Across the globe, women who want to end an unwanted pregnancy are faced with numerous challenges, not least of which is navigating the legal restrictions that prevent women from accessing safe abortion. In Papua New Guinea it is no different. Located in the South Western Pacific, the country has a high unmet need for family planning and the majority of women wishing to delay or prevent pregnancy are without the means to do so. It is no surprise then, that unwanted pregnancy is a common experience for women in PNG.
This is the situation that Leoba Davana and her husband James Channel found themselves in. Already with two young children to care for, and having previously experienced a life threatening pregnancy, Leoba and James made the decision to have an abortion. Unfortunately, Leoba experienced complications and upon seeking post abortion care she and James were arrested. They now face up to 5 years in jail.
In PNG, abortion is legally restricted and only permitted if there is a significant threat to the woman’s health. In addition, any abortion must be carried out by a registered practitioner. In a country with a critical shortage of doctors and with the majority of the population living in rural areas, the ability to obtain a safe and legal abortion is near impossible for the majority of women.
Leoba and James’ case has serious implications for women’s health in PNG. Unless overturned, this conviction will jeopardise efforts to provide access to post abortion care and contraception in the country, and further limit women’s rights and opportunities.
We know that criminalising abortion is only effective at making abortion less safe. And where women have limited access to contraception the need for access to safe and legal abortion is even more urgent. In countries like PNG, too many women are too often faced with a stark choice between risking their health and well-being by continuing with an unwanted pregnancy, or risking their health and freedom by obtaining an unsafe and illegal abortion
Leoba and James’ case will be reviewed by the PNG Supreme Court in the coming weeks.
Funds are urgently requested to help cover legal costs. To date K16,593.94 has been raised of the required K50,000. Please support them by donating at:
Account Name: Safe Motherhood Alliance PNG
Bank: ANZ, Harbour City, NCD, Papua New Guinea
Account Number: 14402886
Swift Code: ANZBPGPX
E-mail: [email protected]