As awkward moments go, it was brief yet intense.
A few months ago, I went with my daughter’s class on an excursion to the Botanical Gardens as one of the parent-helpers. As part of our tour, an indigenous woman spoke to us about the traditional way many of the plants in the gardens were used by her ancestors.
As dozens of excitable 7-year-olds, teachers and parent helpers sat in a big circle on the grass with our indigenous guide in the centre, she explained how certain leaves, roots, seeds, nuts, flowers, fruits and berries were once used to treat a variety of ailments. Everything from fever to skin conditions.
“And this plant was used by the women to control the number of children they had” she explained.
“How interesting!” exclaimed someone who may or may not have been me. “So, you mean it’s like a natural form of contraception?”
Our guide immediately looked a bit uncomfortable and chose her words carefully before replying.
“Ah, not contraception exactly, no. It was something a woman would take so she wouldn’t be pregnant anymore.”
Ohhhhhh. I see.
With supreme control, I managed to refrain from asking further questions about the abortion plant as the other mothers and teachers blinked and smiled nervously. The girls didn’t miss a beat and neither did our guide who continued her talk seamlessly.
My point is this. Abortion is not new.
In fact, it’s as old as pregnancy. Ever since humans first began to reproduce, women have sought ways to control the process. We’ve always wanted a say in the number of children we have and when we have them.
And yet, on December 20, 2013 Spain’s government approved draft legislation that will make abortions illegal except in incredibly limited circumstances such as rape, incest or grave risks to the mother’s physical or mental health. A malformed foetus will no longer be a reason to legally terminate.
So well done Spain. Really. Congratulations for taking us back decades by making abortion illegal.
Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon said of the new laws, “Life that has been conceived and has not been born incarnates a fundamental value.” He further said that the laws would defend “both of the protection of life of the unborn and of women’s rights” and would “act always in the interests of the woman”. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party has an absolute majority in parliament – and are expected to pass the laws.
Coupled with the draconian repeal of abortion rights in many American states recently, a disturbing global pattern is emerging. Our ability to control our fertility and decide if and when we have a baby is being wound back and in some cases, taken away entirely.