IRIN News | Health & Medicine
HEALTH EXPERTS ARE CONCERNED about the number of unsafe abortions taking place in Papua New Guinea.
“Nobody knows the actual numbers, but it’s clear the number of school-age girls [having unsafe abortions] is unacceptably high,” said Lisa Vallely, head of the maternal and child health section of the PNG Institute of Medical Research.
“These are the figures at the hospital level only. We still don’t know what is happening outside in the community,” she said.
A six-month study headed by Ms Vallely looked at all abortions in the Goroka Hospital. Of 120 reported miscarriages admitted to the hospital over the period, 23% were induced abortions, with more than half taking place 12-26 weeks into pregnancy.
Most were young girls, attending school or higher education, and most of these induced abortions took place using prescription-only tablets purchased through healthcare workers or at a pharmacy.
Others reported using traditional herbs and physical means, including strenuous exercise, inserting a stick into the vagina and tying a rope around the abdomen.
Many women resorted to abortions for fear of shaming their family, so they can continue their education or because they are breastfeeding another child, the study found.
A recent study of the situation in Goroka highlighted sepsis due to unsafe abortion as a leading cause of maternal mortality.
Abortion is illegal in PNG unless two doctors agree a woman’s life may be at risk. However, the practice of induced abortions is widely practiced, health workers say.