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Edition #5
Growth and Power
Liliana Alloueche
Edited by Elizabeth Rose

I’m pro-choice, but what choices do I have?

With the overturning of Roe v. Wade,To say that in recent months the door to debate over abortion was once again opened would not be accurate. As far as I’m concerned, it was never closed, the issue has always been up for debate – the right to abortion has never been fully secured. Though many Western countries passed this right all the way back in the 1970s, thanks to the restless activism and information campaigns of concerned parties, to this day, many continue to question its legitimacy, calling for its renewed prohibition. 

While debates on the issue go on and on and on between pro-choice, pro-life activists, and politicians, the fact of the matter is that hundreds of thousands of girls and women become - and I dare to use the word - victims of an unwanted pregnancy. On the one hand, if they live in a country or state where the right to abortion does not exist, and they do not have the means or the possibility to get the procedure somewhere else, they are forced to bear all the consequences of unwanted pregnancy, often at the costs of their status, physical, mental health and wellbeing. In sum, at the expense of their own lives. On the other hand, women and girls who have the right to abortion supposedly have a choice and, therefore, the power to decide how to deal with their unwanted pregnancies. The assumption is that with the right to abortion, unwanted pregnancies should not cost women their lives. However, I argue that this is a myopic assumption that does not consider the plethoric amount of struggles women still have to go through, despite having the right to abort. 

In other words, while the right to abortion is fundamental, it should not and cannot be considered an end to itself, but rather, a starting point. The issues of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies are profoundly nuanced and deserve to be fully and accurately explored. In recent years, the topic of abortion has often been talked about through the American discourse, which has thoroughly politicised it, completely ostracising the profoundly personal nature of this issue. In this article, taking a very personal stance, I aim to explore some of the nuances of both abortion and unwanted pregnancy. I argue that even when you are fortunate enough to have the right to abortion, it can still feel like you have no power over your situation, body, and life. 

Though I cannot speak for every woman and girl, I know that for many of us, getting pregnant when we did not plan or want it, is one of the most terrifying things that could happen to us. To avoid that fear, many people decide to take on contraceptive methods, which are, without a doubt, the most efficient ways to prevent pregnancy besides abstinence or celibacy. However, not only are they not accessible to everyone, but they also are not 100% effective, and unplanned pregnancies can still happen. Not to mention that in some instances, people can be pressured not to use contraceptive methods by their partners or their community or religion. Besides, contraceptives like condoms can also be removed without the knowledge or consent of the partner. 

So when an “accident” does happen, and a woman or girl becomes pregnant, what choice and power do they actually have?

According to Article 1 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR), “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights'' (The United Nations, 1948). Yet, failure to create social systems in which women can have abortions or continue pregnancies as they choose, free of judgement, religious persecution, social impact or career implications, means failure to ensure the equal dignity or right to security for women globally.

The moment a pregnancy test shows two lines instead of one, it can feel like all your power and agency over your own body and life are quickly vanishing for two main reasons. The first and most obvious one is the biological component. While the act of getting pregnant is by no means a solitary one, as a woman or womb-having person, we have been assigned the role of bearing children, putting, therefore, all physical consequences on us, whether we like it or not. On this matter, we have little to no choice or power, despite all technological developments. The second reason is a wider, societal one. While it is not as “unchangeable” as the biological one, it still pushes women and girls to comply with accepted norms. As soon as a pregnancy test turns positive, depending on your social environment, the decision can often feel like it's already been taken for you.

For instance, I am a young woman, still a student, I don’t have a full-time job with a steady income, and I still rely on my parents for most of my financial needs. If everything goes as planned, I will at the soonest, only be able to become fully financially independent in a year or two. Still, my salary will probably be just enough to cover a bedroom in a shared flat and my moderate living expenses. While I’m currently in a committed relationship with my boyfriend, we are far from ready to settle down. As such, according to my social circle and my environment, if I were to become pregnant, the sensible thing to do would be to have an abortion unless I want to “ruin my life” and that of my “boyfriend”.  Alternatively, if one day, let’s say in ten years, I’ll have a great job, a high-enough income and will have settled down with someone and become pregnant, the common assumption would be that I carry on the pregnancy and have the baby. It would only be “logical” for me to do so.

As such, it very much appears that whatever the situation might be, schemes and plans on what it is that you should do when becoming pregnant have already been decided through societal norms in your environment. So, I’m asking myself, what kind of power do I have? If I try to go against these norms, while it is possible, it will most certainly come at a cost. But what happens if I try to follow these norms?

