Mission Abortion

Posted: September 25, 2010 in Opinions

The issue of abortion has been swept under the rug either or we have turned a deliberate blind eye and nurtured a sense of stoic indifference over time. We are shocked quite often though, when a dead and disowned foetus emerges from the heaps of garbage dump or is extracted from sewerage pipelines.

Our Buddhist compassion is deeply aroused momentarily, which is again mixed with a sense of disgust for the woman ‘who could commit such extreme an act’. That is it? We do not look beyond the obvious. We just play to the popular tunes of stereotypes and stigmas and miss out the larger picture.

The issues of right to abortion or the contrary, the right to life of the unborn, need sincere and honest discourse, at all levels of Bhutanese society. Two things are crystal clear – abortion is a taboo from the highly dogmatic Buddhist perspective and it is unlawful from the legal point of view. These are rigid systems that would not move easily.

Sandwiched, as women might find themselves, between these two overbearing structures of power, yet, we cannot deny that Bhutanese women are not aborting unwanted child. Every year hundreds of women cross the border to the strange and dirty back alleys of Jaigaon and Siliguri further down. In these clandestine locales and unsafe hands, away from the glare of social stigmatization and legal consequences back at home, Bhutanese women risk their lives to undergo abortion. Just recently, a young woman died of post abortion complications.

Is the issue of legality of abortion posing danger to young lives of woman, or is it lack of access to safe abortion? Should abortion be legalized will the situation improve in any way? Do women have the right to abortion or shouldn’t there be considerations for the rights of the unborn child?

The debate over the ‘rightness’ or the ‘wrongness’ of abortion is as complex as it seems simple. It is simple because the decision to abort a child is entirely an individual’s (under varying circumstances) right to freedom of choice. It is complex because abortion includes an unthinking and immature, unborn child who also has a right to life. The complexity becomes murkier when women resort to unsafe abortion, sometimes resulting in death.

There is a need to protect individual’s right and at the same, the right of an unborn. How do we address these dual issues?

Perhaps, the first step toward it would be by shedding certain sociocultural biases, followed by candid expressions of what must prevail – in legal terms.

Legal, religious and social barriers have far reaching consequences, but it should not come at the cost of a life.


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