Abortion is my decision I was newly married had a good job and wanted to do so much more with my life
Features Sunday, April 19, 2015 - 05:30

The Purvi Patel case has once again opened up the debate on reproductive rights. While pro-choice activists believe that the right to abort is integral to a woman's freedom, pro-lifers equate abortion to murder. Indian laws are quite liberal when it comes to abortion but there is still a lot of stigma and judgment attached to the decision. In this series, we speak to Indian women who have undergone an abortion for various reasons – why they did it, how they felt about it, and why it’s important for all of us to understand their choice. This is the second story in our series "Abortion is my decision." Preethi was shocked to discover that she was pregnant. A professional working in a manufacturing company in East Asia, the news could not have come at a worse time. She’d been married for three months and had moved countries to be with her husband. She’d convinced her company to give her a transfer and they’d obliged, providing her a fat salary, huge responsibilities that would include travel and a big furnished flat. Her career had just begun and Preethi didn’t think she could tell her company that she might have to go on a break because of her pregnancy. Besides, she and her husband were only just discovering each other. She says, “I wanted to do so much more with my life and a baby just didn’t fit into that picture.” Though this was her first pregnancy, Preethi decided that she wanted an abortion. Her husband initially wanted the child simply because ‘abortion’ didn’t sound like something people like them did. He was also worried it might hamper their chances of having a child in the future or affect her health in any permanent way. Since abortion was illegal in the country they lived in, he was further intimidated by the prospect. But when Preethi wouldn’t change her mind and he saw how miserable she was, he gave in. Preethi confided in her mother about the situation. The latter wanted her to go ahead with the pregnancy but when she realized that Preethi had made her decision, she was supportive about it. Many years ago, Preethi’s mother, too, had undergone an abortion to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy. Preethi first went to a famous doctor in a big hospital. The doctor was shocked to hear that Preethi wanted an abortion and advised her that the fetus was a gift from god and that she’d been chosen for a miracle and so on. But when Preethi stood her ground, the doctor directed her to a clinic for foreigners which performed abortions surreptitiously for an exorbitant price. The new doctor asked her no questions except when she was free to get it done. There was no counseling from the doctor…something Preethi sorely missed. The fetus was five weeks old when it was aborted, a week before it would have developed a heartbeat. Preethi says she felt a mixture of relief and guilt after it was done but that the guilt started to fade after a few weeks. However, she thought about the abortion often when she became pregnant for the second time. She says, “Forgetting the abortion seemed a lot easier before I saw the fetus grow inside me. Almost two years later, I mentioned it with a bit of doubt in an online forum. Another strong woman came forward and said without mincing any words ‘I was careless , I aborted. Big deal.’ That really eased my guilt a lot.” Other than Preethi’s mother, nobody else in her immediate family knows. She felt they would judge her as being careless and wild. Preethi feels that a woman should have the choice to abort, whatever her circumstances. And whenever possible, the father should also be involved in the decision. The impact it has on the health of a woman would serve as a deterrent to people exercising the option without putting considerable thought into it. She says, “Abortion being legal or illegal will not have any impact on irresponsible sex. Increasing awareness and condom availability will.” Preethi does not, however, support sex selective abortions. “As long as there is a skewed social preference for one gender, sex selection has to be a crime,” she points out. Preethi hopes that someday, scientists will figure out what ‘life’ actually is….when it begins and when it ends. If that happens, it might help us approach the issue of abortion from a neutral point of view. Read the first story in our series: Abortion is my decision: 'It was a second pregnancy and I was open about the abortion'   

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