Myths and Truths on Abortions in Bulgaria
Voluntary abortion has been legally possible since 1956. However, throughout the years, various religious groups have made efforts to undermine women’s right to make decisions about their bodies and a couple’s right to choose and plan the future of their family. In 2019, there were new attempts to take away women’s right to decide on abortion. Nationalistic parties and religious groups labelled women who opt for abortion “killers”, without taking into account the various reasons for such decision. Such attacks are not random at all – the Restoring the Natural Order report by the European Parliamentary Forum lists all religious fundamentalists masked behind the term “civic organizations”, which function with an agenda in the EC, in Eastern Europe in particular, not only against women, but against progressive social principles in general. These religious groups are not only against women’s emancipation and their right to make decisions about their bodies, but also against contraception, in vitro procedures, divorces, etc. Therefore, the BFW gathered all the myths on abortion which these groups spread and promote, and busted them:
Myth 1: Abortions number in Bulgaria is growing.
Truth: The number of wanted abortions is decreasing.
The available data speaks for itself – the number of abortions is diminishing by the year. For instance, in 2010 abortions were 21648, in 2013 – 29 505, in 2018 – 22 862, so the National Statistical Institute (NSI). These numbers include the so called spontaneous abortions and medical abortions, where women’s decision is irrelevant. The general picture indicates that Bulgarian women are responsible towards their reproductive rights.
Myth 2: Abortions are accountable for the demographic crisis.
Truth: The reasons for the demographic crisis are different.
The causes for the demographic crisis are multiple and complex. In 2018 alone, according to the NSI, 31 263 people have left the country to live elsewhere, most of them at the age 20-44. They will most probably raise their children outside the country. Currently, there are over 1.5 million Bulgarians who live in other EU countries according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Bulgaria is the country with the lowest life expectancy – 74.8. In the poorest European country, with ageing population and critical issues in the healthcare system, abortion ban and violation of women’s rights will not contribute to the growth of population. Unwanted pregnancy with wrong timing for a coupe would lead to more single mothers, more abandoned children, worse financial opportunities, which would lead to smaller chances for a second child. This is why abortions are not a demographic issue.
Myth 3: Abortions lead to infertility.
Truth: Illegal abortions hide such risks.
Abortions such as any other medical procedure, come along with their own risks. Nowadays, however, the risks from a medically supervised abortion are the same as the ones related to a normal childbirth. Ban or severe restriction of abortions would increase the negative consequences on women and their ability to reproduce later.
Myth 4: The ban will stop the abortions in Bulgaria.
Truth: Ban does not mean less abortions.
Incriminating abortion does not mean less abortions. In Ireland, for instance, where there is almost full ban of abortions, there are on average 12 women per day who leave the country to interrupt an unwanted pregnancy in a neighboring country. In 2009, the Irish border control has confiscated over 1200 tablets smuggled for medical abortions, which would be handled in uncontrolled surroundings.
Myth 5: Women who choose abortion are irresponsible.
Truth: This is a conservative-religious interpretation.
Contraception is not always 100 per cent effective and accessible. Research shows that almost two third of people who have sought medical help for abortion, have used contraceptives during the sexual intercourse. Often it is the men who refuse to use condoms and thus put at risk of unwanted pregnancy their female partners. Therefore, women who have come to this decision should be treated with understanding, not judgement.
Myth 6: The defenders of women’s right to abortion encourage the act.
Truth: We support women in their choice.
The people who defend the reproductive rights of women, support their right to make the right decision. This is the humane and responsible attitude.
Myth 7: Sexual education encourages earlier sex and more abortion.
Truth: It is the most effective prevention against unwanted pregnancy.
According to the World Health Organization, the food health and sexual organization in school, which includes information on unwanted pregnancy prevention, encourages young people to take care of their health and practice safe sex.
Myth 8: Anti-abortion supporters are pro-life.
Truth: If you support abortion ban, you put the life of thousands of women at risk.
The so called pro-lifers want an abortion ban in Bulgaria. They do not stand for the lives of existing Bulgarian children, even though child mortality rates in the country are twice as high as the EU-wide average rates. The logic of these people is wrong: the abortion ban will threaten the health and life of thousands of women. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 70 000 women die of illegal abortion complications annually.
Myth 9: Once pregnant, you must carry and give birth to a child.
Truth: You have the rights over your body, life and destiny.
According to the European Court of Justice, the forced bearing and birth of a child is considered cruel, inhumane and humiliating treatment.
Myth 10: Women suffer from psychological issues once they undergo abortion.
Truth: There is no scientific evidence for that.
The term “post-abortion syndrome” does not exist in renowned medical and scientific research. It has been introduced by abortion ban supporters. The emotions a woman goes through following an abortion do not evolve into continuous psychological issues or permanent situations. Moreover, it has been proven, that feelings of guilt and regret do not deepen with time. According to a 3-year long US research among 1000 women, 95 per cent of them do not regret their choice to have an abortion.