Abortion: Autonomy of the Female Body.


A dysfunctional family. Years of abuse.

She gets out. Scarred but alive.

A jagged and uneasy transition.

Once, a terrified child. Now, a wary adult. 

Inherited demons threaten to take over. She doesn’t want to continue the cycle.

She carries a child.

Little past curfew. A still night. Hurried gait.

Shadows. Footsteps. Voices.

Hands clasp the mouth shut. Muffled screams pierce the darkness.

Traces of a horrific night. She attempts to forget. 

Evidence stays intact in her womb.

A hopeless romantic, they call her.

Instant love. Decisions on an impulse.

They told her not to, she says. 

He changed. She changed.

Beaten and bruised, she wants out. 

Body holds a mute witness to ghosts of the past.

An eternal nomad, they call her.

She embodies chaos.

Loves to travel. To translate into words, images the world impresses upon her soul.  

Her dreams have no place for the child life accidentally gave her.

The female body as a territory of assault.

The female body as a site of public speculation.

The female body as a site of negotiation.

The female body as a site for resolution.

The conditions implicated in the conception of the child. The absence or presence of abuse. The testing of validity of the arguments cited as reasons for the termination of pregnancy. These merely serve as parameters along which a society can restrict and inform the movements of a certain class of  individuals – namely, women. They act as a legitimizing factor in the intervention of the society at large, in the life and activities of its female members.

By conceptualizing the debate regarding abortion as an argument for life as against/ over the matter of an individual’s body, the intimacy and seclusion awarded to affairs of the body is lost and the debate enters a public forum with the issue of rights of the society on an individual’s body entering the picture.

The notion of the female body as a reproductive agency takes away from its autonomous existence and bestows on it societal functions of perpetuation of the species. Thus the female body becomes viewed as a tool for reproduction more so than the male body, which is seen as merely aiding the process.

The female body is thus seen as having a larger societal purpose for its existence. This eclipses its individual concerns, its pursuit of pleasure etc. It also then creates guidelines for behaviour, and demonizes those who are unwilling or unable to conform. It creates a culture where failure in fulfilling this seemingly ultimate function of reproduction is made synonymous to failure in being a woman.

A woman, then, has no value in and of herself as her value is seemingly derived from her ability to conceive. Any scope for expanding individual boundaries or exploring one’s potential are then inadvertently  thwarted as this one function, bestowed upon her by larger societal forces, takes precedence over all else and seeks to define a woman in totality.

This increasing communalization of the female body also has repercussions in the area of ownership. Conceptualizing the female body as existing to fulfill societal functions allows for the notion of ownership to emerge. As a tool for the greater good, the female body can then be seen as property of the society or of factions of society.

The body of a woman thus remains in the public domain with rights over it being asserted by various groups possessing conflicting interests. The resolution of such a conflict is also, ultimately, a public phenomenon. This raises questions regarding privacy and autonomy that an individual should be allowed to enjoy, and which invariably get encroached upon in the case of women.

The concept of validity of an argument for abortion brings into question, and highlights, the general scrutiny that women are subject to in society, regarding behaviour and conduct.

The discussion on abortion lends itself to multifarious and heated arguments with people assuming positions that range from pro choice to pro life with a multitude of in betweens.

It brings into question, also, the rights of the father. In fighting for empowerment of women, people have often been accused of passing over, sometimes extremely insensitively, the rights of men. It’s a valid argument to hold. The decisions regarding an unborn child such as  terminating the pregnancy/carrying it to full term, keeping/not keeping the baby undoubtedly affect the father in several ways.

It’s not an easy debate to conclude, and it’s hard to arrive at a universally appropriate answer. It’s resolution requires the triumphing of one individual’s rights over another – the mother or the child. The question remains, whose rights do we safeguard? That of an existing individual or of a child yet to be born?

It’s hard to argue when life begins. We have very little to go by, to make such a decision with absolute certainty. Yet there can be no doubt regarding the ongoing existence of the life of the woman that such an issue implicates. It is this life, sometimes at the cost of another that remains cloaked in doubt, that must we not seek to recognize and empower?

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  • dollop

    Perfectly put! you are a good writer… and i loved your point of view

    • Anushka Jadhav

      Thank you (: