Abortion Survey Results
This surevey was carried out by Women in Black for the seminar “Women’s Heath and Reproductive Rights,” May 2005.
In Serbia and Montenegro, abortion is one of the most frequently used methods of contraception. Women resort to it independent of time, education, socio-economic status, or marital status. Abortion was legalized in 1952 by an act of the government of the National Federation Republic of Yugoslavia. This act permitted abortion from the day of contraception until the twelfth week of pregnancy, on the basis of medical, spiritual (hygienic), criminal (legal, due to rape), and social needs. Today, by law abortion is restricted as follows:
- It may be performed only on request of the pregnant women
- If the woman is less than 16 years old, a parent must be notified.
595 respondents from 20 cities in Serbia participated in this survey about abortion. To the question “Do women have an inalienable right to chose if, when, and how many children to have?” 470 respondents (79%) answered positively, while 117 (19.7%) answered that women do not have that right.
These results suggest that women’s awareness of their own autonomy is increasing, when compared to the results from both a 2002 survey and one from last year conducted by “Women in Black” for the May 28 International Day of Action for Women’s Health and Reproductive Rights.
What did not change was that women held on to motherhood as their fate, as their identity as mothers and reproducers. The most often accepted reasons for abortion were: the life of the woman (86.2%), a threat to the health of the women (67.2%), injury to the embryo (86.2%), rape or incest (86.2%), and family reasons (a large number of children, difference of ages between children, age of the mother, family violence, alcoholism, drug addiction, poor material standing of the woman and family) (46.5%). 31% of respondents said that abortion is acceptable in the case of an unwanted pregnancy. Also, two “interesting” answers were given: “All of these reasons are ridiculous, children have to be born,” and “Abortion is acceptable if children must be born from pure blood.”
The attitude of the majority of respondents on the inalienable right to choose did not reflect any rise in awareness of women’s right to autonomously choose abortion: Only 13.1% answered that “whoever needs one should choose abortion” includes the choice of women (abortion, as one of the basic reproductive rights, is the right of women’s self-determination). The most frequently circled answer to this question was that the parents should make the choice together (0.5%), and more rarely “abortion is a private matter for the woman and her doctor” (7.1%). The right to abortion means the right for a woman to independently decide about her body and then, in cooperation with her doctor, carry out her choice. A prohibition on abortion represents an act of humiliation and degradation of women. No one—neither a partner, nor a doctor, nor the state, nor the church—has the right to make decisions in the name of the woman.
To the question “Is abortion an evil act?” 42.3% replied positively. 56% of respondents stated that it is not, which is an increase from last year (45%).
To the question “Is abortion murder?” 32.9% of respondents thought that abortion is murder, and 21.7% thought that it is murder after the embryo attaches in the womb. The largest number, 40.5%, thought that it is not murder. A large number of respondents’ answers were contradictory, because they thought abortion was murder but not that it was an evil act.
About women’s reproductive rights the respondents mostly explained that they don’t know enough, but to the question “Is there something you could do for the question of reproductive rights?” they gave the following answers:
• Clearly establish the reasons for and against abortion
• More rights to have fewer children
• We must reproduce as much as possible to so that the white plague does not expand
• Monetary assistance to mothers and children from the state
• Do not prohibit abortion because unwanted children are in danger and do not have anything to live on
• Increased parental absence
• Stimulate the birth rate by all possible means
• Give birth into one’s thirties
• Win more attention for women and women’s rights
• Don’t let the head of the family, the SPC, and state institutions get involved in my pants and my womb, etc.