Feminism in Socialism: Rue & Malt Abortion or Sterilization

The Intercept’s latest piece tells the stories of Venezuelan women who have to do dangerous things to their bodies and take the most desperate measures to prevent pregnancies —or end them.

Photo: El Estímulo

Imagine being sterilized for life at 21 years old.

In Venezuela, that’s the only trustworthy option for many women. Everyone knows family planning and contraceptive methods are scarce or too expensive to buy; both sterilization and abortion, completely illegal in our country, are the practices women must resort to, as the debate on legal abortion, current in many countries, isn’t even suggested as an option in the cradle of chavismo.

“If the government’s help isn’t enough, then who’s going to help these girls? It’s not ideal and I don’t agree with it, because it’s murder. A baby in the womb is life already. But what if the baby will suffer or if it’s the only option?”

Imagine being sterilized for life at 21 years old.

That’s Janine’s testimony, featured in this piece for The Intercept. Her words, from a woman who went through an abortion herself and now guides others through the procedure, captures what living in a dictatorship truly means: No individual freedom, complete dependence, no rights. Women deciding to get abortions not only expose themselves to life-threatening practices, but to a potential two-year prison sentence, too.

Janine instructed Anna, a 27-year-old single mother of two, on what she needed to have her abortion: 8 pills of Cytotec ($12), rue herb and malt soda. She was to put the malt soda to boil with the rue herb and drink four cups.

The piece also features testimonies of women undergoing surgery to tie their tubes: We follow Darling, a 21-year-old mother of three, as she heads to Caracas to get the procedure done. Reports of really young women getting sterilized, previously unheard of, are now common for gynos all over the country.

“An increasing number of young Venezuelan women are going to extreme lengths to not give birth to another child. They’re in an impossible bind, in a country where abortion is forbidden by law and a box of contraceptive pills costs the equivalent of up to 10 months’ salary, at the minimum wage rate.”

Janine instructed Anna, a 27-year-old single mother of two, on what she needed to have her abortion.

AVESA, a local NGO, is also featured, describing what women are facing now as “some sort of forced maternity”: Sterilization isn’t cheap, and neither are the pills (Cytotec) or the malt soda for home abortions. Add the lack of contraceptives, and what you have is the perfect environment for women having to stay mute over their bodies.

At a private clinic, the procedure for sterilization can be up to $118, which is out of reach for the average Venezuelan family. Since public hospitals all over the country are shutting down, getting the procedure for free is impossible. There are some private, less expensive options, like the PLAFAM organization, but still, $20 is a lot of money.

I really recommend the piece. It pictures a grim reality: The red colored sugar coating of State propaganda surrounding women’s rights hides pain, suffering and impossible decisions. Let’s not be complicit with our silence.

Astrid Cantor

Head of the Church of Martha Stewart: I bake therefore I am. Táchirense: Almojabana and quesadilla lover, "toche" and "juemadre" user. Pastelitos de queso con bocadillo fanatic and overall gochadas supporter. Also doctor —as in proper MD— and pobresora universitaria too.