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.

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26 COMMENTS

  1. “Imagine being sterilized for life at 21 years old. In Venezuela, that’s the only trustworthy option for many women.”

    I beg to differ. Abstinence is an option that works 100% of the time in preventing pregnancy, as well as using condoms, which, when used properly are highly effective. Condoms are available on the market. We sell a lot of them here at the bodega.

    • MR
      If you can get your e-mail open, I sent you a note explaining everything. The ProRenal D should be in Vicky’s hands today.
      I have accessed the generic Zemplar and it will be leaving NY a week from today. Maria will have it in plenty of time for the June 29 shipment. I will back it up with more scripts on 2 week intervals.
      I do hope the ProRenal D is sufficient in the meantime.

      • John, reading your email now!!! Also saw that a call of yours came in at 10:30 AM my time. Sorry, I was in the garden doing battle with bachacos. The bastards laid waste to about 3/4 of my Swiss chard yesterday in about 2 hours.

        I won this particular battle though the outcome of the war is yet to be determined. I’ve learned that they do not abide by peace treaties, so I’ve had to go the WMD route, chemicals and poison gas.

        • I will make sure more Swiss Chard get to you. As long s they haven’t eaten the center, it may come back. You can continue to cut the outside leaves and new ones will keep coming.
          I have the same battle at my house with deer.
          This is the second year that I have been planting them their own garden. I bought a bag of seeds that hunters use to lure deer in.
          The other thing that seems to bother the animals is solar lights and the cheap pin wheels from the dollar store. As the wheel turns and catches the light it spooks the animals. I will look for some for you.

          • John, in that package that arrived before Christmas, there must have been 20 packets of Swiss Chard seed. We tried to give it away with the others but had few takers so I put what was left over in the frig. We have plenty as long as they continue to germinate.

            The plant is doing much better than I thought it would here. It stands up nice and tall late in the day and at night, but wilts a bit during the hottest part of the day.

            I seeded it in a large container that I used to feed my cattle their minerals. Even put a border of heavy tractor grease around the edge to keep the bachacos from entering, but with the heavy rains we’ve had here, they found a way in. Looks like their commanders sent in a crew of those guys with the huge heads and jaws to topple the long stalks and smaller workers to cut it up and haul it off. I believe it’ll make a complete recovery, it’s just that I was counting my salad before it hit the plate.

            If you can find it, another packet of cilantro would be helpful as well as another of radish. The Dec package had only one radish packet if I recall. We gave out all but one packet of the cilantro seed, cilantro being really popular here, and planted one for ourselves, but when it was about ready to harvest, the damned dogs ate it.

            Check at the dollar store to see if they’ve got any pin wheels that work on iguanas. LOL

    • MRubio, abstinence was one of the first things that came to mind. But I have to raise a point of order about

      “I beg to differ. Abstinence is an option that works 100% of the time in preventing pregnancy, as well as using condoms, which, when used properly are highly effective. ”

      Well, rape isn’t exactly a matter of Just Say No and they tend to ignore condoms or vows to remain chaste until marriage. So not 100%.

      But still “Really f***ing high%”.

      Self control is still a thing and kind of crucial. I have to worry about anybody who dismisses it.

      PS Hope your family is doing well.

      • Thanks Turtler. Valeria, the sick grand daughter in Tachria has finally turned the corner. Her high fever has subsided and her platelets are improving. She’s been released from the clinic. She was in very serious condition for a few days, critical actually, and we were terribly concerned about the outcome.

        Crystal, who CC member John is helping with dietary supplements and other things that are virtually impossible to find here, continues to gain weight and is in good condition right now. We’re waiting on news of when she can receive a kidney from her mother.

      • Turtler, as to the specifics of your post and how they relate to this story, I’ll add my 2 cents about cultural issues too, which are very important in the overall scheme of things.

        In small-town, rural Venezuela, most children are raised by their mothers and grandmothers, several generations often living in the same home. Few fathers here acknowledge their responsibilities to their children, many not even acknowledging that the child is theirs. The default modes seems to be, “I’m not sure the child is mine so why care for it”.

