A viral Reddit thread is highlighting why women all over the world desperately need not only access to safe abortions, but to reproductive health resources in general.
In a thread on r/TwoXChromosomes, redditor borninabiggreycloud recounted how her Cuban grandmother had 33 illegal abortions between 1954 and 1966. (Abortion has been available via the national health care system since 1965.)
According to the thread, borninabiggreycloud's grandmother got married at 16 and got pregnant for the first time when she was 20. She lived in poverty with a philandering husband who refused to wear condoms. "She couldn't refuse sex either, women were basically considered property and that meant their husbands had more rights over their bodies than they did," borninabiggreycloud wrote.
After giving birth to several healthy children, she got pregnant again. So she decided to have an abortion, one of many she would have over the next 12-year period.
"She is proud of this," borninabiggreycloud wrote. "She saved those unborn children from hungry bellies."
Today, Cuba has one of the highest abortion rates in the world, with one Guttmacher Institute report estimating the numbers are as high as 78 per 1,000 women of child-bearing age. Cuba's state-sponsored healthcare provides free abortions available on demand, so, as the New York Times put it: "in many respects, abortion is viewed as another manner of birth control." Women with a high chance of pregnancy complications or giving birth to a sick infant may be coerced into having an abortion, and young men are not seen as equally responsible for birth control and family planning, according to a report from the Inter Press Service.
These pressures prompted the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women to express concern over Cuba's abortion rates.
When borninabigreycloud's grandmother was a young wife, Cuba didn't provide safe, medical abortions, and the black market for birth control took its toll on her body.
"By the time she was 36 years old, her uterus had been ripped to shreds, and she had to have [a] full hysterectomy," borningabigreycloud wrote. "Sometimes it's the most humane thing they can do, not for themselves, not out of selfishness, but out of selflessness. Out of a concern for a human that will never exist. They endure some suffering to prevent the future suffering of something else."
Years later, when her family found a way to leave Cuba for the United States, borninabiggreycloud's grandma didn't have to worry about finding room for all her children because she had already made sacrifices to ensure she could focus on her kids and keep the family together.
"In 1967 when my grandfather received the call that they had a way out of Cuba, my grandmother didn't have to worry about which children she would leave behind, like so many others did," borninabigreycloud wrote. She shared this family story in light of all the recent anti-abortion laws passing in states across the U.S. It's becoming more and more difficult for American women to take control of their own reproductive choices.
Borninabiggreycloud believes these legal restrictions don't prevent abortions, as her grandma's story shows desperate women will endanger themselves if safer outlets aren't available. Dozens of redditors replied to this story with comments about how their own grandmothers, both in the United States and abroad, also got multiple back-alley abortions because safe, medical options weren't available. This Cuban-American redditor feels the current nationwide trend infringes on the freedom her immigrant grandmother worked so hard to obtain for her family.
"Reproductive rights are human rights. Freedom to choose if, when and how we have children is basic human right," borninabiggreycloud wrote. "My grandmother had 33 abortions so that I didn't have to have any."