Launching of Aunty Jane Hotline in Malawi

Picture

Aunty Jane Hotline has been launched in Malawi. Centre for Girls and Interaction (CEGI) organized the launching at Mimosa Court Hotel in Mzuzu northern of Malawi.

Aunty Jane Hotline is an Interactive Voice Response system, meaning women and girls can access information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in English and Chichewa. Aunty Jane Hotline gives information on PPH prevention, contraception, unwanted pregnancy and abortion, among other sexual and reproductive health topics. Because abortion is a very stigmatized topic, the launch of this public hotline is an important step forward. Callers can leave a message or sms and get a call back from a trained operator if they have specific questions or want to speak with someone

0884 773 300  or text 0884 773 310

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-23253296

10 July 2013

Sebastian Pinera supports Chile’s outright ban on abortion

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has praised as “brave and mature” a pregnant 11-year-old rape victim who said she was happy to have the child.

The girl said during a TV interview the child would be “like having a doll”.

Experts criticised Mr Pinera’s comments as having no scientific foundation.

Mr Pinera supports Chile’s abortion laws, which outlaw the practice in all circumstances. His critics want it legalised in cases of rape, and want the girl to be allowed an abortion.

The 11-year-old girl appeared in a TV interview on Monday, saying: “I’m going to love the baby very much, even though it comes from that man who hurt me.

“It will be like having a doll in my arms.”

The girl was raped repeatedly over a two-year period by her mother’s boyfriend, who has since been arrested.

Mr Pinera said he had asked the health minister to personally look after the girl’s health.

“She surprised us all with words showing depth and maturity when she said that, despite the pain caused by the man who raped her, she wanted to have and take care of her baby,” he said.

Forensic psychologist Giorgio Agostini said the girl would not have the mental or emotional capacity to understand her situation.

“What the president is saying doesn’t get close to the psychological truth of an 11-year-old-girl,” he told the Associated Press news agency.

“It’s a subjective view that is not based on any scientific reasoning.”

The girl’s case has already sparked a public debate about abortion.

Campaigners argue that the laws, which date back to the authoritarian rule of Gen Augusto Pinochet, should be changed to allow for abortions in cases of rape or when the mother’s health is at risk.

Michelle Bachelet, the likely presidential candidate next year for the left-leaning opposition, supports the campaign.

Ms Bachelet earlier commented that the 11-year-old girl need to be protected.

“I think a therapeutic abortion, in this case because of rape, would be in order,” she said.

Chile is one of seven Latin American countries where abortion is completely banned.

Last month, the case of a seriously ill woman in El Salvador made international headlines when the courts upheld the ban on abortion even though the woman’s life was at risk and the foetus was unlikely to survive.

She was eventually allowed to have a caesarean section.

Latin America’s abortion laws

  • Outright ban in El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Chile, Honduras, Haiti, Suriname
  • Cuba, Guyana, Puerto Rico and Uruguay have most liberal laws
  • Brazil’s senate is currently debating legalisation of terminations during the first 12 weeks
  • More than 4 million abortions carried out each year
  • Between 1995-2008 some 95% were considered to be unsafe

Sources: World Health Organization, Guttmacher Institute

 

By Nyasa Times Reporter

July 3, 2013

Health ministers from several African countries have vowed to tackle the high number of deaths of women due to unsafe and crude abortion by among other efforts, expanding the provision of safe abortion services.

The commitment was made by ministers of health and gender and senior government officials from Ghana, Liberia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia at a regional meeting of ministers on unsafe abortion and maternal mortality in Africa.

The meeting took place on June 18-19, 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya and Malawi was represented by the then deputy ministers of health and gender Halima Daud, and Agnes Mandevu Chatipwa respectively, Lastone Chikoti, the Reproductive Health Officer in the ministry of health and Elsie Tembo the Second Principal Secretary in the ministry of gender.

“We note that unsafe abortion constitutes between 13-30 percent of the unacceptably high rates of maternal deaths in our countries, and acknowledge that concrete and urgent action must be taken to address this challenge if maternal death and injuries are to be effectively reduced.

“We additionally recognize that unsafe abortion constitutes a violation of women’s human rights, and affirm the link between protection, promotion and realization of women’s human rights to the improvement of sexual and reproductive health outcomes for women and girls in our countries,” reads the communiqué by the minister in part.

The ministers mentioned other countries which are providing safe abortion services and simultaneously reduced their maternal mortality rates.

The ministers thus committed themselves to individually and collectively as countries tackle the problem by examining laws, using evidence to raise awareness on issue.

“We will try to integrate evidence and advocacy on the issue of unsafe abortion into the Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA) and in other efforts to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity in our respective countries.

“We will also encourage our governments to include the issue of unsafe abortion as part of the issue of maternal health in Cooperation Frameworks with donor countries and development partners,” said the ministers.

According to a 2010 ministry of health study called Abortion in Malawi: Results of a Study of Incidence and Magnitude of Complications of Unsafe Abortion, 70,000 Malawian women have abortions every year, which is 24 abortions for every 1000 women aged 15-44. 31,000 Malawian women are treated for complications of unsafe abortion annually.

Approximately 17 percent of maternal deaths in Malawi are attributable to unsafe abortion, making it one of the primary causes of maternal mortality. 30percent of all admissions in country’s gynecological wards are due to unsafe abortion.

