January 12, 2016 By Victoria Saffa
First Lady Madam Sia Nyama Koroma has joined several stakeholders in the health sector to support the new Abortion Act, which was passed by Parliament last year but is yet to receive presidential assent.
The comment came after religious leaders from the Christian and Muslim faiths across the country condemned the Act and urged the president not to give it his assent.
Speaking at the Miatta Conference Center in Freetown over the weekend during the launch of the Consolidated Report titled, ‘Unsafe Abortion in the Country’, the First Lady noted that each year thousands of women across the country die from pregnancy-related causes, with the nation registering the fourth highest maternal mortality rate in the world.
The report was produced by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in collaboration with Ipas, and looks at Community and Health System Assessments.
Madam Koroma said unsafe abortion was a major contributing factor to maternal and pregnancy-related injuries and deaths in the country, blaming it on the country’s abortions laws, which she said were restrictive and outdated.
She said unwanted pregnancies have been identified as a significant problem in all the regions across the country, contributing to thousands of maternal deaths and injuries, infertility, poverty and orphaned children.
She further stated that the major contributors to unsafe abortion were poverty, sexual violence, girls’ desire to continue their education, extramarital pregnancies, the prohibitive costs of safe care, and abortion stigma.
She noted that the assessment illustrates that treating women who have undergone unsafe abortion costs the public health system hundreds of thousands of United States dollars a year, adding that treatment of abortion complications was a costly clinical service that drains staff time and squanders scarce medications and supplies.
The First Lady reiterated that the burden of treatment of abortion complications illustrates that overall 22% of post-abortion care patients come to the hospital with moderate or severe complications, a rate that was even higher (33%) in rural areas, adding that deaths from unsafe abortion make up 10% of maternal mortality.
She said each year the government spends around US$230,000 in personnel and medical supplies to treat women with abortion complications in public hospitals.
In his presentation on the report’s methodology and results, the Director of Reproductive and Child Health Programme at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Samuel Kargbo, said 21.6 million women globally are affected by unsafe abortion and that 98% of these occur in developing countries, revealing that every day 90 women die from unsafe abortions in Africa.
He added that in Sierra Leone, despite major gains, maternal mortality remains high, with unsafe abortion being the fifth highest cause of maternal mortality.
Dr. Kargbo said that unwanted pregnancy is a significant problem as it is problematic among young women, stating that unsafe abortion leads to injuries, infertility, deaths and orphanhood. He recommended that the government repeals the restrictive abortion law.