She Had to Have an Abortion, but I Won’t Let It Happen to You.

I recently read an article on The Tempest titled, “I never thought I’d have to get an abortion as a Muslim woman- until the day I did”. The article physically hurt me. Reading this poor girl’s story, was one I wasn’t prepared for. I can’t imagine what the comment section looks like on that post. The judgement, the anger at this sister. I pass my love to this poor sister. We failed her. The Muslim community failed her. In her article, she talks about emotional abuse, manipulation, and about the lack of knowledge of sex and protection.

This summer, I met with my colleagues in the Health & Wellness Center at my University. They were going over their plans for the year and asking for how they could be supportive to our spaces. The conversation than shifted to what could we do to better reach all of our diverse communities. I told my colleagues that of all diverse groups on campus, mine probably has the least amount of knowledge in regards to sexual health and wellness. Muslims don’t talk about sex. And when they do, it’s always under the assumption that everyone’s first sexual encounter will happen in marriage. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. I had a sex ed. class with students two years ago. A program set for two hours, lasted over four. The questions just about anatomy lasted over an hour. Our community is sorely behind. I fear for my students.

In addition to lack of basic knowledge in regards to how sex works; other topics such as reproduction, sexual abuse, and STIs are also sorely lacking. After talking with my partners in other offices I knew in addition to have a sex ed. class again this year; we probably needed more. Most offices keep some forms of contraception in their spaces. Ours has not. It has never even been a conversation. I went back and forth in my head and heart about this subject. Would students and parents call for my removal, if they found out? Would they protest my space? Would they hate me? Would they claim I was advocating for wild sex? Would they even let me explain?

While I know that in an ideal world, an ideal setting, people would wait to have sex. Until marriage, or at least until they are in a fully aware and committed relationship. Personally, and religiously, I believe that people should wait until marriage to have sex. For me, sex is more than just physical, it’s spiritual. You give a piece of yourself to someone that you can never get back.  However, I work on a college campus; with eighteen through twenty-two year olds. I know this isn’t real life. And to act like it is, is to walk through life blind. To say “things happen” is putting it lightly. I know for many Muslim students the shame and stigma is so high. So high, in fact, that many walk into sexual situations confused and lost. Letting their partners make all the choices for them. Or looking up answers to questions on the internet. Or asking their friends, who know little more than they do.

I’ve heard horror stories from my students. Women, blamed for their partner’s sexual desires or blamed for their sins. Of men, who have never used a condom, because they don’t know how They contract STIs and keep them a secret. Getting sicker by the day. Suffering in silence. Of men and women, who are so ignorant about how sex and relationships work, that their wedding night and beyond are ruined before they even begin. Of people who feel such shame for their sexual desires and preferences that they carry unnecessary guilt like an albatross around their necks.

I don’t know how many of my students have had to go to the clinic on their own. How many have had to make decisions, similar to the sister in the article. Had to make a choice and then hide it. Suffer in silence. I don’t know how many now have HIV or AIDS. I apologize to those who I wasn’t there for. I apologize to the parents who are going to be mad at me. For teaching their children about things they rather not hear. I apologize to those who will hate me for this. To those who will comment on this post angry and self-righteous. But I rather send these students home at the end of the year. As mentally and physically well, as their parents sent them to me. I refuse to walk around with blinders. I have two children of my own. And while I will tell them all that was taught to me. I will advise them to pray, to fast, to reflect. To avoid a situation when they can. However, I will also tell them how to be safe. Because they are human. We are all human. And we as humans, we fail. Over and over we fail. And while my children may fail, I want them to know that their failure doesn’t mean their demise. That is the same thing I want for your child. And if that means I have to give them access to condoms, I guess I will be that person.


8 thoughts on “She Had to Have an Abortion, but I Won’t Let It Happen to You.

  1. You are doing the right thing! I think it’s so important to educate girls in Sex Education so they are informed. Regardless of the decision they make, they are empowered with information. That can be life saving!

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  2. I love this. My mom had me when she was 15 and she always said it was because of lack of access and knowledge. When she asked my grandmother about sex all she said was “No. Don’t do it.” She never allowed her to take the sex ed classes or anything, so when she met my dad it was a wrap. She didn’t want us to have the same experience so she was very open about sex with us and like you said, didn’t believe it responsible to assume we would wait until marriage. To this day, I know the reason why we have never had a pregnancy scare or had to consider an abortion is because she was so forthcoming and educated us.

    You’re absolutely right. Intentional conversations about sex are 100% necessary and I’m here for you doing what you have to do. Pass out those condoms, girl. Thanks for this!

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  3. I love this. My mom had me when she was 15 and she always said it was because of lack of access and knowledge. When she asked my grandmother about sex all she said was “No. Don’t do it.” She never allowed her to take the sex ed classes or anything, so when she met my dad it was a wrap. She didn’t want us to have the same experience so she was very open about sex with us and like you said, didn’t believe it responsible to assume we would wait until marriage. To this day, I know the reason why we have never had a pregnancy scare or had to consider an abortion is because she was so forthcoming and educated us.

    You’re absolutely right. Intentional conversations about sex are 100% necessary and I’m here for you doing what you have to do. Pass out those condoms, girl. Thanks for this!

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  4. I love this. I was raised in a deeply Catholic home and appreciated that my mom had a very responsible and real talk about sex with me at 16. She told me that waiting was ideal but understood that it was not always realistic–considering both my grandmothers were pregnant when they got married. She talked to me about being safe and kept it 100. I know that some cultures and religions aren’t as open but we all have to prepare our children for the world and ignoring things that can harm them is never a good look.

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  5. Personally I believe that sex is just sex. It’s a need, just like food and water.
    Although my opinion may be different to yours when it comes to sex before marriage, I totally agree with you on sex education.
    Sex education is so so so important! Sex should not be seen as taboo. It’s a basic human need. It’s the most natural and human thing in the world.
    I remember at school when my biology teacher gave us some sex education. It lasted for two lessons and then some parents complained and this topic was banned to teach in our school. This is an example of how my school took an outdated and wrong approach to educating young people. I completely support what you are doing! The more open we are with conversations like these, the better the world will become.
    It was a pleasure reading your post. x

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  6. This is such an important article. As a student, it would be nice to have a safe space to talk about sexual health regardless of race/age/sex. Especially in Australia, we are very multicultural society and universities have a whole range of students from all over the globe. We don’t currently have Wellness Education Centres on campus, however I am currently trying to petition for these services because I know how helpful they could be to students. It is sad to think there are women out there, going along with no help at all. Everyone has sex these days and it’s extremely important that we are educated and have access to services that can assist students through the struggles of life! – HW

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