Lets hypothesise: I’m a young woman living in Italy, my native country, and I need to get an abortion. In Italy, the right to abortion was passed in 1978 and is supposedly available for all women, and the state fully covers the procedure. However, what struggles will I encounter? First, I’m lucky enough to be over 18; otherwise, I would need consent from both parents to get the abortion. Second, I need to find a doctor or hospital that does these kinds of procedures. In Italy, only 60% of hospitals offer access to abortions due to a dangerously high number of “conscientious objectors”. In some regions, no hospital provides such procedures (Laiga.194). Depending on the time of the year, the clinics or hospitals that do the procedure might either be closed or completely overbooked. Third, while the procedure is free, I still need to cover the costs for the post-procedure meds and possibly psychological support pre or post-procedure. Finally, and the most worrying aspect of all, is that I know I will be judged. Everyone will have something to say about whether it’d be my social circle, my doctors, my nurses or, more generally, society. In Rome, in 2012, “the garden of angels,” or in other words, the cemetery of foetuses, was inaugurated (Ama, 2012). This is a cemetery where hundreds of foetuses resulting from abortions were buried with a white cross bearing the name and surname of the women who aborted them. All this would often happen without the women’s knowledge or consent. Only in 2022, after years of legal battles, activism, and investigations, “there will no longer be the mother’s first and last name but only an alphanumeric code”(La Svolta, 2022). More controls and regulations will also be carried out to ensure that the burying of the foetuses does not happen without the women’s consent. This whole affair goes a long way to show how strong societal judgement can be, even in a country where the law supposedly protects the right to abort.

On the other hand, let’s say that in this case, I decide to carry through with the pregnancy and keep the baby. What would that imply for me? Here are just a handful of struggles that I’d have to take on in the same exact society which makes abortion so difficult to access and possibly so traumatising to have. First, I would have to rely on my parents for all the financial aspects of raising a child, hoping they would support me. This would make me entirely dependent on them in all areas of my life, so my decisions would probably need to comply with their wishes, as I need them to provide for my future baby and me. 

Second, I would probably need to quit my studies or put them on hold, as universities offer few resources to accommodate young mothers. Third, it would be almost impossible due to widespread discrimination against young mothers to secure a job, leaving me with little to no other option but to depend on my parents. Fourth, if I want to put my child in a kindergarten, I would have to put them on a waiting list for months, if not years, which means that I’d have to rely on a huge network of friends and family, making me even more dependent on them. On top of that, with the current economic crisis and meagre employment rates worldwide, finding a job while having no experience and being a young mother, is extremely difficult. Finally, much as in the above-stated situation, I would still face extremely harsh judgement if I still decided to take on all those challenges. People, friends and family will most certainly judge my “choice” to keep the baby and become a mother so young. I would be judged for how I decided to ruin my life, possibly my partner’s and my future baby’s. By some, I would be judged for having had a child out of wedlock, but if I do get married, I would be judged for marrying so young. If I relied on my parents for financial help, I would be judged. If I did get a job, I’d be judged for “neglecting” my baby. And the list goes on and on again. 

In sum, the same society and state which make it so difficult for me to get an abortion are the same as the ones that make it so difficult for me to carry to term the pregnancy. So in this climate, what choices do I have, and what is my power? Is having the right to abortion enough when facing an unplanned/unwanted pregnancy?

Pregnancies, whether planned or not, wanted or not, are extremely nuanced and personal experiences. They need to be approached with better legal frameworks, reforms and support, and with more respect, and less judgement. In recent months, some countries such as Spain have made efforts to ensure better sexual and reproductive health and the voluntary interruption of pregnancy. For that, they have adopted a more holistic approach that focuses on removing some of the existing obstacles to abortion while offering more support to women and girls who would like to have one. For instance, they have removed the need for parental consent for girls between 16 and 17. However, they did not just stop there; they have also focused on ensuring better sexual education and access to contraception for female contraception, while pushing for more developments in male contraception, working on promoting to “encourage men’s co-responsibility”. They have also pledged to improve pregnancy and childbirth conditions by offering a “new pre-birth leave from the 39th week of gestation, compatible with subsequent maternity leave, and good obstetric and gynaecological practices” (La Moncloa, 2022). Finally, they have also tackled reproductive violence such as “reproductive exploitation, forced abortion and pregnancy, forced sterilisation and forced contraception” by recognising them as “forms of violence against women” in compliance with the Istanbul Convention (Istanbul Convention Action against violence against women and domestic violence, 2011)

While all these reforms should set an example of how to tackle the theme of pregnancy with greater nuance than any pro-life, pro-choice binary debate allows, they must be paired with a change at the societal level in terms of norms and judgement. When our conception of norms is so narrow and binary as to be inadvertently prescriptive, how can we call what we have a choice? A true choice would be powerful, and the power to choose free of judgement, eminently empowering. By challenging our own, our friends and families and society’s judgements and assumptions on the choice to abort or carry a pregnancy, and significantly - when we are expected to make each choice - we take the first steps towards this empowerment.


AMA (2012). Il giardino degli angeli. Retrieved January 7, 2023, from 


La Moncloa (May 17, 2022). The Government of Spain reforms the law on sexual and reproductive health and the voluntary interruption of pregnancy. Retrieved January 7, 2023, from 


La Svolta (April 27, 2022). Cimitero dei feti a Roma: Niente più nomi delle madri sulle croci. Retrieved January 7, 2023, from 




The United Nations (December 10, 1948). Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Retrieved January 7, 2023, from

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