Why Is There No Rite Of Passage For Abortion?
“A rite of passage is a ritual event that marks a person’s progress from one status to another. It is a universal phenomenon which can show anthropologists what social hierarchies, values and beliefs are important in specific cultures.”*
In the West we mark certain events and occasions in our lives with ceremonies. Perhaps we have commercialised the somewhat, but at the heart they are still rituals.
We have a ritual for Easter, with the giving of Easter eggs, we honour birthday and marriages and deaths with some formal public acknowledgement where we come together in some way. We even mark occasions such as entering into puberty and turning 21 as a milestone.
Slightly alternatively we mark the change of seasons and the phases of the moon. Rooted in ancient traditions.
But what do we do to mark the rite of passage of abortion?
There is no formal acknowledgement of this event and it holds just as much grief for some women as a death. The feeling of loss is monumental.
A public rite of passage allows us to process our feelings with a feeling that we are not alone, that what we are going through is acknowledged by society, and so in the case of bereavement, it helps us with that grief process.
In Japan there is the ritual Mizuko Kuyo which is a ritual of apology and remembrance. This ritual is used in the case of abortion. There are also Rachel’s Vineyard retreats worldwide that helps people on their healing journey through abortion.
But compared to the staggering amount of abortions performed worldwide each year, this in no way is a fair representation of acknowledgement about the process and trauma that women go through. Are we in denial as a society so much that we can’t see that whether we agree with it or not, women are having abortions and this needs to be acknowledged as a legitimate grief.
Everyone knows someone who has had an abortion.
A rite of passage may seem unimportant to apply to an abortion, but at a deeper level rites of passage are the anchoring in our cultures of meaning and tradition that serves to remind us of our values and the reasons why we come together to share our lives and support one another.
Because there is no formal acknowledgement then individually we isolate ourselves and grieve secretly. A grief of shame and self punishment.
How much quicker the process of healing might be if there was a ritual that could acknowledge this event in life, honouring this complex issue which for most women is not entered into lightly.