PAKISTAN – Life over death, death over life in the hands of untrained practitioners

“Fear, pressure, and pain of abortion were much more than giving birth to a child”, says Hareem, who had an induced abortion at a health care facility in Rawalpindi. Although it was her second baby, she had to abort her six-week-old pregnancy because of the baby’s abnormal growth. Recalling her experience of abortion, she says, “It was as though everything from inside me was being wrenched out in the form of blood and pieces. It took me weeks to recover physically and mentally.” The report continues: “Hareem was treated in a quality health care facility, yet her recovery took weeks.” The report does not say, but it must be questioned whether the abortion method used in that facility was approved by WHO. The report continues: “That is why it is hard to imagine Safina’s experience, who did not have access to a good and safe medical service and suffered the pain of abortion at the hands of an untrained midwife. The 40-year-old recently died after getting an infection in her uterus. A midwife did the abortion at Safina’s home in the Tench Bhatta area of Rawalpindi. Safina didn’t want another baby as she already had four children. According to Nabila Chaudhary, a cousin of the deceased, a midwife treated Safina, and during the abortion procedure, blood clots formed in her uterus. For removal of clots, the midwife treated her again, placing her safety at risk. Safina died within a few weeks of her abortion.”The report continues  that the ‘midwives’ are not properly trained… “[They] have setups in small rooms in their houses and handle abortion cases for a few thousand rupees. [For example] most midwives use polythene gloves and conduct abortion procedures in unhygienic conditions, putting their patients’ lives at great risk.” Meanwhile, unsafe abortions are increasing while trained health professionals often refuse to provide safe abortions…Although state-run hospitals have designated medico-legal teams for handling cases of rape victims, for example, due to complicated procedures and social taboos, victims and their families avoid coming forward. Only a limited number of cases are brought to hospitals. The rate of illegal abortions is high in girls of young age.

SOURCE: Tribune Magazine, by Shazia Mehboob, 16 October 2022SEE ALSO:, by Betsy Joles, 15 July 2021 + PHOTO for VICE Pakistan 2021, courtesy of Betsy Joles: images of Rabia Masih, who died from an unsafe abortion in 2021.