menu/ SAFE WAYS OF TERMINATING YOUR PREGNANCY

Sometmes in my readings a spirit will speak about the conditions of a mother's body and the importance of keeping healthy not only on a physical level but on the emotional, psychic, mental and spiritual levels as well. An incoming spirit is linked psychically with its mother and picks up everything that is around and within the mother's aura.

Once life is set in motion, nature takes charge and fulfills what it knows to do. If a mother does not want the child, these feelings are recorded in the aura and are felt by the infant. In addition, a psychological shock could easily affect the forming foetus in many ways, such as birth defects. In the case of miscarriages, I believe this is nature's way of ending an imperfection or defect of some kind. This may not be just of the physical body, but of an etheric or mental nature.

This brings me to the controversial and painful subject of abortion. Every time I speak of it, people come up to me to express their sadness over it, the sense of loss and tormenting guilt. In a healthy pregnancy, the forces are set in motion and will continue to build a vessel until birth or termination. When an abortion takes place, a spirit has not fully invested the body and returns to the God world. It will wait there for another appropriate opportunity to reveal itself. Remember that a new being is spiritually linked to its mother and is completely aware that an abortion may occur.

In most of my readings concerning this topic, it seems that abortions occur for the mother's spiritual growth. Before incarnating, a spirit will set up a situation like having an abortion to work through lessons of self-worth, guilt, failure, and love of self. Is there a karmic effect on a woman in a future incarnation because of this act? Not necessarily.

Hopefully, a woman will learn and grow in self-love and come to self-enlightenment because of such an emotionally difficult experience.

- from Reaching to Heaven, by James Van Praagh

paper-clothed strangers

AN ABORTION CLINIC VOLUNTEER DISCUSSES HER EXPERIENCES

By Jennifer New

Jadine, is that her name? Why can't I remember her name? There is her bulk, her blues, her weariness. She reminded me of a large, scuffed suitcase that for years had been filled with other people's stuff. She was entrusted with the safe-keeping of their dreams, their wrongdoings, their children, their illnesses. Forty-four years old and patiently exasperated, she muttered, "I didn't think this could still happen." Her voice was tired.

This was just one more damned awful thing she had not been intending to have to deal with, but here she was - dealing.

She stared at the ceiling. Occasionally she closed her eyes, lightly. She tried to smile or nod at us. Hers was the lengthiest abortion I've seen. I really don't know how long we were all in tiny Room 4 at the end of the hall. It was a warm summer evening, and with five of us in there the temperature rose. Through it all, people were prodding at her body.

One doctor inserted a saline drip in her arm to keep her blood pressure up and to hydrate her. At Jadine's feet, the clinic director and another doctor, pale with concern, were tensely discussing whether to proceed. Jadine was more than 12 weeks along, 12 weeks being the maximum stage for which this clinic was equipped.

Across from the doctor, holding the saline drip up by Jadine's head, was me. A novice advocate, I was telling her to breathe, to hang on, though Jadine had obviously been breathing and hanging on with considerable tenacity for a long while. I wiped her forehead with a cool cloth. Trying to equal the strength of her grip, I held her hand. Later, I arranged the heating pad under her broad back.

I had done this for many women and nearly all were grateful. But Jadine was one of the few who was almost embarrassed by the kindness of these simple acts. She had held so many hands herself, children and grandchildren. For someone to do these things for her - whisper words of support, remove the cloths dampened by her sweat and blood - this was such a surprise. She didn't say much to me, but the humbleness of her thanks expressed its depth.

Later, waiting outside for a cab, both of us exhausted and the night quietly warm, she directed her gaze at me and then away to some thought, perhaps of a prior touch or of tomorrow's work that would not wait for her to take the rest she really needed.


The experience of holding a stranger's hand during an abortion is a powerful one.

A piece of your self is taken on by them, just as you take in their pain, relief, tears and nervous laughter.


Standing guard next to paper-clothed examination tables, I have been closer to more women than in every locker room and slumber party of my past.

It is an odd bond that is made. One woman so exposed, the other there only to attend to her needs. You lie on your back, feet in stirrups, a doctor between your legs, instruments prodding inside, all extracting this small piece of you. No matter how patient and well-intentioned the others in the room, you are bare, vulnerable. Scars are exposed. Your underwear, soft and worn, rests in a small pile on a chair. Your socks and toes stick up into someone's face. Laughing when you are afraid, you sob later with relief.

