30 May 13

Macedonian Officials ‘Concern’ for My Health is Phony

Saska Cvetkovska

The government should not pretend that it is changing abortion laws out of concern for women’s reproductive health.

Saska Cvetkovska

Barely three months have passed since Macedonia’s parliament without debate amended the labour law.

According to the law, women at work who are pathologically pregnant will now get only 70 per cent of their salary, not 100 per cent as it used to be, while off work.

Barely a month has passed since Macedonian Orthodox Bishop Petar voiced his now infamous view about the proper role of Macedonian woman in the family.

Emancipated women undermine the nation and are guilty for the high rate of divorce and the falling birth rate, he maintained.

They seem not to understand that a man should be in charge of the household, he added.
Eight months ago, the Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, shared his own concerns with the nation on the declining birth rate.

The fall in births is more worrying than the economic recession, the Prime Minister suggested. And lack of awareness of the problem among people means many people are deciding against having more children.

Equally concerned as the Prime Minister is the Minister of Labour and Social Policy who noted that while Skopje kindergartens are full of children, that is not the case with other regions in Macedonia, which should teach us a lesson, he said.

Finally, not even 24 hours have passed since the Ministry of Health proposed amendments to the laws on abortion, which are already up for parliamentary debate, ready for voting.

The Minister insists the changes are not so major and that the law will remain almost identical to the previous one.

Why propose a law that is identical to the previous one? Yes, we can agree that the new law looks similar to the previous one. Under its provisions, a woman can abort no more than once a year.

But, according to the changes, a special committee formed personally by the Minister will in future decide on demands for terminations.

An array additional procedures is also being put in place before any one can get the green light to terminate.

The minister says these changes are only being made out of concern for the reproductive health of women.

I'm worried, too. Let’s give myself for an example. I have a disease of the reproductive organs, which can lead to sterility but which can partly be healed with contraceptive pills.

But these are very expensive for ordinary Macedonians. If the Minister feels so concerned about the health of women like myself, just like the the Health Fund, which supports his concerns, why not offer free contraception to every woman?

On the other hand, expensive government advertising campaigns continue to encourage women to give birth and promote family values.

These costly commercials teach us that abortion is murder, that our children will love us no matter how bad we are, that financial stability is not important and that only selfish people consider their financial position when deciding whether to have children or not.

Well, I am one of those selfish women, I admit. But I am also very concerned, so let me share some other facts from real life:

- Macedonia is the first country in Europe in terms of the number of unemployed young people.

- Women are forced to guarantee to employers that they will not marry and give birth to a child in the near future if they want to get a job.

- If you have not been in regular employment without interruption in the last six months you have no right to compensation for maternity leave.

- Regions in Macedonia are neglected due to concentrated investments in the capital, mostly in monuments and buildings.

The government may continue say that we should give a birth to a third child, that money is not important and that we should not be selfish: these are messages they repeatedly sent to women in Macedonia in recent years.

But I cannot accept that the planned changes to abortion rights are a gesture of concern for their reproductive health – or mine.

Talk about it!

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