Nov 05, 2018 News
Women terminating pregnancies have been discriminated and viewed under the spectrum of conservative religious morals, severe legal punishments and restrictive legislations worldwide, regardless of the fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized and defined abortion as a human right.
Guyana however is among the only three countries in the Caribbean that has legalized the termination of pregnancies (abortions).
The country’s abortion laws have been in place since 1995 and allow for women to terminate a pregnancy without facing any legal penalties.
In a recent report titled, “Abortion Status in the Caribbean, 2018”, which was aimed at carrying out a comparative analysis of cost, restrictive legislations and barriers to abortions in the Caribbean, it was revealed that of eight Caribbean countries (Curacao, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Saint Lucia) it was concluded that Guyana is the only studied country that has abortions readily available upon the request of women.
The survey conducted provided five exemplary conditions under which it is legal for a woman to end her pregnancy, Guyana was the only participant country that accepted the termination of pregnancies under all five of the conditions provided in the study.
The conditions mentioned were “to save the pregnant woman’s life, to protect the woman’s health during high risk pregnancy, to protect the mental and physical health of the pregnant woman, to protect the woman in case of a pregnancy caused by incest or rape, to protect the woman in the case of poor fetal development, in case of woman’s socioeconomic limitations.”
But the report also highlighted that even though Guyana seems to have the most progressive abortion laws, the country has yet to uniformly implement the provision of abortion services in its Public Hospitals and Medical Facilities across the country and this may be a contributing factor to maternal deaths caused by unsafe abortion practices.
Emphasis was placed on the fact that it’s been more than two decades since abortion was made legal in Guyana, yet the government is still struggling to include safe abortions as a service in the public health system.
The report stated that, “In Guyana abortion was legally permitted since 1995 yet only medical doctors and specialists were permitted to carry out the procedure until 2015. Medical personnel are still scarce in comparison with the country’s population.”
“Moreover, abortion services are not available in Guyana’s public hospitals. For this reason, our consulted expert states that unsafe abortions had an important role in maternal mortality. Currently, it is expected that access to safe abortions service will become available; this may impact the proportion of maternal deaths.”
It was also highlighted that in Guyana, abortion is used as a method of contraception and that a high level of unsafe abortions remains because of unmet family planning. Nonetheless, the discussion about abortion in Guyana does not seem to be going backwards or forward but has stagnated. In this case, the promotion and visibility of public agendas focused on sexual health, family planning and reproductive rights, has been overshadowed by the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Inter-sex, and Queer (LGBTIQ) advocacy groups public discussion.
The report explained that, “Abortion is legal in Guyana under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act No. 7. of June 14, 1995.” But “in 2008, the Government theoretically cleared the way for public hospitals to perform abortion, but public hospitals only provided abortions to women with on-going complications like incomplete abortions.”
It further highlighted that “it wasn’t until recent years that medical abortion was made somewhat accessible in the country. The situation changed because the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association submitted a demand to the Higher Court in 2015 to allow, on the basis of the Medical Termination Act, that second level care professionals could administer medical abortions.
Before this ruling, public health ministries did not offer abortion services; these were limited to certain private clinics at a high cost. In 2016, The Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association started to offer medical abortions as part of their programme.”
Guyana is therefore equipped with the potential to act in leadership and teach other Caribbean states how to reform their legislations and views in order to give women more freedom to access abortion services.
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