It all comes out so oddly here in this small cupboard of a room with these strange, concerned faces. This sliver is all they will know of you. They won't know that you balance your checkbook neatly each month or that you once read "War and Peace" in a week. These people, smelling clean and unfamiliar, might learn, because your body gives it away, that you've injected yourself with drugs or that you had a Caesarean.

But those other things that make you whole, they won't know those. Now you are a body on a table covered with thin paper - a conglomeration of pulse and temperature, your family's cancer history, the date of your last period. Right now you are a woman who has decided to lie on this table, to go on with her life in a changed way, and these are the people accompanying you through the physical trials of that decision.

I too have lain on the table, my legs in stirrups, a mild sedative pulsing through my system leaving a soft blur. The faces are fuzzy; I could never pick out the doctor or even the advocate who was there with me. I vaguely recall the chill of the speculum, and the quick fist of pain that was the cramping. But these are all physical memories.

Afterward in the recovery room (how did I get there? did I fly?), I peered at the city. And though I have a mental snapshot of a gray, cold day dotted with European steeples and bare trees, this is all wrong because it was September and about 80 degrees outside.

When it was finished and I was dressed, the check written and the receipt pressed between the pages of "The Day of the Locust" (where I found it two years later during a move), I probably said thank you. Almost all women for whom I have advocated have thanked me when it was over. It's odd how this makes you feel when you are there to assist. Often I will want to say, "No, thank you." Thank you for your patience, your nerves, your warmth. Thank you for revealing yourself.

Now and then, a woman will drop an unpolished stone in your lap, a memory or a dream, something she has held against herself warm and private all these years. And now, after you have held her hand and wiped away vomit from her mouth, now as you move the heating pad under her back, she tells you: "You are the only one who knows this happened. I couldn't tell my boyfriend because we're breaking up. None of my friends would approve. Just you."

And so you put this responsibility in your pocket and try to carry it safely through whatever voyage it may be on. I have had women tell me of physical abuse, of failed friendships, of dreams unfulfilled. Momentarily I wonder why they have chosen me. I hope that it is not because there is no one else, though, sadly, I think this is usually the case.

I must take care. I must try to remember. At parties I hesitate to talk to unknown women, checking for any sign of familiarity. I fear someone pausing and squinting her eyes at me: "Don't I know you?" I have been around so many abortions that it seems to me that almost every woman has had one. It is not shameful; it is something that happens. Have sex, get pregnant - simple equation.

For a woman to get through her entire life without a single unwanted pregnancy demonstrates an amazing degree of self-respect, foresight and emotional health to which few of us are privy. An abortion seems to signal for many women that something is askew, that we need to make changes. This chance for alterations, the prevention of more serious ills, has always been for me the most formidable element of abortion. But other people don't immediately see it this way.

I have spoken to some of my closest friends about their abortions. Even with me, whom they know to be caring about the subject, their tones are hushed, the pauses long. This is wrong. You are weak. These sentiments are common and firmly intact, no matter what a woman's politics are. It is hard to shake them away and to replace them with visions of prevention, future and hope. Yes, these friends always include some positive outcomes in their accounts. Needed changes were made. They learned that only they can care for themselves. They gained respect for the power of their bodies.

But these are afterthoughts to a story that is scattered with self-blame and guilt.

Recently, I was sitting in traffic in a suburb far from the clinic. A woman crossed right in front of me. Where had I seen her? She was wearing a Denny's restaurant uniform, and I recalled a particular woman and her boyfriend for whom I had advocated. They had impressed me with the unity and tenderness with which they approached the abortion.

It was indeed her, looking happy and confident, totally unaware that someone who had been intimately involved in an hour of her life sat just feet away, watching her cross safely. I could have sat next to the woman who had advocated for me in a restaurant or on a plane. Without doubt I have been on the same bus or in the same movie theater as some of the women for whom I've cared. Our paths cross gently, without our knowing. We help and we receive help in return.

Perhaps I will see Jadine again. I would remember her face, I think.

Copyright 2006 Jennifer New

safe abortion: a public health imperative

The international community has recognized that unsafe abortion is a major threat to women's health. By liberalizing restrictive abortion laws and investing in abortion safety, governments can save the lives of tens of thousands of women every year.

History has shown that women worldwide, when faced with unwanted pregnancy, seek abortions regardless of the legality of the procedure. Many have no choice but to undergo abortions performed by unqualified practitioners in unhygienic settings. About one-third of the women who have abortions performed under these circumstances experience complications that pose major risks to their lives and health.

