The monstrous Nigerian kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls by Islamist fundamentalist group Boko Haram has made headlines worldwide. The girls are still in captivity, and Boko Haram’s leader has threatened to sell most of them at what he claims are the promptings of Allah.
Meanwhile, Nigerian officials are preparing to administer medical aid to the girls if and when they can be rescued. Their main focus will be to deal with the sexual trauma that the girls have undergone, which will undoubtedly be severe. According to BuzzFeed, this “medical support” includes abortions for the girls who have been raped. Dr. Ratidzai Ndhlovu, country representative of the pro-abortion UNFPA, said:
What is happening to the girls is an open secret: sexual abuse. We are preparing based on this assumption, which is almost a given.
Nigerian leaders have been meeting with international agencies to determine which services should be prepared for the girls in the event of their return. It was after meetings with groups like the U.N., the U.S. Agency for International Development, and DFID (a British governmental organization) that they apparently determined that the girls would need abortions.
BuzzFeed suggests that abortion will be necessary because pregnancy will exacerbate the existing stigma of having been raped:
[Abortion] is perhaps the most delicate part of health planning. Rape, real or presumed, brings stigma to families in Nigeria… Pregnancy can compound that stigma, and some health workers worry that those social stresses could leave girls and their families at risk, even once the kidnapping is behind them.
There is little indication based on reports, however, that leaders have considered what the girls’ own wishes will be. This raises the question: If the Nigerian government is on stand-by with the assumption that all of the kidnapping victims who return pregnant will be aborting their children, how are their antics much different from the sexual abuse they have experienced from the men of Boko Haram? Both views suggest that these girls are incapable of making their own choices and unworthy of being given options from which to choose.
Dr. Nihinlola Mabogunje, the country director of Ipas, made it clear that abortion was the only “way out” of the girls’ tragedy (of carrying their rapist’s child). She asked how the girls’ families will understand what to do if the girls are pregnant, and said that if she did not tell them they could have abortions, they might take matters into their own hands and attempt to complete the abortion without a trained doctor.
In Nigeria, abortion is only permitted to save the life of the mother (a misnomer; nevertheless, their abortion law is much more restrictive than in many other African countries). Leaders are discussing ways to broaden the country’s interpretation of “life-saving” as an exception for the Chibok girls since they believe that, without abortion, the girls will likely turn to suicide.
The disturbing trend here is that no one seems to be considering that abortion is not the only option (that abortion is being considered as an option at all is troubling in itself). These young women have just suffered ultimate female degradation at the hands of their captors. They have been treated as if they are valueless sex objects. And yet, the proposed solution from people claiming to have the girls’ best interests at heart is to proffer the voluntary murder of their children.
And there does not appear to be any other alternative at play, such as asking the girls what they want for themselves (and being prepared to effect their wishes), helping them to begin a healing process from their ordeal, and providing them with the continued support they would need to raise their children or place them for adoption.
Indeed, the abortion solution may make helpers’ jobs much easier by ensuring that the girls won’t need their assistance for their nine months of pregnancy and beyond. But is it actually going to help the girls? Or is it just an easy way out for groups who are bringing aid? And why aren’t these so-called “pro-choice” organizations preparing the full spectrum of options for the girls?
Why not line up adoptive families for the girls who would choose adoption if given the option? And why not begin to recruit prenatal and postnatal caregivers, Red Cross and Peace Corps members who will see the girls through on their unexpected journey as mothers, and help their families to see that life is never a stigma? International outcry over the event testifies to the number of people who are ready to help.
Another troubling aspect of the abortion-and-abortion-only mindset that these leaders seem to possess is the fact that abortion is known to lead to an entire gamut of emotional and physical repercussions on its own — including the suicide, which they claim to be avoiding by providing abortion. Approaching a vulnerable, traumatized, injured young woman with a procedures she likely has no idea could affect her in those ways may only serve to compound and further injure her already frail state.
Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe founded Saint Monica Girls’ Tailoring Center in Uganda to help girls who have been through similar experiences as the Boko Haram victims. She designed the center to be a refuge for young women who have been forced into sex slavery or brutalized in the past by Joseph Kony, a misogynist guerrilla leader notorious for brutalizing women and children. She said:
If they’re left alone, they can’t love their children because they are born from their captors. I have to teach them life has not stopped. I have to give them time to cry.
Sister Rosemary’s approach to the traumatized girls dealing with pregnancies that have resulted from rape focuses on their ability to overcome difficulty and triumph over it. In contrast to the leaders who have already decided for the Boko Haram victims that abortion is best for them, she shows them that an unplanned pregnancy does not mean that “life has stopped,” but that it is another challenge to which the girls can rise and overcome.
The Boko Haram tragedy has drawn attention to the plight of women on a global level. Human trafficking, sex slavery, gendercide, female infanticide and abandonment — they are all real and thriving occurrences on an international level. The need for real feminist voices (like Malala Yousafzai‘s) is as imminent today as it was during suffrage and the misogynistic antics of yesteryear. But we cannot expect vulnerable girls to comprehend and stand up for the pro-woman policies we hope to achieve if we send them mixed signals about their dignity.
We cannot tell them that it was wrong for the men of Boko Haram to rape them, and then try to convince them that the solution is for them to become the murderers of their own children. That is a fake and insidious feminism that has been counteracting the real feminist movement for generations.
A real feminist would affirm the strength and courage that these young women have already exhibited in the face of terror. He or she would give her the tools she needed to continue using these feminine qualities to her advantage as she continues to recover from her ordeal and its effects on her life and well-being. Real feminism would never suggest to her that she is too weak or too frail to keep fighting in the face of difficulty.