Make abortions safe: The women in Pakistan depend on healthcare workers to do their part – The European Sting – Critical News & Insights on European Politics, Economy, Foreign Affairs, Business & Technology


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This article was written exclusively for The European Sting by Ms. Tashfeen Nasira, a third year medical student currently studying at Amna Inayat Medical College in Sheikhupura, Pakistan. She is a member of the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), a warm partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of IFMSA or The European Sting on the subject.


The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, a deeply conservative nation of 220 million people, has an abortion rate of 50 per 1,000 women, the highest in South Asia. According to the World Health Organization, abortion is considered a safe medical procedure when it is performed under the supervision and supervision of trained health professionals. However, if performed by untrained people, the operation can be life-threatening.

Abortion is legal in Pakistan under very limited circumstances and is heavily influenced by the country’s religious and cultural norms. Aside from the legal ramifications, the societal perception of abortion as a form of killing an unborn child and its association with extramarital pregnancy has made the procedure a social taboo. This has led to the door being thrown wide open to illegal back alley abortion providers.

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It is reported that nearly 900,000 of the 2.4 million pregnancies in 2002 were terminated by artificial abortion. According to studies, legal restrictions on safe abortions do not reduce the frequency of abortions. However, maternal mortality rates are higher where such restrictions are put in place. This was corroborated by a national survey which found that about 200,000 women were hospitalized for abortion complications in the same year, with the exact number estimated to be much higher.

Access to safe abortion is recognized as a human right not only by regional courts such as the European Court of Human Rights and the African Commission on Human and International Laws, but also by international bodies such as the United Nations Human Rights Committee. Much needs to be done to put this into practice, especially in developing countries like Pakistan.

As healthcare workers and women’s health advocates, we can raise awareness through community outreach programs and through active involvement in NGOs working to improve women’s health in Pakistan. We can write to political leaders and their respective courts to draw attention to the rising maternal mortality rate and to call for better policies.

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To fill the knowledge gap, health workers can work with Pakistan’s Education Commissions to add a mandatory reproductive education course with a focus on contraceptive methods and family planning. In addition, door-to-door awareness campaigns can be carried out in rural areas, where women can receive advice and support on the use of contraceptives.
Since most healthcare providers in Pakistan believe that abortion is illegal and immoral and hospitals are reluctant to perform it, widespread campaigns can be carried out on social media and print media to raise awareness and clear their misconceptions.

Basic post-abortion health care units should be established to allow access to timely, evidence-based health care. Since post-abortion care is neither an abortion procedure nor a criminalization, it would eliminate the reluctance of health-care professionals to provide the best possible care and thus reduce the maternity mortality rate.

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Access to reproductive rights and autonomy over their bodies and lives is the fundamental right of every woman, regardless of religion, race and cultural background, and can be achieved through our collective efforts.

References:
• Abortion in Pakistan. Guttmacher Institute. https://www.guttmacher.org/report/abortion-pakistan#fn0 Published 2022. Accessed 24 July 2022.
• Cancellation. who.int. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/abortion Published 2022. Accessed 24 July 2022.
• United Nations Population Division, Abortion Policies: A Global Review, New York: United Nations, 2002.
• Shah I, Åhman E. Unsafe Abortion: Global and Regional Occurrence, Trends, Consequences and Challenges. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Canada. 2009;31(12):1149-1158.

About the author

Ms. Tashfeen Nasira is a third-year medical student currently studying at Amna Inayat Medical College in Sheikhupura, Pakistan. She is a member of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations, a warm partner of The Sting. She has a great passion for writing and aims to raise awareness of health inequalities and thereby improve access for low-income and minority households in her country and globally.





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