By Dennis Glasgow, youth volunteer at Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA)
Abortion was legalized in Guyana in 1995. Since the law was relaxed, although abortion is common among Guyanese women there is still some amount of stigma attached to it and this stigma has caused many women to turn to “bottom house” abortion practices, which are not always safe. In our little developing country, we see that legal abortion services are easy to access because the legislation is liberal. Even though the services became easy to access, the law stipulated that it must be done within the first 8 weeks of the pregnancy; and the request must be accompanied by a signature from a health care practitioner. If for some other reason, the person needs to have an abortion further along the pregnancy then the laws get stricter as a means of deterring them from accessing abortion.
In Guyana there are many reasons why women have abortions but one main reason is “the lack of financial support” and what this simply means is that the woman does not have enough money to support a child. Because poverty is often linked to education, poor women who are uneducated do not have knowledge of contraceptives so many times they get pregnant unintentionally. There are many other reasons why women have abortions and these may include unemployment, health reasons, cost of services, lack of support from family and friends, etc.
The “bottom house” practice is very common among poor women in Guyana and the Caribbean at large, and this is evident in a document released by the World Health Organisation stating that 95% of abortions in this part of the world are unsafe. In many impoverished areas in Guyana, where residents lack the requisite knowledge of abortion; there is only one way they know to terminate a pregnancy and that is the “hanger” method which is very unsafe and can be life threatening. The few poor women that do access legal abortions are faced with an $8,000 to $10,000 cost and this sometimes deters them from following through with the abortion. However, the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association which is a non-governmental organisation tries their best to cater to the women’s needs and many times the services become free; but the problem is that “many persons do not know about the organization” so they would never be able to access the services legally. The sad and quite unfortunate reality is that poor women lose their lives through unsafe abortion; more specifically women from the rural areas like Berbice and Essequibo.
It is my belief that one of the main preventative measures is to raise awareness among the most vulnerable groups of women, since I am convinced that people will be able to make more informed decisions if they are educated about their bodies and their sexual and reproductive health. Women need to know that they have a right to safe, legal abortion, and where they can access it.
Photo shows the Director of GRPA speaking about abortion access in Latin America and the Caribbean.