Tatsiana Tkachova “Between right and shame” (9-23.10)


Natalia, (name changed) 62 years old, married one child, 1 abortion
I got pregnant for the first time in April 1986, just about the explosion of the reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The gynecologist advised to women with the second and subsequent pregnancies do not give birth. I was 31 and this was my first pregnancy. Therefore, the doctor told me to take an emergency trip and to move on to other area temporarily. Nobody knew what the coming consequences after Chernobyl disaster could people expected. Throughout the pregnancy, I prayed

Two years ago I found out that my mother had an abortion in her past. I asked her about it. Mom spoke reluctantly, almost in a whisper. “Abortion” is a taboo word for many women in Belarus. They try not to pronounce it or replace it with another word. Almost none of the women in the country even admit that they have had such an experience. 

In Belarus, abortion is not banned. According to the Ministry of Health, in 2016 27,467 abortions took place. In Belarus, there are 23.5 abortions per 100 live births. Approximately 40% of women interrupt pregnancy for economic reasons. According to the latest changes in the law, the doctor may refuse to perform an abortion. Every year there are “no abortion week” campaigns in Belarus. The chief freelance obstetrician-gynecologist of Minsk suggested depriving commercial medical centers of licenses for pregnancy termination. In the town of Logoisk, all doctors refused to carry out abortions.

Pre-abortion consultation rooms have appeared in clinics. In most cases the woman cannot receive psychological assistance in order to make the right decision for her. She is pressurised and persuaded to give birth. There is no counselling to allow the woman to deal with the abortion and its consequences.

The project tells the stories of several women who chose abortion for different reasons. “I will allow you to photograph my back – no need to shoot my face” – on condition that no photos were taken of her face, one of the women participated in the project. All of them have their own histories, that they carry with them all their lives: the Chernobyl tragedy, a violence case, an early pregnancy occurrence, a difficult birth episode, a life threatening illness, fear of being a single mother, husband cheating or financial difficulties. 

For them, participation in a project is an opportunity to reflect on their experiences and be heard. The topic of abortion is not only about choosing whether to give birth or not. This is about how women and men are building their relationships in the country, this is about the real status of the woman in Belarusian society.  

Project presented as part of “Be a Lady” exhibition