Making our own decisions as we enter the real world makes us wonder if we will ever be mature enough to handle the more difficult and controversial issues faced by our generation. It is true that on an ideological level, many of us have formed our opinions on difficult topics such as abortion, but the question that stands: how would anyone handle an abortion if they felt that they must get one.
When going to find information on this topic, a barrage of information is placed before you – from medical facts to emotional encounters. Rarely will you find an opinion by a South Asian woman regarding abortion. This may partially be due to the choice of anonymity that many women make – and South Asian women often make such a choice, not discussing it with anyone else for fear of being judged.
The lack of discussion on the topic stems from a lack of societal acceptance, creating a stigma against women who would opt for an abortion under certain circumstances. “I feel like the topic is discouraged in the South Asian community only so today’s youth does not abuse the privilege to fool around,” said Rizwan Ahmad, a recent graduate from Penn State University.
Historically, abortions in South Asia focused on a man’s right to decide whether he wanted a female child or not. Yet, the physical pain and emotional after-effects were the sole burden of the woman’s to bear. Recently, such abortions were outlawed, and women were awarded the right to make decisions pertaining to their own bodies. However, legal often does not mean safe, or socially acceptable. Being home to 30% of the world’s birth-related deaths, 13% of which are related to unsafe abortions, the South Asian stigma against abortion is only slowly evolving.
Often misunderstood as merely “birth control” for irresponsible sex, abortion carries with it numerous psychological and circumstantial considerations. As stated in Medical News Today, while some women feel that they have made the right decision to abort a pregnancy, others suffer negative emotional responses including grief, guilt, anger, shame and regret often caused by societal pressures, religious and moral beliefs, and hormonal changes.
But, those are medical facts and statistics, the question we are trying to understand is how to deal with the issue of abortion as a South-Asian American.
“Honestly, I feel that that South Asian community hasn’t even turned that corner. I feel that the idea of sex before marriage is shocking as it is, to think of abortion is often mind numbing,” says Reena* a current law student. Taking this reality into consideration, the first step to understanding the reality of abortion is recognizing that it exists – although not openly in the South Asian American society.
In 1995, 1.2 million abortions took place in the United States, of which at least 5.5% of the women described themselves as “South Asian.” With the laws in the United States under Planned Parenthood v. Casey, these women do not need the consent of anyone else before getting procedure, unless they are under the age of 18. This ability to step in and out of the clinic provides many of these women the safety of preserving their “reputations” in the South Asian community, while suffering through the emotion and physical after-effects of abortion on their own. “Often, women choose not to discuss the procedure with their boyfriends, husbands, or significant others for fear of becoming emotionally involved in the procedure itself,” Dr. Asha.*
So the question remains, how can one handle a procedure as invasive and socially difficult as abortion. Below are a few is a short guide for women who have made the decision to get an abortion:
1. Discuss it with your significant other.
Pregnancy does not occur from the act of a single person, and therefore it is important to involve the male counterpart in the healing process. While not every man may be receptive to your needs during this process, it is important to give them the chance to be there. It may be easier to discuss the procedure with your significant other than even your best friend. “The most important responsibility for a man in regards to abortion is to provide support for the woman; it is she who has to carry the child and make sacrifices in her life abruptly that the man does not have to make. By supporting the woman, the man will be able to show he is capable of being responsible for the woman as she makes her decision about having a child or not,” said Sharath Vallabhajosyula, a graduate student at Milano, New School for Management & Urban Policy.
2. Research the procedures for abortion.
If you choose a procedure involving general anesthesia, you will need to have someone be there to drive you home. In the alternative to a surgical in-clinic procedure, there is also an option for a pill that will induce an abortion. More details on these procedures can be found on plannedparenthood.com.
3. Do not attend the required counseling sessions alone.
Many states require women to undergo counseling before obtaining an abortion in which they often show women pictures of an aborted fetus, and ask these women about their reasons for an abortion. These counseling sessions are often emotionally draining for women who have spent a considerable time making the decision to go to that clinic.
If you do not have someone to go with you, then read up on these counseling sessions so that you are prepared for what you will see and hear.
4. Take care of your health after wards.
Stock up on the vitamins, keep a journal, or have someone you can talk to. A major stigma after abortion is walking around thinking “I wonder if that stranger can tell what I just did.” The weeks following an abortion will not be easy, emotionally or physically, so it is important to take care of your cumulative health.
At the end, abortion is not an easy topic, an easy decision, or an easy procedure. There are many factors involved in it, and as well as the fear of an ever-present societal stigma. As societal change progresses, the topic may become easier to discuss in a South Asian community, but there is a long way before the decision will become easier. - BENISH SHAH