Lesotho: Unsafe Abortion - a Growing Concern in Lesotho

Maseru — There is increasing concern in Lesotho over increasing numbers of unsafe abortion. This unsafe abortion is carried out by individuals who do not have expertise to dabble in such practice.

Abortion in Lesotho is criminalised and any person who willingly causes or induces the termination of a pregnancy commits can face imprisonment of up to three years. Criminalising abortion means healthcare providers are unable to provide much needed health care for women.

Chairperson of parliament cluster committee Fako Moshoeshoe says they are aware that there is a trend of young women and girls who are being admitted at various hospitals in the country because of carrying out unsafe abortion.

Now what they have to do as the committee is to push for the enactment of the law for the abortion.

Moshoeshoe says they would have to sensitise the public especially the young women and girls about the importance of safe abortion.

He says the problem is that much as abortion is an illegal practice in this country, some people do practice it.

"In fact we have already embarked on sensitisation programmes about safe abortion,"Moshoeshoe says.

And these sensitisation programmes also involve public education about the use of contraceptives so that pregnancy is terminated right at the beginning.

He says it is important that a light is torched on the minds of girls because they are the ones usually at the receiving end of unsafe abortion practices.

Moshoeshoe says these girls terminate pregnancies and do not even know what to use to clean their bodies.

Moshoeshoe says there are a lot of health implications that are brought by the unsafe abortion that could make girls unable to conceive in future when they have families and want to bear children.

To address this problem, there should be more public health education programmes out there.

Public Relations officer at Queen 'Mamohato Memorial Hospital, Lesotho's only referral hospital, Mothepane Thahane, says they admit an abortion patient almost every day.

Abortion is done by women from varying child bearing ages ranging from school going children and women who are married.

"We have had incidents of married women who would be admitted here after carrying out abortion," Thahane says.

Based on their experience at the hospital, Thahane says it seems there is a low public health education about the family planning methods and unmet need for contraception.

Thahane says treating abortion patients is costly though she did not have the financial statements because they have to take them to the theatre.

"Sometimes we are betrayed by married men who would promise to take care of us. Unfortunately these men do not want to use condoms," *Likeleli Thamae, 23, says.

She says they do not have resources as young girls as some of them are from economically challenged backgrounds.

"We know it is wrong to have a relationship with a married man let alone to indulge in unsafe sex," Thamae says.

From the beginning of the relationship Thamae says the men would appear to be caring and sympathetic.

She says all hell would break loose when the girl no longer goes on her menstrual periods.

"The men would be nowhere to be seen," she says, adding that their phones would always be on voice mail.

Faced with such a scenario, girls would have no option but to terminate pregnancy.

Thamae says the sad reality is that such girls would embark on a mission to find anyone who could terminate their pregnancies.

Out of desperation, these women and girls would end up drinking dangerous substances that would land them in health centres.

During this COVID- 19 pandemic, there have been a couple of abortion cases reported to the police. Such cases included those of women in wedlock.

Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli says the married women have told them that they had been impregnated by men who are not their husbands.Their husbands have since been locked down in South Africa because of the COVID- 19.

Their fear would be that their marriages would be at stake when their husbands discover that they had committed adultery and had borne children.

In response to high maternal mortality due to unsafe abortion in Lesotho, the government has been consulting with schools, religious leaders,communities, and civil society involved in health.

Ministry of Health spokesman Tumisang Mokoai says they hold sensitisation programmes through their public health division.He says they usually visit schools so that they could meet young people.This they do in collaboration with their partners like the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

*Not their real names

Photo courtesy of Lesotho Times newspaper.

Majara Molupe is a journalist from Lesotho. This story is part of the GL News Service 16 Days of Activism News series.

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