The global gag rule which was reinstated by President Trump on 23rd January 2017, stops any aid to NGOs that even discusses abortion services, let alone provides them to its patients in foreign countries. This “pro-life” move restricts the NGOs from utilizing not only US foreign aid but also funds raised through other sources from being utilized for anything related to abortion.
So, the question arises – should a country impose its ideas onto privately held organizations working with women’s health? Should a woman be given a choice in the matter of her own sexual health including abortion rights? Or is it a matter to be decided by apparently better informed men.This is an age old debate with many holding rigid views and strong beliefs, often derived from religion and tradition.
A pregnancy cannot be forced on a woman – it’s as simple as that. It’s her body and should be her choice. What about cases when the woman is raped? Should she be forced to continue the pregnancy? Or when the girl is a minor? What about instances when there is a possibility of a serious health issue or danger to the mother?
Also, with the advent of Advanced Ultrasound techniques, we are able to definitively determine abnormalities in the fetus as early at 12 weeks into the pregnancy. What about those circumstances where are grave fetal issues? Should the women be given the choice then? Also, there is the case where the woman is not ready to have a baby (the first or the 10th) mentally, physically or financially just then.
Our views on each of these situations may differ or we might choose to choose “Choice” every time. However, the answer to all the above questions according to the Indian Legal system is: Yes, a woman is allowed to choose to terminate the pregnancy in many cases before 20 weeks. This is also in accordance with the United Nations norms which gives the woman the right to decide when and how she wants to conceive and have a baby, the right to contraception, and knowledge of sexual health.
However, this is sadly not the case in multiple other countries around the world. According to Amnesty International, in many countries like El Salvador, Ireland, and Chile, abortion is criminalized and can even result in a prison sentence ranging from 6 months to 50 years.
Also in the US, the global gag rule has been previously active under 2 presidents Ronald Reagan And George W. Bush. It has resulted in limited access and incomplete information to women about their own sexual health. It has been proven to result in limited access to contraception in developing countries leading to an increase in the number of unsafe abortions. The direct consequence of which was an increase in maternal mortality rate. This time around is going to be no different.
I believe a woman needs to be given a choice. Abortion should not be forced on a woman. Neither should she be forced to carry on an unwanted pregnancy. As a woman and a mother, I empathize with anyone who has ever had to undergo an abortion. The process is surely a physically as well as mentally agonizing one. I wouldn’t think any woman would ever choose it unless it was warranted. Let her choose. Give her the power of choice over her own health and body.
We would love to hear your views. Should A Women Be Given A Choice About Her Own Body?
by Namratha Varadharajan
Namratha is a digital marketer in the making. Other than her love for the written word and her kids, she enjoys Italian food, dancing and gardening. Explore more of her writings at www.namysaysso.com