby be born later.

And there are girls who don’t want to get pregnant, but get pregnant because of sexual abuse. They will also choose abortion surgery to protect themselves. Because surgery will have a little pain, so some hospitals will give pregnant women anesthetic, so that the abortion will not be painful.

Rather than telling your child what an abortion is, it’s more important to tell your child how you think about it.

We can answer like this: Although painless abortion is good, it is better for us to get enough information beforehand, and we must do a good job in contraception as well. Just like mom and dad, if we don’t want another baby, mom and dad will practice contraception well, so mom won’t be pregnant. However, sometimes having an abortion is the only way to not have the baby, if the baby is not healthy.

Taking the opportunity to pass on the values of responsibility to the children, we can say like this: taking care of the baby is a very difficult thing. If the parents are unable to take care of the baby, it will make the parents and the baby unhappy. We hope that you can become a responsible person. If your child is a girl, you must teach her to be responsible for her own health and to use contraception. Reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancies. If your child is a boy, teach him to be responsible for the health of another girl, and do a good job of contraception to reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancy. Above all, tell your children that we hope that you will become a responsible parent in the future and be responsible for the baby. Be prepared to be a parent, take good care of your baby, and let your baby grow up healthy and happy.

Of course, these answers are not to tell the child all at once. Based on your judgment of your child, speak as much as your child can understand. But it must be remembered that today the child asks you what is an abortion, if you choose to avoid, the child will eventually know from other people.

It is even possible to see “three minutes painless abortion” as a means of contraception. It is common to see the case that a girl has abortion several times or even a dozen times. After all, the advertisement about three minutes painless abortion is all over the place but the condoms which can prevent contraception and AIDS are not allowed to be mentioned on TV.

Sexuality education is a gradual and continuous activity. Although unwanted pregnancies and miscarriages are part of the education aimed to teenagers, but in my opinion, children also need it.

With the explosive development of information, younger children are beginning to get more and more information. Children are beginning to know things we once thought only young people knew. We need earlier help for children to have a more scientific understanding of pregnancy and abortion, so as to make them capable of understanding these situations and making responsible decisions when it is their time.

 

Jiawei Hu, the founder of Soy & Pea Technology Co. Ltd, which company is focus on children sexuality education. Hu is a member of the Youth Committee of the China Sexology Association, is Forbes China’s “30 elites under 30” in 2017. Hu has sexuality education and teaching experience for 7 years. During his work, he served as a trainer of peer education hosts in universities in Jiangsu Province and project manager of Wuxi National Youth Health Project.

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Global Gag Reflex?!

GGR Image1

10 things you need to know about the global gag rule!

1. How GGR came to be

The Mexico City Policy was first introduced in 1984 by the then President of United States Ronald Reagan. Ever since, The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has either reinforced or rescinded the policy under the leadership of every President. All of the Republican administrations have enforced the Mexico City Policy, most recent one being republican president Donald Trump. On the other hand, all the Democratic administrations have rescinded the policy, with President Barack Obama having done so most recently during his eight years of presidency.

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2. Basic built up of the GGR

The ‘Mexico City Policy,’ better known as the ‘Global Gag Rule’ is a United States government policy which prevents NGOs that provide abortion related services and/or counselling, any access to U.S. federal funding. The rule forces organisations to choose between either providing the much needed comprehensive sexual & reproductive health care without any U.S. funding or complying with the policy in order to accept financial aid from U.S. government. In other words, any organisations that provide abortion related services or even mere counselling about termination of pregnancy, forfeit their access to US government funding.

3. How does it restrict essential health care

When we talk about US government funding, we are talking about BILLIONS OF DOLLARS! The Global Gag rule in reality increases the number of unsafe abortions instead of reducing abortions. As many healthcare providers lose access to US funding, they are forced to reduce staff or even shut down. People in the affected areas especially women are hence stripped of their access to contraceptives which leads to an increase in the number of unwanted pregnancies.

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As the healthcare providers have to survive without US funding, services other than abortion and contraception are also adversely affected. Developing countries are most affected by this policy due to shortage of their own funding.

4. Donald following Ronald’s footsteps, made it worse.

Donald Trump as the 45th president of United Stated took office on january 20th, 2017. On January 23, 2017, in one of his first acts as President he, reinstated and expanded the Global Gag Rule. As it stands currently, the rule targets international organizations that work on any programs funded by U.S. global health assistance — including programs to expand access to contraception, prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, combat malaria, and improve maternal and child health.

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In other words, organisation cannot get funding from US for any of their programs if even one or any of these programs even discuss abortion with patients. Hence- The GAG rule!!

