Giving her, the woman, life: Dismantling the damage abortion stigma does to young people and communities
Posted 24 August 2017 12:00 AM by Akosua Agyepong
My journey to understanding the dynamics of abortion stigma began first in Senior High School, when our School chaplain at Mass asked me a question in front of the student body “What will you do if you get pregnant?” Immediately I realized, I had never been asked that question but I knew what the answer was without thinking twice about it and I said it because it was the truth “I would abort it.”
Really, before then I hadn’t thought about getting pregnant but definitely the answer was sure, ‘Abortion’. It was then I began to realize that every other girl in my school would perhaps toe the same line as me but they won’t openly do it because they were afraid about how they were going to look in other people’s eye and that made me understand why a couple of them would rather drink a mixture of Coca Cola and ground glass than walk into a clinic for the procedure.
I used to think, well, that abortion could never be safe. I lived in the same ignorance the media lived in, scaring girls with horror stories of complications and death when one has an abortion so, even though I would have aborted in the instance of pregnancy, I was really afraid and scared to. The media painted and still paints in these days a conception in the minds of people that abortion in the country is illegal and that services were only rendered by quack doctors or through the use of concoctions.
This is the ‘Good News’ that is offered to girls in our country, so it isn’t quite surprising that unsafe abortions have been unleashed and claim the lives of hundreds of girls, day and night.
An understanding of the laws on abortion and the safe procedures that exist isn’t really advertised to inform and to enable the populace become conscious of what really Comprehensive Abortion Care is all about.
However, let’s suppose all of that is done, that people were reminded day in and day out that they could safely have abortion services in certain registered clinics, that the procedure wasn’t an adventure of doom, will that really remove the stigma?
Abortion stigma stems really from the hypocrisy of society. The pretense of our lawmakers, cultural custodians, religious leaders and community leaders. To abort a foetus is wicked, sinful, uncultural and with whatever contempt they describe abortion with. They live in a false consciousness that young people must and are all abstaining from sex. That those who do not, would eventually give birth and would marry whoever got her pregnant or better still suffer for their sins.
They want to dictate at every point in time what the woman does with her body and her sexuality. Forgetting that the woman doesn’t only exist on earth to satisfy her husband and bear children, that she also has dreams and visions for her future. That when she aborts it’s not taking away life but giving her, the woman, life and prepping her for the future she really wants for the children she would have in the future if she would want to have any.
Our communities must wake up from the “utopia” in which they are stuck and realize that young people are sexually active, that they could get pregnant in the process and some of them would want to terminate the pregnancy. We have to open our eyes to how convenient our conservative perceptions of abortion make Unsafe abortions look. And work towards protecting the lives of the future of Africa by giving them easy access to Comprehensive Abortion Care.
Passionate, hardworking and determined, are three words that perfectly describe Akosua Agyepong, a 20-year-old, third year student of the University of Ghana, reading her Bachelors in Family and Consumer Science. She graduated from Holy Child School, Cape Coast, where she was the Assistant School Prefect, a committed chapel worker and a volunteer with the American Field Service. Akosua currently is the National Treasurer for the Youth Action Movement-Ghana, the youth-led and youth focused volunteer wing of Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG), which has 18 branches nationwide and is found in 42 African countries, an Ambassador at Ship- The Startup Festival and serves on the council of PPAG as the youth representative to the council.
Participating in the inroads Regional Meeting played a huge role in defining her responsibilities within the fight against abortion stigma. The experience gathered from the stories told and best practices shared provoked in her a hunger to see the eradication of stigma which leads to unsafe abortions within her country, Ghana through innovative means.