“We are not against women’s rights, but this is a moral concern. The advertising of this drug will mean that women will think, ‘I can do anything and there is an easy way not to get pregnant’. We can’t allow such an attitude to grow.”
This quote is from a recent report by Scroll, which rightfully went viral, and is by N Selvaraju, who was Director of the Department of Drug Control in Tamil Nadu when emergency contraceptives were forcefully seized from pharmacies in the state. The report spoke of the woes of a person trying to search for emergency contraceptive pills in Chennai. It revealed how the commonly-found i-pill, which is available in the smallest towns of India without a prescription or any questions, is denied to the women of a state which claims to be one of India’s most progressive regions.
The report states that there is an informal ban on emergency contraceptives in the state, due to moral policing. We will not point out the irony in the fact that the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, for a large part of the past decade, has been Jayalalithaa, a woman. However, we shall point out the fact that this is an illegal, state-endorsed ban. The aforementioned report by Scroll clearly says that the state’s drug controller confiscated stocks of emergency contraceptive pills worth ₹50 lakh from Chennai’s pharmacies. This action by the Directorate of Drug Control was in response to “protests” by groups like Responsible Parents Forum and the Satvika Samuga Sevakar Sangam, which blatantly called a woman’s right to not get pregnant “loss of morality.”
It was only yesterday that we talked about the way society clamps down on women’s sexual freedom, and were met with similar naysayers who clearly haven’t heard of constitutional rights. Now, even if you ignore the fact that this is a huge violation of the law, and of a woman’s freedom, there are other very troubling things at play here.
According to a report by The Times of India earlier this year, there has been a huge rise in abortions in Tamil Nadu due to this unavailability. This is because emergency contraceptives prevent an accidental pregnancy. It prevents a woman from having to go through the trauma of getting pregnant when she does not want to. Banning it on grounds that it is immoral puts women’s health at risk. It forces a woman to get pregnant, and then abort the foetus, with pills or surgery. Not only is this harmful for a woman’s reproductive health, but repeated abortions can severely impact the chances of a woman’s ability to conceive later, and even affect her overall physical health. Emergency contraceptives, in spite of not being as ideal as regular contraceptive pills, are better for a woman’s health than an abortion.
The most inane part here, however, is that emergency contraceptives were seized because the pro-life moral police thought they were abortion pills. Because of this moral ban, unwanted pregnancies are forced on women, who then take actual abortion pills because of the sheer idiocy of the moral police.
The madness does not end there. According to the Wire, around eight percent of maternal deaths in India happen due to unsafe abortions. This tragic fact is unsurprising, because sex is shrouded in secrecy in India, and women are shamed for wanting access to certain forms of gynaecological healthcare here. A woman who is raped, or has had unsafe sex for whatever reason, will have no choice but to opt for dangerous methods of self-abortion in such cases. So, apart from the physical threat to her life and health, a woman’s mental state is also negatively impacted by such moves.
Of course, this ban and talk of immorality does not apply to men, who are free to insert their uncovered penises wherever they please, negating any argument from naysayers who advocate the usage of condoms as adequate birth control. They clearly haven’t met men who “can’t feel stuff” when they wrap it up, or claim their penises are too big to fit into magnums. These are the people who normally get to decide what a woman should do with her body.
So what is a woman to do? Should one even dare to seek legal recourse, and contest such an obvious violation of one’s constitutional rights? Are the women of Tamil Nadu to deny men sex, Lysistrata-style? Or should women hunt for abortion options, safe or not, to get rid of every zygote they may accidentally conceive?