Marita (not her real name), 37, was 19 when she got married. She met her husband through a mutual friend. “I was very young, I didn’t have enough education, or awareness at the time. At that age a person is not a full woman yet,” she says.
The couple had their first child at 20, but a year later she was pregnant again. Back then she and her husband were financially dependent on her in-laws. “I didn’t have a university degree [initially] and there were very few opportunities,” she says.
“My mother in law was sick with leukaemia and it was very expensive to treat her. My sister in law, who lived in the house, said they did so much for me, and that now the mother in law needed support.” Due to the circumstances at home she decided against going through a full pregnancy. She had severe complications during the abortion procedure, yet she was sent home the same day. At no point was she offered counselling or support. “It was very difficult and very stressful to leave the hospital on the same day. My cousin was with me because I wasn’t able to walk,” says Marita.
Through all this, and despite her in-law’s best efforts, Marita was determined to complete her university education: “I would stay up at night to study, and at times I would have to take the child along to exams with me. Sometimes my friends would take care of the child while I was sitting the exam.” Her husband offered no support, believing like many in Georgia that childcare is a woman’s responsibility. “[He] would never look after the child… if he knew it was his turn to help out he would not come home for 2-3 days,” she says.
Eventually, with her brother’s support, Marita was able to leave her husband and the shackles of his family. It wasn’t easy: by 26 years old she was a single mum faced with another unintended pregnancy. She was frightened about having to undergo anaesthesia again. Although the surgery was performed without issue, once again she was offered no support after the abortion. “When I awoke from the anaesthesia the doctor was already gone,” she says.
Marita believes counselling should be offered to women after their abortions in the future, as it was so difficult for her to cope. “It is necessary. It’s so important,” she says.
In the future, she hopes women will receive more education to avoid unintended pregnancies and hopes to inspire others with her story: “I think that everyone should have the opportunity to study and I want to help. I often tell my own story to show that once a person falls they may still get up. Something that I thought was unimaginable – leaving my husband’s family, sustaining myself and my child and working – is now real,” she says.
Women in vulnerable situations and who are not financially independent are too often neglected by the system and the State at the expense of their sexual and reproductive safety and dignity.With no access to relationships and sexuality education, access to contraception or any other type of support, women like Marita are left behind.
Click to read our blog series on obstacles to abortion care and women's reproductive safety and dignity in Georgia, and find out how IPPF EN is standing firm against reproductive coercion in Europe and Central Asia.
Photo credit: Jon Spaull/IPPF EN