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Samoan Women at Risk
Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand
18 April 2009
A lack of reproductive freedoms for women in Samoa is putting lives at risk, the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand said today.
“Samoa’s restrictive abortion laws, which in 2004 led to the imprisonment of a hospital nurse for performing an illegal abortion, are leaving Samoan women with few options,” Dr. Sparrow said. “Doctors there have told us that in the wake of that case, more women are trying to abort themselves or resorting to other illegal practices, at great danger to their health.”
Dr. Sparrow said the recent case of the abandoned newborn at Auckland Airport underscored the need for Samoan women and girls to have access to all aspects of reproductive care, particularly sex education, contraception and safe, legal abortion.
According to a 2006 Unicef report, a “fair proportion” of clients visiting traditional healers were women and girls seeking abortions. And a Samoan representative to the UN told the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women that because abortion was illegal “babies were abandoned at birth, and many women sought the services of backstreet abortionists.”
The UN also reports high numbers of unplanned teenage pregnancies in Samoa, as well as pregnancy-related hospital admissions.
“Samoa’s abortion laws are similar to those that existed in New Zealand until 1977, which forced hundreds of New Zealand women to travel to Australia for abortions,” Dr. Sparrow said. But for many New Zealand women then, as for Samoan women today, that is only an option for those who can afford it.”
Dr. Sparrow said there had been calls for change, including from Samoa’s Chief Justice, but so far, efforts at reform had foundered. “We hope, for the sake of the women and girls at risk, that the justice’s call will be taken up by the authorities,” she said.
For more information, contact:
Dr Margaret Sparrow Alranz National President
+ 64 4 475-9886 or +64 21 263-5050; or email.