Koketso Moeti
Koketso Moeti

Abortion not always a choice

Abortion is a topic I was once very uncomfortable with. I was raised Roman Catholic and as such had very strong views on the matter. It was an absolute no-no and I would gladly get on my moral high horse to tell the world as much.

At 23 I became a mother myself. But for me the experience was very different to that of the many women I have lived and worked with. I never doubted I would keep my child. Despite my relatively tender age I always knew my child would be loved and accepted by my partner and family. The circumstances in which my child was made were of my choosing. After being together for a while and taking the necessary precautions the father of my kids and I became reckless. But we both knew what we were doing and the potential consequences thereof. Not many women can say that. The terms under which they have sex are not open for negotiation and until this happens, abortion should be an option.

Though my pregnancy wasn’t easy, for health reasons, it was nevertheless a really special time for me. Being far from home I was constantly checked on and never in my life have I ever felt as loved as I did then. The father of my kids and I were staying together at the time and I got endless massages. He would constantly touch and talk to the little miracle that was ours. During my pregnancy I had to have my first major surgery done. He was there as often as he could and made all my fears disappear. But this is not the reality for everyone. There are many women who go through their pregnancies alone and fearful of what the future has in store for them and their child. Add to this all the judgments for being unwed and perceived to be “loose”. So until society can support a pregnant mother — instead of judge and abuse — abortion should be an option. Until we stop demonising women as if they miraculously make those babies by themselves, abortion should be an option.

Abortions will occur regardless of how anyone feels about them. The reasons mentioned are a few of the many that drive women to do it. It’s our duty to ensure that when it does no life is unnecessarily lost. Women should be able to have an abortion free of charge, in a safe environment, as per our Constitution where the right to health and life are enshrined.

But we need to be careful how abortion is portrayed. A dear friend recently said abortion has become a sign of the liberation of women’s bodies. This is a reality and one only has to go online and make a few clicks to see this. But this assumes abortions are always a choice. This assumption is dangerous and potentially sets women’s rights back in a huge way. It’s an assumption that blissfully ignores that for many women abortion is not a choice but the result of social or parental pressure.

It’s a very real pressure — whether perceived or real. Considering the power dynamics involved, is it really “choice”? Is abortion really a “choice” when you have been kicked out of your home with all your belongings in a black plastic because of the shame you’ve brought to your family? Is it really “choice” when the father of your child asks you “so, what are YOU going to do about it?”

Racism has been a major challenge in the feminist movement but so too the universalist approach, which makes too many assumptions as in the case of abortion. Despite the similarities in women’s struggles, womanhood is not a “one size fits all” experience. It varies from context to context and we should respect that your liberation is not necessarily mine. Your choice to have an abortion is not a choice for everyone and can be a cruel violation.

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  • 14 Responses to “Abortion not always a choice”

    1. Momma Cyndi #

      “Racism has been a major challenge in the feminist movement”

      ?? could you extrapolate upon that ??

      December 4, 2012 at 11:48 am
    2. Graham #

      Hi Koketso
      As a Christian, I do not agree with abortion.
      However, although I do not agree with it, judging a person because they have had an abortion is a different matter.

      No one can make me see that abortion is right (in any circumstance other than saving the mothers life), but my responsibility is to not judge the person who commits an abortion. I have no right to judge.

      Society has chosen to zoom in on certain sins, and make them ‘the worst sins’ if you like. Abortion makes the list. Judgement does not. Most of us commit the latter sin.

      Regards

      December 4, 2012 at 12:35 pm
    3. The Creator #

      Momma Cyndi, back in the ’70s there were loads of white South African “feminists” who took their cue from the American and European second-wave feminists and didn’t give a damn for black women. There was some effort to compensate for this later, people acknowledging that black women were multiply oppressed and therefore couldn’t be automatically treated like Cosmo babes, but you get the idea.

      Some black American and Caribbean women were so peeved with 1960s and 1970s feminists that they came up with the concept of “womanism”, rather like Steve Biko walking out of NUSAS. I don’t buy into it completely myself, but basically they were arguing that the white feminists were defining femininity in terms of white women, and I think they had a point.

      Unless Ms. Moeti wants to correct me, I suspect this was something like her point.

      December 4, 2012 at 1:08 pm
    4. Wildcat #

      Something like 55 million unborn babies murdered every year and YES, they are human. That is just about the same as the SA population. How sad, but what’s even more sad is the fact that they are conceived in the first place.

      I wonder how many women even have the choice to say no when it comes to having sex. That is where we need to begin sorting out this sad part of life. A return to a system where rapists get the death penalty instead of being viewed as heroes by their peers.

      We live in a SICK society :(

      December 4, 2012 at 1:44 pm
    5. Momma Cyndi #

      The Creator

      Thanks for that. I was only introduced to the feminist ideals in the 1980s so I must have missed all that. It was the vision of female solidarity during the pass law marches that must have given me the wrong impression about how horribly racist it all was back then. I imagine that it was all just a horrible mocking parody to join that march – a sick joke, if you will. Shame on them all!