 

http://www.nyasatimes.com/2013/07/03/african-health-ministers-agree-to-tackle-unsafe-abortion/

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/16/magazine/study-women-denied-abortions.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp&pagewanted=all&
By JOSHUA LANG
Published: June 12, 2013 807 Comments

S. arrived alone at a Planned Parenthood in Richmond, Calif., four days before Christmas. As she filled out her paperwork, she looked at the women around her. Nearly all had someone with them; S. wondered if they also felt terrible about themselves or if having someone along made things easier. She began to cry quietly. She kept reminding herself that she felt secure in her decision. “I knew that that was going to be the right-wrong thing to do,” she told me later. “I was ready for it.”

After S. urinated in a cup, she was led into a small room. She texted one of her sisters, “Do you think God would forgive me if I were to murder my unborn child?” It was the first time anyone in her family knew she was pregnant.

“Where are you?” her sister asked. “Are you O.K.?”

“I’m at Planned Parenthood, about to have an abortion.”

“God knows your heart, and I understand that you are not ready,” her sister texted back. “I think God will understand.”

The pregnancy had crept up on S. She was a strong believer in birth control — in high school she was selected to help teach sex education. But having been celibate for months and strapped for cash, she stopped taking the pill. Then an ex-boyfriend came around. For months after, she had only a little spotting, but because her periods are typically light, she didn’t think much of it at first. Then she started to worry. “I used to press on my stomach really hard thinking maybe it would make my period come,” she said.

Around Thanksgiving in 2011, S., then 24, took her first pregnancy test — a home kit from Longs Drugs. S. (her first initial) lived alone, with her dog and her parrot, and it was late at night when she read the results. She stared into space, past the plastic stick. She’d never been pregnant before. “I cried. I was heartbroken.” Her ex had begun a new relationship, and she knew he wouldn’t be there to support her or a child. She was working five part-time jobs to keep herself afloat and still didn’t always have enough money for proper meals. How could she feed a baby? She kept the news to herself and made an appointment at Planned Parenthood.

At the clinic, a counselor comforted S. and asked her why she had come, if anyone had coerced her into making this decision. No, S. explained, she was simply not ready to have a child. The woman asked how far along she thought she might be. S. estimated that she was about three months pregnant.

In the exam room, a technician asked her to lie down. She did an ultrasound, sliding the instrument across S.’s stomach: “Oh . . . it shows here that you are a little further along.” She repeated the exam. S., she estimated, was nearly 20 weeks pregnant, too far along for this Planned Parenthood clinic. S. felt numb: “I was thinking, If it is too late here, it is probably too late other places. . . . And I was like, Oh, my God, now what?”

Planned Parenthood gave S. a packet of information, including two pieces of paper — one green, for adoption, and one yellow, for other abortion providers. S. still wanted to have an abortion. She called a clinic in Oakland and took the first available appointment, just after Christmas. “I was a ticking time bomb, running out of days,” she told me. On the Internet, another of S.’s sisters also found a place called First Resort, which provided abortion counseling. S. didn’t know that First Resort’s president once said that “abortion is never the right answer.” (A spokeswoman for First Resort says that while the organization “takes no public stand on legalized abortion,” it “does not provide abortions or abortion referrals.”)

S. went to First Resort the day before her appointment in Oakland, unsure what to expect. It provided a free ultrasound. The nurse asked S. if she wanted to see the baby and turned the monitor toward her: “Look! Your baby is smiling at you.” S. was shaken, convinced she also saw the baby smiling. The nurse told her that she was at least a week further along than the Planned Parenthood estimate (ultrasound estimates can be off by several days either way). S. sobbed all the way to her car and called the clinic in Oakland, giving it the First Resort estimate. If it was correct, they told her, she would be past its deadline. S. never made it to the Oakland clinic and in a matter of days gave up looking for another clinic that could perform a later procedure. She was out of gas money, hadn’t eaten a decent meal in weeks and resigned herself to the fact that, no matter what she wanted or how it would affect her life, she was going to have a baby.

When Diana Greene Foster, a demographer and an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco, first began studying women who were turned away from abortion clinics, she was struck by how little data there were. A few clinics kept records, but no one had compiled them nationally. And there was no research on how these women fared over time. What, Foster wondered, were the consequences of having to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term? Did it take a higher psychological or economic toll than having an abortion? Or was the reverse true — did the new baby make up for any social or financial difficulties?

“It’s not that the study was so hard to do,” Foster says. But no one had done it before. Since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, the debate over abortion has focused primarily on the ramifications of having one. The abortion rights community maintains that abortion is safe, both physically and psychologically — a position most scientists endorse. Those on the anti-abortion side argue that abortion is immoral, can cause a fetus pain and leads to long-lasting negative physical and psychological effects in the women who have the procedure. There is no credible research to support a “post-abortion syndrome,” as a report published by the American Psychological Association in 2008 made clear. Yet the notion has influenced restrictive laws in many states. In Alabama, women who seek an abortion must have an ultrasound and be offered the option to view the image; in South Dakota, women must wait at least 72 hours after a consultation with a doctor before having the procedure. “The unstated assumption of most new abortion restrictions — mandatory ultrasound viewing, waiting periods, mandated state ‘information,’ ” Foster says, “is that women don’t know what they are doing when they try to terminate a pregnancy. Or they can’t make a decision they won’t regret.” Lost in the controversy, however, is the flip side of the question. What, Foster wondered, could the women who did not have the abortions they sought tell us about the women who did?

