At the time of her Senate confirmation, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said something that has been upheld ever since in all arguments dealing with abortion rights: “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman's life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When Government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.”
We’re yet again being pushed to remember this with Poland’s court ruling on abortion rights. It has forced women to take to the streets and protest – in fact, the country has not seen as massive a public demonstration since that against the last Communist rule here. Quite symbolically, the abortion regulations that were legislated in the years beginning from the 1990s, focused on washing off a ‘Communist’ hangover. This is the typical rights vs. religion debate that has surfaced in the context of Poland’s internal row over abortion. In a desperate attempt to defuse the outrage, the government has been stalling the publishing of the Constitutional Tribunal’s decision – but this again lands the administration in trouble over the utterly “unconstitutional” nature of the move. The government, courtesy of criticism from all sides, is now stuck between the need to publish the decision or welcome the ire of women.
The problem with an extremely restrictive abortion laws is that it cheats its own motive – by closing the doors to women, it’s been proven that it only pushes them to look for the option of “underground abortion”. An increasing number of women have also been moving to other countries to get their abortions done. So, for the pro-life advocates too, such measures turn out to be a mere written rules that have no visible effect. But, that is not the issue here.
When we talk about choice, especially in this case, despite the essentially democratic nature of the word, we tend to pit it against what would, at a singular glance, be deemed more valuable: life. This forcibly spun out dichotomy between living and pursuing your choice creates draconian distortions. Telling a woman that she should give birth to the child, take care of him/her and be a parent when she is obviously not ready is like taking her out of her space and placing her within a cubicle that crushes her with directions given by strangers. Her agency is diluted and subjected to gradual erosion. Just as Ginsburg said, you’re belittling her stature as a responsible adult human being.
To put it in the most ‘pro-life’ manner possible, shouldn’t the child be welcomed when there’s a sense of everything being secured? To be having a conversation on whether a woman must have the right to abortion or not, in itself, seems bizarre since it reduces a woman’s ‘life’ into a platform for puppetry. This is reflective of the age-old label that women have seen imposed over them for being the ‘weaker’ sex. It gives the leeway for any and all voices to determine what she should do, where she should go, and who she should be.
The choice should belong to the woman, not to anybody else.