In regards to the recent ongoing discussion in the Star on the issue of abortion, let it be clear: nobody aspires to having an abortion.
To understand why some women and girls have abortions one should consider the following facts. According to Statistics Canada, one in four girls and women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetimes (this figure shockingly rises to 83 per cent for women and girls with disabilities), and every 17 minutes of every day a 15 to 24 year old is sexually assaulted by forced intercourse.
It’s not just such overt sexual assault either, but the coercion of young women and girls who have neither the experience nor the instilled self esteem to say no.
Having abortions is not a simple wrong. It is the result of many wrongs, wrongs sometimes perpetrated against women and girls at an alarming rate, and yet having an abortion is absolutely essential to safeguard the mental and physical health of a rape victim. To deny this is to deny women and girls the right to take charge of, as best they can, their lives, a right that was taken away from them during these unwanted sexual acts.
Certainly, there is room for education as to the “rights of the unborn child,” since rape is only one part of the abortion picture. But, if we are to see a reduction in abortions, we need to reconsider how it is we educate our children. We need to promote the importance of birth control and the concept of abstinence at a younger age for both girls and boys. But, none of the fore-mentioned will happen if we don’t promote the idea of self esteem among women.
The woman in her 40s who has an abortion because she’s “too old to go through it again” might benefit from feeling able to assert herself before the act, just as a teenage girl might when she says nothing, for fear of “losing him.”
Equally, we need to bring up boys to have a healthy respect for what is entailed in the sexual act and the consequences thereof, and to see women as people first, sexual mates later. It’s up to parents to do this through the screening of the many inappropriate forms of media out there that do the opposite, and it’s up to businesses to promote their companies without using graphic, sexually exploitative stereotypes.
Such preventative education is, perhaps, more crucial to reducing the number of abortions than graphic pictures in the local paper.