Most studies on the effects of abortion compare women who have abortions with those who choose to carry their pregnancies to term. It is like comparing people who are divorced with people who stay married, instead of people who get the divorce they want with the people who don’t. Foster saw this as a fundamental flaw. By choosing the right comparison groups — women who obtain abortions just before the gestational deadline versus women who miss that deadline and are turned away — Foster hoped to paint a more accurate picture. Do the physical, psychological and socioeconomic outcomes for these two groups of women differ? Which is safer for them, abortion or childbirth? Which causes more depression and anxiety? “I tried to measure all the ways in which I thought having a baby might make you worse off,” Foster says, “and the ways in which having a baby might make you better off, and the same with having an abortion.”

Foster began by gathering data locally. She ran the study out of her office at U.C.S.F. (I am a student in the U.C. Berkeley-U.C.S.F. Joint Medical Program but did not know Foster before reporting this article.) When the counselors at a nearby abortion clinic received a woman who was too far along to terminate her pregnancy, they called Foster, who would run over and arrange to interview the patient. Given the stigma attached to seeking an abortion later in pregnancy, Foster expected that many women would be reluctant to be part of her study. But four out of five women agreed to participate. “Sometimes, if you tell them that their experience is valuable, that it might help other people in their situation, they will come through,” she says.

Initially, Foster’s study was confined to women whose pregnancies were in a narrow band of time on either side of this particular clinic’s gestational limit — two weeks under or three weeks over. (In California, state law allows an abortion up to what a physician considers viability, but clinics can set their own limits.) Eventually Foster received multiple foundation grants that allowed her to hire additional staff and recruit more subjects. The study, which is ongoing, encompasses 30 clinics from 21 states across the country. The clinics’ gestational limits vary from 10 weeks to the end of the second trimester, with a vast majority falling in the second trimester, typically defined as Weeks 14 to 26 of pregnancy. Women turned away from these “last stop” clinics had no other options within 150 miles. Of some 3,000 women who were asked to participate, 956 have completed a baseline interview and agreed to follow-up interviews every six months. Of those women, 452 were within two weeks of their facility’s cutoff and received an abortion, and 231 missed the cutoff by up to three weeks and were turned away. About 20 percent of the turnaways received an abortion elsewhere. Foster compared the remaining women who carried their pregnancies to term with the near-limit abortion patients. (The 273 other women in the study received a first-trimester abortion and acted as a control group. In the United States, 88 percent of abortions occur in the first 12 weeks, and Foster wanted to be sure that the near-limit abortion patients did not differ significantly in their outcomes from first-trimester abortion patients.) Of the turnaways in Foster’s study who gave birth, 9 percent eventually put their children up for adoption.

There are many reasons women are turned away from an abortion clinic — lack of funds (many insurance plans don’t cover abortion) or obesity (excess weight can make the procedure more complicated) — but most simply arrive too late. Women cite not recognizing their pregnancies, travel and procedure costs, insurance problems and not knowing where to find care as common reasons for delay. These are the women for whom “society has the absolute least sympathy,” Foster acknowledges. While a majority of Americans (53 percent) agree with Roe, many of those who support abortion rights draw the line at later stages of pregnancy. And the law reflects this view. Roe v. Wade guarantees a woman’s right to abortion only up to the “viability” of a fetus, with exceptions for danger to a woman’s health. (Viability varies depending on the medical expert you ask, typically at 23 weeks or more.) But the widespread discomfort with abortions near viability is reflected in recent bans on so-called partial-birth abortions. And many clinics, reacting to state law, set their own gestational limits — often 20 to 22 weeks — making later-term abortion more difficult to find in some states than in others. (In the U.S., 87 percent of counties have no abortion provider at all.)

“Usually the only difference between making it and not is just realizing you are pregnant,” Foster says. “If you’re late, abortion gets much harder to find. All the logistic concerns snowball — money, travel, support.” Women who seek abortions tend, in general, to be less well off than those who don’t, and those seeking second-trimester abortions tend to be “particularly vulnerable,” given the difficulties of finding an appropriate clinic and the higher cost of a later procedure.

As the argument that abortion harms women gains political traction, it is especially critical to look at how turnaways fare. “All past studies of women denied abortion in the United States have been hospital-specific and local, focusing on a brief amount of time, without a control group,” says Roger Rochat, former director of the division of reproductive health at the C.D.C. and a professor of global health and epidemiology at Emory University. “Foster’s turnaway study had a sample across the United States that she followed over a long period of time. It is the best science we have ever done on the subject. ”

Foster’s study does have a precedent — of a sort. In 1957, Czechoslovakia liberalized its abortion laws, while maintaining significant restrictions. Women were required to apply to an abortion commission and could be denied for a host of reasons — if they were past 12 weeks’ gestation, presented “false or insufficient” reasons or had had an abortion too recently. Women denied by the first commission could appeal to regional review boards. Some were denied twice and thus carried their pregnancies to term.

An eminent American psychologist, Henry David, took note of this and embarked on a pioneering study. Between 1961 and 1963, 24,989 Czech women applied for abortions; 638 of the applications were denied after initial application and appeal. With a team of Czech colleagues, David enrolled 220 of the women who were twice denied the abortion they sought and 220 women who never pursued an abortion. For the next 35 years, he followed their children, making regular inquiries and comparisons between the two groups.

