Illegal backstreet abortion clinics warned to close

Friday, July 31, 2009

Mafikeng - North West MEC for Health and Social Development Rebecca Kasienyane has warned bogus doctors operating backstreet abortion clinics in the province to close down or face the full might of the law.

"The illegal practice is an insult to women and what they stand for, we are closely working with law enforcement to eradicate the existence of bogus doctors operating freely in our province as if they own the place," said MEC Kasienyane.

Ms Kasienyane said the practice was a worry because the department did not have assurance of the quality of services rendered by these backstreet facilities, which placed the lives of pregnant women in danger.

In collaboration with provincial medical practitioners, the MEC held a meeting in Taung recently with the communities to deliberate on matters related to pregnancy resolution with an aim to discourage women from using backstreet abortion clinics.

The Pregnancy Resolution Campaign, which was launched in September last year, aims to discourage women from seeking backstreet abortions and encourage them to utilise facilities designated for this service across the province.

It also aims to create awareness and discourage people from using unscrupulous service providers.

Ms Kasienyane highlighted that the department had spent a lot of money on resources and facilities which remained underutilised.

"Regardless of our efforts, we still have underutilisation of the service from designated health institutions and this can be attributed to lack of customer education about the choice on termination of pregnancy programme as a whole and in particular about the benefits of the available reliable service," she said.

She added that the worrying outcome of this challenge has been an escalation utilisation of backyard abortions, of which most people who use the backstreet service providers often go back to the health care facilities with serious complications.

"In February 2009, eight complications cases were reported at the Potchefstroom Hospital which resulted in two foreign nationals being arrested. This is not only costly to the department but also creates a burden on the health care system.

"The practice is happening in all the cities, hence the department launched the Pregnancy Resolution deliberations, Ms Kasienyane noted.

She said participants, mainly females blamed lack of education and treatment by health professionals performing the practice as the reason for the under utilisation of the health institutions for the service.

"A study conducted in March 2007 indicated that most women settle for illegal abortion due to lack of information about the service, delayed acceptance of the options, late identification of pregnancy after three months, conflict of emotions and lack of access," she said.

Since the implementation of the Choice for Termination of Pregnancy Act in 1996, 17 public hospitals including five private hospitals and three community health centres have been made available to render such service.

The department has also increased human resource capacity and provided training to nurses and doctors to deal with the challenge.