Safe and dignified – breaking the stigma of medication abortion

By OWN Correspondent Time of article published Sep 30, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - Tuesday marked International Safe Abortion Day, with MSF noting that barriers to safe abortions include requirements such as mandatory waiting periods, mandatory counselling, provision of misleading information, third-party authorisation, and medically unnecessary tests that delay care.

To address this and increase access to safe abortion care, in 2017, MSF streamlined its protocols for an abortion with pills and removed routine medical testing, such as ultrasounds and blood tests.

“In MSF projects, safe abortion care is now essentially a conversation between two people during which accurate information is shared and pills are provided for the person to take at home. Since we started this new model of care, we’ve seen a rapid increase in the number of people we are able to care for: from 781 in 2016 to more than 30 000 in 2020,” said Dr Manisha Kumar, head of MSF’s Task Force on Safe Abortion Care.

Used by millions of people for over 30 years, MSF has decades of research and experience with abortion pills.

“Our role as healthcare providers should be to make abortion care as safe, comfortable, and dignified as possible. This means enabling people to decide for themselves how, when, and where they have an abortion and with whose support, not being gatekeepers to this essential healthcare. Self-managed abortion is about more than increasing access: it’s about upholding people’s autonomy and ensuring they can take the lead in their own care,” MSF said.

Anonymous from India said: “I was married off at the age of 15 or 16. My husband is abusive. He doesn't practise safe sex. Instead, he tells me that men were born to marry women and have fun with them. He says, ‘I am a man and this is what I will do’. I made the decision not to have any more children when I had my third child six years ago. Since then, I've bought abortion pills at a pharmacy without any medical advice. I had an abortion with MSF's support this summer.”

“I fell pregnant while I was staying with my ex-boyfriend,” said anonymous from South Africa.

“The relationship was too toxic; I couldn’t imagine bringing a child into the mix. I went to a (public) clinic to get an abortion. I’ve never felt so embarrassed for seeking healthcare services like that day. The nurses were rude and kept making jokes about us as we waited in line for hours.”

MSF is a global network of medical and other professionals who specialise in medical humanitarian work.

To find out more about their work in South Africa, visit

To support MSF’s work, SMS “JOIN” to 42110 to donate R30 once-off.

Cape Times

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