Complications resulting from an unsafe abortion include:

- Sepsis, hemorrhage, and uterine perforation - all of which may be fatal if left untreated and often lead to infertility, permanent physical impairment, and chronic morbidity;

- Gas gangrene and acute renal failure, which contribute to abortion deaths as secondary complications;

- Chronic pelvic pain;

- Pelvic inflammatory disease;

- Tubal occlusion;

- Secondary infertility, a high risk of ectopic pregnancy, premature delivery and future spontaneous abortions; and

- Reproductive tract infections, of which 20-40% lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and consequent infertility.

Governments should treat unsafe abortion as a major public health concern. They should remove legal barriers to safe abortion services and allocate resources toward improving the quality of abortion care.

removing legal restrictions on abortion makes the procedure safer

When abortion is legally restricted, women are often forced to obtain unsafe abortions in non-medical facilities, frequently performed by untrained practitioners. Governments should improve women's access to safe abortion services by removing laws that criminalize the procedure.

Where access to abortion is restricted by law, qualified medical practitioners are usually reluctant to provide the service. In addition, abortion services are rarely available in public hospitals, which are often the only source of safe medical care for low-income women. Services offered in private clinics are likely to be out of reach for these women.

In countries in which abortion is generally illegal, physicians do not routinely receive training in abortion procedures. As a result, providers may employ outmoded abortion practices. Fear of criminal prosecution may affect a physician's willingness to treat women with complications arising from spontaneous or unsafe, clandestine abortion. Similarly, women who fear prosecution for having undergone an illegal abortion are more likely to delay seeking care, thereby putting themselves at greater risk.

Legalizing abortion decreases the rate of abortion-related deaths. In the United States, death rates due to abortion decreased 85% in five years after legalization. Under Romania's highly restrictive abortion law, the abortion-related death rate reached 100 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1974 and 150 in 1983. In 1989, the government legalized abortion and by the end of 1990, deaths caused by abortion dropped to about 60 per 100,000 live births.

When abortion was made legal in Guyana in 1995, admissions to a capital city hospital for septic and incomplete abortion declined by 41% within six months of enacting the law. Before passage of the law, septic abortion was the third largest cause of admissions to public hospitals and incomplete abortion was the eighth largest.

governments should invest in safe abortion services

The benefits of ensuring access to safe abortion - to women, children, and society - far outweigh the minimal costs. Governments should invest in making abortion safe and accessible.

Ensuring women's access to safe abortion services may result in lower medical costs for governments. In some low- and middle-income countries, up to 50% of hospital budgets are used to treat complications of unsafe abortion. The treatment of abortion complications uses a disproportionate share of resources, including hospital beds, blood supply, antibiotics, pain control and other medication, operation rooms and services, anesthesia, and medical specialists. Treatment of unsafe abortion complications may require a hospital stay of up to 15 days. In contrast, treatment of spontaneous or uncomplicated abortions usually requires a hospital stay of up to only 3 days.15 Making abortion more accessible does not increase demand for the procedure.

Hence, governments need not fear that the costs of making safe abortion more available will overburden a health care infrastructure.16 For example, Barbados, Canada, Tunisia, and Turkey all liberalized their laws to increase access to legal abortion, but they did not experience an increase in abortion rates.

The Netherlands, with a non-restrictive abortion law, widely accessible contraceptives, and free abortion services, has one of the lowest annual abortion rates in the world. Investing in abortion safety brings long-term benefits for the next generation. Many women who seek abortions already have living children. In a 1990 study of Chile, where all abortion is illegal, 78% of women hospitalized for complications from clandestine abortions were married or in consensual unions and 76% already had children.

Young children who lose their mothers to unsafe abortion are likely to have serious health problems of their own. When a mother dies, surviving children tend to receive less health care and education than children with both parents and are much more likely to die than children who live with both parents.

According to the World Health Organization, unsafe abortion is "a procedure for terminating an unwanted pregnancy either by persons lacking the necessary skills or in an environment lacking the minimal medical standards or both." At least 78,000 women die each year from complications of unsafe abortion and hundreds of thousands of women suffer from long- or short-term disabilities.

In low-income countries, about 200 women die each day as a result of unsafe abortions. Unsafe abortion is responsible for 13% of all maternal deaths globally. Each year, an estimated 20 million unsafe abortions are performed worldwide, 95% of which are performed in low-income countries.

