South Africa: Providing safe abortion care during a national lockdown

03 July 2020
Kgaladi Mphahlele, Doctors Without Borders

In 2015, MSF surveyed 800 women between the ages of 18 and 49 in Rustenburg and found that one in four women had been raped in her lifetime, yet fewer than 5 per cent of those women reported to a health care facility. Since then, MSF has run several sexual and reproductive health programs for the community— including for survivors of sexual violence— across Bojanala district, where Rustenburg is located, in partnership with local health authorities.

In addition to community outreach and health
education in more than 20 schools in the district, MSF supports four Kgomotso
Care Centers (KCC) providing sexual violence care.


Strong words and action needed to protect women’s lives during this pandemic

Jul 2, 2020
By Avril Benoît, executive director for Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières in the United States (MSF-USA)

As world leaders attempt to tackle an unprecedented number of humanitarian crises, many of them deepened beyond imagination by the coronavirus pandemic, the United States is throwing its weight around on the global stage to obstruct lifesaving aid efforts.

The Trump Administration appears intent on blocking international efforts and resolutions containing these critically important words: sexual and reproductive health.


How the Pandemic Is Changing Abortion Care in Vulnerable Countries

How the Pandemic Is Changing Abortion Care in Vulnerable Countries

By Rachelle Hampton
May 18, 2020

This as-told-to essay from Dr. Manisha Kumar has been edited and condensed for clarity from an interview with Rachelle Hampton.

I am currently the head of Médecins Sans Frontières’ task force for safe abortion care. It’s a relatively new initiative that started in 2016 to increase provision of contraception and safe abortion care in MSF projects. Before this role, I worked for MSF in many different capacities. I was both a field staff doctor in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a medical coordinator in DRC and Bangladesh. Just like many people, I’m working from home now, in Amsterdam. I’ve never spent this much time in my apartment, behind my computer, on Zoom meetings and calls. So much of MSF and who we are is based in the field.


Colombia was close to legalizing abortion. Instead, a top court kept restrictions in place.

Colombia was close to legalizing abortion. Instead, a top court kept restrictions in place.

By Miriam Berger
March 3, 2020

Colombia’s constitutional court ruled Monday to keep the country’s abortion restrictions in place, dashing the hopes of activists pushing for a decision that could have made it the first and most populous state in Latin America to legalize abortions during the first 16 weeks of a pregnancy.

The decision “was a missed opportunity to stand on the right side of history to provide Colombian women and girls safe access to abortion,” human rights lawyer Paula Avila-Guillen said in a statement. She described the current law as “poorly regulated and rarely implemented,” such that for “women who have been victims of sexual abuse or face economic barriers, access to abortion is almost impossible, which puts their lives at risk.


Colombia to decide on historic abortion ruling

Colombia to decide on historic abortion ruling

February 16, 2020

Fourteen years after Colombia's landmark decision to legalize abortions in some cases, the country is once more bracing itself for a historic vote.

The Colombian Constitutional Court has until Feb. 19th to decide whether it will legalize abortion for pregnancies up to 12 weeks. The current law allows for abortion in only three instances: if the mother's life is at risk, if a fetus is malformed or if the pregnancy is a result of rape.

This is the "first real opportunity to actually advance reproductive rights," according to Paula Avila-Guillen, the director of Latin America Initiatives for the Women's Equality Center.


There’s a New Website That Teaches People How to Do Abortions

There's a New Website That Teaches People How to Do Abortions
A series of how-to videos shows providers how to do abortions with pills. But they can also help people who want to do it themselves.

by Marie Solis
Jan 28 2020

In the same amount of time it takes you to boil an egg, or answer an email, a new online video will show you how to end a pregnancy with pills.

Animated figures, accompanied by voice-over narration, take viewers through the process step by step: When to take the mifepristone, the first part of the two-part drug regimen for medication abortion; how long after that to take the misoprostol, how to place those pills under the tongue; and when to expect the cramping and bleeding, which signal that the passing of the pregnancy has begun. The 11-minute video also provides instructions on how to relieve pain or discomfort, and when to seek medical help. At the very beginning, it tells viewers how safe and effective this abortion method is, and how low the rate of complication.


Safe abortion access for all who need it

Safe abortion access for all who need it
MSF and have created an online training course

Jan 23, 2020
Doctors Without Borders

Talking about abortion is not a crime. These days, however, health care providers and humanitarian workers who receive US funding overseas risk being shut down if they do just that.

The Global Gag Rule—which President Donald Trump reinstated and expanded on January 23, 2017—prohibits doctors, nurses, and other health workers around the world from even speaking about abortion. If they do, they could lose their US government funding. Health workers are relied upon to provide thorough, evidence-based medical information, and now they’ve been silenced in the places where that information is needed the most.


“These are basic women’s needs”: Treating Venezuelan women in Colombia

“These are basic women’s needs”: Treating Venezuelan women in Colombia

Report from Médecins Sans Frontières
Published on 27 Sep 2019

Mirla Milagro remembers when she and her children ate three meals a day in Venezuela. She gave manicures and cleaned houses, and they got by. Their medical needs were all covered by the Venezuelan health system.

When the clinics started experiencing stock-outs of medicines and supplies, volunteer doctors from Cuba stepped in. But after a while, there seemed to be no medicine anywhere, and if they were available, they were too expensive. Milagro’s income also dried up. Food became difficult to get. “If we had breakfast, we’d have nothing for lunch,” she said. “If we had lunch, there would be no dinner. Sometimes we’d eat something at noon and leave a little for later. It really got bad.”


Colombia – Unsafe abortion: women at risk

Unsafe abortion: women at risk

Report 25, September 2019
Women's health, Colombia

Colombia decriminalised abortion in some circumstances in 2006 yet only around 10 per cent of terminations of pregnancies are safely performed in health structures. Unsafe abortions are responsible for some 10 per cent of Colombia's maternal deaths. MSF has published a report in Spanish Aborto no seguro, mujeres en riesgo (Unsafe abortion, women at risk), highlighting the barriers women encounter when seeking to terminate their pregnancies. It is based on information collection during the implementation of our safe abortion service in Colombia in 2017 and 2018.

Executive summary

Unsafe abortion is one of the five leading causes of maternal mortality worldwide, along with postpartum haemorrhage, sepsis, birth complications and hypertensive disorders. Of all these, unsafe abortion is the only one that is completely avoidable.


South Africa – Abortion service providers face judgment from colleagues

Abortion service providers face judgment from colleagues

Health E-News
Aug 15, 2019

Lack of support for termination of pregnancy (TOP) service providers in the public health sector has led to an exodus of qualified people who can perform abortion services. Stigma and judgement from their colleagues make their working conditions so difficult that many opt to leave the service rather than continue to work in hostile environments.

According to Kgaladi Mphahlele, the Doctors Without Borders’ Choice of Termination of Pregnancy Manager in Rustenburg, North West, part of their work has been to train nurses and doctors who perform abortions, especially for women wanting them late in their pregnancy.