“Honestly, I never thought about an abortion, but I know for sure that I would not want to become a mother at 16.” Clara says so, she just turned 17, and assures that this is not one of the topics she talks about with her friends. Not Paula, Marta, Alba, Mia, Alicia, Marina, Bea, Mercedes, Lucia or Rosario. Abortion is not among their worries, and they hope that it will be. All but one agree with lowering the abortion age to 16 without mothers’ and fathers’ permission, which the Ministry of Equality has included in the reform of the abortion law, which will be submitted to the Council of Ministers next Tuesday. And everyone adds something: “I would tell my mother.”
What if their mothers disagree? Almost all of them end up with the same answer: they decide to take a break. It’s different for mothers and fathers. Positions range from outright refusal to support, though wishing the moment never came. Many are torn between respect for their daughters’ autonomy and the fear of not knowing what’s going on in their lives. Lourdes Gaitan, PhD in sociology and founder of the Group for the Sociology of Adolescence and Childhood (GSIA), focuses on the changes that have taken place in society since the first abortion law was passed in 1985. “Being a girl today is not the same as it was 20 years ago. Years or 50. Young women now have access to technology and media that allow them to gain experience and knowledge, they have more elements to judge.”
“To say that we are addicted girls at 16, and at 18 it’s like a balloon burst and we are no longer addicted, is an arbitrary line that we use to control those who are smaller than us,” says Gaitan. Hence the consequences in the family sphere. “If our daughters are required by law to ask us for permission to work and cannot vote…At this point, do we think they are ready?” – reflects Sylvia, who is a mother.
Yes, there are other areas where 16 is the limit: the age of sexual consent and the age set by the law on patient autonomy. Gaitan links this to children’s rights: “Fathers and mothers, this girl is not yours, she does not belong to you,” the sociologist says, knowing that this concept is difficult to pick up. Also for teenagers. Despite the oft-repeated “I do what I want” when a critical moment comes, such as a 16-year-old pregnancy, the retaining wall that the family can represent matters.
“Of course they’ll make me have it”
Martha and Mia know that their family’s decision will matter more than their own, and they also believe that it should. Martha, 16: “I think everything is in order. [la bajada de la edad] On the one hand, on the other, not so much. Since he is a minor, perhaps the parents should take control. She told her mother “at first”: “She would know how to guide me. Although they will surely force me to have it. Mia, who turned 18 in April, is the only one who disagrees with the age limit of 16: “The parents are up to something. The first person I notify will be my mother. At 16, I would definitely have an abortion, now at 18 … I think not. And 17-year-old Lucia thinks “of all those who do not trust their mothers.”
This, according to Ada Santana, president of the Young Women Federation, is the most vulnerable part: “It is worrying that a 16-year-old woman is pregnant, but we are most worried about those who cannot become pregnant. tell at home, it’s for them Who do we have to protect? Juan José, the father, thinks about it: “The problem is in families, where if the father finds out that the daughter is pregnant, he beats her … And if the pregnancy becomes dangerous, does it depend on the permission of the father? They may seem like extreme situations, but they happen.
Santana points to the many mothers who stand up for their right to “protect their daughters.” “Do they understand that their daughters do not have the right to decide on an abortion, but are capable of becoming mothers at 16?” Marina, who will turn 16 next August, speaks of “madness” and that “how parents feel is understandable,” but “under no circumstances should they be allowed to decide” about this: “I put myself in such a position that They will force me to have a child next year, and the whole world will fall on me.
Breaking the pattern of home and family in favor of personal development
In recent decades, generations have grown up and socialized differently. Especially women. “Young girls have almost completely broken with the stereotype that at 18 they dream of getting married and having children,” says Santana. Women have won public space and freedom. “The new generations don’t want to give it up, there is a change in concept that comes through growing up, professional development, gaining one’s own autonomy…” he adds.
The Fad Juventud Foundation’s 2017 Youth Motherhood Study, which collected data on women aged 18 to 35, reflects that the vast majority of those aged 18 to 24 did not want to be mothers at the time (64, 8%), 12.8%. did not know if they wanted to be mothers, and 10.2% clearly stated that they did not want to have children. Only 8.1% answered “soon” to the idea of having one. Rosario, who, under the current law, has been able to have abortions since last year, it is clear that three years ago, when she was 16, she would have told her mother “on her head: “And have an abortion. I had no body, no mind, no money, nothing else to have children. If I have a child that my parents have to take care of, I don’t want to.”
