Monday June 8 2015

Government issues new abortion guidelines

By ANTHONY WESAKA

Kampala. The Ministry of Health has released guidelines, detailing circumstances under which medical workers can perform abortions in hospitals.
Dr Charles Kiggundu, the president of the association of gynecologists and obstetricians, speaking at the launch of the guidelines in Kampala last Thursday, said the manual titled “Reducing Maternal Morbidity and Mortality from Unsafe Abortion in Uganda” will help save women who get complications while carrying out illegal abortions.
“We still find a lot of women coming to hospitals with complications. They report with infections and punctured uteri every day,” Dr Kiggundu said.
Uganda records 1,500 deaths from unsafe abortions daily. However, Dr Kiggundu said this may not be the indicative of the actual rate “as abortion is commonly hidden in hemorrhage and sepsis figures due to stigma.”
He said many health workers believe that abortion is “completely” illegal and this scares them from handling abortion-related ailments.
“Many health professionals believe that abortion is totally illegal. These guidelines will provide a better picture on how, when and in what circumstances a safe abortion can be performed,” he added.

The new guidelines
According to the new guidelines, when a woman makes an unsafe abortion and is in dire need of medical care, such treatment should be provided by a professional medical worker in a competent health facility.
The guidelines also demand that medical doctors, clinical officers, nurses and midwives are the only acceptable medics to administer post-abortion care to the patients.
The guidelines manual also provides that the health facility where the victims of unsafe abortions are treated should have adequate space, lighting, privacy and safe water.

What law says
In Uganda, termination of pregnancy is prohibited but is permitted only under circumstances intended to preserve life, mental and physical health of a pregnant woman. Many medical personnel are not aware of this exception.
Some of the scenarios under which abortion is allowed under the provisions above include; when a woman is raped, when the child she is carrying was as a result of incest, when the health of the mother and the unborn child is in danger.
The consequences of unsafe abortions cost the country about Shs7.5 billion annually.

awesaka@ug.nationmedia.com

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