“Twenty-three years and four abortions,” she’s telling everyone who wants to hear. On her slim figure, maternity would wreck havoc, she tells me, while adjusting her short skirt around her hips. For many years the termination of a pregnancy was the most common method of birth control for thousands of Cuban women. In the eighties, condoms were an illusion and by the time they were available at all the pharmacies, men refused to use them.
I met this slender young woman from Villa Clara on a Yutong* bus bound for that province. In the first hour of conversation she told me all the details of her truncated pregnancies. “It doesn’t hurt much,” she told me, while winking at the driver who was looking at her legs in the rearview mirror. In an almost forty minute tirade she wanted to explain her reasons, although I already knew them from others. That she lives with her parents and shares a room with her sister; that of the men she’s been intimate with, some are married or don’t want to have children; that she wants to leave the country and it’s harder with a baby… She ended by making it clear, “I have a friend in the gynecological hospital and she always fixes it for me.”
I was rattled by her illusion of leaving all her problems—housing, love or immigration—in the operating room, and pointed out that they are no longer doing abortions in hospitals. The press hasn’t published it, just as no one has talked about the high number of dilation and curettages practiced until very recently, but for the last few months an internal directive has limited the number of terminations of pregnancy. The reason is that the birth rate is falling and they want to try to increase it, even if it means forcing women to give birth. She bit her lip in disbelief and declared with some cheek, “Don’t worry yourself, I took a nice gift to the doctor and left with a brand-new womb.”
The bus hit a rut and I noticed that the driver was still entranced with her thighs. I was afraid we were going to crash and we‘d end up like another short trip, truncated between her legs.
Yutong bus: A bus from the Chinese bus manufacturer, Yutong.