According to the latest Ministry of Health report on voluntary termination of pregnancy with data for 2020, the proportion of women per 1,000 women who have an abortion before the age of 19 is the second highest at 7.41 and has almost halved since then. 2011 (13.68). Lower only in women older than 40 years (3.97). And the highest is from 20 to 24, from 15.81.
educate, prevent, educate, prevent
At the core is a way to avoid “something out of the ordinary,” Lourdes Gaitan points out: “Abortion is a physical and psychological risk. To prevent this, it is necessary to promote girls’ and boys’ access to contraceptives and encourage their use by boys.” Sometimes, says Fed’s report Between Trust and Violence: The Ambivalence of Adolescent Sexuality, both the morning-after pill and voluntary abortion are “suggested as mitigating the seriousness of a possible unwanted pregnancy.” And he clarifies: “This idea is usually raised by boys.” The key point at this stage is sexual affective education.
Equality’s abortion law reform project puts this issue at the forefront. And this is not new. This formation has been part of the theory and politics of progressive governments for many years. However, it has not been implemented in practice. In an interview with this newspaper last March, Minister Irene Montero described this education as “basic” and “compulsory.”
The document that governs your area makes reference to the fact that the reform “is going to fill the gaps of the previous regulation.” And it says: “The object of the norm is expanding, giving greater importance to sex education, which becomes mandatory at all levels of education.” He also refers to periodic institutional campaigns and suggests “the inclusion of quality, adapted and sufficient content on health, sexual and reproductive rights in careers related to legal sciences, educational sciences, social sciences and in the curricula of oppositions associated with them.”
“What I know for sure is that a 16-year-old girl is not fit to be a mother.”
Alvaro Garcia, a high school teacher at the Madrid Institute, believes that “at 16 there are different levels of maturity.” But what he “surely” knows is that a 16-year-old girl is “not fit” for motherhood. “He has to learn and experience many other things first. In addition, care falls not only on her, but also on the family.
For this educator, “it is preferable that at this age she receive public psychological attention from a professional who helps her assess her situation and make a decision, rather than having a family, which often by force of belief does not think about the consequences, make the decision for her.” .” The trust that has been built in every home is fundamental. Kristina, the mother, “opened” the door to her daughters “for everything, and they know it.” But he realizes that “it’s not the same everywhere.” Gaitan, a sociologist, chooses “they do not need permission, but they need advice, support.”
Paula, who came of age in March, believes that “parents are guardians and it would be wrong to do this without their knowledge.” 16-year-old Alba “would never have done this” without telling her mother: “She will accompany me, I will feel calmer.” Maria, now 18, goes further, but also with her mother: “You give birth to a child, it is your decision. Of course I would tell my mother, she would be the only person I would tell.”
A few days ago, Leslie Jamison, an American essayist, wrote in this newspaper: “Raising children completely changes the main pillars of experience: time, sleep, money, loneliness. In other words, every moment of parenting—every hour, every day—is an argument for why it is important to make choices in parenting. Abortion is not just about pregnancy or childbirth; it is connected with all subsequent life: a life of absolute responsibility, no palliatives, no interruptions; as well as the life of the child.
“It’s not about getting there”
“It’s not about getting there, I say.” Bea speaks very quickly, soon to be 18, in an Instagram audio: “Sometimes the problem is how you don’t get there because you don’t see if there are pitfalls along the way: when you need to convince your boyfriend, or not your boyfriend that either with or without a condom”, or “when you think that because you are in love, this is no longer necessary.”
Fad Juventud’s report “Between Trust and Violence: The Ambivalence of Youth Sexuality” looks at “the burden that in many cases falls on women when it comes to inserting a condom during intercourse.” This creates, according to the report, a “scenario of strong inequality” when it comes to “the approach to prevention within their affective sexual relationship.”
Mercedes doesn’t know how to explain “why, but she’s like if you tell her about a condom, she’ll get upset” and “sometimes you give up.” But he knows that “in the end, if something happens, the consequences will fall on you.” Fad’s research confirms “the processes of dominance and situations of lack of protection that young women face today, where they still in many cases continue to bear the full symbolic and physical weight of both condom use and bearing the consequences.”
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