By Ipshita Agarwal
Hillary Clinton’s views on abortion and unintended pregnancies
She chose what she wanted to study, chose the school she went to, chose the dress she wanted to wear, chose the friends she made, made independent decisions for everything from a pin to an airplane in her life.
But could not choose whether she wanted to have a baby, whether she was ready to be responsible for another life apart from hers. Whether she was prepared to be a mother.
This is the story of innumerable women across the world; women who do not have a say in the number and timing of children they want to bear.
Civil rights’ activists argue for Right to food, shelter, right to freedom of expression, right to equality; but, most of them forget about the basic right of ‘right over one’s body.’ In many countries around the world, women are not given a say in the number of children they want to bear. Further, in others, women are unaware about the concept of contraceptives. Those who are aware, are not allowed to use them or do not have access to them. Women’s bodies are treated as state objects, to be used to achieve the state’s objectives.
Miss Hillary Clinton, former US first lady and Secretary of State from 2009- 2013, on the event the 32nd anniversary of the landmark case of Roe Vs Wade; expressed her views on abortion; a topic that is tabooed in most countries around the world. Miss Clinton did not mince her words as she talked about the state control on reproduction in countries like Romania and China; where, on one hand, in countries like Romania, women are forced to have babies; and on the other, in countries like China, women are sterilized against their will to prevent pregnancies.
Miss Clinton talked about abortion. Abortion as a whole is deemed undesirable; an end to a life that could have been. But the problem does not begin there. Abortion is not the problem. Abortion is a manifestation of the problem. The problem lies in unintended pregnancies. Unintended pregnancies; whether teen pregnancy or otherwise, mostly end in abortion; and when they don’t, they result in oppressed and unwilling mothers, weak children and a harsh society that they have to face.
Teenage pregnancy is often a result of in-the-moment actions, unavailability of contraceptives, social pressure etc. Miss Clinton termed ‘teenage celibacy’ as the solution to teenage pregnancy. In most cultures, it is considered undesirable to get pregnant, as early as teenage. Religious and moral values hold back girls from getting pregnant; and it is these values that will have to be stressed upon, to prevent teenage pregnancy. Abortion is only the ‘cure’. The ‘prevention’ lies in being able to prevent teenage pregnancies in the first place.
The only way to reduce unintended pregnancies is through the availability and affordability of contraceptives. In some countries, contraceptives are not available across the counter; while, in others, they are too expensive to be affordable by the lower income women. If prescription drugs can be covered under health plans, why not prescription contraceptives?
By preventing unintended pregnancies, contraception reduces the need for abortion. Improving insurance coverage of contraception will make it more affordable; and thus reduce the rate of abortion.
All around the world, particularly in developing countries like India, violence on women takes many forms, some as gruesome as rape. Rape is not a woman’s choice. The resulting pregnancy is not a woman’s choice. Herein lies the importance of ‘emergency contraceptives’. Availability and affordability of emergency contraceptives will help to prevent the abortions that result from such unintended pregnancy.
In Miss Clinton’s words, “Contraception is basic health care for women, and the burden for its expense cannot fall fully on all women, many who after all live below that poverty rate, and in many instances above it, but not by very much and have a hard time affording such prescriptions.” The need of the Government to intervene and cover contraception under insurance schemes is hence evident. The use of contraceptives will reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies; thereby reducing the number of abortions.
Hillary Clinton’s speech on abortion is an eye opener, her views and support of contraceptives comes at a time when teenage pregnancies are on the rise, even in developed countries like the US. Some believe that this speech is Miss Hilton’s way of starting her presidential campaign, of moving to the centre and bridging the gap.
Whether it is that, or not, only time will tell. But the message that Miss Clinton wants to convey is very clear. It is time we sit straight and pay heed. It is time women were allowed to own their bodies and were given a right to choose, to bear children or not. It is time contraceptives become so widely used, that abortion becomes ‘safe, legal and rare’.