Can Abortion Be Justified?

Posted March 12, 2020 from Philippines

Last night I dined with a friend. He’s the coordinator of one big international humanitarian NGO. We worked in a very different field, but somehow it is still connected. 

Over wine, we got talking about the kinds of things we see in our places of work. On why expatriates like us are discouraged from being in insecure locations such as inside the settlement to spend the night, let alone live every day. 

I said I would not do it. I am done with my cowboy days but I am sure young humanitarian actors will push their luck and try the adventure. But is it an adventure to live with the refugees if you represent oppression and reason for them being displaced? Maybe not, but that’s a story for another time.

On a more serious tone, our conversation gravitated on the subject of abortion. Since both of us work in the health sector, these are subjects we know are sensitive, and talked on hushed voices, and never blurted out in daylight, but we know it happens, and justified.

You see, without blaming anyone or any agency, we know that rape happens in the settlement or camps. People are in an insecure location and vulnerable situation, and many are just vultures taking advantage of the case, and the people they think are below them. 

Imagine my surprise to hear that not only women are vulnerable in such a situation. In one week, he said they got report of men being raped but women out numbered them. Reports of defilement is available at police stations, but whether or not perpetrators are apprehended is hard to tell. 

So, what he told me why they do it – abortion to victims of rape, made me think twice about why I am doing what I am doing here in Uganda. I even have to agree to disagree with him based on my faith. 

That’s why abortion is hush-hush is because it’s the last resort. He said the best is still to have more robust policies on the protection of women and men against sexual exploitation and abuse, and stronger enforcement from the authorities. But when that system fails, there should be a support network that will catch these women victimized by their vulnerability, in a place where they thought they are protected but are not. 

Being a victim is a hard pill to swallow. The psychological trauma it brings to the victim makes it hard for them to think straight. The fear of being discovered, labeled, and eventually ostracised in a community where you’re supposed to get your strength from to go on each day is tremendous. 

What happens when the rape resulted in pregnancy?

That’s when another cycle of psychological trauma happens. Being pregnant from a rape always remind that person of what happened, of how she was not able to avoid it. Blame herself for bringing it to herself. The fight internally gets intense, making it hard for her to fight back, and often, the psychological trauma wins over the rational way of thinking, which can lead to many difficult decisions, including abortion and the worst suicide.

The mental health support system is as complicated as it can get. Not everybody understands what they are talking about, and when in such a complicated situation, often, the victims are left to fend for themselves. Making it hard for women to feel they had someone on their side. My friend told me that even he doesn’t like that program they have on abortion, but after seeing women getting into such a situation, he knew it has to be done. But he also told me that its the last resort when all support fails, and if they don’t do it, women will also find a crude way to get rid of the pregnancy that will also put their life further at risk.

So for us not to get there, as a humanitarian actor, we have a lot of responsibility for the people we serve.

First, when we design policy on protection and prevention of sexual violence and abuse, don’t let it on paper and pretend that action will magically materialize. No, it never does, that is why we should put weight on it and enforce it. We are making sure something or someone answers for the atrocities received in the hands of perpetrators.

Second, empower the support groups. Avoid the victim-blaming that often happens when rape is discovered. Nobody wants to be accosted and violated. Notably, no one should take advantage of a vulnerable situation to exert power over women and men.

Third, regardless of faith practices, we have to find solutions that best serve the many. I am not endorsing abortion. Like my friend, I am against it and will never advise it on anyone, but if all else fails, make sure that the solution identified will serve best the person and allowed to believe that s/he is not a victim but rather a survivor. 

Fourth, as a person, we are our brothers and sisters keeper. We look out for each other and support each other by making sure that we all are equitable. God never wants harm to come our way, He wants us to live in harmony, but the world is crazy now. We become selfish and self-centered to the point of destruction. 

The life where I live now is never easy. We make do of what we have, take advantage of the simple pleasures where it is merited. My friends here and I take our jobs seriously, that’s why our after-dinner subject was something that resonated in my head long after the wine wears off.

Disclaimer: this post has been published first at the writer's blogsite



Comments 9

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Hello, sister D,

How slow of me to realize you are Coolasas in our World Pulse Ph FB group. So great to be connected with you there, too.
You've raised thought-provoking points about rape, pregnancy, abortion, and mental health. It's true, being in humanitarian and development work exposes us to the harsh realities of life.

Thank you for choosing this road less traveled, and yet you are those in the forefronts of rescuing people in need. I honor your journey.

Mar 12
Mar 12

Hi Kaye,
Thank you for your words of encouragement.
I am in a way, in a position of power, and I will use it to speak for those who cannot.

Anita Shrestha
Mar 12
Mar 12

Thank you for sharing bitter truth

Mar 13
Mar 13

Thank you for sharing. It is always difficult to take a decision in case where rape victims become pregnant. But as you rightly said, we should always do our best to help the victims or survivors.

Metiege Noel Eve
Mar 14
Mar 14

Thank you for sharing sis

Mar 22
Mar 22

Dear Coolas,

I admire you for your humanity and tenacity in working in such a difficult situation.The issues you raise are very complex, but in spite of the situation, you continue to provide much needed service.

I raise my hat to you.

Veronica Ngum Ndi
Jul 06
Jul 06

Hey Coolasas
You have an interesting story to tell.We are facing a big challenge in Cameroon now due to the humanitarian crisis we are facing.Worse of all women and girls with disabilities who have faced such experienced trauma healing to be in thne right mental state,but yet our GBV referral pathway is too slow and ineffective.
Keep up
Veronica Ngum

Jul 08
Jul 08

Thank you for sharing.

Jul 21
Jul 21

'But when that system fails, there should be a support network'

This line says it all. If only all of us will understand the importance of a support network. Not everyone is equipped mentally, physically and financially to raise a child. This reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend.

Friend: Why you don't want kids?
Me: they're just something I don't want
Friend: but when you're old, who will take care of you?
Me: so the reason you're raising your child is so that you can use them to take care of you?

That conversation is more on women not wanting babies, not abortion. But i just wanted to share.