The Zero Period
I got two abortions and here is what I learnt
Long before the two pink lines of a Covid antigen test became the most terrifying talk of the town, there was the pregnancy test. Along with it comes the judgmental stares of the pharmacist, the constant fear of what will the gynecologist say when you go to her for an abortion, and worse, where to even find a gynecologist who would be willing to perform a completely legal procedure on an unmarried woman. It is daunting, overwhelming and scary, especially because access to sexual health for women is shrouded in apathy and taboo.
Well, here is what I learnt from my experience of having two abortions in less than six months, and I am here to share my wisdom.
Know the law
You will be surprised by how long a simple google search can go. It is always helpful to know what laws regulate your body, what are your rights, and what is legal in India. There is no law in country (yet) which prevents any woman from getting an abortion, as long as she is over the age of 18 and her pregnancy is not more than 24 weeks long. It also helps to keep a track of what NGOs and support groups work in your city or town which enable or support safe abortion.
You never know which Instagram page or blog ends up helping you in your hour of need.
When I got my first positive test, knowing which organizations have a network of sex positive and non judgmental gynaecologists helped.
A home pregnancy test is not enough
In most cases, after you get a positive pregnancy test at home, you will be asked to get an ultrasound or a urine test to make sure that it is not a false positive. After your pregnancy is confirmed during an ultrasound, the radiologist might ask you to furnish a doctor’s prescription or a medical certificate immediately, and may even refuse to release the reports to you without it.
Remember that prenatal sex determination and sex selective abortions are common in our country, and every step is taken at all levels possible to avoid that. You may also be asked to get a full STI screening, which can also be a good idea if you are not exclusive with your partner or have not been tested in the recent past.
Personally, I (and my partner) prefer to get tested every time I decide to be in a monogamous relationship and then choose my method of birth control to avoid having to use a condom while also being careful about me and my partner’s health.
Choose the most cost effective option
An abortion will burn a hole in your pocket, especially if you end up getting one in a private facility or a D and C (A doctor uses a small instrument to open (dilate) the lower, narrow part of your uterus (cervix). They then use a surgical instrument called a curette, to remove the uterine tissue). Your best bet is to find an independently practising gynaecologist who will prescribe Mifepristone and Misoprostol (which ejects the pregnancy tissue in a manner similar to heavy periods) which you can buy in any pharmacy (Yes, the sale of this drug is not restricted as long as you have a doctor’s prescription). Some private facilities have “Abortion packages” (yes, you read that right) which are unnecessarily pricey and some people do prefer them because they are safer and relatively hassle free. However, going to a radiologist who has a practice independent of the gynaecologist may prove to be cheaper. The cheapest (and predictably most traumatic) experience is in government facilities.
Abortion is not a right
While abortion upto 24 weeks in India is legal, that is different from it being a right. This means that a pregnant woman cannot ‘demand’ an abortion and doctors can (and do) refuse to perform the procedure or write the required prescription. Under the law, the pregnancy must pose a physical or psychological risk to the woman for it to be terminated, and it is up to the doctor to decide whether or not that is the case with you. However, in practice, doctors refuse because they are either painfully pro life, or because they are scared of backlash.
Therefore, your best bet is to identify which doctors are ready to help you terminate the pregnancy with as little hassle as possible.
Get Contraception Counselling
While abortions are legal and fairly accessible if you know your way around, best is to avoid having to avail it altogether, because nothing compensates one for the slut shaming and discrimination they have to go through while undergoing an abortion. My radiologist during my first pregnancy kept on referring to the foetus, which at that point was just a 9 mm wide sac, as the “baby”, and I did not know how to make him understand it is not a baby until I wanted it to be. The nurses during my second ultrasound were especially interested in what was written in my Adhaar card and what was my father’s name. I was surprised they did not ask for his number to rat me out.
Therefore, it is always a good idea to have a sit down with your doctor to figure out what method of contraception would work best for you. It can vary from an IUD to birth control to periodic injections. And until men start taking contraceptive pills (which I do hope they do) having an expert explain your options to you can be a great idea.
An abortion is not easy, everyone’s body reacts to it differently. I got a fever during my first, and bled for a week like a hose during the second. It can be emotionally tiring and traumatic. But nothing beats the trauma of having a child when one is not ready, or when one does not want to. No woman should have to go through it. Abortion is healthcare. Period.
Sexuality Educator at The Zero Period