Reddit Thread On Abortion In Cuba Makes It Clear Why It's So Important To Protect Reproductive Rights Worldwide
If you've ever needed a reminder of why it's vital to protect reproductive rights all over the world, a recent example has come up in what might seem like an unlikely place: A Reddit thread about abortions in midcentury Cuba. Earlier this week, Redditor borninabiggreycloud created a thread in r/TwoXChromosomes, a subreddit dedicated to women-oriented content, detailing the story of how their grandmother received 33 abortions in Cuba during a time when the procedure was illegal. According to borninabiggreycloud, their grandmother's uterus was "ripped to shreds" by the time she was 36 and required a full hysterectomy, but she remained proud of her decision not to bring children into a life of poverty.
Although abortion became legal through Cuba's national health system in 1965 and the policy remains fairly liberal today, that wasn't always the case. When borninabiggreycloud's grandmother married at the age of 16 and became pregnant with her first child at age 20, abortion was still illegal, and despite her husband's frequent adultery, divorce was virtually unheard-of. "[The feeling was that] my grandfather was providing them with a home and food and a good life; so what if he was unfaithful?" borninabiggreycloud wrote.
After the birth of her second child, their grandmother made a decision not to bear any more children, but her options were limited. At the time, the birth control pill hadn't become available yet, and her husband refused to wear a condom.
"Stuck in a loveless marriage with two children and a man that was openly being unfaithful to her, my grandmother decided she didn’t want to continue adding mouths to feed to her dysfunctional family," borninabiggreycloud wrote. "She didn’t want to live an impoverished life of scraping by like she did as a child. ... So she did what she felt she had to do."
According to borninabiggreycloud, their grandmother had 33 illegal abortions between 1954 and 1966. Despite the health problems caused by the repeated procedures, she didn't regret them, especially when their family had the chance to flee to the United States. "In 1967 when my grandfather received the call that they had a way out of Cuba, my grandmother didn’t have to worry about which children she would leave behind, like so many others did," borninabiggreycloud wrote. "They were able to all escape together as a family."
Today, Cuba's abortion laws remain some of the most liberal in the world, particularly in Latin America. According to a 2015 report, Mexico City and Uruguay are the only other countries to allow unrestricted abortion within the first trimester; other countries in the region only allow the procedure in situations where the mother's life is in danger or the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest. The United Nations' report on Cuba's abortion policy notes that the legal abortion rate quadrupled between 1968 and 1974, but as other forms of contraception became widely available in recent years, it's dropped off. However, it still remains relatively high; the Guttmacher Institute estimates the rate to be around 78 abortions per 1000 women. In fact, a New York Times article explored Cuba's aging population, which may be tied to the rate of abortion, just just last year.
This is a stark contrast to the state of reproductive rights in the United States, where reproductive rights have become increasingly restricted over the past few years. Currently, Oklahoma legislators are attempting to override governor Mary Fallin's veto of an anti-abortion law stripping doctors who perform the procedure of their licenses; essentially, this would outlaw abortion except in cases when the mother's life was in danger. Unfortunately, Oklahoma is far from the only state to attempt to reduce access to reproductive freedom recently, and women nationwide have been experiencing the consequences firsthand.
According to borninabiggreycloud, this is exactly why they chose to share their grandmother's story online. "My grandmother had 33 abortions so that I didn’t have to have any," they wrote. "When I see the current political tide turning the other way, and the laws that keep popping up all over this country... I don’t think that the people passing these laws understand that for millions of years women have done what they feel they have to do, and they will continue to do so."
Furthermore, they added that their grandmother's story emphasizes the importance of access for legal, safe abortions — because research has shown that when abortions are done legally, the procedure is very safe. It only becomes unsafe when access to it is denied.
"Laws don’t stop women from having abortions. Morals, or a perceived lack thereof, don’t stop women from having abortions," borninabiggreycloud wrote. "Sometimes it’s the most humane thing they can do, not for themselves, not out of selfishness, but out of selflessness. ... They endure some suffering to prevent the future suffering of something else."
Check out the full story over on Reddit.