The first results examined the children at age 9. David reported that the children born of unwanted pregnancies had significant disadvantages. They were breast-fed for shorter periods; were slightly but consistently overweight; had more instances of acute illness and lower grades in Czech. They seemed less capable in socially demanding situations; they were less popular among peers and teachers and even, if sons, with their own mothers. David concluded that “the child of a woman denied abortion appears to be born into a potentially handicapping situation.” After David published his first round of data, Czechoslovakia made first-trimester abortion available on demand.

In the course of interviewing the mothers about their children, David’s research suggested that whether the mother wanted the child was a significant predictor of the child’s future negative qualities, independent of the effect of the mother’s personality. But he did not have a proper control group to determine if a child’s unwantedness rather than a poor family environment was the source of the trouble. David called it “the Achilles’ heel” of his work.

Foster’s study, by contrast, seeks to isolate the impact of abortion by comparing two groups of very similar women: there are few differences in their educational and socioeconomic backgrounds, and they all sought an abortion. Only 6.6 percent of near-limit patients in the study and 5.6 percent of turnaways finished college (18 percent of adult American women have a bachelor’s degree). One in 10 were on welfare, and approximately 80 percent reported not having enough money to meet basic living needs. A majority, in both groups, already had at least one child.

Foster hoped that their similarities would allow her to answer more fully how abortion affects women’s mental health and emotional states. The A.P.A. report from 2008 concluded that, among adult women with unplanned pregnancies, the “relative risk of mental-health problems is no greater if [women] have a single elective first-trimester abortion than if they delivered the pregnancy.” But it did not go beyond the first trimester. It also noted the “complexity of women and their circumstances” and suggested that further study was needed to “disentangle confounding factors and establish relative risks of abortion compared to its alternatives.”

Foster saw that most abortion studies failed to acknowledge that women seeking abortions are likely to have mixed emotions — regret, anger, happiness, relief. They also often failed to separate the reaction to pregnancy from the reaction to the abortion. She has designed her study to do both, relying on a series of questions and periodic interviews, and initial results, to be published in the fall, show that the emotion that predominates right after an abortion is relief.

When she looked at more objective measures of mental health over time — rates of depression and anxiety — she also found no correlation between having an abortion and increased symptoms. In a working paper based on her study, Foster notes that “women’s depression and anxiety symptoms either remained steady or decreased over the two-year period after receiving an abortion,” and that in fact, “initial and subsequent levels of depressive symptoms were similar” between those who received an abortion and those who were turned away. Turnaways did, however, suffer from higher levels of anxiety, but six months out, there were no appreciable differences between the two groups.

Where the turnaways had more significant negative outcomes was in their physical health and economic stability. Because new mothers are eligible for government programs, Foster thought that they might have better health over time. But women in the turnaway group suffered more ill effects, including higher rates of hypertension and chronic pelvic pain (though Foster cannot say whether turnaways face greater risk from pregnancy than an average woman). Even “later abortions are significantly safer than childbirth,” she says, “and we see that through lower complications and low incidence of chronic conditions.” (In the National Right to Life’s five-part response to preliminary findings of Foster’s study, which were presented at the American Public Health Association conference last year, the group noted that the ill effects of abortion — future miscarriage, breast cancer, infertility — may become apparent only later. Reputable research does not support such claims.)

Economically, the results are even more striking. Adjusting for any previous differences between the two groups, women denied abortion were three times as likely to end up below the federal poverty line two years later. Having a child is expensive, and many mothers have trouble holding down a job while caring for an infant. Had the turnaways not had access to public assistance for women with newborns, Foster says, they would have experienced greater hardship.

Though S. is not part of Foster’s turnaway study, she is in many ways typical. The same month that she realized she would be having her baby, she was confronted with a host of financial hurdles. She couldn’t move in with her parents because they’d lost their home to foreclosure. By late March, S., exhausted by the pregnancy, had stopped working. Everyone moved into her older sister’s house — a three-bedroom, one-bathroom — where now seven people would be living. There was a family meeting. S. and her baby would take one room; her sister’s daughter would move into the small playroom; the parents would move into the garage. Their parents brought 20 years of belongings with them; S. sold, gave away or threw out everything she could but brought her parrot and her dog.

S., who had never seriously considered adoption, was overwhelmed when Baby S., a healthy girl, was born in May 2012. “It was like, whoa!” S. recalled. “That first night was terrible. I was tired, and she was so hungry, and she had a very loud cry. They don’t tell you how hard it is to nurse your baby. You don’t know how painful it is for something to eat off you, and it’s pulling your skin.” She developed plugged ducts, a condition in which the breasts become painfully engorged with milk.

It’s not unusual for new mothers to have trouble breast feeding, but S. felt overwhelmed in other ways too. “This baby is such a crybaby, and I didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “I felt like she didn’t love me, like maybe she was mad at me.” S. watched bitterly as her family members held a contented Baby S. When S. held her, the baby would begin to cry. It went on like that for weeks. S. sometimes buried her head in her pillow, crying, when the baby cried. “Her tone was negative,” one of S.’s sisters remembers. “She would become angry, saying she wished the baby would shut up.”

S. wanted to be a good mother, so she kept trying to nurse even when she began to develop sores on her breasts. Perhaps because of S.’s difficulty breast-feeding, Baby S. wasn’t gaining weight. Her physician threatened to call social services. Through a federal program — Women, Infants and Children (W.I.C.) — S. found a lactation consultant, who rented her a breast pump and provided her with information on baby formula. Once she stopped breast-feeding, Baby S. began to gain weight.

