As I mentioned in the previous column, these days I will be addressing issues related to the reform of the sexual and reproductive health law that is being raised by the Ministry of Equality. This week I want to talk about an issue that caught my attention when I learned about the reform proposal and that is the fact that abortion and obstetric violence can be protected under the same law and even more so, that the possibility fits – at least in my imaginary approaches – to recognize that obstetric violence is not only suffered in pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum; but also in abortion. One of the doubts I have at this time as a follower of these issues is what will be the scope of obstetric violence? Will it be framed within the traditionally recognized concept or will this social and legislative impulse be used to also recognize it in the dimension of abortion?
What we commonly know of obstetric violence is that of dehumanizing treatment that falls on women and people in situations of pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum; Well, the mistreatment received by pregnant women who decide not to carry that pregnancy to term – for whatever reason – is also obstetric violence. Talking about this is not so simple because if both concepts by themselves cause quite a stir, we can get an idea of what happens if they get together – and I attest to this with all the insults I receive on social media every time I talk about these topics. However, the right to freely decide on one’s own body and on whether or not to be a mother, without implying any harm or discrimination, is a human right and that must be discussed.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has been clear about the importance of safe abortions and how this is decisive in the morbidity and mortality of women in the world and how this safe abortion involves guaranteeing informed decision-making and voluntary, non-discrimination, confidentiality and being sensitive to their needs at that time. But we are not going to tell each other lies, most of the time this does not happen.
Women who decide to interrupt pregnancy are going against the social imposition of giving life, as that ultimate goal of the fulfillment of every woman and that makes a certain sector of society very uncomfortable. As much as the fact that they have a full sex life and enjoy pleasure. Perhaps that is why in both cases, giving birth or aborting, it is naturalized that a cost to pay is pain (let’s not forget extremely typical phrases in delivery rooms such as “when you did it you did not cry, do not cry or scream now”, “you liked the sweet , now bear the bitterness ”). But let’s think for a moment; if those who stop and meet the social expectation receive absolutely normalized harmful treatment, also reinforced under the religious idea of ”you will give birth in pain”; What can we expect from what happens to those who have dared to go against their “nature”, those who have decided to abort, those who have decided to “kill”.
The first barriers that women who decide to abort must go through are the criminalization to which they are exposed, administrative bureaucratic procedures and sometimes judicial ones. In Spain there are 12 provinces in which not a single abortion has been reported in years and it is not because the women have not requested it, but because they have not wanted to perform it.
Women who have come to have an abortion know what it is like to receive pejorative treatment and to be deprived of the right to privacy on many occasions. Thus, for example, being called to the consultation as “let the one who comes to have an abortion follow”, not offering them privacy for the consultation and the physical examination, delaying the procedure, re-victimizing them, trying to convince them to change their opinion, or at the moment of the procedure put them to endure thirst, hunger, cold, that they perform a curettage without anesthesia or that they refuse to treat their pain.
The first time I read about this was a few years ago, in a document of the Medical Group for the Right to Decide – Colombia, medical professionals who are part of a global network “Global Doctors for Choice” and who claim women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services, based on respect to the autonomy of their decisions. At that time it was very interesting to me and to this day I still believe that it is something that is little discussed in public debate and sometimes even on the feminist agenda. I am speaking specifically of the name, of the incorporation of all these mistreatments in the formal concept of obstetric violence, of recognizing that obstetric violence implies a broader definition than the aggressions that occur in pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum; and even only in hospitals and clinics, but that is another issue, which I have talked about before a little around here.
I do not know what approach the concept of obstetric violence will have in the law, and its mere incorporation is a huge advance. Hence the importance that we continue to speak and make visible obstetric violence also during abortion, a reality suffered by women who have decided not to give birth and to which society has been responding with criminalization and guilt. About that, you also have to speak and legislate.