Abortion – A Social Scourge

Mauritius Times 60 Years

By  Dr I.M. Mansoor

It is time for frank speaking on a delicate subject — the sad practice of induced abortions. I believe that most of the medical practitioners here share my experience of repeated demands by women for this illegal intervention. They come asking for medicines, as if it was an easy and permissible thing to cause the loss of a newly-formed baby. But apart from the fact that there are no really reliable drugs for this purpose, which are at the same time harmless to the mother, there are the strongest legal, moral and religious objections to the destruction of life.

Eventually, many of these desperate women, determined to get rid of what they regard as an unbearable burden, turn to anyone who will relieve them of it. Unfortunately, there are always unqualified and unscrupulous persons willing to do this job for the sake of a good fee. Under the cloak of secrecy, they usually operate without proper knowledge, in unsuitable and unhygienic conditions. Immediate and long-term complications are often the sad result. These criminal abortions, including self-induced ones, have been found by different investigating committees to be an important cause of maternal death, or subsequent ill health and sterility. It has also been concluded that an economic reason of some sort is the predominating cause of the decision to end a pregnancy.

The general experience is that mere irresponsibility and purely selfish motives come into play. There are a few cases of unmarried girls who have fallen victim to the false promises of unprincipled men or been subject to seduction. But the vast majority are decent housewives, mothers of large families, who feel unable to bear yet another baby. They are nearly always anaemic and generally weakened by repeated pregnancies. At 30, they are already too tired to take any interest in anything. They are old and worn out, forever harassed by the difficulties of their life. What a problem to feed so many mouths, clothe so many bodies, and look after them properly, etc., especially if there is not enough money coming in. They do not know the great joy wanted children bring to a home, because they have too many — for their financial, physical and psychological means.

This is a vast problem. In England it has been estimated that illegal abortions reach the figure of nearly 100,000 annually; in France, the rate of secret abortions is thought to be higher than the birth rate, resulting in over 10, 000 maternal deaths in one car: in Japan, by 1954, with a population of about 90 million, more than one million abortions were performed per year. After having legalised abortions to deal with their grave overpopulation problem, the government found it necessary to provide birth control facilities in certain areas, where as a result, the number of abortions were halved in a period of 5 years.

As far as Mauritius is concerned I have collected some interesting figures since the end of November 1957. In these last 10 months, I have had to turn away 176 women begging for termination of their pregnancy. Of these: 68 were Catholics, 58 Muslims & 50 Hindus.

These figures are not merely dead statistics — they represent a tragic human problem, a wastage of life, and a great source of mental and physical suffering. We, who work for Family Planning in this country, see ourselves driven to it — yes, are actually forced to take some positive steps in the face of the incessant requests for abortion which are merely desperate substitutes for birth control. We do not impose these precautionary methods on anyone, but recognise the need to aid those who cannot cope with another pregnancy, if they ask for methods of contraception.

The Royal Commission on population in England stated that the wide dissemination of contraceptive advice would be a most useful contribution to the problem of criminal abortion. Similarly, the Prime Minister of the West Indies Federation said recently that the health of all the West Indian communities could be improved by fighting abortion and by a simultaneous programme of child spacing. This holds equally strong for Mauritius — one cannot say it too often: “Prevention is better than ‘cure’.”

5th Year – No 217
Friday 3rd October, 1958

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 27 January 2023

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