One day, when Baby S. was nearly 3 months old, S. left her on a pillow at the center of her bed while she went to the bathroom. She was gone for about a minute. When she came back, Baby S. was on the floor, lying face up, whimpering softly. S. and her mother took the baby to the hospital. It turned out nothing was wrong, but like many new parents in that situation, S. was terrified. The thought of losing Baby S. made her sick. From that point on, she no longer buried herself under the pillow when her baby cried. She didn’t let Baby S. out of her sight.

S. now says that Baby S. is the best thing that ever happened to her. “She is more than my best friend, more than the love of my life,” S. told me, glowingly. There were white spit-up stains on her green top. “She is just my whole world.”

When I told Foster S.’s story, she wasn’t surprised that S. ended up bonding with her baby. “That would be consistent with our study,” Foster said. “About 5 percent of the women, after they have had the baby, still wish they hadn’t. And the rest of them adjust.” S.’s experience is also consistent with one of the most striking statistics from Henry David’s Czech study. David found that nine years after being denied abortions, 38 percent of women said they never sought one in the first place.

Some would use these data as justification to further restrict abortion — women rarely regret having a child, even one they thought they didn’t want. But as Katie Watson, a bioethicist at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, points out, we tell ourselves certain stories for a reason. “It’s psychologically in our interest to tell a positive story and move forward,” she says. “It’s wonderfully functional for women who have children to be glad they have them and for women who did not have children to enjoy the opportunities that afforded them.”

Yet it is still true that being denied an abortion resulted in some measurable negative effects for S. She had to give up work and her apartment, and her precarious finances became more precarious. When women seek abortion, you have to ask yourself, Foster says, what is the alternative they are trying to avoid? And how might the life of a turnaway look if she’d had the abortion she sought? “You would need to look at the people who managed to get the abortion and find whether a woman who started out similarly is now in school, building a stable relationship, career or, possibly, that later she had a baby she was ready for.”

Talking with Foster, I was reminded of a woman I met at a “last resort” clinic in New Mexico. J., as I will call her, lived in Kansas with her partner and teenage son. She was 38, one of the long-term unemployed, and struggling to support the child she had. She thought she was too old to become pregnant. When she missed her period, she and her partner drove to a nearby abortion clinic, in Oklahoma, knowing that they couldn’t afford another baby. The clinic estimated that J. was five weeks pregnant, but when they tried to perform an abortion, the procedure was not successful.

Two weeks later, J. and her partner went to a more specialized clinic in Tulsa and were told that J. was actually 23 weeks pregnant, past the clinic’s gestational limit. J. cried in the parking lot. She and her partner drove to Texas, where she missed the gestational limit again. Finally, in New Mexico, J. was able to terminate her pregnancy. A month later J. got a job operating heavy machinery at a manufacturing plant for $15 an hour. She had been applying for the past six months. If she had had the baby, she said, she wouldn’t have been able to take the job. “They wouldn’t have even looked at me.”

Given some of the negative outcomes for turnaways, Foster’s study raises an uncomfortable question: Is abortion a social good? Steven D. Levitt, a University of Chicago economist and co-author of the book “Freakonomics,” famously argued that the passage of Roe v. Wade led directly to a sharp drop in crime during the early ’90s: women who were able to plan their families gave birth to better-adjusted children. The study was widely criticized, but the extent to which it was discussed shows the intensity of the desire to understand abortion’s effect on society. “It’s offensive,” Foster said of the Levitt study. “Let people have abortions or they will breed criminals?” If there is a social good to abortion, Foster prefers to frame that good in terms of positive alternatives. “Maybe women know what is in their own and their family’s best interest,” she said. “They may be making a choice that they believe is better for their physical and mental health and material well-being. And they may be making a decision that they believe is better for their kids — the kids they already have and/or the kids they would like to have when the time is right.”

S.’s baby turned 1 on May 13. She still qualifies for W.I.C. benefits and is still living with her sibling and parents, working two days a week. Of her living arrangement, S. says: “We have had family talks and pretty much come to the conclusion that we are trying to move by the end of the year. But we haven’t really found a place to go.” What will happen when she leaves her sister’s house and she has to support herself and her baby? And what about Baby S.? Will Henry David be right that being “born unwanted” is a predictor of poor development?

There is a chance, of course, that S. and her baby will thrive. How Foster’s turnaway subjects will be affected long-term is still unclear. In assessing how women like S. and J. fare over time, Foster plans to look at several variables: mother-child bonding; whether women who carry unwanted pregnancies to term face lasting economic difficulties; how the children of turnaways compare with children who are born later to women who once had abortions. The purpose of Foster’s study is not to set policy by suggesting new or uniform gestational limits. She notes, however, that there are ways to reduce the number of women seeking abortion at an advanced gestational age by improving access to reproductive health care. But Foster sees herself as a scientist, not an advocate. She did not set out, she says, to disprove that abortion is harmful. “If abortion hurts women,” she says, “I definitely want to know.”

Joshua Lang is a student in the U.C. Berkeley-U.C.S.F. Joint Medical Program.

Editor: Sheila Glaser

A version of this article appeared in print on June 16, 2013, on page MM42 of the Sunday Magazine with the headline: Unintentional Motherhood.

