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Illegal abortions reach crisis levels

by Sunday Express
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Pascalinah Kabi

THE authorities at Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital (QMMH) in Maseru have said that illegal abortions have reached crisis levels at the health facility  with more than 40 women being admitted as of last Thursday due to complications arising from illegal procedures to terminate pregnancies.

So dire is the situation at the country’s largest referral hospital that QMMH Public Relations Officer Mothepane Thahane said they had to accommodate some of the patients in the ward earmarked for patients of cervical cancer.

Ms Thahane said that Ward G for cervical cancer patients normally accommodates 30 patients of which 60 percent are usually abortion patients.

However, the current situation is that more than 40 patients at the hospital have illegal abortion complications.

“I would like to … bring to your attention that we have a crisis of an overcrowding at the Ward G which is earmarked for cervical cancer patients but is full of patients with illegal abortion-related complications,” Ms Thahane said, adding that some of the patients had been accommodated in the  observation room.

Under normal circumstances, the observation room is meant to accommodate patients for a short period while they are being observed before being discharged.

Ms Thahane said the most of the patients with complications were in a septic state and needed to be taken to the operating theatre. They also required blood transfusions as they had lost a lot of blood “when foetuses were being evacuated as a method of family planning”.

“Sixty percent of patients in Ward G are always abortion patients. Right now we have more than 40 such patients yet we only have 30 beds.

“I wish something could be done to prevent this situation where people are aborting their foetuses as a method of family planning.

“Ward G is full and overcrowded. The observation department is also full. We really are at risk and we have reached crisis levels as a country. Most of these patients are continuously bleeding and they have come here to undergo a surgical procedure called evacuation. In a perfect world the patients would also go to other health facilities such as Morija, St Josephs, Teyateyaneng because we are full and we don’t know what to do.

Abortion in Lesotho is criminalised under Section 45 of the Penal Code Act of 2010 which provides that any person who willingly causes or induces the termination of a pregnancy commits a criminal offence. The only exceptions are when the abortion is conducted by a registered medical practitioner to protect the health of the expectant mother, where the unborn child would have severe mental defects and when the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest.

The criminalisation has not however, failed to stop hundreds of women from engaging in dangerous backdoor abortions.

Former Health Ministry’s Principal Secretary, Monaphathi Maraka, recently said that “abortion should not be seen as a way out of unwanted pregnancies”.

He said Lesotho’s approach to dealing with the issue of abortion should focus more on education, information and communication to prevent pregnancies rather than waiting for people to get pregnant and then hope that they could abort.

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