– make reference to Karen Bahdal
As Mother’s Day passed, members of the Red Thread Women’s Organization found it to be a rather suitable time to protest the lack of safe and affordable abortion services offered in Guyana. They yesterday staged a picketing exercise outside the Ministry of Health, on Brickdam.
It was organized by Sherlina Nageer, who explained to this publication that since there are too few medical practitioners authorized to perform this procedure, and none of them is working within the public sector, safe abortions are inaccessible by poor women, who, as a result, are forced to choose the least expensive way out which mostly entails being operated upon by an unlicenced doctor working “off the record” in a “bottom house clinic”.
The women also made reference to the unfortunate case of Karen Bahdal, an 18-year-old mother of two who died from a botched abortion done at a “bottom house” clinic on the East Coast of Demerara.
The Vigilance, East Coast Demerara teen succumbed in the Georgetown Public Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit after undergoing surgery to repair a perforated uterus and damaged bowels.
Bahdal’s husband, Vishal Surujpaul, had initially told Kaieteur News that his wife was four months pregnant and was continuously asking to have an abortion, since she already had two children; a two-year-old and a four-month-old.
After much deliberation, Surujpaul said that he gave Bahdal the money to go to a doctor, but was not expecting her to go through with the abortion.
He said that after the termination, Bahdal began vomiting continuously while complaining of abdominal pains.
He subsequently took her to see a doctor at the GPHC, where she was immediately admitted.
Her doctor then reportedly advised that she (Bahdal) undergo an emergency surgery to mend the damage caused to her uterus and bowels. Bahdal never regained consciousness and eventually died of septicemia and a ruptured uterus.
And as her ill-fated story unraveled, the physician accused of conducting the botched abortion, had reportedly shut down his East Coast Demerara “bottom house clinic” which he denied even having.
He further denied having anything to do with the teen and her procedure.
After her demise, Bahdal’s mother-in-law, a single mother of one, has been working hand in hand with her son to provide for his two motherless children.
The woman was also among the protesters yesterday, calling for justice to be served, so as to ensure what happened to Karen Bahdal, does not happen to others.
Kaieteur News was made to understand that the issue is before the Guyana Medical Council, even as the accused physician reportedly continues to work at a private hospital.
The women believe that safe motherhood is every woman’s right, and that the medical council should show real commitment to safeguarding women by collaborating with the police force to conduct ‘sting operations’, in an effort to identify and punish doctors performing unlicenced procedures.
In addition, the women are calling on the Minister of Health to work with his staff to provide medical termination of pregnancy services throughout every region of Guyana. Affordable and accessible reproductive health care, the women say, is a cornerstone in ensuring that abortions, if resorted to, are afforded by the poorer class of women.
Throughout much of the 20th century, it was officially illegal, but after two years of intense public debate, the National Assembly, in May 1995, passed the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill, making Guyana the second country in the English-speaking Caribbean to introduce such legislation.
However, abortions can only be done as long as it is within the first 8 weeks of pregnancy and done with the consent of the pregnant woman and by a licenced medical practitioner.
Between eight and 12 weeks from conception, abortion is only legal if the pending childbirth would result in health risks for the woman or the fetus, or if the pregnancy occurred despite the use of contraceptives.
Between 12 and 16 weeks, an abortion can still be legally performed, but only if the health of the woman or fetus is in danger. After 16 weeks, it is only possible to perform an abortion in the case of severe health-related circumstances.
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