Unsafe abortions increase during pandemic
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Johannesburg – As the world commemorated International Safe Abortion Day yesterday, health experts weighed in on the fact that abortion care is not seen as an essential service during a pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic continues to challenge the capacity of health-care systems to deliver essential services. The lack of access to safe abortion results in 45% of all abortions globally being unsafe.
DKT Woman Care and the Independent Physician Association hosted an in-person round-table discussion at the Radison Blu Hotel in Sandton to mark International Safe Abortion Day.
Speaking at the event was Professor Eddie Mhlanga, an activist for equal access to sexual and reproductive health services.
“With hundreds of thousands of survivors living with long-term complications, including infertility and chronic pain, of these unsafe abortions, 97% take place in South-Central Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America,” he said.
Mhlanga highlighted that when South Africa enacted the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act in 1996, which gave women of any age or marital status access to abortion services upon request during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and in certain cases extends access to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, a 70% decrease in unsafe abortion was noted.
He said since the pandemic, the unsafe abortion percentage had increased significantly because it was not seen as an essential service.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, said the impact of Covid19 on abortion services in South Africa has led to an increase in the use of manual vacuum aspiration (MVA). She said MVA is a procedure made available to everyone and is cost-effective and safer than other methods.
“Stigma and misinformation continue to deter many women from seeking safe services. MVA is a minor surgical procedure, performed by a trained health-care provider to remove contents from the uterus using a hand-held device,” said Mofokeng.
MVA can be performed under local anaesthesia in a hospital or health centre as it has a short recovery time and is performed on an outpatient basis.