In 2015, the Public Health Ministry recorded some 800 cases of abortions, but this figure might be higher, says Chief Medical Officer Dr Shamdeo Persaud.
Legalised in Guyana for the past 20 years, abortion is still a taboo subject, causing many women to choose “bottom house style” abortions and some private medical practitioners not reporting cases when they are performed.
Persaud stated that the cases might be double the recorded amount. There is evidence that the number of abortions is lessening with more planned pregnancies being implemented but while the figures suggest one thing, the situation might be contrary and might be well over 1000 since there are many unreported cases. He stated that the ministry has been encouraging private practitioners to report cases of abortion, but so far there has been little to none.
In Guyana, abortion is legal until the pregnancy is into its 28 week, when the foetus is legally believed to be a human life and thus can survive on its own. However, Persaud highlighted that while abortions are free at public hospitals and other public facilities, there is a procedure to abide by.
He stated that the pregnant mother would be tested to see if her pregnancy is eligible for termination and once approval is given, she will be given a date to return and forty hours to discuss the termination with her partner.
Prior to the termination, the pregnant woman would be counselled and also after the abortion, he said, adding that she will be given a chance to protect herself from future pregnancies by using a contraceptive of her choice.
Although abortion has been legal for 20 years, the majority of terminations are not done at public hospitals, save for cases where the patient faces a life threatening medical emergency or is raped.
Persaud indicated that carrying out an abortion is a risk in every stage, not only in the latter trimesters of pregnancy.