Each year, approximately 20 million unsafe abortions are performed worldwide. They result in nearly 80,000 maternal deaths and hundreds of thousands of disabilities. In some countries, unsafe abortion is the most common cause of maternal death. It is also one of the most easily preventable and treatable.

deaths from unsafe abortion

Every day, 55,000 unsafe abortions take place – 95% of them in developing countries. They are responsible for one in eight maternal deaths. Globally, one unsafe abortion takes place for every seven births.

disabilities + health problems

Between 10% and 50% of all women who undergo unsafe abortions need medical care for complications. The most frequent complications are incomplete abortion, infection (sepsis), haemorrhage and injury to the internal organs, such as puncturing or tearing of the uterus.

Long-term health problems include chronic pain, pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility. In many African countries, up to 70% of women treated for abortion complications are younger than 20. Younger, unmarried women often have poor access to family planning information and services. They also have fewer social contacts and less financial means to obtain an abortion safely.

Young women are also more likely to delay pregnancy termination until late in pregnancy when the risk of complications is higher. Dangerous - and often fatal - methods and procedures used to induce abortion include those recommended by "home abortion" practitioners.

the cost to the public health system

Treatment of abortion-related complications often requires several days of hospitalisation and staff time, as well as blood transfusions, antibiotics, pain control medications and other drugs. In some hospitals in developing countries, treating the complications of unsafe abortion consumes as much as 50% of the total budget.

legislation + policies on abortion

Pregnancy termination is permitted in more than 131 developing countries (and almost every developed country) - either for broad economic or social reasons, or for more limited health or personal circumstances such as to protect the health of the woman or in case of rape or incest.

Definitions of "health risk" vary widely by country. Governments around the world have recognised that unsafe abortion is a major public health issue. At the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, they called for humane, high quality medical services to prevent unsafe abortion and treat its complications.

Participants also called for safe abortion services where not against the law.

why women resort to abortion

Most women who decide to terminate a pregnancy are married or live in stable unions and already have several children. Women can find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy for many reasons:

- FAMILY PLANNING IS OUT OF REACH At least 350 million couples worldwide do not have access to information about family planning and a full range of modern contraceptives;

- CONTRACEPTIVE METHODS FAIL Between 8 and 30 million pregnancies each year are the result of contraceptive failure - either inconsistent or incorrect use of family planning methods, or failure of the methods themselves;

- SEXUAL COERCION, INCEST + RAPE In studies around the world, between 20% and 50% of women and girls report sexual abuse, rape or sexual coercion;

- A VARIETY OF SOCIAL + ECONOMIC REASONS The women are unmarried, have been abandoned by their partners, are adolescents, are in an unstable partnership, have too many children to support, and / or live in poverty; and

- POOR + UNAVAILABLE HEALTH SERVICES Even where legal, abortion is not always available: In many developing countries, health workers, doctors and nurses do not have adequate training or equipment. Some refuse to perform abortions because they do not understand the laws or because they personally do not support abortion.

treatment for unsafe abortion is inadequate

When women have complications from an unsafe abortion, good medical care is often unavailable. Lack of training, equipment and protocols; misdiagnosis; negative attitudes of health workers; and / or overcrowded emergency wards can result in life-threatening and costly delays for women seeking treatment.

Family planning is not always offered to women who have been treated for abortion complications: In Zambia, for example, 78% of women treated for abortion complications said they wanted information about family planning; 44% wanted to receive a method. However, family planning was discussed with only 33% of the women, and none was offered a method to take home.

what can be done?

- Ensure universal access to client-sensitive family planning services, especially for young people and women at risk of sexual abuse, rape and violence;

- Offer safe abortion services by trained, compassionate staff when allowed by law;

- Ensure that high-quality services for treating and managing abortion complications are accessible through the health system;

- Offer family planning counselling and services, and referrals for comprehensive reproductive health services, to all women who have had an abortion;

- Educate communities about reproductive health and unsafe abortion; and

- Reform laws and policies to support women’s reproductive health and improve access to family planning, health and abortion-related services.

Copyright 2006 Safe Motherhood Initiative

For more information or copies of available materials, contact the secretariat at:

family care international
588 Broadway
Suite 503
New York
NY, 10012
USA
T (212) 941-5300
F (212) 941-5563
E smi10@familycareintl.org
W www.safemotherhood.org

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