Nobody has right to judge what a woman does with her body

Mbuyiselo Botha Gender Imbizo
There are many stories of women facing difficulties in accessing the option to terminate pregnancy because of healthcare workers who humiliate them, says the writer. /SIMPHIWE NKWALI
There are many stories of women facing difficulties in accessing the option to terminate pregnancy because of healthcare workers who humiliate them, says the writer. /SIMPHIWE NKWALI

The state of Alabama, in the US, is poised to ban abortion. I find this not only bizarre but extremely problematic.

Imagine a woman who has been raped and falls pregnant. What will happen to her should she not want to keep the pregnancy. What about her rights? What about her bodily integrity? It can't be fair not to allow her to terminate the pregnancy.

The pro-life enthusiasts argue that all life is sacrosanct. I have no qualms about it. What I have qualms with is not to allow a woman to decide on anything that relates to her body.

It is all very well to argue that life is sacrosanct when you are not the person carrying the pregnancy. I can say with certainty that women do not take the decision to terminate pregnancy, lightly or easily.

It must be an emotionally excruciating decision for a woman to take. We can't be frivolous about abortion and not locate it within the human rights argument.

If we do not support women's free will to decide what happens with their bodies, we are no different to those who continue to abuse, misuse, denigrate and oppress women.

Backyard abortions kill women who would be able to access medical abortions without risking their lives. But we force women to do the unimaginable because of us moralising and being judgmental.

Women go to dangerous lengths in the fear of being judged and vilified. We do not protect and uphold women's rights to reproductive health.

In fact what we do when we judge their choices, we expose them to danger, on a daily basis. Many of us have come across stories of women facing difficulties in accessing the option to terminate pregnancy because of healthcare workers who humiliate them and ask demeaning questions such "what did you think when you opened your legs without using a condom?

Now you come here seeking an abortion". Imagine how a woman in such a situation would feel? When her rights are violated, and her dignity is taken away from her.

It challenges all of us to understand the importance of not only sex education but what it means to create a conducive environment for women to feel empowered in seeking proper medically sanctioned abortions.

We are fortunate in our country that there is provision for medically sanctioned abortions. But I guess that may not be enough; we also need to equip our healthcare workers with tools that enable women not to think twice before seeking medical termination of pregnancy.

We need healthcare workers who understand that this is a human right and women have the capacity and autonomy to decide what happens with their bodies. None of us have a right to decide what happens with a women's body.

This right is sacrosanct and cannot be undermined by those who seek to take it away. If they do, there must be consequences.

For those who argue that abortion is ungodly, immoral or uncultured, I think it's important for them to remember that women have fought for these rights.

Rights are not indivisible from other rights. If you are convinced that we all have rights to proper healthcare, this means that women have a right to access that very same healthcare, and that includes the right to terminate pregnancy.

Religious leaders and cultural leaders should come to the party as well. They must condemn those who seek to take women's rights away.

If they keep quiet, they would be complicit when women die because they sought backyard abortions.

We all have a responsibility in ensuring that 25 years into our democracy, no women is allowed to die when she could have found help.

If we do anything to the contrary, we would be spitting at the graves of the 1956 women who marched to the Union Buildings to ensure that all of us have equal rights, and I mean all of us.

Finally, congratulations to President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa. I hope he will ensure that women continue to enjoy these rights they fought for.

Positive masculinity means all of us as men must be allies to women. This includes supporting their right to self-determination, particularly the right to termination of pregnancy.

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