The death of a woman on Thursday in a black market abortion centre is testament to the fact that the mindset of the community and the laws need to change to look out for the best interests of women. Abortion is only legal in Pakistan during the first four months of the pregnancy if the woman’s life is threatened, or if her health, physical or mental, is affected by it. A woman is not even allowed to undergo abortion if she has been the victim of rape. That depicts how our society is skewed in the interests of patriarchy, which leaves the women disempowered in more ways than one. Both genders should enjoy the same rights and privileges, and it is the state’s duty to ensure that. Whether a woman is ready to be a mother is entirely her decision, which she should be allowed to make without any external pressure. This choice is hers as a human being and should be protected not only for her concern, but also for the future generations, as any child being born should be loved and brought up with the utmost care.

The taboo associated with the abortion is a huge barrier for any woman who does not want to be a mother. Often doctors refuse to carry out the procedure based on their own conceptions of morality, and ignore the oaths they have taken to look for the welfare of their patients. What happens as a result is that with no one to turn to, and fearing the wrath of society, some women resort to putting their lives on the line, turning to unlicensed practitioners to carry out the procedure. The dangers of this cannot be exaggerated. Often they are treated by people with no medical experience and the outcome of this was disastrous in this case.

It is time abortion procedures are removed from stigma, for only then can the process be made safe and easily available -- as it should be. The harms of abortion are less than the harms of it being illegal. The people who argue against it are mostly those whom it does not directly affect. It is not easy being a mother. And there are many reasons why someone may decide not to be one at that point in time. It is time we all removed the weight of scrutiny and censure from the shoulders of those struggling with such personal decisions, and develop a healthier society in the process.