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India: Two women's choices
With population soaring in the poorest countries of the world, Jyotsna Singh talks to two women from different social classes in Delhi about family-planning.

Click on the bar to switch between the two stories.

Urmila Devi Maithili Chowdhary

Urmila Devi

Age: 29 years
Education: None
Children: Three boys (11, nine and three), one girl (seven)

Urmila and family
Urmila with her husband and four children
Urmila Devi, wife of a Delhi washerman, has aborted two children because she knew she would not be able to support them.

"Who wants to have big family?” she said.

“If you have fewer children you can give them clothes - otherwise they will just wander around without any clothes on them. So I went to a clinic near my house and got my uterus cleaned up," Urmila says.

Their small eight feet by ten feet room covered with a tin shade could hardly be described as a house. But it is enough to give them “a roof over their heads", as Urmila describes it.

Looking after three children, as well an eight-member extended family, in a small village 200km from Delhi proved virtually impossible with no real income. So Urmila and her husband decided to move to the capital, where she gave birth to another child.

Now she and all four children help their father in his work ironing clothes for the residents of an apartment in east Delhi.

I was 13 when I got married….I don’t want to have any more children. In fact, I didn’t want any after my third child.
Their earnings barely cover the family’s physical needs. It is simply feeding the children, not educating them, that Urmila and her husband worry about most. She knows it makes sense to have a smaller family for such practical reasons.

"I was 13 when I got married. But my first child, whom I had two years after our marriage, was born dead. I don't know what happened, because he was born at home without any medical assistance," Urmila told me.

Since then she has had six more pregnancies. But since her fourth child was born, she has tried to limit her family in her own way.

"I don’t want to have any more children. In fact, I didn’t want any after my third child. But what can you do? I had no choice."

Abortion as contraception

As for millions of Indian women, the responsibilities of contraception lie with Urmila alone, rather than her husband.

"He co-operates but doesn’t take any precautions himself," she said.

So it is left to Urmila to do whatever she can. For her, the simplest option so far has been abortion. A clinic nearby comes in handy for the purpose.

But she has recently heard of contraceptive pills which are cheap and easily available. She does not know how they work, but says she is keen to try them out.

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