What's happened to Dr Ramsammy's promise to put the abortion law into practice?
May 14, 2002
Letters on abortion
In its first free vote on May 5, 1995, the National Assembly approved a new law that made abortion legal. The central objective was to improve women's reproductive health. That was seven years ago.
In a show of good faith and bold commitment to transparency, the then Minister of Health, Gail Teixeira, set up an Advisory Board to monitor how the law worked and to advise on actions to secure its effectiveness.
The fact that seven years later, most women do not know that abortion is legal; that abortion services are still not available in our public hospitals; and nurses still have the hostile, judgmental attitudes toward women with unwanted pregnancies, all clearly testify to the weakness of that Board.
The militancy that led to the new law was not sustained by vigilance in respect of its implementation.
The poor women who most need the services of public hospitals and health centres have not benefited from the law.
The Slip and Fall ward (Ward E) is still full. And taxpayers still pay seven to twelve times as much to treat complications of bottom-house abortions as we would, if the hospitals were providing safe abortions. We are wasting money and harming poor women.
Neither Ms Teixeira's struggle for the law, Mr Jeffrey's investment in health sector reform, nor Dr Ramsammy's public promise to put the law into action, have yet resulted in any real gains in poor women' reproductive health.
As we approach May 28, International Women's Health Day, we must hope that somehow, we can learn to deliver on this most basic need for women - a safe choice regarding continuing or terminating an unplanned pregnancy.