Friday, October 28, 2011

Legalize abortion in Mauritius,controversial matter

It is time for action now. The Mauritian government and members of CEDAW cannot back pedal. The country is subject to its obligations and must implement the recommendations of the Convention, especially the one regarding the amendments to the Penal Code in order to legalize abortion in particular cases and circunstances. 
The meeting of CEDAW will examine its report in Geneva on October 7, 2011. To fulfill the commitment made to CEDAW, the Mauritian government is preparing to legalize abortion in specific cases.
“Mauritius will be very embarrassed if the committee notes that nothing, considering that the country is a member, has been recommended in the 2006 amendments of the Penal Code to review the section 235 about abortion in specific cases, particularly those where the woman's life is in danger or in case of rape and incest,” says Pramila Patten, Barrister at law and expert to the United Nations in the CEDAW.
This same recommendation was resumed in 2010 by the Committee of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the United Nations. “I have also made that recommendation in 2001 in my report on the task force", explains Patten who also chaired the task force on the discrimination against women in 2000. 
According to her, this bill, including a draft, has been in preparation by the office of the Attorney General since July and is an obligation for the country to submit to the recommendations of the Convention.
Regardless of the point of views expressed by various institutions or associations of the country, the legalization of abortion is no longer today a matter of religious order or morality. Certainly, for some, it concerns the health of the mother, and for others, the freedom of a woman or the status of the embryo. Taking into account the fact that it is a public health problem, the country will submit its report on the provisions taken to legalize abortion in specific cases in Geneva next week.

Written consent mandatory

It is in this sense that since the beginning of July, the office of the Attorney General has worked on the draft bill concerning the amendment to the Criminal Code Act, in order to allow abortion in the case of a pregnancy of less than 24 weeks resulting from rape, sexual relations with minor, or of "sexual intercourse with a specified person". This law also stipulates that no abortion can take place without the written consent of the pregnant woman. As regard a pregnant woman who is in a coma and cannot, according to medical opinion, regain consciousness before the end of her pregnancy, the spouse, parents or the legal guardian can give their formal agreement in writing. For cases where the pregnant woman has neither spouse, parents nor legal guardian, an abortion can be practised with the authorization of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, following also the endorsement of two other doctors. Any abortion should however, be carried out in an institution approved by the State and by "an authorised medical practionner " duly registered according to the Medical Council Act. The bill also  stipulate that any offender is liable to imprisonment not exceeding 5 years and a fine of not less than Rs 100,000.

The consequences of legalisation

Legalising abortion will not only be empowering women freedom of a pro-choice right for abortion but will also be a predictive factor for a flourishing abortion business of private organisations. Unless the law will be strict enough and maintain prohibition of abortion except for exceptional certain circumstances which only the state will have the sole responsibility to deal with. Even then the potential risk of running privately-owned abortion businesses will be operational as it is today, albeit illegally.

Diverging views

The diocese of Port Louis assured to "understand the disarray of women who are suddenly faced with an unwanted pregnancy" and said he was "particularly attentive to the plight of these women ". The Comité Interculturel pour le Respect de la Vie (CIRV) which makes "a plea for life", calls for a referendum to vote on this bill. On the other hand, the Muvmen Liberasyon Fam (MLF) claims a suspension of the anti-abortion law.

Why Mauritian women opt for abortion

Abortion is illegal in Mauritius, but despite these legal restrictions abortions are very much part of the reproductive health picture in Mauritius. To examine why Mauritius women are risking their lives, their health, and their reproductive futures by engaging in illegally induced abortions, the Mauritius Family Planning Association conducted a study on 475 women treated in 3 hospitals with abortion complications. The primary reason for abortion was unwanted pregnancy, which was perceived as a threat to the individual and the family and often resulted from the improper use of contraceptive methods such as withdrawal and natural family planning or from the lack of use of any family planning method at all. About 92.9% of the subjects used a crude and/or self-induced method to abort, which explains why these women suffered complications . 
According to the statistics of the Mauritius Family Planning Welfare Association (MFPWA), in Mauritius the figures indicate that 1,680 abortions were performed in public hospitals and private clinics in 2009. However, the majority of cases have taken place clandestinely.  It is considered that in reality, 15,000 to 20,000 abortions have been performed. 

The case of Shabeela Kalla
In 2009, the case of Shabeela Kalla, a young woman who had confessed to having terminated her pregnancy, had raised questions, as on every occasion, on the debate on the legalization of abortion. The girl had however, obtained the clemency of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), after the latter took the decision not to sue her. The DPP however, pointed out that abortion remains a crime in Mauritius but that the case “re-emphasized the reality concerning the many abortions performed each year in Mauritius.

World statistics
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), each year, about 210 million pregnancies are registered and 46 million of abortions take place. While 22% of these abortions have taken place in developed countries, 78% are carried out in developing countries. 20 million in dangerous conditions, especially because of the illegality of this act in many countries. However, more legal action is being pursued around the world. In 1990, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated the annual deaths due to botched abortions to be at approximately 70,000. In 2008, the WHO reduced its estimate to 47,000 deaths. The legalization of the interruption of pregnancy avoids the risks to the health of women, and in the long term, it lowers the number of interventions if it is supported by a prevention policy, supports the WHO

No comments:

Post a Comment