A Harm Reduction Model for Safe Abortion in Uruguay and Argentina

This newsletter summarises all the papers in this supplement, based on excerpts from the actual text, with permission from Anibal Faúndes. The full papers are available on an open access basis under a Creative Commons licence.

12 September 2016

Reducing Maternal Mortality by Preventing Unsafe Abortion: The Uruguayan Experience

International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics 2016;134 (Supplement 1, August)
Anibal Faúndes, Editor

IJGO Table of Contents or http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijgo.2016.06.010


What can we do as gynecologists/obstetricians to reduce unsafe abortion and its consequences? The Uruguayan response

Anibal Faúndes

As health care professionals, we are often confronted with situations in which we feel powerless to deal with the suffering, illness, and death of individuals whose care is our responsibility, particularly in public health facilities. The most common reaction is to protest against the authorities that have failed to provide the necessary resources or to implement the measures required to rectify situations that penalize almost exclusively those most economically disadvantaged. These health problems and their consequent mortality have remained the same for decades, largely because the individuals suffering from them have neither the power nor the political influence to trigger changes that could improve their situation.

Unsafe abortion—with its dramatic consequences for the poorest and most helpless women in countries with restrictive abortion laws—is one of the clearest and most persistent examples of a severe problem that impels us to protest against the authorities that have failed to resolve it.
A small group of physicians from the Pereira Rossell Hospital in Montevideo, Uruguay, decided that they could no longer wait for an external solution… Those doctors decided to implement an original preventive intervention to resolve the problem… [T]hey had no resources, no adequate physical space, and no designated personnel for the task they were proposing to undertake… [but were] inspired by the wise words of Professor Mahmoud Fathalla when he invited all gynecologists and obstetricians to cease being part of the problem and start being part of the solution [1]—achieved what seemed a miracle, namely to reduce maternal deaths from abortion (the primary cause of maternal death in Uruguay at that time) practically to zero.

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Source: International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion