Working Together Towards Global Safe Abortion- 3rd IWAC

The conference is an international platform for global exchange, updates and sharing information on safe abortion as well as providing networking opportunities among committed health workers and SRHR safe abortion advocates. The theme of this congress was “Working together Towards Global Safe Abortion” recognizing that unsafe abortion still kills and disables thousands of women worldwide every day.   Highlights of the conference:

1. Conscientious objection: service providers should not deny the women access to abortion. (raised by Jon O’Brien and Dr. Choong from Malaysia).

2. Values clarification should be mainstreamed within medical education curriculum: To help future service providers understanding of the importance of women’s access to safe and legal abortion services and to enhance the quality service, non-judgmental service and maintaining privacy and confidentiality of clients.

3. “Trust Women”: The key to good medical abortion services (by Beverly Winikoff, Gynuity Health Projects.  

I came across the terminology “Conscientious Objection” during the refresher training organized for youth champions who had attended Youth Advocacy Institute organized by Asia Safe Abortion Partnership in 2014. Dr. sim-Poney Choong, Co-Chair, Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia and a founder of Asia Safe Abortion Partnership said that it is a duty of a service provider to serve its client with non-judgmental attitude. He/she is not in the state of denial of service to its client because of his/her beliefs. If service providers do not perform abortion to a woman who needs, because it is against his/her beliefs then he/she is in wrong profession. Service providers before joining their profession as doctors or nurses take oath to serve every client. If they don’t, they are the reason for women seeking unsafe and illegal abortion resulting into complications and even death of women.

 Dr. Amar Jesani of the International Medical Journal of Ethics talked about abortion and how to handle ethical questions at Youth Advocacy Institute.

I agree that people come from different backgrounds and they have their own values and norms. However, when you serve nation as service provider on women’s health the important value is saving women’s lives rather objecting abortion service to them because it comes against own values. The best solution for this could be integrating Value Clarification Activities during the training for service providers on abortion. This helps to clear their values.

There was a presentation on trusting women by Beverly Winikoff- Gyunity Health Projects who talked about George Tiller, an American physician, an abortion provider and martyr for women’s right to choose. His motto was, ‘TRUST WOMEN’, an exhortation meant as moral and philosophical. It turns out that it is also very good policy and clinical advice. Her presentation spoke about medical abortion that has been made easier and more acceptable if women are included as major actors in the process and how many aspects of medical abortion treatment can be delegated directly to the woman with no loss of efficacy, safety or acceptability. Indeed, such a revamping of services seems to be more acceptable and preferable to many women.

An examination of what is required of medical abortion services using this lens raises the question of why the drugs are so often restricted to specialist services and to provision in clinics or hospitals only. Why shouldn’t medications for abortion be provided in pharmacies, like other safe and effective medicines? And why shouldn’t they be prescribed at the lowest level of the health care system that can use them effectively and safely- maybe by women themselves? This emphasized on trusting women and empowering them with information and self administrating the medical abortion pills.

Another interesting session was by Dr. Christian Fiala, MD, PhD Spezialist in Obstetrics and Gynaecology shouted asking question Why Is Abortion Illegal? What were the considerations and the intention of making it illegal in the first place? He, then clear the answer saying: monarchies, dictatorships and war leading countries wanted to increase their population and to have more soldiers. Care of children or women has never been a thought. It was only with democratic developments that people too, the freedom to vote for their political representatives and also wanted self-determination in the most intimate aspects of life: one’s sexuality and fertility. He also presented that respecting women implies to give the power to decide over all aspects of their reproductive choices. It also implies the duty for societies to rid of all remaining obstacles and patronizing restrictions.

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