      December 4, 2012 at 4:22 pm
    6. Brent #

      The Creator, find your point very interesting, the worldviews and objective of ‘white’ women and ‘Black’ women, both here and in the wider Western World were different back then. What is the situation now with regard to feminism?

      Brent

      December 5, 2012 at 9:38 am
    7. Claire #

      Hi Keketso,

      I agree that many of the issues you’ve brought up here need serious attention from all sectors in our society.

      Please could you explain what you mean by the following though?
      “So until society can support a pregnant mother — instead of judge and abuse — abortion should be an option. Until we stop demonising women as if they miraculously make those babies by themselves, abortion should be an option.”

      Do you mean to say that if we ever come to the point where pregnant women get the necessary health care and support they deserve then abortion should then cease to be an option for women?

      December 5, 2012 at 10:48 am
    8. Neville #

      An analogy: The law says:”Come to a total stop at a stop sign”. More and more people are ignoring that law. Does that now make the action justifiable? Certainly not! God’s laws are there and in no way are we permitted to slowly, by our actions and intentions, erode His laws. At times extremely difficult? Yes, but not negotiable.

      December 5, 2012 at 9:20 pm
    9. Koketso Moeti

      @Graham, you are right in saying that we are very quick to judge. Talk about seeing a speck in someone’s eye but not seeing the plank in one’s own. Whether or not one agrees with it, reality is it’s not our place to judge. Not everyone is in a position that leaves them with options…

      @The Creator, thanks for responding to Momma Cyndi. Even today the view of womanhood from a white lens still exists. Also Brent and Momma Cyndi, you may want to search Cheryl De la Rey’s paper on racism in the South African feminist movement.

      December 6, 2012 at 2:30 pm
    10. Koketso Moeti

      @Claire, not necessarily only healthcare. In many societies pregnant young women are heckled and worse, called names because of the ‘shame’ of it. I should know. Because of my height many people think that I am younger than what I am. So I remember a time when visiting a public hospital in Pretoria, one of the nurses told me to rather concentrate on my books instead of opening my legs. It’s a sentiment that’s quite rife actually- especially in small town like where I was born, Mahikeng. For many, abortion is much easier than facing all that humiliation, when reality is, that girl did not make that child by herself…

      December 6, 2012 at 2:30 pm
    11. Koketso Moeti

      @Neville, interesting how it only counts when it’s abortion. What about rape and some of the other negative factors that lead to abortion? For instance, a raped woman would not be having an abortion if she wasn’t raped in the first place. So, should she pay the price because her perpetrator didn’t “stop at the stop sign”?

      Women have different reasons for having an abortion, it’s not anyone’s place to say otherwise- especially because her lived experience. But in the same way, no-one has a right to force an abortion on anyone…

      December 6, 2012 at 2:42 pm
    12. Momma Cyndi #

      Koketso Moeti

      Yes, thanks again, I have reformed and will forever hold those white women who took part in the march against pass laws in the contempt that their horrible, taunting racism deserves. It is a deep embarrassment to me that I was a supporter of that racist Black Sash movement – please, I beg for your forgiveness. As a white woman I now understand that anything and everything I ever do will be racist and nasty. I will gracefully bow out and stop fighting for sisterhood as I am obviously not wanted in this racist little clique of yours

      December 6, 2012 at 4:15 pm
    13. Koketso Moeti

      Momma Cyndi,

      Errrrr, not sure what this is about. Not denouncing Black Sash or anything, but pointing out that womanhood is often depicted in terms of whiteness. A good example of this is ‘beauty’. Woman’s beauty is often defined in terms of straight hair; petite frames and such, which to a great degree excludes blackness. I could give many other examples.

      Anyway, Audre Lorde said “When I say I am a Black feminist, I mean I recognize that my power as well as my primary oppressions come as a result of my Blackness as well as my womanness, and therefore my struggles on both these fronts are inseparable.” And that is what racism in the feminist movement ignores. If that offends you, well it is very unfortunate. But it is a reality. The struggles of a black woman are not limited to gender alone…

      December 7, 2012 at 12:32 am
    14. Momma Cyndi #

      Koketso Moeti

      Good for you dear. If you want to go it alone then do so. I really couldn’t care less. You do it your way and I’ll keep doing it the old way were sisters were sisters and it didn’t matter what packaging they came in. Sometimes that packaging is the beauty of Grace Jones and sometimes that packaging is the strangeness of Tilda Swinton. Sisterhood is not about hair straighteners or having a rich boyfriend. One day I hope you understand that

      Read some Steve Biko. Your ‘blackness’ is not a handicap unless you allow it to be. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent”.

      December 7, 2012 at 3:04 pm

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