        Also, recalling my days as a high school student in S. Louisiana, if a fellow student became pregnant, it was a scandal of epic proportions. Here, when these girls turn 13 or 14, it’s not only accepted that they’re going to have unprotected sex, it’s the norm that they’ll likely be pregnant by the time they’re 15 or 16. Every single day I see girls of that age walking by, extended bellies, headed for classes at the local high school.

        Grandma had a child at 16, mom was pregnant at 15, daughter will be too. Rinse, repeat, continue the cycle.

  2. I read the piece. I also perused enough other articles in “the Intercept” to convince me that it is basically a propaganda rag for the “progressive” mindset of, “The USA Is What’s Wrong With The World.”

    If that reflects the viewpoint of even the educated Venezuelans like Astrid, then, as a US citizen, I can only say, “To hell with trying to help, Mr. President. They hate our guts. Just build the fucking wall.”

  3. A woman has the right to chose who she gets in bed with. She has the right to chose what contraception if any she wants to use.

    Every human being has the right to life, no matter how small they are. A child in the womb has no other choice but to be in the mother’s womb, and the tiny human life should be respected.

    Judging the quality of life of others and making a decision on the worthiness of their life is part of the eugenic ideology.

    • “A woman has the right to chose who she gets in bed with.” Some women in some societies have that luxury. Muslim women in muslim societies are executed for such choice, hindu and sikh women in arranged marriages don’t have any choice and marital rape does not exist as a crime in these societies, 46,000 women were raped in DRC since the outbreak of violence in 1995, 40% of women in South Africa are rape victims, tens of thousands of mass gang rapes of women in Darfur were carried out by the Sudanese Army, half a million women were raped, and then often mutilated or murdered, in just 100 days during the Rwanda genocide, estimates of up to 50,000 Bosniak girls raped by the Bosnian Serbs during the conflict, etc etc etc. A 2017 report noted that worldwide about one third of women had been victims of violence in their relationship or of sexual violence outside their relationship, with Latin America highlighted as one of the worst regions. These women have the right to choose???

      “She has the right to chose what contraception if any she wants to use.” Again, not always. Her husband, boyfriend or rapist will often dictate that.

      “The tiny human life” is a highly emotive description. How tiny is a tiny human life? The rapist’s spermatozoa looking for the nearest egg? Or after it finds one and produces the miracle of life? Some of the Sudanese Army boys in Darfur were performing these miracles day after day with gusto. Human life starts with human consciousness or human sentience. When do these occur?

      A human foetus begins to develop a corpus callosum (which integrates communication between the hemispheres of the brain) and the sulci only after week 13, but it still lacks any brain function. Biologically, it is less responsive than a complex plant. Myelination and rapid synapse growth take off during week 24 and 28 respectively. So the foetus cannot be called a sentient, self aware, conscious being until some time after this point, it is at most a reflexive low level organism until then, an organised mix of organic matter plus a template for growth. Even at week 24 the foetus has about the same reflexive sentience as a sunflower; consciousness is some time later and self-awareness later still. Physiologically, consciousness cannot be earlier because there is no brain or brain function to support it.

      What has changed is that, after 24 weeks, (or in very rare cases 22 weeks), a foetus may be able to survive outside the womb and grow into a functioning entity – if modern medical facilities and care are provided. And this potential viability just cannot be ignored, even if the foetus has little more than autonomous reflex. So Week 22-28 would be a good place to start looking for the earliest start time to define a human consciousness coming into being. After that, I am solidly with you in respecting and providing protection for “the tiny human life”.

      None of this has got anything at all to do with eugenics. The question is really about whether you believe in forced maternity or not. I do not.

      • Thank you. I get so tired of the black and white, “moment of conception”, right to life arguments.

        People apply those rules to other peoples’ families but hardly ever to their own.

  4. Where are the men in this article. They are just as responsible for the pregnancy as the women. They also need to step up and take responsibility for preventative measures. Given the disparity in income maybe even more so than the women.

  5. The piece ends:

    “We women suffer for everything. Having children, and stopping having them.” That sparked laughter from Krisbell. “Men couldn’t take this,” Krisbell said. “They really couldn’t.”

