Choice Means Choice, Forced Abortions in India and Denied Abortions in America Are the Same Thing

America is all gearing up for another abortion fight, and Ranveer just released his anti-abortion movie, so I thought it would be a good time to talk about what “choice” really means.

When I was a little girl, we learned that if we answered the phone and it was someone call from “a woman’s organization you support”, that was Planned Parenthood. Because when they called for donations, they knew the person who answered the phone might not be the person giving them money, and they couldn’t say their actual name in case it got the person giving them money in trouble. I was always pro-choice without really thinking about it, it’s just how I was raised. And I knew a lot of people weren’t in America, and it wasn’t something we were supposed to talk about in case it caused fights.

That’s kind of an odd thing, when you think about it. My family believed in abortion as a human right, donated money for it, even protested for it. But I was also taught to not talk about it with my friends, just in case they disagreed. Unlike, say, religion (lots of fun conversations with my Catholic and Jewish best friends growing up, we never fought, were just interested). Or Racism, where everyone clearly agreed and there was only one side to be on. Abortion was different.

And then I got to college and started getting into Indian films and learning about the “save the female fetus” movement. Which didn’t feel odd to me, even though it should have. I was raised being taught that abortion was a human right. But learning about anti-abortion movements didn’t feel strange to me, it all kind of fit in together.

Pro-choice literally means pro-choice. If a woman wants to be pregnant, that is HER CHOICE and we should fight for her. If a woman does not want to be pregnant, that is also HER CHOICE and we should fight for her. Both sides of the coin are equal and equally important and that is what the pro-choice movement means.

When I was in high school, there were a bunch of teenage girls in my church who got pregnant. This was kind of odd, because I went to the most liberal church in town where the church sponsored sex-ed actually REQUIRED us to both purchase condoms, and meet with a nice woman from the local planned parenthood. But fine, teen pregnancy happens. What’s interesting is, all these super liberal parents were open to the idea of an abortion. The girls were really still girls, still in high school, how could they graduate, go to college, have lives, if they were also being mothers? But what’s REALLY interesting is when all the girls decided to continue the pregnancy, their parents supported them. No pressure, no guilt, even through a baby shower. Because, again, choice means CHOICE. If you believe it one way, you must believe it the other way.

I’ve discovered that learning the Indian meaning of “choice” is one of the hardest cultural barriers for folks new to Indian films. At least, until you think about it for a second. When Anushka’s character in Sultan chooses to continue her pregnancy and end her wrestling career, despite her father/coach’s disapproval, she is making a choose and that is her human right. When as a teenage bride, Maher Vij in Secret Superstar ran away in order to keep her female fetus, we should be proud of her bravery. When Kriti in Mimi refuses to end her pregnancy after learning the child may have birth defects, we should understand why it was something she just could not do.

Does that make sense? It’s all about choice, and in some places and situations it may mean fighting for a woman’s choice to continue a pregnancy. And in other places, it’s about her choice to end it. But it’s the same fight.

20 thoughts on “Choice Means Choice, Forced Abortions in India and Denied Abortions in America Are the Same Thing

  1. And it’s a difficult choice either way, no matter what side public opinion comes down on – or even if that weren’t a factor at all.

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    • Exactly. So difficult, that we have to respect the person making the choice because it is harder on them than we could ever imagine.

      On Wed, May 25, 2022 at 11:22 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I had to go back and wikipedia the plot, even though I’ve seen it! Somehow all I remembered was the elopements. And the main actor wasn’t my favorite. But it was an enjoyable movie!

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        • And I think it handled abortion perfectly! Difficult emotional experience which required a friend to support her. But at the same time, no second guessing of the decision, a hard thing that she did but which she knew was right for her.

          On Wed, May 25, 2022 at 12:43 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Isn’t there a fleeting mention of an abortion in Shudh Desi Romance, or am I remembering it wrong? And as I recall, handled perfectly also. Part of the woman’s past and did not ruin her.

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          • Though I think in real life we need to allow for, not exactly second guessing, but like the feelings that come with either decision. I once read about a woman who had already decided on an abortion and then lost the pregnancy the natural way. And she had a really hard time getting over that because she felt like she wasn’t allowed to grieve. On the other hand, even if you made the decision to keep the child yourself, I feel like it would be unhealthy to bottle up any feelings of frustration or inadequacy.

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          • Yes! Either way, it is a complicated decision and you are allowed to feel how you feel about it. I mean, we don’t say “if you ordered salad for lunch but slightly regret not getting pizza, that’s FORBIDDEN”. Why should this decision not be like any other? You are torn between both sides and you pick which one you feel for most.

