Someone I know is lying in a hospital bed today with both her kidneys failing and doctors bustling in and out hour on the hour with more bad news. Her husband paces outside, his hair getting grayer by the second. The issue: they have three children already, they didn't want a fourth. Money, among other things was a constraint. When accidents happened (as accidents sometimes do) they had to make a difficult decision, and they did. They decided to abort the child.
Pakistan does not support open abortion. For many reasons (primary Islamic) abortion is a social, cultural and legal taboo unless made absolutely necessary by the fact that the mothers life is in danger. By mother, I am naturally referring to those within the sacred bounds of wedlock. (There is no pre-marital sexual activity in Pakistan in much the same way as there are no homosexuals in Iran).
Given their decision, and the larger social environment, this woman did what a frighteningly large chunk of our population does, and she went to a traditional birth attendant (a daii) to get the problem seen to. This was the way recommended to her by family and friends (many of whom had been through a similar experience). Her husband had no objections, and frankly his pocket was probably relieved that the solution was that simple. And simple it was: until it was discovered that the abortion attempt was botched. She was in pain, and she bled for days before she confessed all to her family.
Given new developments, she was taken to a local clinic. It was a while before the family confessed to the doctor what had actually taken place. That the issue was deeper than just stomach cramps and heavier-than-usual-bleeding. All these days took their toll and her conditions worsened, and worsened, until today when she's lying in the intensive care unit with people around her wondering if she'll make it.
I overheard a conversation between two people one of whom insisted that perhaps this was what one gets if one partakes in such activities. According to them she should have not gone to the daii-lady to begin with. With all due respect to the people involved: bull-fucking-shit. I wonder how it would feel to be so helpless one had to put oneself in the hands of a quack who doesn't know better. To be forced to resort to something illegal (but oh-so-common) and then to pay the price for in personal shame when the choice should have been hers all along. When her only fault is that she didn't have the kind of access (or money) to do the deed at a private hospital booked in the OR for a small abdominal surgery.
In Pakistan, I have been told, people with contacts can get anything done. Knowing this country since I took my first breath, I don't doubt it. But they shouldn't have to. Every single Pakistani woman should have access to safe, and comfortable life choices. But that's just a dream. Reality is in the hospital ICU bed, trying to battle out fuck-up after fuck-up. And chances are, she won't make it.