 

by Francine Coeytaux, Public Health Institute (PHI)

and Elisa Wells, Independent Consultant

May 28

 

http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/05/28/why-arent-we-taking-advantage-of-the-potentially-game-changing-drug-misoprostol/  

 

Misoprostol: Have you heard about this small, inexpensive, and most importantly available pill that can save women’s lives? Pragmatic Brazilian women first discovered the potential of misoprostol (or Cytoteca, in their parlance) in the 1980s. According to the label on this widely used peptic ulcer drug, it was not to be taken during pregnancy as it could induce bleeding. Living in a country with very restrictive policies and little access to safe abortion services, they recognized the opportunity to circumvent the system and, by word of mouth, spread the word to other women about this easily obtainable pill that could help them safely end an unwanted pregnancy.

 

Thirty years later, women in countries around the world are beginning to do the same-continuing to spread the word, talking to each other about misoprostol, and trying to get their hands on these pills. The women who are accessing the drug in their communities and taking it by themselves have shown us that there are relatively few health risks involved with misoprostol. What began in Brazil as a natural public health experiment has been validated by rigorous clinical studies conducted by international groups such as the World Health Organization and Gynuity. These studies have shown that the use of misoprostol for abortion is very safe, especially when taken early on in the pregnancy; while not as effective as when taken in combination with mifepristone (another abortion pill), misoprostol taken alone will safely terminate 75 to 90 percent of early pregnancies when taken as directed.

 

Misoprostol has also been proven to have numerous other lifesaving properties, including the ability to prevent and treat postpartum hemorrhage and to induce labor. It is registered in more than 85 countries, usually as an anti-ulcer medication, and is used off-label by clinicians around the world for numerous reproductive health indications. In addition to these clinical uses, we are beginning to see positive public health outcomes from community-based use of misoprostol. In countries where abortion is restricted and women are using misoprostol, we have seen a reduction in infections. And in under-served communities, where women delivering at home are taught to take misoprostol immediately after delivery, postpartum hemorrhage is significantly reduced.

 

If we have a cheap and readily available drug that can prevent and treat the two largest causes of maternal mortality worldwide-postpartum hemorrhage and unsafe abortion-why have we not taken more advantage of this exciting technology? Given the global attention being paid to meeting the fifth Millennium Development Goal (MDG 5)-that of reducing maternal mortality-it is difficult to fathom why we continue to squander the opportunity misoprostol offers us.

 

The public introduction of any new technology takes time and is not easy; the introduction of emergency contraception is just one of the latest examples. Reproductive health advocates have been working for decades to increase women’s access to this safe, effective, and non-abortifacient technology. While much progress has been made around the world, the recent action of the Obama administration to prevent full over-the-counter access in the United States is a sad illustration of the hurdles women face in accessing reproductive health technologies. The hurdles we face in introducing misoprostol will be even higher given three inherent characteristics:

It has multiple indications, including abortion.

It is only “second best” to existing drugs, competing with a “gold standard.”

It can be used by women without the assistance of a provider.

The Challenge of Multiple Indications

Misoprostol’s greatest clinical asset-the fact that it can be used for numerous reproductive health indications-also poses enormous challenges for implementation. As mentioned, misoprostol has many uses: to both prevent and treat postpartum hemorrhage, to induce labor, to induce abortion, and for post-abortion care. But these multiple indications pose two major challenges for implementation, one political and the other educational.

 

The political challenge lies in overcoming the stigma of abortion. A survey we conducted in 2010 of organizations that were working with misoprostol for postpartum hemorrhage revealed that the second biggest barrier to the introduction of misoprostol was its association with abortion. To quote one respondent who was asked about the challenges and opportunities for its introduction: “Hypersensitivity of misoprostol as an abortifacient [is a barrier]. We see this in clinical providers, government officials, even donors-a disproportionate concern that if misoprostol were to be made available for PPH prevention and treatment, it would be used for abortion. This is a major obstacle in accepting misoprostol for other OB/GYN indications-the abortion stigma.”

 

This political fear is strong, despite the evidence that all indications of misoprostol use are potentially life-saving. And because of this fear, there is a great deal of sidestepping going on as organizations begin to introduce misoprostol at the community level for postpartum hemorrhage while trying to stay clear of its potential use for abortion. “We feel there is tremendous promise for use of misoprostol for [postpartum hemorrhage], so we do not want to jeopardize that application by highlighting the other indications,” said another respondent.

 

The political controversy only exacerbates the programmatic challenge of informing women, their partners, and their health-care providers of the different doses and the proper timing of administration needed for different indications. This is usually facilitated by the registration and labeling of products in appropriate doses for each of misoprostol’s various indications.  

 

But because the vast majority of misoprostol use is currently done “off-label”(it’s being used for an indication other than the one the product is registered for) there is an urgent need to find ways to get women accurate information about how to use it for the different reproductive health purposes. Mobile technologies are beginning to open the information door to some women, but challenges remain. We need to find ways of achieving a broader level of knowledge about correct use, and to help women differentiate between the proper uses for each indication, including abortion.

 

The Challenge of Competing Against a “Gold Standard”

For both indications-abortion and postpartum hemorrhage-misoprostol is the second best option, up against another drug long considered the “gold standard.” For abortion, the most effective medical abortion regimen is mifepristone combined with misoprostol; when used together, the success rate is 93 percent, and when misoprostol is used alone it is 78 percent successful. Thus, where mifepristone is available, such as in the United States, it is the drug of choice.

