A response to MOH’s concern over abortion pills ― International Planned Parenthood Federation

JANUARY 16 ― We refer to the online version published on 16 January 2017 on ‘MOH concern(ed) over abortion pills’ where the Health Ministry shared concerns over the unauthorised use of non-approved labour inducing pill, Misoprostol (Cytotec).

We applaud the Health Minister for bringing this issue into the mainstream. We, at the International Planned Parenthood Federation – East & South East Asia and Oceania Region (IPPF ESEAOR), gladly take this opportunity to contribute to the enlightenment of Malaysians on the issue of sexual and reproductive health and rights and abortion.

IPPF ESEAOR finds that this article reveals larger issues surrounding the lack of education and access to accurate and timely information and advice on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) including prevention and pregnancy care. Abortion is a symptom of a greater challenge that is yet to be addressed. Women accessing Misoprostol (or any other pill for that matter) points toward a need for such supplies and their inability to access these locally. Such actions demonstrate a lack of access to reproductive health commodities and SRH information and education in Malaysia.

IPPF is equally concerned that the public rather use the internet as a source of information rather than visiting their health providers.

The public’s information and health-seeking behaviour points towards the lack of an environment in Malaysia that is conducive to open discussion of issues- free from personal bias and based on science ― such as SRH, family planning, and unplanned pregnancies.

Lack of accurate SRH information and services yields unplanned pregnancies. Unplanned pregnancies yield unsafe abortions. Unsafe abortions lead to maternal deaths. The article may have inadvertently nudged us to look in the right direction, revealing to us how our women, young women especially are left vulnerable by the lack of sound SRH education programming. Malaysian youth need accurate and quality information on, amongst others, sexual relations and how to approach and communicate about their needs, and how pregnancy happens and how to prevent it. The lack of quality information and a fragmented comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) curriculum is the least effective way of imparting sound knowledge on family planning and reducing unplanned pregnancies. Coupled with lack of access to high quality sexual and reproductive health (SRH) care and commodities, Malaysia is staring at a ticking time bomb of maternal mortality and morbidity in the very near future.

IPPF ESEAOR supports safe, legal and accessible abortion as an integral component of gender equality and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights. We call for Integration of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) both formal and informal education settings; and Increased efforts to expand access to modern forms of contraception (for both married and unmarried women and young girls).

*This is the opinion of the organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

**IPPF is a global service provider and a leading advocate of sexual and reproductive health and rights for all. We are a worldwide movement of national organisations working with and for communities and individuals.