Recently the National Daily Newspaper- Kantipur published an article with heading “Abortion Among Teenagers On the Rise”. The article shares, “A 17 year teen girl arrived at Lamjung Model Hospital situated at Beshisahar. The girl who had come from rural part of the district did not agree on continuing her pregnancy and demanded to terminate her pregnancy.” Don’t you think this is a good news. I am really proud that young people are being vocal about their unwanted pregnancies and taking their own decisions whether or not to continue with their unwanted pregnancies. The headline of the news should have been “AWESOME TEEN GIRLS CALMING THEIR ABORTION RIGHT AND ACCESSING SAFE ABORTION” – simple !!
The article continues and says “It is clear that underage as well as illicit sexual relationships are increasing along with abortions.” Lamjung Model Hospital is the only authorized abortion centre in the district. Dr. Tilak Babu Ghimire said, “Even the teenage girls of 17-18 years are coming for abortion. We try to convince them not to terminate their pregnancy as far as possible, but they are adamant.” I believe that service providers should be non-judgement and maintain confidentiality. The doctor should be proud on providing safe abortion to young girls, else they would have opt unsafe abortion which could have risk their lives. The article also talks about young women visiting neighboring district to access abortion. This clearly indicates that women do not trust the nearest health facilities- the reason might be service providers being judgmental and the facility does not maintain privacy and confidentiality. In Nepal even if abortion has been legalized and government health facilities provide safe abortion, women still have to travel different places to seek abortion. Another reason could be stigma. Stigma related to abortion has forced women to terminate their unwanted pregnancy seeking service from quack doctors or using herbal products.
For young women, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death, and unsafe abortion is a major contributor to this mortality. Unsafe abortion can also result in lasting and devastating consequences, including, sepsis, peroration of the uterus or intestines, hemorrhage, chronic pelvic infections, and infertility. (1)
Deaths due to unsafe abortion are on the decline, but the proportion of women dying from unsafe abortion globally remains the same.
- According to the World Health Organization, deaths from unsafe abortion worldwide have dropped from 69,000 in 1990 to 47,000 in 2008.(2)
- Parallel to this decline, there has also been a one-third decline in maternal mortality from 546,000 deaths in 1990 to 358,000 in 2008. (2)
- Despite the decline in the number of deaths due to unsafe abortion, the proportion of women dying from unsafe abortion has remained the same at approximately 13% of all maternal deaths.(2)
- The number of unsafe abortions increased from 19.7 million in 2003 to 21.6 million in 2008 while the unsafe abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years. (2)
- This increase in the number of unsafe abortions without a corresponding increase in the rate is mainly due to the growing population for women for reproductive age.(2)
Young women account for a significant proportion of unsafe abortion worldwide. However, the article reflects that most of the teenagers are seeking services from safe places like, Lamjung Model Hospital and Marie Stopes Centres. This is commendable that young girls in rural areas of Nepal who are stigmatized for being a girl and getting pregnant before marriage accessing safe and legal abortion services. Without projecting this as a success story of Government of Nepal after making history for legalizing abortion 14 years back, our media is only sensationalizing the reality and reinforcing stigma around abortion.
According to the most recent data available from 2003, almost 14% of all unsafe abortions in developing countries were among women under 20 years of age.
In developing countries, 2 in 5 unsafe abortions occur among women under age 25, and about 1 in 7 women who have unsafe abortion is under 20. Similarly, in Asia 30% of unsafe abortions are among women under 25 years of age and 60% are in women under 30.
This is a request to all media personnel to analysis on the impact of your article. Instead of presenting data of abortion as terrifying issue, it would have been great if it was analyzed the difference between safe and unsafe abortions.
Even where abortion is legal millions of women across the world, especially young women, face barrier to access. In context of Nepal, many women, especially adolescents and women from rural Nepal cannot afford to access safe abortion. The geography of Nepal is another reason because of which women are deprived of safe abortion services. Unavailability of trained and certified service providers and continuous supply of Medical Abortion pills, women in many places in Nepal could not access safe abortion service. Stigmatizing abortion is discouraging trained service providers and capable human resources from providing safe abortion services. Even, volunteers like FCHVs are stigmatized for providing information on abortion. Marginalized populations like young persons with disabilities, women living with HIV, LGBTI and others are facing stigma and discrimination when seeking safe abortion services, resulting in denial of care or required authorization. Gestational limits, the need for parental consent for service is another barrier to accessing safe abortion services.
This article is an example that really hit me this month. I had discussion and argument on this. One of the people questioned me, “Why are you advocating and promoting abortion for young people? Why don’t you promote contraception instead? Excuse me! While more young women are using contraception in Nepal, there is till a tremendous unmet need for contraception and young women experience higher failure rates than older women. And I am not advocating for abortion, instead I am advocating for Safe & Legal Abortion. SIMPLE
Recently, I had received a call from Radio Station. The radio station is compiling data and information on abortion. They would like to know number of abortion cases. I replied them that I am not the person to talk about numbers on abortion. They should have visited to respective District Public Health Office and talked to concern department. She asked me what percentage of young girls seek abortion and what is the average age. Why these media people are more concern about the data on young girls accessing abortion. They concern and their queries is indeed stigmatizing young girls accessing safe abortion services. Instead for creating content that would provide wrong message to the community, it would be great if media could be sensible in this issue and support on preventing deaths due to unsafe abortion.
Please read this piece as well to get more incite on the articles publish on abortion by Youth Champion Advocacy Network Nepal.