 

In the case of postpartum hemorrhage, injecting oxytocin is the first line of treatment because, when oxytocin is at full potency, it is more effective than misoprostol. But oxytocin, unlike misoprostol, needs to be refrigerated. As a result, the quality of the drug is easily compromised by exposure to heat-a problem in many Global South countries. Finally, the administration of oxytocin requires that the women deliver in a health-care facility, another “gold standard” established by the medical community.

 

In reality, in many places in the world, we are not meeting these “gold standards,” in spite of decades of trying to do so. Mifepristone is far from universally available, oxytocin stock-outs are common in many places and/or the quality has been compromised, and many women continue to deliver at home, without skilled attendants. In these situations, misoprostol is a very good alternative and even has the advantage of being in pill form, making home use possible and safe.

 

Which brings us to the third challenging characteristic…

 

Women Can Use it Without the Assistance of a Provider

Another survey respondent summed it up nicely: “This is a gender issue. Misoprostol faces this unbelievable barrier because it is a drug for women.”

Therein lies both the greatest opportunity and the greatest challenge.  

 

Misoprostol has the potential to be a game-changer when it comes to maternal health precisely because it can be used safely and effectively by women themselves. The foremost obstacle to achieving MDG 5 is the weak health-care infrastructures of many countries. Misoprostol offers the opportunity to circumvent this obstacle for two of the three principal causes of maternal mortality-postpartum hemorrhage and unsafe abortion. Yet despite growing evidence that women can safely and effectively take misoprostol by themselves, in their homes, for both uses, health-care practitioners are insisting on controlling access to the drug, viewing it as an important addition to their clinical tool kit and a service only they can “provide” instead of as a pill that can be used by women, to help themselves, with little or no assistance from a health-care provider. The failure to relinquish control over the use of misoprostol not only gets in the way of women who are intent on helping themselves, it risks negating the most attractive aspect of this new technology: it’s self-use properties. To quote another respondent to our survey: “Many people are more concerned about what might happen with an intervention (i.e., side effects) than what might happen without an intervention (i.e., maternal death). In this case, women are more likely to be harmed by omission of the intervention than from any danger posed by the intervention itself.”

 

Obviously, as we work to make misoprostol available at the community level we need to acknowledge that it is a powerful drug and that incorrect use can lead to serious consequences-such as uterine rupture during labor induction. While some would use this as an argument for placing restrictions on access, we see this as a call to put accurate and comprehensive information about its safe use into the hands of women.

 

The Way Forward

This week policy makers from around the world are gathering in Malaysia at the third Women Deliver Conference to continue to share ways of reducing maternal mortality. Misoprostol is the single-best opportunity to do just that. But the true potential of this simple and cost-effective technology lies in our willingness to abandon our “provider” frame and put the pills directly in women’s hands. Our challenge is to let women be the shapers and the users of this new technology, not the beneficiaries of what we can provide or what we think they need. Can we stop worrying about women’s “misuse” or “abuse” of misoprostol and show that we truly trust women with their own reproductive health care? Let us remember that it was women who discovered this drug in the first place, specifically to circumvent the weakness of the health-care system. Let us give them back this powerful tool and get out of their way.  Our responsibility is to ensure that women have easy access to the pills and all the knowledge necessary to use them effectively and safely.

 

http://www.astra.org.pl/repronews/136-lithuania-the-seimas-gives-its-initial-backing-to-a-proposed-abortion-ban-bill.html

 

 

 

 

On Tuesday May 28th the Lithuanian Parliament secured the abortion ban bill, proposed by the Electoral Action of Poles, to go to the parliamentary Committees on Human Rights, Health Affairs and Legal Affairs for further considerations. 46 MPs voted in favour, 19 were against and 25 abstained.  It will be sent back to the Seimas during the fall session.

 

The bill was supported by 20 representatives of the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, eight members of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania political group, eight representatives of the Labour Party and individual members of other political groups. Only members of the Liberal Movement political groups unanimously voted against the bill.

 

Under the proposed bill abortion would be possible only if it posed a threat to life or health of the woman or was the result of criminal acts. In such cases, abortion would be performed only by 12th week . Currently, abortions are allowed by the 12th week with no additional conditions. Around 10 000 abortions are performed in Lithuania every year.

 

This proposed anti-abortion bill has aroused a lot of controversy in the country. One month ago the Lithuanian Social Democratic Women’s Alliance appealed to members of the Seimas to dismiss the bill proposed by the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania. “Banning abortion is an act of violation of the European Convention of Human Rights which Lithuania has signed” as was written in their statement. The Alliance pointed to Poland as a negative example of introducing such law: “Polish women risk their life and health by terminating their pregnancies abroad”. They also underlined that abortion is not treated as a method of family planning and women should have the right to make their own decision in regards to pregnancy.

 

If Lithuania introduces the law which will dramatically limit women’s right to choose and access abortion it will be the fourth country in the EU, after Poland, Ireland and Malta to have banned abortion. The proposed bill is almost a copy of the existing Polish law which bans abortions except in case of rape, incest, fetal malformation or a threat to the woman’s health or life.

 

The Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania had already submitted an anti-abortion proposal in the Seimas in year 2005, it was even backed by it in 2007 until eventually dismissed.

