Home Health Abortion Spreads …As Nearly 40,000 Pregnancies Face Removal In Liberia Yearly

Abortion Spreads …As Nearly 40,000 Pregnancies Face Removal In Liberia Yearly

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By: Frank P. Martin

MONROVIA: Findings contained in the 2023 National Health’s Document, styled “Abortion Incident and Severity of Complications in Liberia”, showed that an estimated 38,779 induced abortions occurred annually in Liberia, translating to an induced abortion rate of 30.7% per 1,000 women of reproductive age, and an induced abortion ration of 229 abortions per 1,000 live births.

There is regional variation in the abortion rates, with North Central having the lowest abortion rate (6.6/1000) and South-Central having the highest (49.7/1000).

In the same year, approximately 14, 555 women received care for complications resulting from induced and spontaneous abortions in health facilities. The vast majority of women who sought post-abortion care services did so in public (67%) and primary-level health facilities (74%). The national unintended pregnancy rates in the South-Central region may imply that many women and girls have a high unmet need for family planning.

According to the 2019-2020 Liberia Demographic and Health Survey report, one-third of married women had an unmet need for family planning, 21% for spacing and 13% for limiting number of children.

In line with expectation, the incidence rate is highest in regions with highest unintended pregnancy rate further reinforcing the argument that legal restrictions do not reduce the occurrence of abortions, instead restrictions drive women toward unsafe abortion.

The document, which copy is in possession of this paper, shows that women seeking abortion care in Liberian health facilities are socially and demographically diverse.

That is to say almost half of all patients seeking post-abortion care presented with either severe (37%) or near miss (11%) complications, and this varied widely by region.

The Liberia National Abortion Study focuses on several areas including measuring abortion, magnitude of complication, cost and quality of post-abortion care, following two years of methodology.

However, the study was conducted across all regions and counties in Liberia between September 2021 – March 2022.

And, these findings were presented to Dr. Francis N. Kateh, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of Liberia, who later extolled the group for the initiative.

Describing the document as a milestone achievement for Liberia, owing to its comprehensive data on abortion, he expressed excitement and believed that the findings will help inform international and local stakeholders and decision-maker, especially the Liberian Legislature for enactment into Law the proposed reformed Public Health bill before them for action.

“Because there were only few doctors in Liberia at that time, I can safely say that what prompted the crafters of the Public Health Law to have thought that way. Now, that we have more doctors, more clinicians and more nurses that are trained in various aspects; definitely, we have to look at safety”, Dr. Kateh told the gathering.

He said Liberia has been struggling with the lack of scientific abortion records because of it illegal status, causing most abortions to be done at home, but averred that with the findings, it will help the Ministry of Health and partners to plan properly.

According to the Public Law of Liberia, abortion is permissible only under limited circumstances in order to save the life of a woman to preserve the physical and mental health in the case of a rape, incest including other felonious fetal impairment.

Also speaking during the handling over and launch of the report, Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), Country Director Dr. Moses Massaquoi, said unsafe abortion is the procedure for terming a pregnancy that is performed by persons lacking the necessary skills or in an environment, not in conformity with minimal medical standards or both.

CHAI Country Director said, unsafe abortion is among top causes of maternal mortalities and other sicknesses, and that treatment of abortion complications drains significant health system resources.

Dr. Massaquoi noted that there is limited scientific information available on the context in which women seek unsafe abortion, magnitude of the unsafe abortion problem which results in complications from such practice.

However, this is the first nationally representative study on the incidence of induced abortion in Liberia, and its findings will be crucial for effective planning, budgeting and implementation of sexual and reproductive health interventions, according to experts.

To address abortion related complications in the country, the study recommends advanced legal and policy reforms that would identified the causes of unsafe abortions and unwanted pregnancies and to also provide the enabling environment for access to Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) services for all women and girls of reproductive age, expand access to quality post-abortion care, including post-abortion contraception counseling and method provision at all health facility levels which means strengthening the capacity of lower-level health facilities and mid-level care providers to provide quality care and community education and awareness on the dangers of unsafe abortion, existing legal status of abortion and current access point of family planning methods in the country.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) in collaboration with Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) along with the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) and Guttmacher launched the findings on Thursday, April 13, 2023.

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