Despite the alleged high pregnancy rates, the growth of the Cuban population has been stagnant for years. The reason for this may be the high number of abortions that are performed every day in hospitals.
Thanks to visits to two maternity clinics in Havana, I was able to verify the number of women who come every day to terminate pregnancies for various reasons.
In the hospital located on 31st Avenue in the Havana municipality of Marianao, one of the most significant in Havana, the queue for Family Planning consultations, which is the entity responsible for authorizing abortions, is always full. The main reason for the high demand is for “curettage”, which is the scraping of the uterus to detach the fetus from its walls and terminate its existence.
Luisa, 40, who lives on the corner of streets 51 and 116, commented that this is the second time she has accompanied her daughter, Vanesa, 17, to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.
“Like Vanesa, several girls from her school that I know have already come here for the same reason. The youth does not want to use condoms, they don’t protect themselves, they don’t think, and these are the consequences. It is impossible for Vanesa to have a child without finishing school first. There is no economy for that, no space to live. The medical team refuses to implant internal contraceptives after termination. You have to make another appointment for another day, but the girls forget about it and don’t want to come back here. It’s not uncommon for them to make the same mistake twice.”
Mayra, a housewife in the Los Pocitos neighborhood, accompanies her 15-year-old daughter to an abortion appointment and acknowledges that it hurts to see the high number of young people who come in every day for this same type of consultation.
“Shakira already has a son. The father is basically a child, like her, and can’t help with child support because he doesn’t work and his family does not want to take over. I had to fight alone, as if I had given birth again, because, apart from the fact that the girl doesn’t know how to do anything around the house, she also wants to continue with the same life of partying and going to the beach… and meanwhile I am taking care for the child. It can’t be like this, this time she will not give birth.”
In the maternity clinic, Maternidad de Línea, the consultation department for family planning also appears to be full of women.
“They should ban it,” says Carolina, who works at a gastronomy clinic in Vedado. “But it would be chaos, almost all of the young people who come here have screwed up and they do not want, or can not have a child. Eight people live in my house in only two rooms. It is impossible.”
Dr. Emilia, a psychologist at the aforementioned institution, agrees to go deeper into the subject from a scientific point of view:
“In Cuba, there is a problem of social neglect of adolescents, which causes an increasing number of dysfunctional families as a result. Many young women get pregnant without preparation for this important life event. From my perspective, the main causes are the lack of specialized attention or the lack of education programs. In addition, girls live in unfavorable social, economic, and familial contexts, have sex early on, learn promiscuity, and at the same time, come from divorced parents or have poor communication with their parents, which also plays a role. The young women go through different stages faster because of the few future prospects that society offers them.”
Caridad Venegas is another mother who is worried about the future of her daughter Karina, 18, who is pregnant, but will likely not give birth. They are from the La Timba neighborhood and they both complain about the Misotropol pill, popularly called “the bomb”, which is responsible for accelerating the breakup of the fetus.
“Doctors recommend placing it in the uterus one day before curettage for pregnancies that are further along. We used it in the previous pregnancy because the fetus was already twelve weeks old. That experience left us traumatized. In addition to the severe pain Karina suffered, the fetus began to break apart and leave the uterus by itself… we had to pick up the pieces in a basin.”
An elderly woman who sells pastries by the door of the clinic also agreed to give her opinion:
“I see them from the very beginning. They enter full, but leave empty and torn. This resembles a slaughterhouse without order or control. Many claim they have no home or they do not have the resources to raise their children because of the difficult lives they lead. It wasn’t like that before, and now they all say they live badly. What was it like before? We gave birth and that was it. Don´t you know that it is easier to give birth than having an abortion? Childbirth is a natural occurrence, but abortion is a blind, scraping blade. Sometimes the young girls ask me: And what about all the things that take to raise a baby? And I respond: Have you ever considered all of the things it took to raise you? And I tell them that my parents gave me the gift of life and I took full advantage of it: eighty years, nine children, thirty-six grandchildren, eleven great-grandchildren and a box of cakes daily. Why can’t they do the same and let Cuban population grow?”