Anti-abortion posts triggered by a fictional story on TV are stirring up controversy on social media, where opinions in favor of this right Cuban women possess dominate.

By IPS-Cuba

Lia’s story has sparked a heated debate about women’s right to a legal and safe abortion on the island.  Photo: Taken from Cubadebate.

HAVANA TIMES – There is a heated debate about legal abortions going on in Cuba today. with hundreds of comments from activists, experts and citizens taking over social media, because of one of the storylines in Cuban soap opera “El rostro de los dias”.

As a result of the sexual abuse Lia (the teenage character in this show) suffers, controversy stirred on social media. Raped by her stepfather the question is whether the girl should keep the baby or not. Heated exchanges about legal abortion in Cuba have unfolded because of conservative posts about the issue.

Some posts in public Facebook groups such as La Chopi or Madres cubanas por un mundo mejor (Cuban mothers for a better world) say that “the child isn’t to blame. In spite of everything, they say it has a right to live. Even though it will always remind the girl of the trauma she experienced in her teenage years. There were comments like: What would you do? Remember that it is an innocent being and is already living.”

For two weeks now, comments and posts against legal and safe abortions in Cuba are increasing. These appear in official groups and pages for organizations such as Cuba’s Conservative Right. They oppose many sexual and reproductive rights. They even share memes about the issue, with politically-charged content.

Nevertheless, most of the controversy arises from experts and citizens who defend this right, decriminalized in Cuba in 1965.

Some voices

Maryam Camejo, director of Con/texto Magazine, criticized how “during a time when women all over the world are fighting to have rights over their own bodies, El rostro de los dias comes along ‘to teach us’ how to help a girl who has been raped, to have a child.”

“I have had friends tell me about their experiences of sexual assault. If I had told them to have the child of their aggressors because they will love it and that everything will be OK, I would have broken them,” she pointed out.

In another post, she wrote against the stereotypes of motherhood depicted on the show. “Every model of independence is built upon this “desire” to have a child. There isn’t a single woman who has said that she doesn’t want a child because she just doesn’t. The only woman who hesitated did so because of financial reasons. And she’s a black woman, from a black family, which by the way is the only poor family in the soap.”

According to philologist Veronica Aleman, abortion is an inalienable right in Cuba. “Every time I read something on social media that says that Lia shouldn’t interrupt the pregnancy, and I see it’s written by another woman, I feel like I’m going to explode: raped, attacked physically and psychologically, pregnant… A GIRL,” she said.

Maryam Camejo, director of Con/texto Magazine, criticized how “during a time when women all over the world are fighting to have rights over their own bodies, El rostro de los dias comes along ‘to teach us’ how to help a girl who has been raped, to have a child.”

“I have had friends tell me about their experiences of sexual assault. If I had told them to have the child of their aggressors because they will love it and that everything will be OK, I would have broken them,” she pointed out.

In another post, she wrote against the stereotypes of motherhood depicted on the show. “Every model of independence is built upon this “desire” to have a child. There isn’t a single woman who has said that she doesn’t want a child because she just doesn’t. The only woman who hesitated did so because of financial reasons. And she’s a black woman, from a black family, which by the way is the only poor family in the soap.”

According to philologist Veronica Aleman, abortion is an inalienable right in Cuba. “Every time I read something on social media that says that Lia shouldn’t interrupt the pregnancy, and I see it’s written by another woman, I feel like I’m going to explode: raped, attacked physically and psychologically, pregnant… A GIRL,” she said.

Not every woman longs to be a mother

Clinical psychologist Dachelys Valdes stated her opinion in an article published in digital magazine OnCuba. She said the soap is full of stereotypes. “It depicts realities where pregnancy and motherhood are a goal and the reason for a woman’s happiness.”

Valdes said it would also have been “a good opportunity to also show female characters with other conflicts. Because not every woman longs to be a mother, or has the conditions to do so.”

TV host Andy Muzalf believes “it’s very dangerous that this line of thinking reaches a large audience via TV. It reinforces mistaken collective myths and false concepts.”

With people in favor and against abortion, this soap has become a regular conversation subject. It opened up a discussion about many subjects that Cuban society rarely talks about. These include child sexual abuse and abortions in the case of rape.

Clinical psychologist Dachelys Valdes stated her opinion in an article published in digital magazine OnCuba. She said the soap is full of stereotypes. “It depicts realities where pregnancy and motherhood are a goal and the reason for a woman’s happiness.”

Valdes said it would also have been “a good opportunity to also show female characters with other conflicts. Because not every woman longs to be a mother, or has the conditions to do so.”

TV host Andy Muzalf believes “it’s very dangerous that this line of thinking reaches a large audience via TV. It reinforces mistaken collective myths and false concepts.”

With people in favor and against abortion, this soap has become a regular conversation subject. It opened up a discussion about many subjects that Cuban society rarely talks about. These include child sexual abuse and abortions in the case of rape.

About legal abortions in Cuba

The first abortion law dates back to 1935, when abortions were permitted in three cases: to save the mother’s life or to prevent serious health complications, rape or the possibility of the mother passing on a serious hereditary disease to the fetus.

Nevertheless, with social and governmental tolerance of abortions, private clinics were offering before 1959 voluntary abortion services to Cuban and foreign women (especially from our neighbor the US) who could pay for them.

Despite a whirlwind of international criticism and domestic resistence from the religious sector, voluntary abortions became legal in 1965. This based upon four basic principles. It’s the woman’s decision, it being carried out in a hospital, by trained professionals, and be free.

Official legalization came in 1987, when the Penal Code (which is still in force today) stipulated that abortions are only a crime when they are carried out for lucrative purposes, outside of health institutions, by non-medical staff or against the woman’s will.

However, feminists and experts have been warning about the rise in anti-abortion discourse in public debates. They argue the need to protect it as a specific right within Cuba’s legal framework.

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