In over 30 years of existence, the improvement of reproductive health for the Cameroonian woman remains at the core of the Society of Gynecologists-Obstetricians of Cameroon’s operation. Despite efforts from the government and other partners including SOGOC, preventable maternal deaths continue to plague the country with Post-partum hemorrhage , hypertensive diseases in pregnancy and unsafe abortion as the 3 major causes of these deaths. Governments efforts towards providing solutions for the first 2 major causes of maternal deaths is laudable but very little resources have been channeled towards the reduction of maternal death linked to unsafe abortion.
This was the subject of discussion in a one-hour audience that held on Thursday November 10 2022 at the Minister of Health’s office. During the meeting, SOGOC delegation led by Professor Fomulu Nelson cited the country’s restrictive abortion law, being intrinsically linked to the 20-30% maternal deaths and morbidity resulting from unsafe abortion. To reduce these deaths, the team proposed the modification of article 339 of the penal code to reflect article 14-2(C) of the signed and ratified Maputo Protocol which stipulates that; States should take appropriate measures to protect women’s reproductive rights, particularly by authorizing medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest and when the pregnancy endangers the mental and physical health of the mother or the fetus.
While noting that Cameroon penal code does not include incest, fetal malfunction and the mental health of the woman as conditions warranting the authorization of medical abortion as opposed to the stipulations of Maputo Protocols. The team further explained that even in situations where abortion is legal like in the case of a pregnancy resulting from rape, the administrative procedures to get the required authorization from the appropriate authorities in long and cumbersome which usually pushes these women to seek these services from non-professionals and in unsafe environments. To solve this, the society proposed that the government puts in place a simplified administrative procedure for access to safe abortion among eligible cases, which does not exceed 72 for obtention of authorization in order to allow for timely provision of these services.
The team emphasized that SOGOC is not a pro-abortion society. However, they are greatly concerned about the impacts of abortion related deaths in Cameroon. Reason why they have adopted a multi-sectorial approach in improving the situation.
In responding to the recommendations from SOGOC, the Minister acknowledged that the concerns of SOGOC towards unsafe abortion are legitimate. He encouraged SOGOC to channel resources towards sexual education. It is worthy of note that; SOGOC is actively engaged in the the sensitization on responsible sexual behaviors as the society targets unsafe abortion in a holistic manner.