            On Thu, May 26, 2022 at 3:07 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. I thought it was obvious what ‘choice’ means in this context. Interesting to hear about this cultural barrier – do you mean people don’t understand why those women chose to go through the pregnancies?

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    • I just had a friend saying, for example, she would find it too upsetting to watch Jayeshbhai Jordaar in the context of the upsetting anti-choice news in America. Which was the OPPOSITE of my reaction. Like, Jayeshbhai Jordaar is totally a pro-choice movie. Right? The mother should be allowed to make whatever choice she wants.

      I’ve had the same reaction from people to Anushka keeping the pregnancy in Sultan, or Kriti in Mimi. That they saw it as anti-choice, saying not ending the pregnancy was the “right” thing.

      On Wed, May 25, 2022 at 12:56 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • A lot of people in the pro-choice camp really believe, and want others to believe that abortion is just like the morning after pill and that it isn’t a big deal at all. Hell in the Soviet Union it was (outside of the rhythm method) the predominent form of birth control – perhaps because the other ones offered were inneffective. Therefore it should be no big deal, and these movies where it becomes a big deal for the woman to KEEP the child throw shade on that idea. So for some if you admit that abortion is a big deal, you are at the same time admitting that there could be something wrong with the idea of having an abortion. Thus they’ll see these pro-choice / pro-child movies as an attack on abortion.

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        • I see where your friends have issues. To be honest, I am uncomfortable with the reasoning against abortion in some of these movies where the woman frames it as not the right thing to do more than her really wanting the baby. She’s making the choice for herself either way, but I think it gets complicated when you delve into how social conditioning has shaped her choice.

          Genevieve brings up a point I have thought about for some time. I have seen both sides of these arguments where pro-life people claim abortion is a big life-altering deal and pro-choice people say it’s just like any other regular medical procedure. I think both arguments generalize and over-simplify things. Only the person in question should get to decide or feel how big a deal it is for them and wherever they land on the spectrum, those feelings are valid.

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          • The social conditioning is so tricky. And I truly don’t think I can answer that for Indian films. If it is a strict “her choice because it is her choice” moment, then I think that is universal humanism. But I don’t know how strong the pro-abortion (not pro-choice, but pro-abortion) message is in India. Are there people there to support a young unmarried woman who wants to continue her pregnancy? Or does the argument need to be that strong in order to make it acceptable on film? I can’t answer that. I know where these films land in the end (especially Mimi, where she continues a completely impractical pregnancy just because she cannot within herself have an abortion) is something that is universal about choice. But I don’t know about how they get there, I can’t answer that.

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          • I don’t think anyone can answer that. I can’t answer that for some of my choices even! The only important thing here is that ideally options should be easily available for either choice.

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        • I don’t like that simple argument because ultimately it makes a lot of specific arguments harder to make. For instance, part of the reason abortions need to be easily accessible and quick is because there is a ticking clock on the effect on a woman’s body. Right? If you say “what’s the big deal about a 6 week cooling off period? Or needing to schedule 8 weeks out?”, it’s ignoring the physical and emotional toll ending a pregnancy can take on a woman and how that toll grows as time goes on. Respecting them as a draining physical and emotional medical procedure is more likely to lead to appropriate social support systems around them. Does that make sense?

          And from what little I know, the people who are actually providing this care are very aware of all these concerns. Clinics provide support volunteers and travel home and all kinds of things. It’s just the sort of meme/twitter folks that simplify things. Full credit to medical providers for being concerned for their patients and providing what is needed as best they can.

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  3. I complete agree with you that choice is choice whether to keep or abort. I think what becomes tough for some to digest in movies like Mimi is not her choice to keep the baby but lines like “Killing a child after birth is a crime but killing it inside the womb is not.” Same thing in Good Newzzzzzz. One one hand, I am outraged with Akshay for basically forcing Kareena to get an abortion. Again takes away her choice. But I am also not okay with the doctor asking Kareena if she wants to “kill” the child. Does that make sense?

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    • Makes total sense! And very good media analysis, you get a gold star! You can respect the general storyline and still have issues with the exact presentation. That’s another thing with hot button topics, it can be hard to narrow it down from “it’s right that Kriti makes the decision for herself” from “that line is a problem”. You just feel the emotion and want to say “the whole thing is horrible, she was forced to carry the baby to term”.

      On Wed, May 25, 2022 at 2:04 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. Reproductive freedom is the freedom to plan our own families and make our win healthcare decisions. Forced birth. Forced abortion. Outlawing contraception. Outlawing IVF are all part of the same ugly package human rights abuses.

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  5. Pingback: this is not okay. – Lili's Not-So-Secret_Diary

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