 

 

 

Sources:

 

http://www.lithuaniatribune.com/39499/seimas-voted-in-favour-of-the-abortion-ban-bill-201339499/

 

http://www.rynekzdrowia.pl/Polityka-zdrowotna/Litwa-Sejm-przyjal-w-pierwszym-czytaniu-projekt-ustawy-antyaborcyjnej,130932,14.html

 

New restrictive abortion law is proposed by the Government of the Republic of Macedonia

http://www.facebook.com/notes/hera/new-restrictive-abortion-law-is-proposed-by-the-government-of-the-republic-of-ma/10151664307212023

A couple of days ago the Government of Macedonia  proposed to Parliament  a new Abortion Law. The new Abortion Law  has a number of articles which are restrictive and  dimish the right of women to have free access to abortion.   

 

The Government  proposes that the law goes through an urgent procedure, because they  state,   it is not a systemic  law and the issues that are covered are not disputable. Today when the Minister of Health addressed Parliament said that in the law there are   no new aspects introduced and that only  issues from the old law are better regulated. The Minister also pointed out that this law is proposed due to the protection of the women’s health.   The majority of the MPs voted for the new law to go through urgent procedure.  

 

OF COURSE THIS IS MANIPULATION AND IT IS NOT TRUE.

 

The new law on abortion introduces new mechanisms that are obstacles for free access to abortion.  In short  below are the restrictive aspects of the new law:    

A woman needs to submit a written application in order the pregnancy to be terminated , 

A woman needs to give a written consent approval the procedure to be done , 

mandatory pre-abortion counseling ,   

the partner (the husband) is to be informed about the procedure, 

mandatory waiting period of three days after the pre-abortion counseling, 

submitting a confirmation from the doctor is necessary  

 

The whole law  gives significant discretionary power to the Minister of Health, and the  makes the whole system  highly centralized.  

 

These are only the main restrictive aspects of the new law.   

 

The law is in parliamentary procedure and the next discussion in the commission is in two days time.  

 

 

 

From:

Hera Office [hera@hera.org.mk]

Sent: 31 May 2013    

 

Dear all,

 

Please find below (or access on our web site http://hera.org.mk/?p=1572&lang=en ) the NGO letter of support for signing in regards to the latest events in Republic of Macedonia whereas the Parliament wants to adopt a new restrictive abortion law by imposing barriers on women’s access to legal abortion services.

 

All interested in supporting our effort,please return your details (name of the organization and country), to my email address bojan.jovanovski@hera.org.mk with the signed letter, no later than Tuesday 4 June 12.00.

 

I would also appreciate if you can share the email widely in order to get support from as many organization worldwide

 

Warm regards,

Bojan  

Bojan Jovanovski

Executive Director

H.E.R.A. – Health Education and Research Association

Member Associtaion of IPPF

Debarca 56, 1000 Skopje – Macedonia

www.hera.org.mk

hera@hera.org.mk

 

 

 

LETTER OF SUPPORT >>>>>>>

31 May 2013

 

Honorable Members of the Parliament,

Honorable President of The Government of Republic of Macedonia, Mr. Nikola Gruevski 

 

We the undersigned organizations respectfully submit this letter to express our concern about the proposed Macedonian law on termination of pregnancy.

 

Firstly, we are alarmed about the decision of the Parliament to discuss the adoption of the Draft Law in urgent procedure without taking efforts to involve all interested parties, including civil society and women organizations, in a transparent and comprehensive consultative process. Bearing in mind that such law infringes on fundamental rights and freedoms of the women and is a complex and extensive law, which we believe should not be adopted in a short procedure.

 

Secondly, the Draft Law imposes barriers on women’s access to legal abortion services. As such, it conflicts with women’s rights to life, privacy, physical integrity and autonomy, confidentiality, health, and non-discrimination, as protected by the Macedonian Constitution and reflected in Macedonia’s international and regional human rights obligations.

 

In particularly, the Draft Law put harmful practices to women free choice to terminate a pregnancy up to 10 weeks by introducing restrictive mechanisms such as submission of a written request, requesting written consent by the women, biased mandatory counseling, 3 day “waiting” period after the counseling being performed and mandatory notification of a spouse. All these requirements undermine the free will of women to choose for an abortion as stipulated in the Article 2 of the Draft Law. They do not improve the health and life of women seeking for abortion nor are they in accordance with the international medical standards and international human rights obligations (1)  In contrary imposing these barriers on women’s access to legal abortion services infringes upon women’s decision-making, perpetuates gender stereotypes about women’s ability to make reasonable decisions about reproduction, and thus, discriminate against women. Further on, the proposed requirements reinforces the notion that women are unable to make rational and thoughtful reproductive choices, unnecessarily delays abortion, and may drive some women, especially adolescents, to undergo illegal abortions. The proposed changes infringe on the following international human rights “the right to non-discrimination””the right to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” and “the right to privacy, confidentiality, information and education”.

 

Therefore, we the undersigned organizations, strongly urge you to withdraw the draft law and ensure there is an extensive debate and consultation process with all key stakeholders, including civil society and women’s organizations, to guarantee the new law respects women’s rights and includes protection for informed and non-coercive decision-making, in compliance with regional and international human rights declarations and medical standards.

 

We thank you for your consideration of this letter and express our hope that the Republic of Macedonia will continue to ensure that its laws and policies on abortion highly value women’s rights to health and life and respect women’s  dignity and privacy in an environment that is free of stigma and discrimination.

 

Respectfully yours,

 

 

Please return your details (name of the organization and country), to my email address bojan.jovanovski@hera.org.mk with the signed letter, no later than Tuesday 4 June 12.00.

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 557 other followers