Now all that the Minister and the CMO have to do is to act on their strong words
Thanks for your report (KN, January 16, 2013) of the leadership from the Dr. Bheri Ramsaran, Minister of Health and Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, Chief Medical Officer.
In the last 20 years, the Ministry of Health has consistently enjoyed, top-class political leadership. How is it that it has taken so long to have a forthright statement on the compelling need for public hospitals to provide abortion services?
After seventeen years, it is about time. And I welcome it.
I also welcome the promise of a shift from the archaic D&C to MVA. MVA is now 50 years old. It is the standard method recommended by the WHO.
I hope the Ministry will also explore medication abortion on which there have been huge advances in the last 20 years and which is already widely available in the private sector. I was delighted to hear them acknowledge that caring for complications of abortion is infinitely more expensive than providing safe services in the first place. And, as they noted, the health consequences are sometimes horrendous.
I was even more delighted at their recognition of the logic for public institutions to provide this service. The problem of unsafe abortion affects poor women. They cannot afford private services. Their only access to safe services is through public institutions. They have already waited for too many years.
The Ministry’s leaders placed emphasis on training, reporting and counselling — all of which are required in the law. This is all good news.
I take issue with one aspect of their interview: they seem to suggest that the way to reduce so-called teenage pregnancy is to educate the teenage girls. This sincere approach is gender-biased. It leaves the burden of pregnancy on females alone. In fact my research shows that 75% of so-called teenage pregnancies result from relations with men 20 years and older. And 50% of those pregnancies are with men 20-24 years old. That group should be an equal target of the Ministry’s focus.
Teenage pregnancy is largely a phenomenon of power. To focus on adolescent girls is to focus on the vulnerable and the victim.
Now all that the Minister and the CMO have to do is to act on their strong words.