Rani, 52, is an auxiliary midwife and nurse (ANM) in a village in Bihar.
The girl in red skirt
It was early morning and I was in my sister’s village for some family function when I first saw Naina, a 12-year-old playful girl, in a red coloured skirt and blouse. She had a bindi and was playing with her friends outside our house. There was something odd about her appearance. Her stomach looked swollen and she walked with a gait - that of a pregnant woman.
I scolded myself for thinking like that for a child. Maybe my work as a nurse makes me scrutinize every person I come across. Just as I was lost in my thoughts, Naina’s mother came calling for her. ‘Come quick Naina, we have to go to Hakim ji for your medicine.’
I curiously asked Naina’s mother what the issue was. ‘Didi, why don't you see her? I have shown her to so many doctors and vaid ji but her gas problem is not going away. She has been suffering from severe gas for many months now and her stomach is bloated.’
‘Go to a doctor in the city. Maybe they can detect the problem’, I said, controlling my urge to tell her that she might be pregnant.
‘I am going to Hakeem Ji today to see. If it does not help, I will take her to a doctor in the city hospital.’
Before it's too late
As soon as Naina and her mother left, my sister came to me and told me that there are rumours that Naina might be pregnant. Many people from the village have been meaning to tell her mother about this but stop because Naina is really young - just 12. Her mother might get shocked.
‘She is indeed pregnant. I insisted you need to tell her mother soon before it is too late.
We all got busy in the marriage festivities but every now and then my mind was with Naina. I was worried about the little girl. She was jovial and a happy child, unaware of what was happening to her body or more importantly, what would happen. I left for my village after a week with a promise from my sister to update me about Naina when she comes to know.
I received a call from her just two days after I came back. She told me that Naina’s mother took her to a government hospital yesterday after she felt breathless. There she was checked for pregnancy because of her bulging stomach. Naina was indeed pregnant.
No place for Naina
Everyone at her home was shocked. They are also trying to find out the person responsible for Naina’s pregnancy. It is believed that someone from the village raped her.
Naina’s parents were in a fix. She was far into her pregnancy and as a minor, the hospital authorities refused to take her case.
After being denied an abortion at a government hospital, it was rumoured that Naina’s mother got her abortion done at a private clinic. It is not sure where and how her abortion took place but it was done secretly. I am not even sure if Naina had a safe abortion because she was too far along in the pregnancy (around 6-7 months) for an abortion.
I was also worried that her parents would not have been in a position to afford good post-abortion/delivery care for their daughter because Naina’s father worked at a farm.
My sister later told me that Naina’s stomach was back to normal now. But the chirpy, playful Naina, who loved wearing skirts and playing carelessly, has gone quiet. She stays inside her home and does not attend school. She has also started wearing a salwar kurta and a dupatta.
Editor’s note: This story has been compiled on the basis of eye-witness accounts and thus all the details are hard to corroborate. This story is a part of Love Matter India’s story series documenting abortion experiences in rural India for Global Day for Safe Abortion 2022. Naina’s story shows that abortion is a need for many women whose pregnancies have been caused by heartbreaking circumstances and even while it is a legal option available to women, it is often not easy service to access.
To protect the identity, the person in the picture is not Naina, and names have been changed.