Runet was agitated with the news from the Penza region, Russia, for two day straight. Ivan Belozertsev, the local governor, announced a new initiative for the prevention of abortion among Penza citizens. Now, not only a psychologist, but also “representatives of the female community” and the head of the municipality should mandatorily have a meeting with a woman, who decided to have an abortion, in order to dissuade her from this decision. “We should talk with every woman, fight for the birth of every child”, stated Mr. Belozertsev. According to him, those of his subordinates, who will not actively engage in the prevention of abortion, that is those, in whose areas the number of abortions will remain the same, will be dismissed.
This initiative causes ambivalent feelings.
It is encouraging to hear that not all Russian officials maintain a well-known attitude, “We did not ask your parents to give birth to you!” If Penza values the life of every citizen including the life of the unborn, if abortion is viewed as a serious social evil, this can only be welcomed. It is also gratifying to hear that during these meetings and conversations Mr. Belozertsev requires, among other things, that a financial assistance is offered to a woman if problems with money or housing are what prevent her from having a child. Assuming that abortion can be a trouble for a woman herself and offering her help is already a way out of this vicious paradigm that pro-lifers and pro-choicers share.
Yet the very concept, according to which abortion prevention begins in the antenatal clinic, where the pregnant woman comes for “referral”, and includes more important and eloquent people pressing this pregnant woman trying to “dissuade” her, is deeply flawed.
Waiting at the gates of the antenatal clinic, blocking the women, who are going to kill their children, begging them not to commit this terrible sin, and then rejoicing that one more life has been saved! That is exactly how pro-lifers and their opponents see their work. Ordinary pro-lifers stand with posters and hand powerful leaflets out, organize “educational talks” with pregnant women. However, which worldview does this line of action come from?
It is apparently assumed that a woman lives in a vacuum. She gets pregnant either from a pigeon or from parthenogenesis: in general, without a man’s participation. She gets pregnant on her own, and then goes to an abortion as well, on her own. Why? Well… because she is a fool, probably. She does not know what she wants. Or maybe she just likes it. Perhaps, she is a maniac-masochist, for whom killing children and cutting herself is fun, and if she manages to combine it… In short, it is some kind of her whim. Personal business and free choice: pro-lifers and pro-choicers suddenly happen to agree on this.
Fighting the groundless and meaningless “whim” with anything except for persuasion or prohibition is impossible.
However, in fact, abortion is not just a social evil, but a symptom and manifestation of a whole tangle of deeper evils.
There are no women, who do it out of a whim or for pleasure. Termination of a pregnancy is a painful, traumatic for the body, physiologically and psychologically difficult operation. “Wanting” to do this to oneself: literally in the same way as people want sex or ice cream – is impossible. The desire to have an abortion is an indicator that something went wrong in a woman’s life, that something horrible happened to her.
Perhaps, she got pregnant, although she did not want it at all: either as a result of violence on the man’s part or because she did not know how (or her partner did not know how or did not want) to use protection, or because there was no money for buying protection.
Perhaps, she wanted to have a child and to raise them, but then something disrupted her plans. The future father “called it quits”; some tragedy has befallen a family and there is neither time nor energy for a new child; the financial situation has worsened. She is alone, feels helpless, and is afraid she cannot handle it.
Perhaps, she is forced to have an abortion by a man or her parents (if it is a young woman). Anyway, something that she absolutely did not want and does not want now has happened to her, but she sees no other way out.
A woman, just like all of us, lives in a society: nowhere is her dependence more pronounced than during pregnancy and childbirth. It is physically impossible to get pregnant alone, without the will and active participation in the “process” of a man. It is also impossible to give birth to a child and to raise them without the help of society: both one’s family’s and a wider range’s (including maternity homes, hospitals, kindergartens, child allowances, etc.).
Abortion is the edge, at which a whole tangle of problems comes together and becomes visible.
Poorness: severe and humiliating poorness, in which the child’s birth plunges a family into poverty, and the birth of a younger child literally takes a piece of bread from the older one.
Sexual illiteracy. Due to the advancement of the Internet, which “has everything”, it is, alas, only growing and getting stronger. One can really find anything on the Internet as well as the wildest myths. A teenager or an uneducated person, who has gone looking for the sex-enlightenment on the Internet, will come back not educated, but completely confused. A serious sexual education: without “strawberries”, seasonings in the form of ideologies, superstitions, and sexual fantasies focused not on “positions” or “multigender tolerance”, but on banal safety techniques, is still very lacking.
Violence, direct or indirect: as well as in a family. Visitors of women’s forums know how often the following situation is discussed, “What should I do? My husband does not want to wear condoms at all, he says that it does not feel the same!” Female contraception will pierce a hole in the family budget; contraceptives are inexpensive and available, but they weaken the experience: this is much more terrible for the household head than killing children and injuring his wife with multiple abortions. As you can imagine, nobody invites this husband to heart-to-heart talks with psychologists, priests, and heads of municipalities. Strangely, a man, the father of a child is absent from this worldview at all.
Negative and accusatory position of society. For a woman in distress, who is, for example, pregnant, without a husband and does not know how she will live alone with a child, there will always be someone teaching, blaming, lecturing her, and explaining to her that she is the one to blame and that she should have thought about it beforehand. Educators, moralists, and gossipers, who take a lively interest in the face of her morality, line up to her. Yet there are only a few assistance centers for pregnant women and mothers in crisis situations all over our huge country. There are even less systems of permanent support for children from single-parent families.
The attitude itself to motherhood and children in everyday life… is, let us say, ambivalent. Many love talking abstractly about how good it is to have children and how important demography is. Yet regular holy wars on such topics as “do not breastfeed in public places!”, “do not go by train/bus/plane with children!”, “there is nothing for a child to do in a museum/theatre/café…” clearly show that people do not want to see other people’s children near them or even more so to participate in their lives.
Now, perhaps, activists have gathered around a pregnant woman and shout in chorus, “Do not kill your child!”, but if she really decides not to kill them, she will be alone later on.
Abortion is not a separate problem that exists in a vacuum; attempts to limit abortion by the use of more or less “force” (from persuasion to prohibition) without paying attention to its grounds are unlikely to lead to something good.
Yes, abortion statistics in the city of N will improve. Especially if the head of municipality, who was promised to be fired for failure, without further ado and without indulging in the psychological subtleties, will start simply threatening women or pressure them.
It does not matter that after this some of these women will slowly go to “white witches”, some will drown a newborn in a bucket, some will send them to a children’s home, some will have their child die due to neglect, some will be beaten to death by their own parents. After all, this is a different statistic.
Translated by Julia Frolova