The ongoing debate over contraception, the presidential elections, and the controversial decisions of six U.S. states requiring abortion providers to give women the opportunity to view ultrasound images of the fetus have brought back the issue of abortion, which has been a hot potato in the U.S. for decades.
But abortion should not be a matter of debate in a country like the U.S., given its image as a stalwart supporter and even enforcer of human rights and democratic values in some parts of the world. In fact, abortion should not be a controversial issue for any government; it should be a private discussion between couples who are in this situation, plain and simple.
Every time debates about prohibitive laws on abortion and contraception go front and center in the American media, I can’t help but remember the chilling effects such laws had on generations of women in my home country, Romania.
In 1966, the Communist Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu issued a decree prohibiting women to have an abortion. Only women over 40 or who already had four children could qualify for a legal abortion. Problem was, there were also no contraceptive measures on the market in Romania during those times. The government’s objective to increase the number of inhabitants that could work in Communist industrial plants did not allow for contraceptive measures to exist. Were they religious too? Not at all. They did not like devout Christians and had actually demolished numerous churches to build apartment buildings.
Women who did not want under any circumstances to give birth tried all sorts of methods to cause a spontaneous abortion with or without clandestine medical support. Some succeeded, some died. In a society where one had to queue for hours for basic grocery shopping or where being an unmarried mother was a huge stigma, getting pregnant could been one of the worst things that could happen to a woman.
Abortion is not an easy option for any woman. In some places in the U.S., it seems like the government wants to make sure abortion is not an option for women. Having an ultrasound of the fetus and ensuring the woman views or listen to a description of it might be too traumatic for that woman to handle. There is no reason to put her or others through this ordeal.
Unless we want to go back to the Middle Ages, women should have the right to make their own choices regarding their bodies and their lives in general. Someone else’s beliefs about life and God should not be imposed on them. The government should absolutely not intervene in this decision-making process. If a woman is a firm believer in God and considers abortion a crime, she probably will not choose to have one. But it would be her own choice, not somebody else’s.
Instead of intensifying the feeling of guilt for her decision, a woman who decides to have an abortion should be provided moral and psychological support. In Belgium, a woman who makes an appointment for an abortion is also required to have a meeting with a psychologist prior to the procedure. The psychologist is not trying to convince her not to proceed with the operation, but to offer her the support she needs in a stressful and very challenging time of her life. If this might result in the woman deciding not to move forward with the abortion or asking for more time to think, so be it.
In a country known as the “land of the free," women should be free to make their own decisions.
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