Illegal abortion is a public health problem because it increases maternal mortality and has negative effects in women’s mental health.
October 9th, 2019. Yesterday in the afternoon, at the headquarter of the Goethe Institute, in Caracas’ Altamira neighbourhood, organisations participating in the #MadreSiYoDecido (mother If I decide it) campaign proposed the need to decriminalise the voluntary interruption of unwanted and unplanned pregnancies, up to the 12th week of pregnancy, as part of the defence of women’s autonomy over their bodies but also to prevent women’s deaths in clandestine and unsafe abortions.
The above mentioned demand was done at a forum called “Women’s experience through voluntary abortion in contexts of criminalisation and secrecy”. This training activity falls within a series of forums that are taking place with a number of women’s organisations participating in the #MadreSiYoDecido campaign, in the framework of the day for Global Action for the access to Safe and Legal Abortion, known as the International Safe Abortion Day, on September 28th.
The speakers of the forum were activists from the feminist collective Las Comadres Púrpuras. In the first presentation, Kika Martorell explained to us the phases a woman with an unwanted pregnancy experiences in a context where abortion is criminalised, which is the case of Venezuela.
According to the feminist psychologist, knowing of an unwanted pregnancy women assume this situation with surprise, and must decide over the continuity or not of this pregnancy in a social context where maternity is praised and abortion is stigmatised, causing anxiety and anguish.
In that moment due to different reasons such as economic hardship, personal projects, distrust in her preparation, absence of a stable sentimental relationship or denial of maternity, there are women who decide to interrupt voluntarily an unwanted and unplanned pregnancy.
Due to the criminalisation, they must concrete this decision in a clandestine manner, which increases their anxiety and anguish, as they start fearing for the risks over their bodies and lives.
In this sense, a clandestine abortion practiced surgically or pharmaceutically implies social vulnerability, physical pain, the possibility of being scammed by the illegal networks that control the medicines, feelings of guilt due to the social context and death. This aggravates much more when clandestine abortion is done through completely unsafe, precarious and aggressive manners such as soapy solutions or clothes’ hooks. Therefore, the decriminalisation of abortion has reduced maternal mortality in the countries where this has been achieved.
After the abortion is done, in some occasions women suffer emotional states of sadness and depression, which have a biological origin in hormonal unbalances, but also in a social context that blames and judges women who have decided to interrupt an unwanted and unplanned pregnancy.
In the words of Kika Martorell, this shows that the need to decriminalise abortion is also important for women’s mental health, and the warranty of their sexual and reproductive rights, framed in sexual education programs and access to contraceptives.
“nor the government or the traditional opposition include in their legislative agenda the decriminalisation of abortion, demonstrating that the two main political blocks of the country turn their backs against the needs of Venezuelan women”
In the second talk, political scientist Francesca Pérez explained that in Venezuela there is three clandestine networks accompanying women who decide to interrupt an unwanted and unplanned pregnancy. These organisations offer information, advisory and two of them provide the pills free of charge. According to the feminist political scientist, the three clandestine networks play a political subversive role that is extremely important, because they save women’s lives and prevent them from being imprisoned for practicing an abortion in a context of criminalisation in Venezuela.
The feminist activist concluded that the role played by these organisations must be amplified by women themselves, because, despite the ongoing economic and humanitarian crisis, nor the government or the traditional opposition include in their legislative agenda the decriminalisation of abortion, demonstrating that the two political blocks of the country turn their backs against the needs of Venezuelan women, who demand as well as their sisters in other Latin American countries:
Sexual education to decide,
Contraceptives to avoid abortion and
Legal abortion to avoid dying!
For more information on Las Comadres Púrpuras you can visit their website here.