12 Jun 2012

PNG medical profession urged to lobby government for abortion law change

5:48 pm on 12 June 2012

A Papua New Guinea doctor says it's up to the medical profession to turn politicians' attention to centuries-old British abortion law.

Edith Digwaleu-Kariko made the comment during the New Zealand Parliamentarians' Group on Population and Development's annual meeting in Wellington.

The focus this year is on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of Pacific adolescents and a high rate of teen pregnancies across the region coupled with a lack of access to safe abortions was a prominent theme of discussion.

Dr Digwaleu-Kariko says although abortion is illegal it is practised widely at clinics and hospitals.

"There are ways to cover it up, that's why we call it underground. Although it's happening, we as medical professionals, the ultimatum is to save lives so that's what we work in the name of but then we are also sensitive to the legalities that surround the issue so then we also try to protect ourselves."

Edith Digwaleu-Kariko says no one has been penalised for performing an abortion but physicians want legal protection.