While yesterday’s march was certainly a big success for women, as it delivered a powerful message that we, as females are not willing to tolerate inequality and suppression of our rights, and together, we can make our voices heard, there is still a long way to go.For example, there are two bills that have been introduced in two countries that have ocean in between them. The bills are similar in their nature and are both equally disturbing.
The first is H.R.490, is a so-called “Heartbeat” bill has been introduced as recently as December 2016 in the US, that “prohibits abortion in cases where a fetal heartbeat is detectable.” In medical terms, it translates into the period after seven weeks. It has been introduced by Senator Steve King (R-IA) and, as it is a federal bill, it is aimed to be implemented nationwide.
While I am not a medical professional, I can say with certainty that it is often the case that women only find out that they are pregnant when they are passed the date when (according to the aforementioned bill) it is still allowed to make the decision. Yes, we all know that first suspicions about pregnancy occur when a woman is late on her period, but it is quite common that during the implantation, women experience spotting, that can be easily mistaken for the period. Yes, pregnancy can be confirmed as early 6 to 8 days after ovulation, if detected via blood test, but women who do not plan on having children don’t take blood tests to determine pregnancy. If it is detected via pregnancy test, the results are usually shown after 5+ weeks. So, even if a woman learns about pregnancy on time, with all the required paperwork, appointments and so on, there is a high chance of her not being able to get the procedure done. So, to sum up, this piece of legislature, if implemented will practically ban abortions.
The second bill is lingering inside of the Knesset (Israeli parliament) and has been introduced by the Knesset member Yehuda Glick. The bill amends an already existent law that obligates women, who wish to have an abortion to go through a committee, comprised of social workers and medical professional to obtain the permission. In his version, Glick proposed to include a rabbi in the consideration process, as he believes, the measure will reduce the abortion rate in the country.
While certain segments of the population such as teenagers or women, who may encounter complications related to them carrying to the term, get the permission. Others may find themselves in a highly unpleasant predicament. Despite common stigmas related to abortions, many women worldwide who are married and have children still find themselves in need of the procedure. The reasons vary from socio-economic to personal and are equally validated. Israel, despite the wide range of controversial definitions, can be best described as a democracy with a substantial influence that comes from theocratic apparatus. Israel has elections, freedom of speech and freedom of expression, however, the right to marriage, divorce, and abortion are limited as they all require full or partial permission of the religious authority.
So, as you have seen, both of the cases represent the idea that the government should control women in the freedom of their choice, and religion influences both bills. In both cases, the laws are aimed to protect a fetus without taking a step further and thinking what will happen when a woman, who cannot afford to raise a child, or, who doesn’t have accommodation for the child’s safe and healthy development, becomes a mother. While it is more encouraged for religious communities to have kids, there is still a good number of women that opt to terminate the pregnancy due to a variety of reasons. While we see plenty of groups that advocate for anti-abortion laws, we see the same groups then advocating for women not to have children can’t afford.
Many exclaim with rage: “Why would someone, who can’t afford to have children get pregnant in the first place? In this case, the numbers speak for themselves. According to Guttmacher institute, as of 2011, (45% or 2.8 million) of the 6.1 million pregnancies in the United States, each year was unintended. And, we certainly see the presence of demographic disparity, which means, no groups are secure. Also, what about women who we raped, should they be responsible for their decisions?
It is a common belief that women, who end up having an abortion or miscarry during an unplanned pregnancy, take it with relief and quickly move on with their lives. It is not true. The decision to terminate the pregnancy is highly personal and very sensitive and is always a difficult one. It does not matter where we come from, or what our beliefs are. Forceful or natural termination of pregnancy is in its essence means taking something that is truly yours, that is a part of your body and pulling it out. It cannot be sugar-coated, it cannot be underestimated. No paperwork can reflect the experience; no government can relate to it as it is deeply personal. As you have seen by now, I have included testimonies of women from all over the word who have had a miscarriage, or, who have had an abortion. These prove my point.
Despite the fact that in both countries the emphasis on religious abstinence is being made, it is still not taken as a measure in the societal settings. If in the 21st century, we all agree that sex is part of our lives (including the instances of peer pressure which deserves a separate topic), we should also accept the fact that women get pregnant, and they should be allowed to choose. As Gloria Steinem said during her speech yesterday: “If you cannot control our bodies from the skin-in, you cannot control our bodies from the skin out, you cannot control our lives, that is why we have a right to decide whether or when to give birth without government interference.”