KUALA LUMPUR: Solutions must be provided to overcome the rise in the sale of abortion pills online.
Federation of Reproductive Health Association of Malaysia medical committee member Dr John Teo said prevention, support, destigmatisation of abortion and better access to safe and legal termination of pregnancy would address the online sale of abortion pills effectively.
“Behind every abortion is an unplanned pregnancy. The usage of contraceptive clearly prevents unplanned pregnancy and, thus, abortion.
“Malaysia’s use of modern contraceptive is at a dismal 35 per cent over the past few decades.
“We need to continually debunk the myths and misperceptions regarding contracep-tive and sexual health, while healthcare workers must be continuously taught to be sensitive to the reproductive needs of women and girls,” he said in a statement.
Dr Teo said support must be provided to women unprepared for a pregnancy, which should come in three areas: emotional, physical and financial support.
“There must be more counsellors, social workers and facilities available for childcare, allowances for single mothers and tax incentives for employers providing childcare facilities.
“All these will decrease the need for abortion.
“Adoption should also be streamlined so that deserving couples can adopt in a less emotionally draining process.
“Mothers who opt to give up their child for adoption must be offered full support.”
He also said abortion must be destigmatised as premarital sex and single motherhood were cultural taboos and frequently frowned upon or discriminated against by society.
“Society, authorities, communities and religious leaders have to engage in trying to lead a paradigm shift in how we view single motherhood.
“We need to be more accepting of how we can offer help to women rather then reject and ostracise them.”
He said unsafe abortion was a public health crisis that threatened the lives and health of women globally, including in Malaysia.
“The World Health Organisation had published updated comprehensive guidelines on medical abortion based on good evidence from research conducted globally.
“The availability of medical abortion as a safe choice for women supervised by medical professionals will in turn decrease the need for women to resort to illegal and unsafe methods.”
He said the root causes of the rise in illegal abortion pills sold online were the non-use of contraceptives during intercourse, awareness of sex education, support in childcare and the anonymity provided by online sellers.
“Some of the root causes are the low usage of modern contraceptive methods by women and girls at risk of unplanned pregnancies, stigmatisation of single mothers and premarital sex.
“Other root causes are the lack of childcare support for couples and single mothers, and limited access to safe and legal abortion”.
This, Dr Teo said, was exacerbated by stigma, poor knowledge on sexual and reproductive rights, as well as discrimination against women and girls.
He said the confidentiality and secrecy that online purchases offered to women, girls and couples fuelled the demand.
“The unwillingness to address sexuality and sexual healthcare in an open and comprehensive manner is a continuous health threat, especially to vulnerable groups, such as adolescents, women with disabilities, forced marriages, victims of violence or abuse, migrants (legal or trafficked) and sex workers.”
He said the shutting down of illegal online abortion pills might not curb the issue if the root causes were not addressed and if a holistic approach to-wards the reproductive healthcare of women was not instituted.
“It’s very disheartening to note that the sale of illegal abortion pills online is proliferating.
“Even genuine pills are often given with medically inappropriate doses or regimes by online sellers, which further threaten women’s health.
“Clearly, it reflects an increasingly desperate attempts by women and girls in resolving their crisis when faced with unplanned pregnancies, where some were scammed with fake pills.
“The Health Ministry has been trying to clamp down on these illegal activities, but we are concerned that it may be ineffective as these sales are conducted through temporary social media platforms, which appear and disappear as fast as a flash of light.”