Club of Mozambique

Backstreet Abortion Becoming a Public Health Crisis

(2008-02-29) Backstreet abortions are well on the way to becoming a chronic health problem in Mozambique, and urgent measures are needed to reduce the number of women who seek out the services of clandestine abortionists.

According to a report in Thursday's issue of the independent newsheet "Mediafax", this warning was given on Tuesday by obstetrician Momad Bay Usta, speaking at a seminar on unsafe abortion held at the town of Namaacha, on the border with Swaziland.

Abortions take place under life-threatening conditions because there is no such thing as a legal abortion in Mozambique. The Mozambican statute book still contains the highly repressive anti-abortion provision of the Portuguese colonial-fascist penal code. This seeks to turn both the woman who seeks an abortion and the health worker who provides one into criminals.

However, nobody has ever been hauled before the Mozambican courts under this archaic law, and doctors do perform abortions in public hospitals, particularly when they believe that the women's life would be danger unless the pregnancy is terminated. However, this is not publicized, and most women are unaware of it.

According to the Health Ministry statistics, complications arising from unsafe abortions account for 16 per cent of maternal deaths in the country, and a shocking 55 per cent of all admissions to hospital obstetric and gynaecological services.

This is why the Mozambican government has drawn up a bill that would decriminalize abortion, and make safe, legal abortions available in health units. The Health Ministry argues that the legalization of abortion is a pressing need given that unsafe abortion causes so much death and illness, as well as enormous costs for the health service in treating its complications.

The question now is whether the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, will have the courage to face down religious bigots and pass this bill into law. - (AllAfrica)

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