Abortion a right for rape victims

At a meeting held by WAR, experts from different walks of life were unanimous that the pregnancies due to sexual assault should be terminated at the choice of the survivor. Interestingly, the meeting that was attended by Dr. Irum Bokharey, Mr. Fawad Usman Khan, Dr. Yaseem Rashid, Ms. Cassandra Balchin, Ms. Eiga Francis and Mr. Nadeem Fazil among others, brought together different approaches to the same end. Activists of WAR and other lobbying groups demanded of the government to legislate on the issue in light of the recommendation of the Commission of Inquiry for Women (1997) which says “….. courts should have the power to permit abortions beyond the 120 days period if the pregnancy is the result of rape….”. Participants belonging to medical profession thought however that the opinion of the doctor should be sufficient to allow an abortion. Abortion restrictions in Pakistan do not take into account the mental health or socio-economic circumstances of conceiving women, both being quite valid grounds for women conceiving as a result of sexual assault.

Dr. Yasmin Rashid said that if a woman was in a poor psychological state, going through the pregnancy and giving birth was definite to harm her physical health and there was no reason why such a woman should not be allowed abortion. Ms. Cassandra Balchin opined that there was no need for a change in law as there was sufficient room in the present legal provisions to address such emergency as in case of a pregnancy due to rape. She quoted the case of Siani in this regard. The participants were concerned about the centers that provide illegal services of abortion. They said that these centres or clinics were inadequately equipped and were run in poor hygienic conditions that had caused a number of deaths. They added that due to the clandestine nature of their activities it was not possible to monitor their compliance with health and hygiene standards. Also if there were a complication these clinics would never refer the patient to better healthcare for the fear of being caught. They suggested that a little consideration could save a lot of lives. War Against Rape intends to take its work on right of abortion for rape victims further and would welcome any suggestion, opinion or material relevant to the issue.

Abortion a right for rape victims