Dr Ramsammy's priority should be to make abortion available in public hospitals
November 26, 2001
Mr. C. R. B. Edwards' suggestion that enforcing the existing traffic laws is a greater priority than inventing new ones (SN Nov. 15) is an irrefutable argument.
It is advice that the Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, may well want to consider in view of his recently announced ambitious plan to address compliance with the abortion law (SN Nov. 20).
One of his predecessors, Gail Teixeira, fought almost alone, with great energy and against huge odds to get that law on the books. But then, in an inexplicable sequel of inertia, neither Minister Teixeira herself, nor her successor Henry Jeffrey, took any steps to implement the law.
Perhaps the storm of the debate has calmed long enough for Dr. Ramsammy to set about the business of quietly putting the law into effect. But revising the Act should be a low priority.
His first task should be to make abortion services available in our public hospitals. The second task should be to train doctors in manual vacuum aspiration (MVA). This would secure women's physical safety and reduce the high public cost of treating the complications that still arrive in government hospitals every day.
The third task should be to train nurses in counselling. This would help to increase the use of modern contraceptives and therefore to reduce the risk of repeat abortions.
These three simple actions are the critical ones for achieving the impact that was loudly promised five years ago. They are difficult enough.
If, in addition, the Minister can get private medical practitioners and public hospitals to improve their reporting, he would have achieved a great deal. But fiddling with an already good law is likely to be a time-consuming exercise that could drain his energy and result in little real gain for poor women.