To make the matters worse, this new and expanded gag rule also denies funding to NGOs who collaborate or receive another set of funding from organisations that provide abortion services. If I work with an organisation that provides abortion related services or receive funding from them for one of my healthcare programs which is not at all related to abortion, I forfeit my claim to US federal funding all the same due to my association with an organisation who provides MTP services. Small NGOs hence either have to give up their association/funding with such organisations or give up US federal funding.

5. Aftermath= Increase in number of unsafe abortions.

Let us get one thing clear, there is no such thing is ‘no abortion’. There are only ‘safe abortions’ and ‘unsafe abortions’.

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If we look at the term ‘UNWANTED PREGNANCY’ doesn’t it become clear that this is something that the woman doesn’t want? By restricting access to safe abortion, the women who wish to terminate their pregnancies have to look for other ways to terminate their pregnancy. As this policy literally gags NGOs (and doctors and nurses working with them) from even talking abortions, the women in the dependant area (mostly developing countries) go to the “back alley” to get abortions. These unsafe abortions very often can and do result in the death of the women.

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Women who don’t want abortion are not going to surrender to “motherhood” just because they don’t have access to safe medical care to terminate the pregnancy. Lack of access to safe and legal abortions is going to result in women swinging themselves down the staircase or even shoving coat hangers in the uterus in an attempt to terminate the pregnancy.
Do these procedures sound safe to you?

6. No discrimination while discriminating

As previously discussed, this policy not only affects the abortion services but also adversely affects other healthcare services. Contraceptive aids, HIV/AIDS affect all people but unsafe abortions and lack of abortion services only ‘kills’ women. Eliminating conversations around abortion and preventing its access is a way of denying women’s autonomy over their bodies. Mexico City Policy literally introduces global politics into women’s uterus.

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Even though this policy is discriminatory towards women, it doesn’t consider any exceptions within the gender. Irrespective of the reason behind abortion, this policy implies to every single case.
An NGO that discussed or provided abortion to a rape victim or medically endangered pregnancy, will forfeit the funding all the same.

7. Need to trash GGR

“The global gag rule is undermining our nation’s legacy as a leader and innovator in global health. The global health funding the U.S. provides to countries around the world should be used as a tool to expand people’s access to care, not restrict it.”
– Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Other than all the reasons discussed above, this policy is harmful to the world we live in. It allows government to take your most personal decisions instead of you. By promoting policies like this one, we are taking a step back. This Policy is in direct contradiction with the human rights and the ideology of freedom.

GGR Image 8

Swedish deputy prime minister Isabella Lovin (L) signs a referral of Swedish climate law, witnessed by seven female colleagues, imitating a viral photograph of US president Donald Trump signing an executive order. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/is-sweden-s-deputy-pm-parodying-trump-with-all-woman-photo-1.2963975

8. Administrative explanation for enforcing GGR.

The explanation behind GGR is that US federal fund is tax payers’ money and many of the citizens are who are anti-abortion, do not want their money being used for supporting such cause. The Mexico City Policy’s motives are parallel with that of Hyde Amendment. In US politics, the Hyde Amendment is a legislative provision barring the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except to save the life of the woman, or if the pregnancy arises from incest or rape. The difference between the two is that Hyde Amendment at the least recognises exceptions for cases of rape and incest. Hyde Amendment was introduced in 1997. The entire explanation for enforcing The Mexico City Policy, rests on conscientious objection that tax payers who do not support abortion should not have to fund NGOs for the same, directly or indirectly.
The government is not using tax payers money to support causes that many of them do not support on moral level.

9. Objection to the conscientious objections.

The major contradiction with the administrative explanation for enforcing GGR, is that while honouring the wishes of part of the population who doesn’t want their tax money being used for abortion support, the government is conveniently ignoring the rest of the population who doesn’t object to their tax money being used for abortion health care.
Another major contradiction can be seen with selectivity of the administration regarding human rights, Administration says to believe that the tax payers should not be forced to pay money towards a cause that they do not support on a moral ground, but at the same time the administration creates barriers that take away a women’s autonomy over her own body. If the administration chooses to follow a rights-based approach when it comes to utilising the tax money, then how come the same administration denies the rest of the world even the most basic human rights?

If I don’t support democracy will I be allowed not to pay taxes as I morally do not support it?

10. Why you should support safe abortion rights

One simple reason: you should support an individual to make their own choices and practice autonomy. It is not your uterus and you don’t have to face the consequences of the pregnancy, hence your morals and your beliefs have no standing in that decision.

#NotJustAUterus 5.2

 

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