  6. in the pre-Chavez era, the only teenage pregnancy at my public high school in ‘el interior’ was considered scandalous. there were a couple of girls who got married at 18, that wasn’t the norm either.

    as for multiple children, even on a decent income it’s hard to give them a good life. most of my neighbors and school mates did not come from large families.

    I no longer live in Vzla, but I have NO children – because I can’t afford birth control, don’t have sufficient income, and don’t want to go on welfare in order to provide for kids. (And for those of you against abortion- what is the child supposed to live on after birth, air? And how is the mother expected to provide for the child if the father is absent and she lacks the resources and/or maturity?)

    I realize some women do get raped, but for ALL women, abstinence IS an option in the absence of birth control and the funds/resources needed to take care of children. if that means not going on dates, or not being in relationships, then so be it.

    Seems like Venezuela has become ghetto-ized – what is going on now is not that different from what goes on in the inner city of the US. And Maduro is deliberately encouraging pregnancies to further impoverish the poor and make them even more dependent on him.

  7. “(And for those of you against abortion- what is the child supposed to live on after birth, air? And how is the mother expected to provide for the child if the father is absent and she lacks the resources and/or maturity?)”

    For those living in the US, there are plenty church and private organizations who will help unwed mothers care for their children, plenty. Of course, there are also government programs as well.

    I’m not against abortion, I just don’t think it should be used as the primary means of birth control. It should be a last resort in my opinion in most cases. In the case of a pregnancy from a rape, I understand any woman’s desire to not bear that child.

  8. I agree abortion should be a last resort. Unfortunately in Vzla it is the only option for anyone who can’t provide for a child.

    As for the US, it is extremely difficult to get help from a private organization for a child or even for oneself if one is not willing to apply for government benefits. Speaking from personal experience here.

  9. When I was teenager a teenage pregnancy was considered scandalous here in the southern states particularly and for both the family of the boy as well as the family of the girl. The father of the girl would often take matters into his own hands to make sure the boy accepted his share of responsibility in the matter which gave rise to the term “shotgun wedding”.

    A husband and wife were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary with their children and grandchildren. The couple was looking through old photo albums when the wife noticed a tear running down the cheek of her husband. She said to him ” I knew it, for all your gruff demeanor, at heart you really are sentimental”. The husband brushed the tear from his cheek and said ” Do you remember when we were kids and your dad caught us fooling around out in the barn? “Yes” replied the wife slightly embarrassed. “Your father shoved his shotgun in my face and told me I would marry you or he would have me sent to prison for 40 years”. ” I remember” replied the wife. The husband then said” Well, I was just sitting here thinking that today I would have been a free man!”

  10. If a woman has already had three children by the age of 21, then voluntary sterilisation does not seem to me like such a tragedy. It is a highly moral decision and it should be a right. It is far more of a tragedy when a woman does not have the right to control her future because patriarchal or religious laws prevent her from having any say in the matter.

    I have worked in far too many countries, euphemistically called “developing nations”, where it is commonplace to find young women with sick and dying children because they do not have the resources to feed them and keep them healthy. They watch their children slowly starve, go blind with intensely painful trachoma or be consumed by a variety of water-borne parasites and infections from impure water. Believe me when I say that there is nothing described in this article which gets close to matching this tragedy.
    Venezuela is rapidly approaching this situation – where people cannot keep their children secure from hunger and disease. Indeed, for many, perhaps most, it is already here. However, because of the rapidity of the change in Venezuela, the cultural heritage is still rooted in the mores of a richer, better educated society, where people could afford the luxury of sentimentality over pragmatism. This is particularly so for the dwindling middle-classes – who do not yet themselves face the immediate terror of having children who are likely to die. Against this threat, voluntary abortion and voluntary sterilisation are infinitely preferable. It is wholly appropriate to rail against the circumstances in Venezuela that forces these choices and against the animals who have created these circumstances, but, given these circumstances, the only really bad thing is that these options are not safely and legally accessible.

  11. This might sound like a joke, but the regime actually banned access to some pornography websites recently, which would mean, uhh… That poor folks would keep making more children?

    I mean, this is becoming orwellian really fast:

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