Bahrain women in high-risk abortions
Manama, February 21, 2010
Pregnant women are putting their lives at risk by taking black market drugs to induce illegal abortions, says a leading doctor.
They are so desperate to abort their baby because of the social stigma attached to sex outside marriage that they are willing to pay as much as BD200 for the pills.
Women also risk being jailed for up to six months or fined a maximum of BD50 if caught, said Salmaniya Medical Complex obstetrics and gynaecology department acting chairwoman Dr A K Sandhu.
She said up to 10 patients suspected of taking abortion-inducing drugs were reporting to health clinics for treatment every month. The majority of pregnant women who seek illegal abortions are unmarried teenagers, she said.
'These pills should only be taken under medical supervision,' Dr Sandhu told our sister newspaper Gulf Daily News.
'If they don't go to the hospital after taking these pills they could suffer complications that can lead to death.
'The pills start the process of abortion and they go through labour. Some of them come to us with bleeding but they hide what they have done.
'In one month I see a few patients (suspected of taking abortion medication) but doctors who sit in health clinics see about five to 10 patients a month.'
Dr Sandhu explained that illegal abortions in Bahrain used to be performed with instruments, known as a 'cleaning' operation, but in the last few years women had been taking abortion-inducing drugs which are self-administered.
The abortion pills commonly taken in Bahrain were originally prescribed to prevent gastric ulcers but were now being used for illegal abortions such as in cases were the foetus has died, she said.
Side-effects of the drug include shock, rupturing of the cervix, difficulty in future pregnancies, severe genital bleeding, severe pelvic pain and maternal death.
'We give these abortion pills in genuine cases if the baby dies inside and must be removed,' said Dr Sandhu.
'If the pills are taken when the foetus is alive then in these cases it can come out alive, but because the baby is very small it dies.
'If they are born less than 500gm they will usually die, they need to be above one kilogram to have a good chance of survival and above 1.5kg gives a better chance. Usually babies born before 24 weeks will die.'
Dr Sandhu called for a crackdown on people who sell abortion-inducing drugs on the black market.
'Those selling these drugs should be dealt with severely, the sale of these drugs is banned, they can only be prescribed,' she said.
'The actual cost of these drugs is BD1 for three tablets, but they charge BD150.
'We need more investigation into who is selling these pills.
'We are really concerned about this black marketing and some charge as much as BD200.'
According to the Penal Code Law, Article 321, a woman guilty of aborting her baby without the permission of a doctor faces a maximum of six months in jail or a fine of up to BD50.
It is now being discussed by legislators who want stronger laws to be introduced to protect unborn children, said an Interior Ministry source.
The GDN reported last Tuesday that police were investigating claims that a pregnant Bahraini woman allegedly aborted her five-month-old foetus and buried it by the coast near Amwaj Islands.
The 25-year-old suspect, who lives in Hidd, was arrested after she reportedly put the tiny body in a shoe box and buried it under sand, said Interior Ministry sources.-TradeArabia News Service